Back in West Bengal
December saw some of the Morgan family return to Kolkata for, God willing, another period of almost 6 months. This time it is Mark, Ruth, Philip and Laura – together with Rebecca and Heidi who will stay for 3 months before they return for Rebecca to find work and Heidi to finish study. While we are here we continue to run meetings on Sundays, visit the small group at Joynagar regularly, do Bible readings weekly with sister Pritilata (and discuss them in our limited Bengali!), and also do many other activities with brothers, sisters and interested friends. In this report we will just focus on two visits we’ve made – one far away, and the other to country West Bengal.
The Trek to Hyderabad
On December 27, a group of seventeen Bengalis, together with six Morgans, went on a trip to Hyderabad for the annual year-end Bible camp. Ten of the Bengalis were from the Indian state of West Bengal while seven joined us from Bangladesh. The fellowship between these people from three different countries was great. Hyderabad is about 1500 kilometres from Kolkata, and we travelled on the fast express train, a journey of about 27 hours (about 31 hours on our return). The Bangladeshis also had many hours of extra travel time by bus to get to Kolkata. Everyone came with a good spirit and the journey was uneventful, though long. The sleeper class seats on the interstate trains convert into triple bunks, so you are rocked to sleep through the night!!!
Each year this camp is held in Hyderabad for five days at the end of December. The aim of this camp is to concentrate on God’s word, the Bible, reading it as much as possible and thoroughly reviewing the most important Bible principles in smaller groups (each with a translator). Because the members in each group stay the same, and there are many sessions, you get to know the people in your own group a bit. It is a useful time to look at scripture after scripture on each topic. Mark led a group, with everything translated into Telugu, the language spoken by most of the people who attend the camp. There were two groups for the Bengalis – we were fortunate to have a few people with us who could translate from English into Bengali. In addition to the tuition groups, there were two series of Bible studies – this year led by Mark Lawrie and Mark Morgan. The result of the building of the tower of Babel thousands of years ago was a confusion of languages, so while all the talks were given in English, they were also translated into Telugu and Bengali at the same time! The evening programs were varied.
The camp is held at Moinabad home where two Christadelphian couples each live with their families of 15-20 children (including their own children and many orphans or needy children they’ve adopted). A shamyana (large marquee) was set up for the talks, and the discussion groups were dotted around the campus. Most of the visitors slept onsite in dormitories, but some (including our group) slept at the Christadelphian Conference Centre – about a 25 minute bus trip from Moinabad. The camp is a busy time – we had to be ready to go to Moinabad on the Shunem Home bus at 7am each day and returned about 10pm each night. Those who live at Moinabad worked tirelessly with a team of cooks and dishwashers to feed the 150 or more people for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is a labour of love, and again impressed those from West Bengal. We are so glad they can see what is going on in other parts of the country where there are more Christadelphians.
One of the highlights of the camp is the New Year’s Eve meditation evening around a huge bonfire. Each year when the clock strikes midnight, those present are united in prayer, ushering in a New Year dedicated to God. The program included readings, meditations and songs in English, Telugu and Bengali, all of us seeking to be one in Christ, in spite of language differences. The new year also opened with rejoicing and new commitments to God on January 1, followed by a breaking of bread meeting. Gradually most headed for home during the afternoon. Our train wasn’t leaving until the following day, so we had the opportunity for a trip to the ancient Golconda Fort.
We felt this time had been an uplifting and helpful few days of fellowship for those attending. It was a time of meeting new and old friends, and studying the Bible together. Then we were back on the train again – a slower express this time taking about 31 hours to reach Kolkata. We were blessed on the next day to have an extension to the fellowship of the camp when the Bangladeshi brothers and sisters joined us in remembering Jesus in bread and wine.
Off to Egra!
We made the trip to Egra – a little under 200 kilometres away from Kolkata – for three days in early January. A young brother, Sourav, came with us to translate for us. We spent a day visiting brothers and sisters in their homes, and what a lovely warm welcome they gave us! Out came their Bibles to read and study God’s word. These poor country people then generously fed us, and cared for us. One older lady, Gitanjali, washed and dried our feet carefully with the help of her granddaughter, Sandhya, before we entered their house. After the Bible study time, they brought out plates laden with a variety of snacks they’d cooked – and then apologised profusely for not giving us curry and rice as well. We don’t know how we could possibly have fitted it in, so we were glad they hadn’t! It was a very special time. A Bible study day in Egra the next day brought many together. On the final day we were given a mini ‘concert’ by about a dozen Sunday School students sitting on a mat laid out on the dried mud floor of a verandah, before they hurried off to school. We were also shown some of their Sunday School work, including some beautiful embroidery – sewn on handkerchiefs with either verses from the Bible or simple Bible messages. We had not seen anything like this before in West Bengal and were impressed. Travelling in country areas is quite tiring at times, with so much jolting between potholes! However the joy we see in the faces of those coming to learn more about the Bible is most rewarding. We pray that they will find these times valuable in helping them draw closer to God.
May our Lord bless those we visit here, as well as all those around the world who wish to learn more about him.
With love from Mark, Ruth, Rebecca, Heidi, Philip and Laura