BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) — It was the kind of call most people answer then hang up immediately.
But for some reason Eddie Vines just couldn’t.
“The man on the phone was such a good telemarketer when my wife answered the phone she tried to politely brush him off, but she couldn’t seem to get rid of him,” Vines said. “So I took the phone from her and he wouldn’t let me get off either.”
Turns out the young man was one of the Naga people, a group once known for being headhunters in Northeast India. Baptists helped take the Gospel there more than a century ago, along with literacy and education.
And as Vines, a member of Shades Crest Baptist Church, Birmingham, sat on his porch swing that day, the telemarketer told him the story of his people and how they went from living in darkness to following Christ. It softened Vines’ heart.
A friendship forged
And something else happened too — they forged a friendship.
In the 13 years since that initial call, Vines and the young man have logged hours on the phone. They’ve done their best to support and encourage each other, and they’ve developed a father-and-son-type relationship, or a Paul-and-Timothy one, Vines said.
And not too long ago Vines told his friend he felt like it was high time they meet in person.
“It was always a goal and a desire for the two of us to meet in person, but the timing and finances never seemed to line up,” Vines said. “Finally this past fall I felt the Lord leading me to travel to India.”
And his friend had an idea.
“At the time he was organizing a conference for graduate students, and he said it would probably encourage more people to come if there was an American on the panel,” Vines said. “He asked if I would like to come and speak on Christian leadership.”
That was right up Vines’ alley. He’d been a judge in Bessemer for years and along the way studied at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and started Faith Fortress Ministries, a ministry that’s a combination of missions and apologetics.
So they crafted a plan, and soon after, that face-to-face meeting finally happened.
As the two men visited and drove the seven hours to the conference they talked about the world, Christianity, education — and the state of the Naga people.
Since the trip, Vines is working to find ways for Faith Fortress to partner with Naga believers and bolster them to train leaders, strengthen churches and reach the people groups around them.
And all of that started with a telemarketing call.
“I truly thank God for bringing [us] together in this very unlikely friendship,” Vines said. “And I pray that He will do a mighty work in India through Faith Fortress as we develop an ongoing relationship with the Nagas.”