Our trip began late January when we flew into Hyderabad to spend the weekend. It was great to catch up with the brothers & sisters there before we moved on to the Srikakulam area – we had last visited this area in 2007 and were very keen to go and see everyone there again.
On Sunday afternoon we flew to Visakapatnam, and stayed with Bro Ambrose and Sis Devvy – Bro Ambrose was to be our translator for the next week. It was lovely to meet them both and their two children. Monday morning we set off by bus to Vizianagoram where Sis Beulah lives. Her husband left her some time back and there is no ecclesia here, but our sister remains faithful, and was requesting Sunday School supplies as she teaches a number of children each week. We enjoyed spending some time with her and her family and the opportunity to give her some encouragement as we shared God’s word together.
Moving on from there we went to the area of Palakonda where we visited about four ecclesias – there have been a number of baptisms in this area recently and we shared fellowship with these groups, and were lovingly received. Finally we reached Narasanapetta and visited several ecclesias in this area. One family has suffered some tragedy so we spent time trying to encourage them to continue in the faith in spite of their adversity.
On Friday we flew to Kolkata in West Bengal where we would stay for the following two weeks. We have spent a lot of time in this area over the past 7 years so it’s like our second home, and always good to go back and to spend time with the brothers and sisters. In 2007 our youngest daughter met Bro David Rajput from Kolkata, which eventuated in them marrying in Oct 2013. As David’s family and friends were not able to attend the wedding in Australia, a wedding celebration was planned for Feb 23rd in Kolkata, which we attended with most of our family who have also visited Kolkata over the past 7 years. The other focus of this trip was organising some school fees for poorer families for the coming school year – this necessitated some country travel. In one of the villages is a very dear sister who was baptised in 2006. She has three daughters but we had never met the eldest as she was always at boarding school further south in India. Recently we heard the oldest daughter had got married and her and her husband would like to be baptised. So it was wonderful this trip to meet them both and discuss the scriptures with them. Her husband had some very good questions and we enjoyed the time together looking at these. Another contact who came to the memorial meeting our first two Sundays asked if we could visit at his home, so we arranged to do this. Unfortunately this was near the end of our time there which was disappointing as we were very excited by his enthusiasm and knowledge and would have loved to spend longer with him. Thankfully the Morgan family from Melbourne are back there now and able to continue teaching. Our last memorial meeting in Kolkata was amazing – if you took out the foreigners, there were more contacts present than brothers & sisters. In view of this we concentrated on the big picture of God’s plan for the exhortation and how it relates to each of us as individuals. Following the meeting while lunch was being prepared we ran a question and answer session – some of the questions were great and showed these contacts are doing a lot of thinking! We so pray for more fruit to God’s glory in this area.
Our next stop was Nepal where we had only visited once before in 2012. This was again a lovely time spent around the Word of God. The brothers & sisters here are warm and enthusiastic and we spent a wonderful nearly three weeks together. A young man who is training to be a chef enjoyed spending time with Hugh as they share the same trade, and a highlight was being invited to his training centre to enjoy a meal cooked by him and his fellow trainees. Hugh was watching the trainees practice decorating a sponge cake, and he couldn’t help himself – he grabbed the knife and showed them how to do it! This young man is showing a good interest in the scriptures, so aside from cooking Hugh spent time with him looking at the promises to Abraham and David. We enjoyed a visit to Chitwan National Park – a large area with animals native to Nepal. We heard that one of the sisters who lives in Kathmandu has a family in this area and they have been showing an interest in the Gospel. So while we were there the sister came from Kathmandu and we visited her family; she helped translate as her family speak Nepalese – oh the language barrier!! But it was a lovely time spent together, and of course they wouldn’t let us leave without piling us with food and warm hospitality. So we enjoyed a couple of quiet days at Chitwan in God’s amazing creation, but also enjoyed the opportunity to be able to spread the good news to some in this area. We flew back from Chitwan in time for the midday Bible class in Kathmandu as we were leaving two days later, and were asked for dinner at a brother and sister’s house we had met last trip. They invited another young married couple along too and we had a lovely evening together. When it was time to go back to the hotel they asked us to stay the night, telling us they had plenty of room. We said we needed to go back as we had to get organised ready to leave for China the day after, but like Lydia in Acts 16, they ‘constrained’ us, and we stayed. This warmth of love and trust is only possible through the bonds we share in Christ. We were quite sad to leave Nepal and these lovely brothers and sisters, who in very difficult circumstances maintain their faith in God, and the hope of a much brighter future.
Bible Study at Chitwan
From Nepal to China – our first time, and not a place we had expected to visit, but we believe strongly God guides these decisions, just like in Acts 16, and we arrived in Chengdu one Friday evening in March. We were asked to spend time in Chengdu specifically, as there are only three sisters , but some excellent contacts. We can only say this was a wonderful time, as these contacts are very enthusiastic, had lots of difficult questions, and kept us totally stimulated and on our toes, waiting for the next session! We were excited to see their eyes light up as the jigsaw started to come together; we are praying that God will continue to work in their lives to His glory. The contacts were free week nights and weekends, so during the days we spent time exploring, and finding out a lot about a country that previously we knew nothing about. (And of course visiting the pandas!!) The most difficult thing about China is that very few people speak English, so you’re really up against it. And it can get quite lonely when you can’t even have a conversation with someone in a shop – you really feel very isolated. But God was with us and we saw some results; God willing we plan to go back in May to continue working with these contacts.