Members of the Morgan family returned to India at the end of March for another six month stint. Here is a snapshot of events in the first couple of months. We made the trek from Kolkata to the North India Bible school in May, which is the focus of most of this report.
Work continues in West Bengal
Our work in West Bengal continues as previously – Memorial meetings and Bible studies on Sundays in Kolkata, weekly Bible readings at the home of an older sister, regular contact classes, occasional country visits, and on Saturdays there are usually full day trips to Joynagar for Bible studies and to get to know our brothers and sisters better. In addition to this are the times when the doorbell rings and in walks someone we were not expecting! Continuing to learn Bengali forms part of our ‘work’ too. We have been glad to have our oldest daughter, Cathy, join us in Kolkata for two and a half months.
It was a hot day – just like the many hot days over 40 degrees Celsius this year – and we left early for our trip to Joynagar. A 20 minute walk to the station, about 1 ½ hours on the train and a short walk past several large ponds brought us to brother Swapan and sister Smriti’s house. We were glad of the fan to keep us a little cooler, and after some socializing, we started to read God’s word with a few who were gathered there. After a while it started to become harder to read the words as the sky darkened, and then the power went off and the fan slowly stopped. The noise of trees swaying and swinging in the wind outside increased. We abandoned the reading and headed for the door. What was that? A cool breeze? Lovely relief from the heat – and before long down came the rain. The streets quickly emptied and we enjoyed the downpour. Laura thought it would be fun to be out in the rain, so she very quickly became soaked to the skin. What was that on the wall? A little hopping frog! And another … and another! Philip, Laura and Riya started to collect the frogs in a bucket and before long they had over 30. The frogs tried valiantly to climb the slippery sides of the bucket, but time and time again they ended up at the bottom again. It was much easier for them to climb the rough wall. God’s creation is wonderful and interesting, and once again the young ones had no need of man-made toys!
An interesting train trip – to the North India Bible School
The small diesel rail motor chugged on, ever upwards, winding through the steep countryside, headed for Shimla. We had started at Kalka, a few hours north of Delhi. The small rail motor was meant to hold a maximum of fourteen people, but after much talking and red tape, the station master gave the go ahead to squeeze in nineteen (plus luggage). Now we were going steeply up, up, up. This was no ordinary train journey! It was a 96 kilometre journey on a historic narrow gauge railway, built by the British over 100 years ago. As we journeyed on, the landscape outside gradually changed from terraced farm lands – flat fields “marching” up the steep hillsides – to shady forests of pine trees and rhododendrons. We rattled around 917 bends, through 102 tunnels and over 988 bridges, arriving in Shimla after about four hours. Here we were in the old summer capital of British India, over 2000 m above sea level, with occasional views of the snow capped Himalayas visible through the mist.
We soon found out why the British, in 1864, made this beautiful place their summer capital – leaving temperatures around 40 degrees Celsius in Delhi, we came to cool weather and rain, just like many an English summer! Fortunately there was a warm welcome from those gathered. Lest we be confused and think this was “New England” in all ways, our meals of rice and curry and the translation of talks into Hindi reminded us that this really was India, in spite of the weather and the old English-style buildings. After a few days of warm fellowship and cold weather we twisted and turned and descended to warmer climes – days of 43 degrees Celsius (110 degrees Fahrenheit) in Kolkata!
North India Bible School
From Kolkata to Shimla, around 1800 kilometres, we went for the North India Bible School. This beautiful area is high in the mountains, with steep hills, trees, bushes and monkeys in abundance, and God’s beauty all around. We joined others from New Zealand, Australia and Nepal, as well as many parts of India – Maharashtra, Gujarat, Bangalore, Kolkata (us!), Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and other places.
Our main subject for consideration was “The real issues”, and the topics covered were preaching, worship, prayer, fellowship, helping others and setting helpful spiritual goals. The speaker, Robert Prins, started each session with some sort of visual aid – for example, he cut up a play dough ‘cake’ into pieces that represented our daily activities such as eating, sleeping, Bible reading, work, entertainment and so on. He then went on to illustrate the point that we can do each of these ‘as unto the Lord’ so that they become a part of our daily worship. If we are thinking about the right things, speaking about God, working heartily and sleeping in peace because he surrounds us and cares for us, that is good and gives glory to God. In addition to these sessions, were a variety of other talks and discussion times. Bible charades and quizzes were enjoyed as well as time to talk together. The weather was pretty cold for the summer clothing most of us had, but gave relief from the incessant heat down in the lowlands.
Making and renewing friendships is an important part of these gatherings. Some people we meet again, but others we will need to wait until the return of our Lord and master, Jesus Christ, and then we can rejoice together in a world made new.
The difficulties of translation
Thousands of years ago God stopped the people building high up to the sky to prove their greatness. He did this with one clever stroke – he confused the language of the people so they now could not understand everyone around them and they were divided. Because of this, when we have a group of people speaking a variety of languages, we are reliant on translators to translate the message into their native tongue. Sometimes this has an amusing side to it. Take for instance an occasion at the North India Bible School. The topic was evaluating our spiritual life and setting achievable goals for improvement in the future. Each session the speaker had used some sort of visual aid at the beginning, and he was going to use Dhruv, a one year old boy as his aid this time – to demonstrate that he was just right for a 1 year old, but imagine if he was 10 years old and still behaving in the same way. This was then likened to us after baptism – we must grow spiritually. The only problem was baby Dhruv had left earlier in the day with his parents who had needed to get home. So this was what was said:
Speaker: “My visual aid is gone.”
Translator: “Your visual aid?”
Speaker: “Yes, it has gone off on the train.”
Translator: “You mean your glasses?”!!
May God bless you all in your work for him. The focus of the rest of our visit will be in West Bengal, and in particular, Kolkata. Watch for the next report which will cover (God willing) the first West Bengal youth camp, held in May … and a broken bone!
With love from Mark, Ruth, Cathy, Heidi, Philip and Laura