Reflection on a Modern Missionary Journey
So,it's good to be back in India with the Indian Evangelical Mission, especially here in Nagaland, where I’m starting to write. And the weather is just like home - cloudy, showery, and sometimes pouring with rain!
We landed at Delhi on Wednesday morning, 18th October after a smooth flight in a Jet Airways 777 with a following wind. As Thursday was Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Light, there were lots of buildings lit up and lots of fire crackers being let off - very noisy!
My flight from Delhi to Dimapur in Nagaland, via Calcutta, was due to take off from the Domestic Terminal 1 at 7.55am, so we left Stephen's flat at 5.30am to allow time to get to the airport and check in. As it was Diwali, a national holiday, the traffic was lighter than usual, but this didn't alter the fact that the signs to Terminal 1 were very confusing and it was easy to get misled towards the International Terminal 3! But we eventually made it, in plenty of time for the flight. We arrived at Dimapur at 12.30.
Click on the map to see a bigger image.
Apparently, I had travelled with a Bishop from the Church of North India (CNI) and we were met by taxi and taken to Ao Baptist Church in Dimapur where the IEM National Convention meetings are being held. I couldn't help noticing how rough the roads are here, and this was particularly noticeable after a day's rain yesterday! We had lunch before being taken to our hotel, and it was nice to be greeted by many old friends!
When we got to the hotel I found we were sharing a room - the first time I have shared with a Bishop! He was only staying for one night, but we got on well during our short time together. I learned he had just returned from a visit to Canterbury, and would be visiting the UK again next year, in preparation for the 2020 Lambeth Conference (you heard it first here!)
The Inaugural Session of the Convention on Thursday evening included a lengthy time of greetings to visiting dignitaries (which included yours truly!)
There were 700 delegates to the Convention, from all over India, including many IEM missionaries and members of supporting churches.
There is one event not included in the itinerary, as I found myself lying on a bed at the Rajiv Ghandi University Health Centre, in Doimukh Arunachal Pradesh with a drip in my arm!
I had a recurrence of last week's tummy problem so Kap took me to the Health Centre for a check-up. I was seen by an excellent doctor who has worked at the Christian Medical Centre Vellore. He prescribed me some tablets and also put me on a drip as I had got dehydrated. I was really impressed by the treatment I received.
Here is a summary of the week's activities:
Sunday 22 October. Closing ceremony of the IEM National Convention. A most impressive and moving song and dance routine depicting the events of the Crucifixion of Jesus, portrayed by students of the North-East Theological College.
Monday 23 October. Should have been an outing to Kohima, but this was cancelled due to the bad weather - it rained for two days continually during the Convention!
Instead I had a meeting with Raja in the morning and went to a local market with Raja and Fanny in the afternoon, to buy some presents.
Tuesday 24 October, I went to the airport and travelled to Calcutta and Guwahati. Here I was met by Prem Kumar who works for IEM on Bible Translation. He took me by taxi from Guwahati to Shillong in Meghalaya, where we met Dr.Kharchandy who showed me to my hotel, the Embassy, a nice hotel on the second floor up lots of steps!
Wednesday 25 October. We went to Mairang, where Lapelin and Enjoy who came to England with Kharchandy a few years ago, teach in local schools. We visited their schools, and also went to see the framework of a new building for the English School, which they hope will be completed soon. Had a nice visit in the evening to Kharchandy’s home. Met his wife and daughter Ophelia – a Facebook friend – who is due to be married shortly.
Thursday 26 October. I went by car from Shillong to Guwahati, where I caught the overnight train to Arunachal Pradesh, to visit Rev Kap and his family at Doimukh.
Friday 27 October arrived at Itanagar, met by Kap and taken to Doimukh. We drove to Dhemaji, a small village a 3-hour drive along terrible roads, where we dedicated a piece of land for a new IEM church. As it is in the middle of rice fields, which were being harvested, I was able to help!
This was a very happy time, full of hope for this small church as they move forward. And of course, we had the return drive home, but it was worth it!
Saturday I've already told you about this morning!
Sunday 29 October. Still at Doimukh Arunachal Pradesh, recovering from yesterday's events! Sunday worship was great, with a packed church, and several dances and songs by young people from the Sunday School. I preached on Jesus' words in John 17 'The hour is come'. He spoke these words as he contemplated the coming crucifixion, the climax of the whole of his ministry here on earth. I very much enjoyed this couple of days with Rev. Kap and his family, and it was hard to say 'goodbye' as we left to catch the overnight train to Guwahati.
Monday 30 October. I woke up about 4.30am to find the train drawing in to Guwahati station. I was due to be met and taken to the Bible translation office, to wait until the early flight left on Tuesday for Bangalore. Unfortunately, my phone was flat, as I had been using it a lot for Facebook posting. So, I hoped someone would come to platform 5 and find me! I waited and waited, but no-one came - what to do? I needed to get to a charger point, but didn't feel up to lugging my 15kg case up about 50 steps, and had been warned against Assam porters! Eventually I got a porter, who, for the sum of 200 rupees, carried my case up the stairs, down another flight of stairs, until we came to a charging point - he kindly waited to check I was OK, so I think Assam porters have been much maligned! My phone limped into life, and I was able to make a phone call to let people know I had arrived. Eventually I arrived at the translation office and had breakfast. This is an important office, where Bible translation of many little-known languages of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh is co-ordinated. IEM is very involved in this work, and has already released scripture portions for a number of tribal languages, which they are printing for distribution shortly. I pray that God's Word will do a good work in many lives, so far untouched by the Gospel.
Tuesday 31 October. The translation office is very close to Guwahati airport (which is not much to write home about!) I left by taxi at 6am, and took about ten minutes to get to the airport for the princely sum of 61 rupees - less than a pound, as we got 20% students' discount. I was very well looked after during my short stay in Guwahati, and arrived at Bangalore feeling refreshed, and fully recovered from my health scare. Sam Caleb came to meet me and we had a good drive of about 1 1/2 hours to the IEM office in the middle of Bangalore. I received a good welcome from everyone, including Raja the General Secretary and Fanny his wife and soon got settled into the guest room. Sam works in the Communications Department, and I have known him a long time. We went for a coffee and a walk around the sights of Bangalore (Diwali lights now still up, waiting for Christmas) and I checked the ATMs to see how much cash I could withdraw so I could pay IEM for the airfares they had booked for me. Only 10,000 rupees per day about £120 so I had high charges to pay.
Wednesday 1st November. I left for OTI, the missionary training centre, about an hour's drive into Tamil Nadu. Today was a holiday in the State of Karnataka, celebrating its formation as a state, following the rule of various kings/maharajahs. So the traffic was lighter than usual - but Bangalore traffic is pretty crazy at any time!
Once again, I was given a warm welcome by the Director, Yoke and Yofeeca and the staff and students. There was a missiology course for clergy of the nearby CSI Diocese, which had been run for them by OTI.
Thursday I spent time with Yoke looking at progress with the work on the extension to the dining hall, which looks very good. It's good to be involved in the piece of work, which will enable the dining hall to accommodate two independent meal sittings, which is essential as OTI develops its ministry to provide training courses for outside groups.
I spent a short time talking to the current course of 34 students, who will complete the course in December and will then be going to their field placements. They need our prayers!! I was taken over to Kothanur, the other side of Bangalore, to visit Wesley and Mercy. It was good to catch up with them, as I worked very closely with Wesley when he was IEM General Secretary. I spent the night at Kothanur - my third different bed this week!
Friday. Wesley brought me back to IEM HQ, and after finishing his business there, took me to the home of Stephen and Christina Daniel, where I spent the evening and had dinner with them and their three children. We had a good discussion about his new job as Church Ministries Secretary for Karnataka. So we had a nice evening together, and Stephen brought me back to IEM on the back of his moped - a distance of about 10km!
Saturday 4th November. Today I had coffee and a snack with a friend from Myanmar, who is doing a theological course at the Asian Theological College not far from the home of Diana and Theo Srinivasagam, missionary friends for many years.
Sunday 5th November. With Diana and Theo Srinivasagam. Went to morning worship at Adonai Church. A great time of worship by a congregation of about 200, and a Bible study on the life of David by a pastor from Chennai. Then a Chinese meal at home. As it was raining, I needed a car back to IEM, so this was arranged by Fanny, Raja’s wife, via her UBER App. I got back to IEM about 10pm, ready to pack for the flight to Hyderabad tomorrow morning.
Monday 6th November. Left IEM for the airport really early! Went with Raja and daughter Elsie, who was flying to Dharamsala to visit her cousin who has just had a baby. I was able to help her though check-in and security, as it was her first experience travelling alone. I arrived at Hyderabad and spent the day with Florence and Philip, who are keen supporters of IEM.
Tuesday 7th November. Stephen and Susie, IEM missionaries recently returned from working in the Andaman Islands, arrived this morning from Chennur with the driver who was to take us back to Chennur and also take us round the various villages I would visit. We had a good drive to Chennur, and arrived there late afternoon – a drive of over 4 hours, but along very good roads by Indian standards! As we drove towards Chennur, we were met by some groups of monkeys hoping for some food, so we got some good photos. (anyone know the term for a group of monkeys? I think it’s a troop…)
It was good to be back in Chennur, and to meet Sathiaraj and Jenita and their 4 year old daughter Jerusha, IEM missionaries in charge at Chennur.
Wednesday 8th November. Visited four villages with Susie and Stephen. These are all very remote from Chennur, some 30km away. The first, Racherla, has a worshiping group in a temporary ‘shed’ and they hope to build a permanent church. The next village has a church, so we had some impromptu worship! Then two more villages, before heading back home. The last, Vemanapalli, has an almost completed church. The leadership there has been a bit uncertain and disconnected, so needs prayer for unity.
Thursday 9th November Today I visited five more villages with Sathiaraj,. Again, they were very remote, along very difficult and narrow tracks (hardly deserving the title ‘roads’! We had to cut short our visits, as the time was getting late. Wherever we went, we were welcomed with open arms, and with enthusiastic worship. At Raipet, where I saw and prayed over a piece of land in May, a church was being built, whilst cotton was being harvested in the nearby fields.
At Duganapalli there is a church, and they are building a simple house for their pastor, an IEM ‘local evangelist’, and his wife and two children – we saw the work going on. The pastor is receiving treatment for sickle cell anaemia. At Babbachilka the work is expanding, and Sathiaraj and Jenita spend about three days a week there. At my last visit in May, I saw a new church had been started and this time it had reached roof height. Thursday was a hectic and tiring day, but full of encouragement as I saw the ‘fields ripe unto harvest’ and the work of reaping progressing well.
Friday 10th November My final day at Chennur, when I travelled by car back to Hyderabad. But first we went to the river for a baptismal service, followed by the 15th Church Anniversary at Asnad, which was full of meaning as I recalled the Dedication in 2003 in memory of Joyce. It was particularly nice to have Amukutty and Joseph present, as they were my first IEM missionary friends when I visited India with Joyce In 1996. They have retired from IEM, but were back on a visit to Chennur, where they worked for many years. For the baptism, we drove past the church for two or three miles until we came to the bank of the river Godaveri, which separates the States of Telengana and Maharashtra. At this time of year there is very little water in the river, so there was a difficult (for me!) trek across a sandy bank to get to the river edge.
But it was worth it to see these four young people confess their faith in Christ, turning their backs on worship of idols. They need our prayers. Then we came to the Anniversary Service, with lots of greetings and joyful singing, and a short sermon by yours truly. A quick lunch, then we had to tear ourselves away. We finally left Chennur at 4pm, and arrived at Hyderabad at 9.30. I stayed overnight with Jebakumar and Jebacrownie, senior IEM missionaries, and their daughter Gracia – another Facebook friend - who is training to be an architect.
Saturday 11th November. Flew to Delhi in the evening, and had a 7 hour wait before catching the 06.45 flight to Kullu.
Sunday 12th November Arrived in Kullu, and was met at the airport by Luke Titus. He took me to Christ Church, where I had a short rest, before going to the morning service at 11.00 am. I preached briefly from Colossians 2. After another short rest, I was driven to Manali, about 40km south along the route of the river Beas, popular for water rafting. The drive took us about 2 hours, as we were held up by several wedding processions! Eventually we arrived at the home of Naresh and Shanti in Manali, so I was able to have a good night's rest!
Monday 13th November I went with Naresh and Shanti to their office in the grounds of the Lady Willingdon Hospital. Naresh is responsible for a small CNI church there, and people come in for chats about their lives, and any problems they are experiencing. This is a fruitful ministry, and I was able to sit in on one discussion (I interpreted the body language - not knowing the spoken words!) It was an opportunity to share by silent prayer. After a nice lunch in the town, and another short visit, I boarded the overnight coach to Dharamsala. Unfortunately, I left my power pack and charger at Naresh's home, so by the time I arrived at Dharamsala at about 4am, my phone was flat!
Tuesday 14th November. Arrived at the bus stand at Dharamsala. The 'conductor' took pity on me, and allowed me to plug my phone into the charger on the coach, so I was able to phone Mang, who came to meet me. He took me to my hotel, which was well equipped and had a stunning view of Dharamsala and the surrounding mountains. After a short rest, I met Paulene, Mang's colleague, and we went round the town, and to the nearby town of Mcloedganj (nearby, but vertically separated by about a couple of thousand feet! We travelled in a car kindly lent by a friend, and visited the Dalai Lama Temple and a Tantric Buddhism monastery. (Don't ask me what this means, but I think evil spirits are involved!)
Mang and Paulene and their wives Grace and Libela, both of whom have young babies, work to get to know local people, and to seek opportunities to explain their faith. This is very slow painstaking work, and needs a lot of patience and perseverance. We sat and had hot lemon and honey drinks and chatted about their life here. They need our prayers.
Wednesday 15th November. Today being the third Wednesday of the month is IEM Prayer Day. We gathered at Mang and Grace’s home and I was able to meet the new babies - a boy for Mang and Grace (a brother for Marvin who is 8) and a girl for Libela and Paulene. We shared and prayed about the work, and also about a pioneering work amongst nomads in Kashmir! We had lunch together, then Mang went with me to the town to visit an ATM and finish my shopping. To round off the visit, Mang and I took Marvin to the local Domino's Pizza where we shared an enjoyable supper.
Thursday 16th November. Flew to Delhi and stayed overnight again with Stephen King.
Friday 17th November Jet Airways flight to London – back home again!
So that's the end of my India visit, which has been very varied and enjoyable, and I am grateful for the care I have received wherever I have been. Thank you, IEM friends, and thank you Lord for your help and protection which has been with me throughout the month.
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From our Foreign Correspondent
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