India Diary 7 (final entry!)

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Dear All,

My train journey from Bangalore to a place called Londa, still in Kanataka, about 3 hours out of Goa, was good, managed to get a few hours sleep but it was quite noisy on the train as there were a lot of Indian youth travelling who were going to a youth holiday camp, they were all very excited, it would have been mean for me to request them to be quieter, in a way I enjoyed their obvious delight and excitement as they were going on an adventure, like me really but for different reasons but both joyous.  Arrived at Londa where I needed to change trains to go to Goa, it was about 8am in the morning, refreshed with some water and a cup of Indian tea, tea in India always seems to be served very milky and very sweet, did try to explain that I like tea strong with a half spoon of sugar and a tea spoon full of milk, ha ha but somehow it always seems to turn up the same way each time, sweet and milky, I smile and drink it anyway.  Decision time, it would be another 4 hours before I could get a train connection! so thought maybe I could get a bus/coach.  Londa is quite a remote place, no tarmac roads or should I say part tarmac, part concrete, and part dirt, ha ha like their tea really.  Anyway, I found the bus station and found I could get a bus if I wanted, the decision was made for me really as I met an Indian, Hindu shop keeper and got involved with talking about Jesus compared to his Hindu Gods which was fascinating, so abandoned the train to get a bus later and to spend some time to be with my new found friend.

Vilas was my new Indian friend’s name, fifty six years of age, a bald head, a fantastic white beard, he was about 5’8” tall and spoke broken English but certainly more than I could speak Indian, and he had a great sense of humour.  He was not married as he had brothers and sisters who were older than he was, all were married and the difficulties they seem to have was enough to put him off marriage for life, so he stayed single, and as he put it, ‘kept his money’ ha ha.  The location we met and started a friendship was at the village bus station where he had a small nic nac and drinks store, also sold telephone charge cards and sweets, he was poor but very happy within himself which really showed in his attitude.  The bus stop was really just an old building with a few wooden benches, all in a poor state of repair and very dirty and dusty. In fact Vilas really stood out, as he was wearing a very clean gleaming white t shirt, he would have made an excellent advertisement for one of the washing powder companies, how he managed to look so clean and fresh looking in such a dirty place was just a true wonder.

Vilas had been a Hindu all of his life and to him his personal Guru was his mediator through to God, the same as we pray through Jesus to God , never heard that before and in fact speaking with some Hindu friends of mine neither had they, but that is what he said and believed.  Noticed when we were talking that there was a person sleeping on the dirt floor inside the bus stop,  did not notice him before, it was only when he stirred in his sleep that I could see it was a person under a worn out piece of dirty cloth.  When I asked Vilas about him he told me that he was about 55 year of age (looked to be 100), his wife had died a few years before and his two children lived away but did not take care of him anyway.  Apparently he was a building labourer and worked for anyone who would give him a job, he suffered a stroke about 6 months previous, lost his rented home as could not pay and literally had no money and no-one to care for him.  You know the surprising thing was, although he no longer had the strength to work, with no income from any form of state benefit, and his job wage when he was working was never sufficient for him to save or take an insurance for sickness etc, he was not begging, but he used the bus stop as his home and people brought him food.  Did say a prayer with him and sat with him for a time in fellowship.  God Bless him and I pray he will find someone to care for him, please mention this child of God in your prayers.

The local RC priest was a friend of Vilas and he said he would speak with him, so we could all meet up in the future to talk about the spiritual aspects of our faith, and of course Jesus who is accepted as a God in the Hindu faith (or philosophy) Vilas insisted he will arrange the accommodation, this I made no conditions to at all, so it will be interesting to see what I get for a bed, anyway it will not be until I return in August that the gathering will take place  Five hours had passed and it was time for me to continue my journey, took some photos together, the bus arrived and then I was on my way.  For the first hour of the journey I had to stand as the bus was full, many humans, a few chickens and a goat, the good news was however I only had to pay 90p (67 rupee) for a three hour/90 km journey, but I’ll bet the chickens and goat did not pay ha ha.

On arrival back in Panjim I needed to rest up for a few days, as had planned to go back to Kolaphur (the journey that led me up the mountain I explained of in a previous diary note) to do the Alpha course.  It was not to do the 10 week Alpha course as time did not permit, but was to train mature Christians as leaders to do their own 10 week course, with people who they would find who were interested to find out more of the Christian faith.  It was initially planned to train 6 men but the Lord blessed us, as twelve turned up including three ladies so it was really great.  Pastor Skinnar Thomson and Gladys his wife (New Life Fellowship Church) were my hosts and we all had a fun and spiritual time together. Stayed with them for three days, when I left they were all fired up and highly motivated as they could see what a great evangelizing tool the Alpha Course is.  One comment that stood out that summed up a memorable time was this.  Before, they would talk to people of Jesus and the Christian faith but did not form any relationship with the people, not showing they had a true caring for them or be really interested in them, if they showed no interest.  Alpha clearly teaches them the importance of having ‘Fellowship through the Meal/Snack’ followed by ‘Knowledge through the Message’ linked with the non threatening discussions for understanding the basics of Christianity.  My feeling is that those being trained will be a great success and Pastor Skinnar and Gladys I know will lead them well, they all showed they have love in their hearts and a good knowledge of the Word of God.   My visit took place during Holy week, with travelling time it was more than three days, so was extremely tired when I got back into Goa.  Just wanted to sleep and relax but was very happy with what we all did in Kolaphur.

A few weeks back I visited the Leprosy Hospital (Colony) which I visited on a previous visit of 18 months ago.  Was really looking forward to meeting up and praying with all the people that were there and hoped they remembered me, especially Wasanti,  who was a young girl of 13 when she caught leprosy and was 83 year of age when I met her, so she had been there for 70 years having been deserted by her family and friends all those years ago.  Unfortunately Wasanti died peacefully of old age last year.  But I did meet up with the remaining three (3) ladies and four (4) men, originally six men but two had left and gone to another place, the men and the ladies had separate dormitories.  They all remembered me which was really something special to me and we all prayed together, first with the ladies then with the men.  But there was such a sadness I felt with the ladies, different than before when we prayed, maybe it was because of the loss of Wasanti who had been Roman Catholic and really wanted to pray to the Lord Jesus, the ladies who are left are all Hindu and although we prayed together something was missing, their eyes were dead and they seemed so distant and lost, hope and love seemed to have left them.

Sometime passed after I left the colony, but the visit was heavy on my heart and through prayer I sensed that God was telling me to go back and talk more on the Gospel of the Lord Jesus to the people especially the ladies, to give them hope and tell them that the Holy Spirit of God lives within us.   There did remain an opening for me to go back, as while I was with them I asked what they would like me to bring on my next visit, which I expected to be Aug or after, they all said fresh fruit, so that I will do, but decided not to wait but go the week following Holy week.  When I visited I did not have an interpreter, but I felt on this visit it would be necessary.  I knew my friend Rajesh Kalogi, who had the gift of many of the Indian languages was not in Goa but was living back in Maharastrah, but I prayed and phoned him anyway just in case.  God was with me as when I phoned him on Monday 25th April he was in Goa for just two days and he agreed to accompany me the following day on the Tues, this was a true answer to prayer (Matthew 7:7).  Left early in the morning and travelled on the bus to Margoa where I met up at 10am at the bus station with Rajesh and we took off on his motorbike.  It was good to see him again, we had in fact met a month before, when he introduced me to his bride to be, Priti, but it was a very short time we were together at that time.  On the way to the colony we stopped off at a fruit market and loaded up with 2 Pineapple, 2 Papaya, 8 oranges, 1kg grapes, 8 apples and 16 banana’s, we were well pleased with our purchase which cost just under 5 pounds.  On route we stopped off and had breakfast of Masala Dosa (Indian bread and curry type sauce) which was very spicy but good, Rajesh although slim in build eats like an Indian Elephant and the speed of a lizards tongue even when he eats with his hands ha ha I like him too much, such an amusing and energetic fellow.   When we arrived we were welcomed and all was pleased with their fruits.  Except for one old lady called Sabastina who was really poorly, they all, including the few staff, accepted to have prayers and to hear the story of Jesus and how he came to show us The Way, the Truth and the Life.  We explained how they could speak with our living God through prayer but first to accept Jesus into their lives, Rajesh read from Romans 10.  We of course can only lay the seed, it is now for God to water and grow.  But please help this by mentioning the people in your prayers.

Go back to Sabastina the lady that was ill, or more correctly maybe to say, she seemed just worn out.  It was a tearful experience, as she was in soiled clothes, unkempt, lying on her side on a soiled strongly smelling mattress on the floor moaning, hardly the strength to open her eyes.  She kept putting her hands together as though in prayer, we prayed with healing prayers for her but no signs of emotion came from her, she was far too weak, we prayed for her comfort in the Lord and peace to her.  The memory of my own mother came strongly back to me at this time, Sabastina must have been the same age as my Mum, but the conditions of both was so vastly different in being cared for, my heart this time was once again greatly affected but for personal and different reasons, and am not ashamed in anyway of my emotions.   I thank God again for the grace, blessings and comfort he gave to my mother and the family at the time of my Mother’s passing and I know also He will also be with Sabastina.  Rajesh, Ganesha, a friend who joined us half way through our prayers then jumped on the motorbikes, waved to them with a promise to return. God Bless them.

Maundy Thursday and Good Friday passed by without my involvement, albeit I had been invited to a number of places, but after my previous travels I was exhausted and needed to rest, the high humidity is taking its toll, March to May in India are the worst months for humidity.  The Resurrection day however was joyous and spent mostly in Church Worshiping.  Went to three different Churches to share with friends on the occasion of the ‘The Risen Christ’ at services at 8.30am, 10am and 4pm. Surprisingly though a little more subdued than ours in UK, no flowers, or great fellowship after the services, but still good and with good messages of the Word of God.

Attended a great seminar by a Norwegian named Ivar Fjeld, who lives in Goa  relating to the’ Friends of Israel’ and the importance of Israel to us and Christians and the great need to pray for the Jewish people of Israel.  How all nations will be against Israel and the biblical importance to us all on the fulfillment of Gods Promises?  which should not and must not be ignored.

Well my dear friends, it will be unlikely that I will have time now to send any more diary notes as this journey to India is coming is coming to a close and there is much to do before I leave on the 5th of May back to you all.  Many times I have been challenged on this trip, ranging from (i) The wisdom of setting up accommodation to include a prayer room, Alpha training place, library and a place of fellowship. (ii) The decision, to go or not, to Orissa where there is great persecution of Christians, I still question my final decision of not going (iii) The depth of understanding of the ‘Blood of Christ’ and ‘surrender’, and the carrying of the Cross relating to discipleship the latter of which is in Luke 14:27 (iv) Planning the way forward for the future which God graciously allows us to do, but God is in control of the footsteps.

Farewell dear friends and see you soon.  Will try and make it back for Friday morning coffee at 10am on 6th May.

Love and God Bless