Travelling to Chandrakona Road
“Up early” is the catch cry when going to country areas. That isn’t always fun, but it does beat the crawling Kolkata traffic when getting to the train station.
Waiting for the train at Chandrakona Road station
A three or four hour train trip is a pretty easy way to get to a town called Chandrakona Road, where we have become well known at the hotel. I don’t suppose ‘whites’ come here often! Here we hired a car to visit some brothers and sisters in the country – bumping our way over roads damaged by floodwaters to brother Soumen’s house. These roads are more like a series of potholes than a road in places! Children break the ice – before long Aniket and our children were busy twanging bits of paper at each other with a rubber band. Who needs computers? Meanwhile the adults were able to talk of more serious matters, with Sourav as our trusty translator. From here we bumped on to sister Dipali’s house for a rather late lunch followed by Bible readings and discussion. A friendly time of fellowship. She’s just built a new house, and it couldn’t be closer to the lake if it tried, nor made of simpler materials, but it is a roof over their heads. The toads on the doorstep make an interesting diversion from time to time! Another bumpy drive brought us back to the hotel for tea (dinner/supper). Afterwards we had a good opportunity to read the Bible and discuss it together with Sourav.
Moving on to Sarenga
Soumen, his wife Nilima and their two young boys squashed into the car with us next morning, bound for Sarenga. This is a poor town some 45 minutes’ drive away. In country India, rice is often laid out on the road after harvesting, so the car helped thresh the rice along the way! Many were gathered at the hall when we arrived and we joined them in a Bible study session for a couple of hours. Mark focussed in particular on the importance of the Old Testament as a basis for the New Testament, and the promises to Abraham and David, which become promises for us when we are baptised into Christ.
Bible study at the Sarenga hall, where we later slept
After a tea break and later some rice and curry lunch, we had a baptism interview with a lady called Alochona. As she told us what she believed and why she wanted to be baptised, we were glad. Here was a deserted wife, with a young son, who has been learning about the good news in the Bible for 3 or 4 years. What joy that she had come to the decision to take the first step to eternal life – baptism. It was decided to hold the baptism in a nearby lake the next morning. Although darkness was falling, there was still a visit to be made to see a young sister. Discussions progressed by candlelight as there is no electricity in the house. A very late tea was lovingly provided for us on our return, after we had first joined the children in a wild game of “Duck, duck, goose” in the hall!
Staying in the ecclesial hall
It seems to be a good idea where possible to stay close to the people you are working with and in simple accommodation. Here at Sarenga some thin mattresses have been bought so that we and others can stay in the ecclesial hall. These, laid out in a row, accommodated our family, and Sourav slept on a simple wooden bed on the other side of the hall. A squat toilet downstairs completed our ‘hotel’.
A baptism and Memorial meeting
Dina and Gina – the daughters of brother Tuphan and sister Peuli – came with coffee at the hall, to start the day. This was followed by a breakfast of eggs, toast and bananas. A large hire car was filled as full as possible with people during the morning to take us a few kilometres away to a lake, ready for the baptism of Alochona. It was a beautiful, quiet spot, and the water looked cold as she was led into the water by Tuphan.
Baptism of Alochona
After the baptism a makeshift changing room was rigged up (a sheet tied to a tree and held up as a screen), and when all were ready, we headed back to the hall for a memorial meeting – many were gathered there waiting for us. Mark spoke on our wonderful hope as found in Daniel 12, as well as the Acts reading for the day, which was full of Old Testament references, and built on yesterday’s Bible study. The fellowship was rounded off with a shared meal of curry and rice, and gradually people left for home, while the last few of us stayed to chat. Mark and I were begged by the children (ours and locals’) to join them in another game of “Duck, duck, goose” and it happened around the central pole in the hall, accompanied by lots of hilarious laughter from those watching.
Off to Egra
About 4pm the hire car from Chandrakona Road arrived to take us to Egra. The driver took us on a different road from when we last travelled there. The other road was now in very bad condition, he said. If the other road was worse, it was indeed very bad as the way he took us was about 4 hours of bumping over potholes. For long periods of time, the car was travelling about 10kph or less, with very brief stretches of road in between where we were moving at about 100kph. We were very glad to arrive at the hotel! Our evening meal came at a very Indian time of about 10pm, so by the time we finished eating, the children were almost asleep – Laura found it hard even to clean her teeth and get ready for bed!
The road is shared by various vehicles and creatures!
Bible discussions and charades
Next morning, people gradually gathered until there were over 20 ready for Bible discussions – again Mark focussed on the theme of the necessity of the Old Testament, going through many promises and prophecies that were fulfilled in the New Testament. The audience were very attentive, with only a quick break for a cuppa at about midday. While waiting for lunch we did some charades, which they very gradually joined in with, not being used to this sort of activity. There was much laughter when a group acted the Good Samaritan – the way an old sister (Amala) beat up the poor traveller was very dramatic! About 2:30pm we had another Bible session – short, as some have to travel long distances to get home. A very happy spirit prevailed. We spent the evening with Sourav doing Bible readings and discussing them.
Joining with people more often makes people more at ease – and doing fun things like charades helps too. When Mark was talking about the Passover to the group gathered the next day, he acted it out to make it more real. Later he invited a group of the locals to act the scene. Amala was very quick to say that she would be the one to kill the lamb (Laura)!!! Actually the acting was very useful – Amala acted out chopping up the lamb and Sourav immediately interrupted and said “No – no bones were to be broken”. When the blood was painted on the door it was done as a cross in the middle of the door – somebody quickly said “no, not like that” and showed that the blood was painted on the doorposts and lintel. Having to actually reproduce the actions from the Bible makes it much more real to them. When all had gone in the afternoon we packed up and drove 45 minutes to the station ready to catch the train and bus home. Back about 11:10pm for a quick evening ‘meal’ of toast and to greet the 73 unread emails!
End of year camp in Hyderabad
Each year there is a camp for over 100 people in Hyderabad. We have taken a group from West Bengal on the 26+ hour train trip for this camp in 2011 and 2012. This year we were not going as it was time for us to return home to Australia. However there were people very eager to go anyway. We arranged for Swapan and Smriti (who have been before) to take a group on the trek, and with some trepidation waited to see how it would work. We had no translator available from West Bengal (though Swapan can do some translating) so we arranged for some Bangladeshi brothers and sisters to come (a shared language – Bengali). Unfortunately, 3 were unable to get a visa and only Rony was able to go to India to join the group travelling to Hyderabad.
Bible discussions at Hyderabad end-of-year camp (2012)
From the reports we received after the camp, it all went smoothly and the group had been helpful and happy. We felt it was again a good experience for them all – meeting more brothers and sisters and undertaking some intensive Bible study. The highlight came on January 1 2014 when Nilima Guchchhait was baptised into Christ, along with a few others from other parts of India. Nilima is the wife of our brother Biswajit, so it was a happy conclusion to the camp in the morning, before the long train journey home began in the afternoon.
And so ends the first 6 month trip to West Bengal by the Morgan family. God willing they will return at the end of March.
May our Lord bless the continuing work in West Bengal in the coming months.
Your brother and sister,
Mark and Ruth Morgan