Change of plans
The unexpected twists and turns of life happen wherever you are in the world. We set out for India toward the end of June ready for 6 months of mission work based in Kolkata in the Indian state of West Bengal. Now two months later we are in Australia for a few weeks – called back because Ruth’s father became critically ill. The Almighty God of the universe has the future in his hands, and isn’t it good that we don’t know what is coming in our lives? Jesus said not to worry about tomorrow but to live life now. It is easy to say that, but quite difficult to do, when you are thousands of miles from the people you love, your father is in hospital, and he takes a turn for the worse. So this report is stage one in a longer term “adventure” but our mission work is on hold for a little, while we wait and see what God has in store in the coming days and weeks. As to finding a flight home in a hurry, there were seats for all five of us, and an extra flight available between Singapore and Melbourne that we have never seen before. As my mother put it “God reserved those seats for you before you even knew that you would need them”.
The value of returning
There is great value in returning to mission areas that that you have visited before. We have stayed in Kolkata quite a few times now and over time we have got to know the brothers, sisters and friends in the city, as well as in the country areas of the state. In addition to this, they have learned what we are like, and look forward to our visits. This is particularly important in the areas of spiritual growth and the need for physical help. Building on what we have learned of these people in the past means we can (hopefully) help them more confidently in the future. Although we only had three of our eight children with us this time, the other five are known by our friends in West Bengal and they are keen to hear what they are doing as well. This builds a closeness that is beautiful. Take for example our visits to sister Pritilata’s house for Bible readings. Although she doesn’t speak English and we are beginners in Bengali, she welcomes us into her home with great joy. She knows what our limited vocabulary is, and so we are able to talk about our families, or things that are happening around her, and she knows which words to use to help with the communication. When Pritilata recently had terrible toothache and we saw her with a badly swollen face and in great pain, it wasn’t just any old lady who needed help, it was our sister who we have grown to love more and more and we felt for her keenly. Yet it was still the same Pritilata who insisted on giving us a snack of moori (puffed rice) in spite of her pain. She mixed the moori with chopped cucumbers, potato, and peanuts, and she added that ingredient which is available all over the world in followers of Christ – love. She knew she could turn to us in her pain, and we felt her act of service toward us. To top it off, she still wanted us to read the Bible to her in our slow Bengali with an Aussie accent. That is what is important to her. The Spirit of Christ works in that humble home.
Co-operation in a spirit of love
The state language of West Bengal is Bengali, the same language spoken in Bangladesh, so we have a great opportunity to co-operate with the Christadelphians in Bangladesh. For example, in August Mark travelled to Dhaka, Bangladesh, to speak at a Bible camp there. The Powerpoint presentation he prepared for that camp about Joseph in the Old Testament was translated into Bengali in India, used in Bangladesh, and then when we had a Bible Study day in Kolkata (on the day we returned to Australia!), Mark had a series of talks already translated and ready to use. Another way we co-operate with Bangladesh is in the printing of leaflets, booklets and other material. The book “Family Bible Reading” was written by sister Sally Jeffries in England, updated for Bengali use in Australia, translated into Bengali by sister Dorothy Badlu in USA and printed in Kolkata for use in both India and Bangladesh. Mark transported them over the border when attending the Bible School, thus saving valuable time and money. Then when he returned – oh joy – he came back with some English/Bengali New Testaments which Phil and Ros Kenney had bought for us in Dhaka as these are not available in India. So there are various opportunities for inter-country co-operation! We are hoping that brother Prince and sister Carol from Bangladesh will be able to come to the Kolkata Bible School in October as two extra translators. What a blessing.
God was really there!
When we are in India there are moments when we feel God is especially close. Take for example the day Mark went to the Bangladesh embassy to submit forms for a visa. That may sound simple to the uninitiated, but for those who have tried it before, they will realize that there are often many difficulties! The taxi driver didn’t know where to go to find the embassy and was in no hurry to get there (with a taxi using the meter, he preferred the longer route!). However Mark had a map and worked out approximately where to go, but in this process there was some confusion, and Mark somehow managed to leave his glasses in the taxi. So here was Mark at the embassy, with all the paperwork completed and ready to hand over but without his glasses. Now, they said, the forms have changed – you need to completely fill in a new one. This is all very well if you can see to read the form, but Mark can’t read without his glasses. Two options: come back another day after filling out the form in the flat with glasses to see, or see better though the help of God, the maker of eyes. After prayer it was up to God, and with God’s help, he was able to read better than he has been able to for a couple of years, and so the form was filled in. After submitting the form, each person was given an appointment time – 11:30 am – the same time for everyone. At that time, Mark had to fill in a simple appointment form, but he couldn’t read it at all – not even one word. That was much more like his usual eyesight! However, an Englishman he’d been talking to whilst waiting offered to fill it in for him, and eventually he was in for his interview. Three days later the visa was ready, with no more trouble: God had been there with him, smoothing the way, and so he was able to travel to Bangladesh to speak at the Bible camp. In addition, the new glasses ordered that afternoon were ready before he left, so Mark could see and deliver his talks to encourage those attending. What a great God we have!
Our two months
So our two months have passed with many hours of schooling our children, talking to brothers and sisters on the phone, visiting homes for Bible reading and fellowship, learning more Bengali, typing up Bengali exhortations, reading the Bengali Bible, giving Bible studies and exhortations and so on. For our son, Philip, who was baptised in June in Australia, it has been a time of growth – in the small ecclesia there, he prayed at least once in the Memorial meeting every week except one (he was sick that week). It was quite a shock for him (and us) the first time, when he was asked with no warning, but that led to time spent with Mark discussing public prayers. When Mark was in Bangladesh, Philip led a short Bible session on Elijah on Mount Carmel, complete with pictures on the whiteboard, which was not bad for a very young brother!
We pray that the work in West Bengal will continue to be blessed by our heavenly father.
Mark and Ruth Morgan