T.T. Zachariah: A Pioneer Worker to Coimbatore
Mr. T.T. Zachariah affectionately called as Punthala Scariachan was born on 18th May 1908 to Mrs. Aleyamma and Mr. Thariyan of the ancient Thoppil family in Punthala, a small village in Alleppey District, Kerala. His family hailed from a Marthomite background. His mother was a first cousin of the Marthoma Metropolitan, a highly respected and spiritual man. His parents were very God fearing and as a result they inculcated in him a love for the Lord. His mother was very fond of her youngest son Zachariah and was especially concerned about his spiritual growth. His mother took him to see her cousin the Metropolitan whenever he visited the church in Punthala. This also helped Zachariah immensely towards spiritual orientation.
Seeker of the Scripture
At the age of 25, Mr. Zachariah along with Mr. K G Kurien, who was related to him, joined up with Sadhu Kochukunju Upadeshi, a well known spiritual leader among Marthomites at Edayaranmula, intending to study the Scriptures. The three of them went to various places in Travancore and preached the love of Christ. After much time, they found that they were unable to fulfill their primary desire of studying the Word as they were more involved in social work. Hence they parted ways with Upadeshi and joined Mahakavi K V Simon of Edayaranmula. At K V Simon’s Home, they were very warmly treated and his wife Ayroor Amma became a motherly figure to them. Thus under the tutelage of Simon, they learned the Word of God along with his other disciples such as K G Thomas of Kottayam, K E Abraham and other prominent pioneering men of God. K E Abraham went on to start the Indian Pentecostal Church. Though he and Mr. Zachariah held differing doctrines they still maintained a good personal relationship with each other.
Early Missionary Endeavors and the Beginning of the Punthala Assembly
Mr. Zachariah and Mr. K G Kurian along with K V Simon and his disciples preached the gospel and established churches in and around Central Travancore, including the church at Punthala. In 1941, they conducted a meeting at Mr. Zachariah’s home in Punthala and three people, Mr. P M Samuel of Plantherathekkathil, Mr. Daniel of Kottakkattil and Mr. Daniel of Vazhapedikasseril, accepted the Lord as their Saviour. These men were the initial seeds of the Punthala Brethren Assembly. Thus the church at Punthala at first started at Mr. Zachariah’s house. In the same year brother, Daniel of Vazhapedikasseril was blessed with a baby boy and they named the child Enosh to mark the beginning of worship meeting at Punthala. Thereafter many more souls from Punthala and nearby areas were added to the church as frequent meetings and Bible classes were held at the initiative of Mr. Zachariah and other brethren. Whenever he visited Punthala he conducted Bible classes in and around Punthala and many people attended these meetings and studied the Word of God. He also had a good rapport with spiritual people from other denominations and of different faiths. Later on, C V George (known among the brethren circle as Pandalam C V George) came to Punthala as a missionary and the church started growing.
After the Home call of Simon in 1944, Mr. Zachariah left Edayaranmula and along with leaders from the local assemblies of Edayaranmula and Kallissery preached the Good News. Later the same year, Mr. Zachariah, T A Kurien, and V P Jacob decided to leave Kerala and continue the Lord’s work in neighboring states.
Mr. Zachariah went to Coimbatore, Mr. V P Jacob to Mysore and Mr. TA Kurien to Sagar, where the Lord tremendously blessed their works in His vineyard.
Brief History of Assembly work in Coimbatore
It was in the year 1888, Handley Bird, a 21-year-old young man from Britain was contemplating to commit his life as a missionary and was awaiting the Master’s Call. It was during this time that he came to know through Bro. George Muller of Bristol of the need of a young missionary to go to India. Finally, Handley Bird set sail for India in response to the request of Mr. Robert Stanes, a businessman in Coimbatore. About a year later, he was joined by his fiancée Miss Marion L. Miller and they were happily married. They made Coimbatore their base for 11 years and established assembly testimony. Handley Bird never stayed in one place for too long. He did a good deal of itinerant preaching in the southern parts of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
After Handley Bird left Coimbatore, the growth of the assembly declined and ceased to exist. Many attempts were made to revive the assembly work but failed. It was during this time that Zachariah selected Coimbatore as his mission field. When he came there, there was practically no assembly testimony at Coimbatore.
Beginning of Ebenezer Gospel Hall
Mr. Zachariah visited Coimbatore during 1945 along with few brethren from Kerala, where he could meet Bro. C. P. John, Bro. V. Kuriakose and a few others and had a worship service in a primary school. Then he left for Kerala and came back with his wife and first child during May 1946 and settled at Gandhipuram in Coimbatore. This was the beginning of the present Assembly in Coimbatore City, now known as ‘Ebenezer Gospel Hall’.
In the year 1948 brethren could purchase a piece of land for the construction of an Assembly Hall. God made it possible by the free will offering of one brother Mr. Lang. He was a businessman and donated 1000 pounds for the purchase of land. It was Missionary Kimber who encouraged Mr. Lang to donate. The present Ebenezer Gospel Hall at the prime location in Coimbatore is a testimony to God’s faithfulness.
Gospel Preacher and a Church Planter
While in Coimbatore, the Lord rewarded his tireless efforts and many souls were saved. He also wrote various articles in Tamil like the ‘Anubombilum Sakhtiyeriyathu’ and tracts detailing God’s wrath for those who would not believe in the Lord. He would walk tirelessly for miles to preach the gospel. He walked up to Aanaketty and Attappady, the hilly regions of Coimbatore and Palghat to do the Lord’s work amongst the Adivasis. Many assemblies were established in and around Coimbatore because of his labor. More than seven assemblies were formed during his ministry at Coimbatore. Sulur, Karamada, Kuniamuthur, Thudialloor, Ganapathy etc. are some of these assemblies. One of his Tamil translators Ratinasamy started a church in Ratinapuri.
Despite many obstacles and battles, the Lord gave him the grace to keep his testimony. He would quietly help the poor and needy people without calling any attention to himself as he firmly believed the Lord’s instructions in Matthew 6:3, “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” He also insisted that his children follow the same principle.
His knowledge of the scripture was good and faultless – though his general education was not much. He trusted upon the Lord who called him for the ministry. He was not an orator but his favorite verse was 2 Cor.9:10. He experienced how Lord gives ‘seed to the sower’ and bread to the laborer. He shifted his family back to Punthala after about 8 years of life together in Coimbatore, due to certain financial constraints and also for the need to take care of his house and property in Kerala. He was a good farmer; whenever he got spare time he worked in his field, to meet his financial needs.
His family and Home call
Mr. Zachariah was married in 1945 and was blessed with 8 children, 5 boys, and 3 girls. His wife Saramma was a God fearing woman and served him well during her lifetime, supporting him in the ministry. She was very actively involved in the sister’s ministry. Even in his old age Zachariah remained spiritually very active and conducted Bible classes that were attended by people in Punthala and its neighboring places. Mr. Zachariah fought a good fight, finished his course and kept the faith. He finally left for his heavenly abode on March 29, 1987.
He was a man of deep convictions and always stood for his commitment irrespective of the fact that it could even hurt him. Though he was firm in his convictions he loved his opponents. He encouraged youngsters to grow spiritually including this writer. He stood firm in all his difficulties because his faith in the Lord was so strong and did not look to human faces for his need nor asked anyone for help.
Source of Information: T S John,
T.S. Abraham, K P Mathew (Coimbatore)