Impressions from a Modern Missionary Journey
First impression – India is BIG – VERY BIG My journey started in Delhi, where I arrived from London on 30 September. I first visited Kullu and Manali in Himachal Pradesh, a return journey from Delhi of 674 miles by road, much of it indescribably rough! Next I flew 1164 miles to Guwahati, plus 72 miles by road to Shillong, Meghalaya, with a short 40 mile return road trip to Mairang. Back to Guwahati, still 72 miles by road! followed by a flight of 1645 miles to Bangalore, the headquarters of my hosts, the Indian Evangelical Mission (IEM). From there I visited the IEM cross-cultural missions Training Centre, 50 miles down the road into Tamil Nadu. A major chunk of the journey then started with a flight to Hyderabad, 350 miles, followed by a road trip of 183 miles to Chennur in Andhra Pradesh, where I visited a number of teams working in very remote villages. Here I managed to pick up a dose of Amoebic Dysentery, which causes diarrhoea and general weakness, and which followed me more or less to the end of my journey in India. A doctor in Bangalore said ‘Welcome to India!’ What could he mean...............?? Then back by road to Hyderabad, taking care to have regular toilet stops, and by air to Bangalore. After staying with friends for a few days, it was time to embark on the final stage of my journey, to attend the IEM National Convention at Ukhrul, near Imphal, Manipur. This required a flight to Calcutta, 1190 miles, plus a flight to Imphal of 566 miles, and a 75 mile journey by a narrow winding road to Ukhrul. At the close of the convention, I retraced my steps along the same road to Imphal, then flew to Guwahati, 321 miles, followed by my final flight of 1170 miles to Delhi, where I caught my flight home to UK.
If you’ve followed the story so far, and added up the numbers, you’ll get a total mileage of 8230 for this missionary journey in India! I was surprised to find it adds up to such a big number, but as I said just now, India is BIG!
But it wasn’t all travel – I visited some 14 places where there are IEM teams at work, serving the people and demonstrating the love of Christ, some in very remote villages. So my second impression is the total commitment and dedication to the task by these people. They are all well qualified, and well able to hold down good jobs in the growing economy of India. But they have turned their backs on this for the sake of the Gospel, and I am full of admiration for them. People like Yoke and Yofeeca, at Christ Church Kullu, where they have two congregations – Hindi and Nepali. They presented me with a Kullu hat, which is worn by the men of the district. Or there is Naresh, who works as a counsellor with the medical team at Lady Willingdon Hospital in Manali. Manali is well-known as a tourist venue for trekking in the nearby mountains, and we went up the Solang Valley in a ski-lift, with breathtaking views!
Moving on to Shillong, Meghalaya, where I was met by my good friend Kharchandy (GP), a retired civil engineer, who works for IEM as their State Secretary in Meghalaya. The Khasi people live here, and GP is always reminding me how Thomas Jones brought the Gospel here from North Wales in the 1840s. With the Gospel came an alphabet and the Bible in a written language. This transformed them from almost savages, to what they are today, a highly civilised and educated society. On the Sunday, we went to a large church where there were over 500 children and young people of all ages, being taught in over 50 different classes. In the afternoon we went to a church in a remote village, where there were over 200 people at worship. Incidentally, it was raining, and all the umbrellas were lined up outside the worship area. This leads me to my third impression – the wide range of temperature and weather in India. Delhi was hot – around 30, and so was Bangalore. But the North-East climate is more like the UK, which means you may get rain! Fortunately, I had brought an umbrella and a light sweater.
Moving south to Andhra Pradesh, I spent the next few days in the Chinnoor district with my old friends Joseph and Amukutty, whom Joyce and I first met during our visit in 1996. There is an IEM church in memory of Joyce in Asnad, one of the remote villages in the Chinnoor area. It was great to join in worship here with these simple, very poor folk. It was also good to have lunch with the local landowners, who are very supportive of the work of Amukutty and joseph. They have been working for IEM for at least 17 years – counting from the year Joyce and I first met them – this calls for real perseverance!
Next, come with me to Babbarchilka, a very remote village about 12 miles from Chinnoor. The only way in is via a narrow concrete road, whose surface varies from very rough to indescribably broken up with deep potholes guaranteed to shake the living daylights out of any vehicle daring to set foot on it. Eventually we arrived unscathed and met Sathyaraj and Jenita, a delightful young couple with two children – Jeswin and Jerusha, aged 5 and 2. We went to their small church, which has about 100 people attending, and there are 8 other villages nearby, with a total of about 200 believers.
We visited the home of a believer, and before long the word had got around that we were there, and a crowd crammed themselves into the tiny room, and we had an impromptu worship session. I found this very moving.
So my next Impression is that much of this work takes place in very remote villages, which, under normal circumstances are totally unapproachable. This means that visitors are very rare, and are limited to only the IEM support person, and someone from further afield is unheard of. So it was worth all the agro to make this visit, and others like it.
Finally, we’ll go to Bonagiripalli (try and get your tongue around this!) There I met Vijay and his wife Prameetha Sharon, who took me to an even more remote village, called Dudekullapalli. (Got it?) There we saw a so-called ‘shelter’ where about 20 people meet for worship each Sunday. This is a simple wooden skeleton, with a roof of leaves. OK when the weather is good, but not so good when it’s raining! They desperately need a more permanent building.
Before we leave Andhra Pradesh, I must show you a very moving baptismal ceremony which I witnessed – 11 people confessing their faith and being baptised by Joseph and Vijay in the river Godaveri. In the West, we baptise infants by sprinkling in a font, and adults by immersion in a clinically clean specially heated pool, but they chose the dirty river! This brings me to another impression – the deep faith of these simple, very poor, people. They have nothing, but they know God, and become active members of worshipping groups, often facing persecution, but making a difference in their communities.
The final stage in my journey was to Manipur, a far North-East State next door to Myanmar. This was by air to Imphal, the capital, and by road to Ukhrul, where the IEM National Convention was held. Manipur has a very high proportion of Christians, so the churches are large and vibrant. But the State is plagued by insurgents, who only want to cause trouble. So there are a lot of armed police very visibly around the place. I was there for three days, and I experienced being interrogated by a security team at the airport, and escorted out by a vehicle of armed police! (This latter was for my own benefit, to make sure I didn’t miss my flight, due to being delayed by crowds of striking workers. In the event, I saw very little of this, but the support was appreciated, and I did catch my flight.)
The meetings were held in Union Baptist Church, which holds over 1,000 people, and was packed solid when I came for a 7am (yes, 7am!) meeting. Over 800 IEM missionaries and supporters came from all over India, and descended on this small town, so the occasion made a big impact. They were accommodated, some in hotels, but most in peoples’ homes. This presented a huge task for the organising team, who worked tirelessly to meet everyone’s needs. I stayed in Beulah Cottage, a delightful holiday home. I was still plagued by my amoebic dysentery, so was unable to attend many sessions. I was nursed by Nimshim and Philava, two post-graduate students from Delhi, who fed me a diet consisting of green tea, vegetable soup and porridge! Ugh! But it kept me going, and I was able to get out to one or two sessions, and brought greetings from Friends of IEM UK and from my home church, Springfield Park Baptist Church, Chelmsford. The name of the place, Beulah Cottage, was appropriate, as I think Beulah is one of the bible names for the Promised Land, and I’m sure God sent two ministering angels to look after me!
So that’s my impressions of India from this latest visit – noisy, dirty, suicidal driving, archaic plumbing, no plugs for sinks, no guarantee of toilet paper and food that burns a hole in your stomach. But loving, caring people, and a deep spiritual experience that will remain with me for the rest of my life. I’m signing off now and I hope you have found this account interesting. Who’s coming with me on my next trip................?
4 November 2013.
Soup Hub Lunch
During the summer, why not join us for a Toastie at Soup Hub, every Thursday lunchtime from 12 noon to 1 pm in the Church Hub following the Coffee Hub. With lovely fresh toasted sandwiches, all are welcome to come and lunch together. Donations towards the cost are invited.
The picture of Alison serving soup in the Soup Hub kitchen shown above is the one that has also been used to illustrate the article featuring her in the Baptist Unions' Together Magazine. The summer edition of this thrice yearly publication is available to read online or for free download from the Baptists Together website by following the link here, and may be purchased as a paper copy to be sent to you in the good old postal system. There are lots of other interesting and thought provoking articles to read, and if you are lucky you may also be able to borrow one of the church copies.
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Little Sparks Parent and Toddler Group is every Tuesday at 10:00 during school term time. See the poster on our home page for details and download a copy to print off and put somewhere handy to remind you. Note that Alison also has a new phone number 07741 737351.
A short video clip of Darren's baptism may be viewed here and on our baptism page. The clip shows Darren's testimony and baptism.
Tool Box Project
Do you have any spare tools or craft items? We are collecting them for Tools With a Mission. See the list on our Tool Box Project page for details of what we currently need.
Can you knit, crochet or sew?
The Springfield Stitchers need help with various charity projects. If you would like to help or, if you would like to learn to knit, crochet or sew, or if you have unwanted wool or haberdashery (buttons, zips, thread, fabric, sewing machines) please pop along to find out more.
The Springfield Stitchers meet at “The Coffee Hub” every Thursday 9.30 till 12.00 at Springfield Park Baptist Church. Contact Roger for more information.
As a church we believe in the power of prayer and that it makes a difference in situations and circumstances. We are part of Chelmsford 24-7 Prayer, joining with Christians from across our City to pray for the things God lays on our hearts. Please follow this link for more information about how you and your church can get involved: https://chelmsford24-7.org/. Plans for the near future at Springfield Park involve the setting up of a new prayer space and prayer walks around our local area. Watch this space for developments.
Come to our coffee drop-in on Thursday mornings from 9.30am to 12 noon. All welcome for free coffee, tea and a chat.
From our Foreign Correspondent
See an account of John Lancasters latest visit to India here.
Follow Johns mission trips to India and see more pictures of the people and places he visits by joining Johns mission trip to India on Facebook.
See more from SPBC on Facebook.
- Tuesday, July 24, 2018
- Wednesday, July 25, 2018
- Thursday, July 26, 2018
- Tuesday, July 31, 2018
- Wednesday, August 1, 2018
- Thursday, August 2, 2018
If you have an event to add to the diary please email us the details.