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   A Dalit Tribute to Robert F. Cook: The Pentecostal Pioneer in India

A Dalit Tribute to Robert F. Cook: The Pentecostal Pioneer in India

by Rev. J. Yesunatha Das, M.Th.

Grace Christian Ministries, India, New Delhi

Introduction

Grand celebrations were organized around the globe to commemorate the centenary of the greatest post Pentecostal revival of the twentieth century. Indeed, the Azusa Street revival created a never-repeated epoch in the history of the church. The new movement had revitalized the concept of church planting, evangelism and the exercise of spiritual gifts. Apparently, through this spiritual outbreak, the Church was positively responding to the call of the spiritual and Reform movements of the past centuries to upgrade with new dimensions of spirituality and a strong commitment to the Word of God. Comparatively, than ever before, Christendom has been witnessing tremendous universal growth in the quality and quantity of the church.

The Indian church, one of the ancient Christian communities in the world was also blessed by the outcome of such a great revival. Historically, though the Indian Church was isolated for more than ten centuries from the rest of the world, the Azusa revival impacted the Indian Church indirectly by the contribution of the great Pentecostal pioneer in India, Robert Felix Cook. Even though, there were different missionary groups worked in the country in different geographical locations for more than two and a half centuries, the ministry of Rev. Cook influenced the nation by creating a unique identity of his followers beyond the geographical and social limitations. Precisely, the ministry of Rev. Cook opened the doors of Pentecostalism to South India. Moreover, his services profited the Dalit community, the down trodden of the nation who were aliens to the existing Church. Therefore, the writer, a member of the same community is gracefully acknowledging the impact of the ministry of Rev. Cook in the Indian church. Pentecostalism and Charismatic groups have emerged as the second largest Christian community in India. They have impressed and impacted several other traditional churches, who were stern devotees of the oral and written liturgy, and rituals of their denomination and were returned to the Scriptural pattern of worship and spirituality.

Robert Felix Cook

He was born in Los Angeles, in the state of California in 1879 in a pious Baptist lay preacher's family. His mother was a god-fearing and prayerful woman. Right from his childhood, he enjoyed a strong Christian background. Regarding his devotion and godliness, Cook testifies:

At the age of seven I gave my heart to the Lord and desired water baptism, but was denied me, the minister deeming me too young then. However, at the age of twelve I received a glorious re-awakening through a song, "Work for the Night is Coming". I saw my unprepared condition as the foolish virgins, so I cried out under strong conviction, asking the Lord to cleanse me that I might be ready.

Cook was dedicated to the service of the Lord by his father, at the age of fourteen, after his personal confirmation. He was active in the ministries of the church, youth meetings and open-air services. Many sick people including his father were healed through his prayers. He started his evangelistic meetings right inside the church and eight people were saved. Robert married Anna and they had two children named Blossom and Dorothy. Anna was a godly woman and she helped Robert in his spiritual activities.

His Spiritual Journey

The Upper Room Mission was the direct outcome of the Azusa Street revival and Robert used to attend their meetings. He was impressed by the exercise of spiritual gifts in the meetings similar to the apostolic period. In 1908, Robert Cook was endued with the power of the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues and interpretation while attending the Upper Room Mission. He heard incredible testimonies of healing, which the medical investigations had proved to be incurable. One day Anna became very sick and they invited Brother Elmer Fisher, the preacher of Upper Room Mission to anoint her with oil and she was healed instantaneously. This incident led him to believe in the supernatural power of God in healing.

Robert received a clear vision regarding his future ministry among the poor people. One day while they were praying, the Lord gave him a prophetical utterance from Lk. 4:18, "the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised". On another occasion, his wife Anna received the visitation of an angel and the couple realized their call for ministry. In another vision, Anna saw herself getting off a train with everything strange and foreign around her. She saw brown-skinned people running towards her.

Missionary Journey

While attending the First World-wide Pentecostal camp in Chicago, Illinois, in 1912, he was challenged by the Indian experiences of Rev. George Berg, who visited Travancore (Kerala) in 1909. Responding to the call of Rev. Berg, the Cook family decided to serve the Lord in India. Even though they were mentally prepared for their trip, there were no financial sources. Their first assistance came through a drunkard. It so happened that Robert Cook and Anna were attending a meeting at Victoria Hall Church in Los Angeles. A drunkard came forward to the altar after the call but no one cared for him. But Cook and his wife knelt down beside him, encouraging him to pray. At the end of the meeting everyone had left the hall except the three. The drunken man was heavily intoxicated and started sleeping on the floor. However, the couple took the man to their residence and fed him and allowed him to sleep there. The next morning Cook and his wife explained him their plan to go to India. The visitor asked them when they were going. They told him that they were waiting for enough money for their travel. Immediately, the drunkard took out a cheque for two hundred dollars and gave it them. Besides, they received 375 dollars from a rich man, which enabled them to make arrangements for their trip to India. Cook had no other missionary assistance other than his father's monthly promise of $. 500. However, in 1913 Cook and his family set out on journey to the new mission field of India along with Rev. Berg. They landed in Bombay in October 1913. After a brief stay at Ootacammand, they moved to Bangalore, where Cook began to work among the Anglo-Indians. Bangalore was a British military and civil headquarters. Cook ministered to several British officers, who accepted his faith. Finally, a small congregation was started there.

Ministry in South India

There are controversies about the arrival of Rev. Cook to Kerala. Cook himself recorded that he along with Rev. Cumine reached Kerala in January 1914. Rev. Cummine was an Anglo-Indian missionary, native of Kolar, Karnataka, resigned from the Government Surveryor job and knew various local languages. He became a companion of Cook in his journey to Kerala, which diverted the ecclesiastical history of the Kerala church. Rev. Cummine had been to Kerala earlier with Rev. Berg. After alighting from the train at Kottarakkara in the evening, they started by bullock cart to Thuvayyur, the birth place of Pentecostalism in Kerala. Thuvayyur, a tiny village situated in the southern part of Adoor Taluk, was full of natural beauty with coconut trees and paddy fields. Locals were a mixed community of all castes. Initially, Paruthippara Oommen, an independent minister, had fellowship with Brethren churches, but started a new ministry here. Oommen prayed for the sick and cast out demons. Earlier, Rev. Cummine had ministered in this hamlet. Four days meetings were conducted here and the missionary guests preached the message of deliverance. Rev. Cook had a different style of preaching and ministry. Sometimes, in the Spirit he ran through the thatched pandal, often he wept like a child; he used a lot of illustrations in his sermons; in between he used to speak in tongues and in the Spirit he was full of joy. He used to break the powers of bondage and declared deliverance to the people. At the end of the meetings, the first Pentecostal baptism took place in the history of Kerala, when the missionaries baptized 63 people. It was the first experience of the locals witnessing a long procession of believers, clad in all white, singing songs, using drums, making utterances of hallelujah and Sothram (praise). Later, about two thousand people were added to the Pentecostal faith in Kerala.

After the ministry in Travancore, missionary Cook and his family moved to Tinnenelveli district in Tamil Nadu, the southern tip of India and continued the ministry to the locals there. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, several healings and deliverance took place during the meetings. Despite the adverse climatic conditions, the missionary couple survived to serve the Lord victoriously.

Expansion of Pentecostal Movement

Due to the First World War in 1917, the Cook family moved to Bangalore for political reasons and started working among the Anglo-Indians. After the war, Cook and Cummine visited Tranvancore again by invitation of the local believers. Some of the believers in Thuvayoor had relatives in Shaliakkara, a plantation area. They invited the missionary to visit the estate workers who welcomed them into their grass huts with great joy. A thatched pandal was erected in that forest area and people gathered from the surrounding areas. Missionaries lived in the poor huts of the laborers and ate their normal food with tapioca, rice and chile. The poor labor believers were not able to offer them a better facility or food but the guests gladly accepted whatever God provided for them.

New outstations were started at nearby villages and regions such as Mannady and Sooranad. Due to the lack of transportation, he used to walk many miles through the countryside to conduct meetings. Bullock-cart was the means of his transportation to the interior villages.

The missionary returned to Bangalore and his beloved life partner Mrs. Anna Cook, departed to her Heavenly abode, leaving behind two daughters with the missionary warrior. She was a woman of unusual spiritual strength and commitment for the pioneering ministry in India. Having the burden to look after the daughters and pursue the ministry in India, Rev. Cook asked the Lord for another partner. He found Miss Bertha Fox, who was working in Hepzibah Home, a mission home for widows and orphans at Doddabalapur, a village near Bangalore; they were united together in 1918. During his stay at Bangalore, Cook started an orphanage home called Berachah Orphanage and later opened the Hepzibah home. In 1919, he bought a piece of land for the first Pentecostal church and dedicated the building for worship in 1921.

After the World War I, Cook had to join with a foreign agency because of political compulsions. Thus, he began to associate with the Assemblies of God. In 1921, the Cook family decided to settle down in Travancore in order to expand the message the Pentecostal truth in the state. He started the first Pentecostal Bible School to train local men for the mission field at Kottarakkara in 1922 at his residence. Later, the school was moved to Mount Zion, Mulakuzha to its own building. Rev. Cook personally began the work of the Pentecostal mission in Punalur, Edamon, Kumband, Erumattoor, and Ranni. He even moved to the northern part of Travancore, Cochin and Malabar regions in order to plant churches. Most of the believers and ministers with him were from the Dalit background.

Rev. Cook had confirmation about his mission for Kerala and was willing to associate with anyone for the expansion of his ministry. Hence in 1926, he forged an alliance with the Indian Pentecostal leader Pastor K. E. Abraham and the Malankara Penthecosthu Sabha (Malankara Pentecostal Church) was formed. Following the advice of Pastor K. E. Abraham, in 1927, Cook severed his association with the Assemblies of God after. In 1930, under the leadership of K. E. Abraham, the Syrian brothers rebelled against missionary Cook and deserted him. Only a few Syrian leaders and all the forty Dalit churches remained loyal to him. This separation wounded Cook deeply because he had a great concern for the Indian church but he resolved to continue the work in India.

During 1930-34, Cook and his associates suffered many hardships. Their economical struggles affected even the children's education of both the missionary and the workers. Cook had to take some initiative to procure financial assistance to continue his ministry in India. During his holidays at Ootaccamond , he met J. H. Ingram, a Church of God active missionary who visited India and encouraged Cook to join with the Church of God, Tennessee. After consulting with his church representatives, Cook and his church joined with the Church of God and the name was changed to the 'Church of God (full Gospel) in India'. The Church headquarters appointed him as the first Missionary Overseer of the Church of God (full Gospel) in India, which he continued for the next fourteen years. There was great progress in the spiritual and material growth of the church. New church buildings had been constructed, out stations opened to new regions and new workers added.

However, towards the end of his ministry in India there was a trail blazing experience. He had to encounter painful attacks from his own co-workers and associates. Mrs. Cook became the victim of mental agony and stress due to the problems and the missionary family suffered everything for the cause of the Pentecostal mission and church. He felt deserted and betrayed by leaders for temporary and monetary benefits. Although the missionary family wanted to die in India, by the instruction of the headquarters, they returned to America in October 1950, after completing a glorious Pentecostal ministry in India. Rev. Cook was very much concerned about the growth and development of the Pentecostal movement in India. During his retirement, he used to gather information regarding the Church in India from every visitor from India. To the core, he loved the Indian Church and its progress till he enter into the Eternal rest.

After the departure of the pioneering missionary, the Church of God movement achieved many material and social blessings. However, the Indian managers could not uphold the heart of the pioneer and the old baggage of Syrian traditional evils crept into the missionary's church. Dalits, the first respondents of the Pentecostal faith were discriminated against and humiliated in all the church ministries, leadership, Ordination, Bible College admission and elsewhere. Finally, they had to drift away from their mother church into a second-citizen Church of God in 1972.

Missionary Cook and Dalits

Prior to the enquiry pertaining the Dalits and Cook, it is necessary to review the social and religious condition of south India. Dalits are the outcaste and untouchable ethnic majority of the low caste people in India, marginalized by the Hindu religion.

After Aryanization, the Brahmanic religion deeply penetrated into the social life of the nation. Caste division fractured the Society and Brahminic domination was strictly followed. Buddhism and Jainism were routed out and Christianity was limited to a single ethnic group of the Syrian community. Islam was spreading aggressively. However, none of these religious groups made any considerable influence on the downtrodden, untouchables in India. They were reeling under the religious discrimination and suppression. They were chased away from the main stream of society, deprived of all rights and privileges. The successive political changes in India neither bothered nor concerned about miseries of the vast population of Dalits. They were victims of religious, social and economical disparities.

However, by the arrival of the Protestant missionaries the course of the social and religious structure of the society gradually changed. Though the missionaries earlier tried to associate with the local Syrian Christians, after enjoying few benefits from the missionaries, the Syrians deserted them. Then the societies began to focus on the downtrodden masses in the land. Missionaries realized the need to uplift and deliver the downtrodden from the social and religious alienation. Missionaries became the champions of reforms, especially the welfare and development of the marginalized communities. They labored for the educational, religious and social uplift of the Dalit people. The existing Indian Christianity could neither appreciate nor uphold such services to the poor and unprivileged. By the 19th century, many Dalits were promoted to the Christian faith in spite of the ill treatment of the national Christians.

The Anglican missionaries succeeded in their efforts to shatter the single ethnic monopoly of the Christian community in Kerala by introducing Dalits to the Christian fold. There are documented stories of discrimination of the Dalits in their new faith and community. In fact, the Dalits who were disappointed with Brahmanic suppression became discontented with the segregation in the traditional churches. Even though they were in need of a spiritual and social liberation, the Syrian traditional Christians could not gratify their quest. The Dalit majority within and outside the traditional church was searching for an alternative. Then, the Lord sent Cook to Kerala to propagate the Pentecostal message for the immediate benefit of the untouchables, who responded to his teachings.

Native Pentecostal writers have furnished few immediate reasons for the birth of Pentecostalism in Kerala. First reason they consider is the revival among the Syrian Christians. Secondly, Bible-centered sermons. Thirdly, Brethren teachings on the faith baptism. The next is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit during the meetings of Punchamannil Mammen Upadeshi and Kochukunju Upadeshi. Finally, teachings on holiness and separation and healing meetings. In an independent study, one can easily assess that these theories not inclusive rather represent only a single ethnic domination of the Syrians in the Kerala Pentecostal church.

The writer has critically analyzed these reasons and estimated that they are not the direct causes for the Pentecostal origin in Kerala. For example, Pastor Joseph, a senior Dalit Pentecostal Pastor has the opinion that until recent, the public opinion in Kerala was that, Pentecostal meant a Dalit Christian. For instance, Puthen Kulangara Skariah, from Karicode, Kottayam District, Kerala, adopted the Pentecostal faith from a Syrian background, was alienated from the family and they nick named him "Pulayan Skariah", denotes a lower caste identity. For another instance, Pastor E. V. Joseph, a former minister of the Church of God in India, who left the Jacobite Syrian Church and joined the Pentecostal church was called "Pulayan Avatha", again the same identity.

Traditional Syrian churches executed an ecclesiastical ban to their members who adopted the Pentecostal faith in the early days because they considered the Pentecostals are lower caste people and declared social and ethnic anathema. The writer has observed that the contribution of the Brethren movement to Pentecostalism must be negligible. In fact, in the initial days of the Pentecostal movement, along with other traditional Syrian churches, the Brethren movement did try to extinguish the new faith. The struggle of Pastor K. E. Abraham, the co-founder of the Indian Pentecostal Church, who left the Brethren Church and joined the Pentecostal church, is the classic example. His mother church did not allow him to worship in the Brethern church building which was on his own land.

On the other hand, the generosity and social uplift programs of the western missionaries liberated the Dalits, who were under severe social and religious suppression and oppression by the caste Hindus and the traditional Christians. Samuelkutty, a Pentecostal researcher, has rightly pointed out that it was the missionary movement in the 19th century that started to stir up the socially backward communities to find an identity of their own. Indeed, the slave communities in Kerala were benefited by the social action of the missionaries. They enjoyed a social and religious freedom under missionary patrons that motivated them for more spiritual experiences that ultimately led to the newly originated Pentecostal faith. The Dalits were the first to accept the Pentecostal missionary Cook and embraced Pentecostalism first in Kerala. They considered him as the 'Father of Pentecostalism in Kerala'. Since Dalits were not qualified to furnish a written history, they lost their place in history.

It is surprising that the unique experiences of the Pentecostal movement, such as speaking in tongues, prophecy and visions were practiced among the Dalits during the revival in 1873 and 1875 at Kanakappalam and Erumeli of which many historians did not adequately record. When the Dalits were manifesting such spiritual experiences, the Syrian Christians mocked them saying, "they were possessed by the demons of some missionaries who drowned in the sea".

There were several Dalit Pentecostal pioneers, who labored in the forefront. K. E. Abraham, in his autobiography, mentioned a few Dalit leaders who, from the earlier period, worked with him and Cook to spread Pentecostalism. Men of God like M. M. John, N. J. Stephen and P. D. Chacko were pioneers among Pentecostals not only among the Dalits but also among the upper caste Christians. Many researchers have admitted that Pentecostal missionaries from the beginning concentrated their work among the downtrodden. Mammen Philip, the Malayalam biographer of Rev. Cook asserts before coming to India, Cook had a vision that he was called to work among the poor. Samuelkutty commented that another important and notable shift in the Indian Church was that with Cook, Pentecostalism attracted Dalits, and became a mission to the Dalits. Thomas, another Pentecostal scholar in India has acknowledged that by concentrating his work mainly among the backward communities and the downtrodden, Rev. Cook paved a new path in the missionary field in Kerala.

There are a few reasons identified for the close affinity between Rev. Cook and the Dalits. Firstly, Cook had confessed his commission to minister among the poor. The second reason could have been his Azusa street orientation. Most of the Azusa street missionaries were working among the poor people. Thirdly, it has been pointed out "it was the divine program of God to answer the heart-cry of the depressed people in Kerala". Finally, it could have been his deep concern for both spiritual and physical suffering and oppression of the downtrodden. Now, the Dalits consider Pentecostalism as their mother tradition.

Regarding the early participants of the movement and the believers of the first Pentecostal church at Thuvayoor, Cook says, "They were poor, living from hand to mouth". These "poor" may indicate they were Dalits rather than Syrians. Besides, in an impartial judgment on the calling and vision of Cook, he was entrusted with a mission to reach the poor of the poorest in the society. Cook recollected without any prejudice about the early days of his ministry when he said,

Our main work here is mostly among the low castes; those called the untouchables or the neglected, [who] responded readily to the gospel and became sincere worshippers of the supernatural. The Lord blessed them abundantly in spite of their ignorance. A good number of the so-called Syrian Christians do not come far behind [the Dalits] spiritually.

While recollecting the condition of the first believers of the church Mrs. Berth Cook, says:

Their houses are not like our houses with every comfort and conveniences, but are huts usually about 12' square constructed upon a raised floor of mud, which is hardened by putting on a layer of moist cow dung and then pounded well. This floor remains smooth, as they wear no shoes. The walls are also of mud with a little door under which one needs to stoop to enter. Windows are not known in many of these houses. The roof is made of bamboo and plaited coconut leaves. Each hut also has a raised porch in front, at one end of which the cattle are stalled, or chickens kept there ... their reception room is generally the open space before the porch ... very few of them have even a chair to offer us, but spread a mat for us on the porch. At other places the women dressed after we arrived, as they usually wear a loincloth only around the house. Some of them are so poor that the husband and wife have to take turns attending the meeting because they have only one garment between which easily adapted to a man and a woman.

While explaining the reasons for the Syrian lethargy towards Pentecostal initiatives, Samuelkutty, observes the ground reality of the Syrian Churches as follows:

But this must be qualified that it was mainly a general sense in Cook's denomination that he concentrated among the low castes, the Dalits of the society where as from 1921 onwards more Syrians began to turn to Pentecostalism. Prior to that Cook had several oppositions from the Episcopal churches, which prevented him absorbing their members. In supporting of this Pastor P. M. Philip says, "the work of missionary Cook spread like wild fire in our places and the leaders of the Episcopal churches issued their letter of objection to the churches forbidding the members of the mainline churches to give him permission to preach even from the shade of a tree. This shows the antagonism of the Episcopal leaders against Pentecostalism."

Cook himself testified about his wider opportunities among the downtrodden communities as he came in contact with their leaders. It is a remarkable experience of Cook when he visited the Dalit leader Vellikkare Chothi, also known as Evangelist Mathai, who was a member of the Sri Mulam Legislative Assembly in Travancore, and a social worker among the Dalits. When he heard about the peculiar attitude of the missionary towards the working class, Chothi believed that the missionary would enable his people to advance their spiritual condition. He approached Cook and invited him to preach to his community. This attempt was not for any material benefits but rather spiritual. Cook happily accepted the invitation considering that it was the fulfillment of his vision. The missionary narrated about his meeting at Vellikkare "during his visit at Vellikare, he experienced the marvelous outpouring of the Holy Spirit as in the days of the apostles and many were healed. At the end of the meeting, sixteen Dalits were baptized". Dalits led him to many other surrounding villages and many of their relatives embraced the Pentecostal faith.

Samuelkutty further explains the effect of the ministry at Vellikara:

It was through his [Vellikara Chothi] efforts that Cook was able to preach to hundreds of Dalits and get them converted to his church. Thus Pentecostalism took root among the Dalits and spread to many places like Ezhumattor, Perumpatti, Ranni and many other parts of Dalit pockets in central Kerala. It seems to the writer that more than the initiatives of Cook, it was the initiative of the people, who heard his preaching, invited him to their places to preach. Thus in central Tranvancore Pentecostalism appeared to be the Margam (Way) of the Dalits because in central Travancore only Dalits were enrolled in Pentecostalism in the beginning.

Moreover, missionary Cook enjoyed the fellowship of another prominent Dalit leader, Poikayil Yohannan. He was a leader of the oppressed class, who received divine revelation and had at least five thousand followers throughout Travancore. He was an outstanding preacher in the Mar Thoma Syrian Church. He later left the church because of the caste disparity and discrimination by the Syrian Christians. Though he joined the Brethren, he became more and more indifferent towards denomination because of discrimination. Cook was invited to preach the Word in his premises to the audience of about two thousand people. According to Cook, "this gathering reminded me of what we read in the Book of Acts, where a great multitude were gathered from various parts of the Roman Empire on the Day of Pentecost, and then went back to their homes with something to think over, after hearing the message and seeing manifestations of the Holy Spirit." Cook admitted that after the meeting, he had received new openings to many neighboring villages, where poor people were prepared to sponsor his meetings. During his visit at Mavelikare, again many oppressed people responded to the gospel and about eighty of them were baptized. Thus, Missionary Cook became the divine channel for the Dalits to embrace a new faith, which did not segregate or discriminate their own believers, unlike the Syrian traditional churches. Pentecostalism became an oasis for the socially and spiritually ostracized Dalit communities in Kerala. Indeed, had Rev. Cook failed to reach the Kerala Dalits, they might have remained in social and spiritual darkness. Dalits in India obliged much to this great missionary valor for his commitment, compassion for the poor and needy and selfless Pentecostal pioneer in India.

Uniqueness of Missionary Cook

Interestingly, the life and disposition of Cook was well fitting to be a pioneer missionary. He was a man of vision and mission. His Christian orientation and association with Azusa Street revival molded his missionary vision. He was convinced through the Word and prophetic utterance regarding his missionary work.

Cook had exercised extraordinary faith. From the formal days of his missionary career, he cherished the quality of trusting the Lord for everything. During his ministry, he was attacked by economic crisis and sickness. Attacks also came from the foes of the Pentecostal faith and organizational strife and demonic inroads but his unbending and uncompromising faith empowered him to be victorious to the end. Sickness hounded is family and he lost his young wife but he did never fell away from his principle of 'healing by faith'. He was a man of incessant prayer.

Cook was a man of great passion for the perishing souls. When he reached India, the transportation system was very primitive and undeveloped. In order to reach villages and towns, Cook had to travel by bullock carts for many hours through rough roads. Rev. Cook used to walk many miles through fields, valleys, muddy grounds, forests and hill tops to preach the Gospel. He had ministered to educated and illiterate, noble and down trodden, sick and demon possessed. He had shown unusual sympathy for the poor and destitute. He established orphanages, Poor Homes for the socially marginalized people.

Cook practiced the incarnation mission theology. When he reached the strange land of India, he loved the people and its culture. He loved to identify with local people, their life style and mode of living. When the natives offered their normal food, he took it satisfactorily and rested in their grass huts. As a missionary, he gladly accepted and adjusted with every divine provision for the expansion of the Kingdom. He was a hard working missionary who spared out time to get involve in the construction work. His neighbours had tremendous memories of his physical labor and masonry work of the church and parsonage buildings.

Missionary Cook maintained matured spirituality in the time of struggle and tension in the church and missionary work. He learned to behave with quality to others in the time of personal attack against him and the ministry by native and foreign Christians. While he was deserted in large numbers and conspired for money, he demonstrated the power of the love of Christ. Besides the pagan religions, the strong traditional Christian denominations obstructed his Pentecostal movement in Kerala but always maintained a spirit of compassion and love.

As a pioneering missionary, Cook knew the most appealing means to communicate his message to the audience. People witnessed the power of God in his preaching and miraculous healings and release from demonic bondage. He sensed the spiritual need of the people and often preached sermons on deliverance. Rev. Cook was good in expressing the love of Christ and many sinners were saved instantaneously. Under the control of the Spirit, he used to speak in tongues, utter prophecies, and dance and declare deliverance in the meetings.

Cook was fair to locate the most responsive group of people, the Dalits, in his missionary task. He realized their spiritual and social need for liberation and justice. Thus, he focused these communities and achieved a great harvest.

Cook always promoted the humble ethnic believers and pastors. He had included them in the Executive Council, the highest decision making body of the church. Some of the Dalit pastors were ordained and well placed in the ministry. The writer assumes that Missionary had no caste spirit in him. So he did not mention their caste origin in the early church records. Therefore, it is difficult to identify a pastor by his name in the old records. However, the situation changed thereafter and caste identification became easy.

As long as Pentecostalism in India remains, the contribution of Cook cannot be disregarded. The Dalit Pentecostals are proud about the missionary and his warm relationship with them. They loved him next to Christ and confirmed their loyalty to the core even when others betrayed the Sahib. However, the Azusa Street revival became a blessing to the Indian Church by the ministry of Cook.



To contact Brother Das, please write to Pneuma Foundation Member Services.


Prepared for the Pneuma Foundation website by KenJ