Kolkata Bible School 16-20 October 2013
Over 70 people gathered together for the Kolkata Bible School. These included brothers, sisters, interested friends or family and children. A very full program was enjoyed, with Brother Peter Morgan (Melbourne, Australia) as the main speaker. The main topic was the book of James – a very practical book, with lessons for everyday life. A second study was also given by Brother Peter on the topic of “Near King Saul”. This was particularly geared for the young people. It is encouraging to have some of the local brothers being chairmen, giving some of the talks and leading first principles’ discussion groups. These seemed to be helpful to all the people in the groups and generated lots of discussion. A variety of other sessions were held through the week, including the ever popular “song and praise” night and the children’s program. The children sang songs and did a couple of dramas on the life of David, after quizzing their parents about his life which they’d learned so much about in the preceding days!
Sunday School lessons
Almost 20 children really enjoyed learning about David in their Sunday School lessons, and they also enjoyed various craft activities related to the lessons. Watching as they answered many questions about what they had learned was a lovely experience. Their keenness was evident in their faces, but also in the spread of pencil sharpenings, glitter, paper and so on! At times it was difficult to remove the children from the Sunday School room, even though it was afternoon tea time! Making crowns, decorating Bible scripture boxes and little “King Davids” were the most popular activities. The children also enjoyed the songs, including an action song about David and Goliath. Each day they practised their play on anointing David as king and the dramatic fight between David and Goliath.
As in most mission areas, a vital job falls to the translators. We can provide the best program possible, and have the nicest venue, we can smile sweetly and be very welcoming to the locals, but if they can’t understand what we say, there is not much point in us being there. We were blessed to have a few very willing and able translators to help us, including brother Rony visiting from Bangladesh (Bangladesh and West Bengal share the same language). Not only did they translate the talks, but were willing to act as go-betweens when any there had a question or something to discuss with us. Our limited Bengali is fine for limited occasions, but when there are problems or deeper things to discuss, much better knowledge of the language is required. We are thankful for our translators.
Highlight of the week – 3 baptisms
It is lovely to see the growing enthusiasm of the brothers and sisters in West Bengal, and the fact that they are preaching to family members around them, as well as to some neighbours. During the camp some baptism interviews were held, and 2 women and 1 man were baptised. Sunita was the wife of a brother, Sumitra the mother of a sister and Evance is Sumitra’s son. God works with individuals, but his truth also spreads through families. Throughout the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament, families are targeted many times – when the law was read, men, women, children and even babes in arms were there. God built up the nation of Israel from 12 brothers. Abraham looked for a wife for his son from his relatives. In the New Testament Timothy learned the truth from his grandmother Lois and mother Eunice. We are glad then to see the truth grow through family connections.
The baptisms took place in the pond of a brother and sister who live near to the Bible Week venue, before returning for a breaking of bread meeting together. We pray that our Lord will bless these new babes in Christ and help them to grow.
On October 22 we had another baptism at Joynagar – a town almost 2 hours’ journey from our flat. This time it was Pallabi, the teenage daughter of one of our sisters. She gave a good and thorough confession of her faith in their small mud hut, and was then baptised in the pond opposite the ecclesial hall. As we walked from the hall to the pond, and again on the return to the hall, a couple of sisters sang a Bengali hymn which was a joyful way to celebrate. Throughout the south of West Bengal there are many, many ponds, highlighting the abundance of water which in turn leads to the abundant growth of rice. So we don’t have too much trouble finding a place to hold baptisms.
When thinking about families sharing their faith, the young translator Sourav who helped with Pallabi’s confession of her faith is a case in point. This young brother is blessed with having his parents and his maternal grandparents being baptised and sharing the one faith. What a blessing to be able to discuss his beliefs within the family circle and seek answers for any questions he has. His continued growth in faith and understanding is another cause for joy.
We woke one Saturday morning to a very wet world. It had been raining heavily through the night and still the rain continued. The road outside was not visible, and the few people out and about waded slowly through water half way to their knees. We waited until late morning, but when the water had not subsided, we decided to go out to buy food for the ecclesial lunch on Sunday anyway. The flat is on the third floor, and the entire downstairs area was flooded. We sploshed our way to the shops, and actually quite enjoyed the novel experience! I don’t suppose we’d like it all the time, but once in a while wasn’t too bad, though knowing what sort of rubbish, battery acid, car oil and so on would be in that water, we washed our legs well when we returned. This was fine for us; we stay on the third storey of the building and are high and dry, but we did wonder what the people we’d seen the day before were doing. Their “houses” were sheets of black plastic secured over some rough poles on the footpath in town. What do they do when their houses are flooded? What of the baby we’d heard cry in one of these shacks? It was a sobering thought, and we didn’t know the answers to the questions for the countless people in little, low-lying hovels.
Our Bible School showed again the importance of keeping in touch with those in country areas, so a five-day trip was planned to visit those in the Sarenga and Contai areas. Our next report will describe that hectic time.
May our Lord bless our brothers, sisters, contacts and children in West Bengal.
Your brother and sister in Christ,
Mark and Ruth Morgan