India Diary Note 3 (Sept to Dec 2011)

Hello All,

Life in Goa is very good but oh so humid, direct heat 34c is ok but the humidity is in the middle 90’s and at night it is very difficult to sleep.  Living in the top room, means that my room has all the day’s heat being absorbed on the open roof with my room directly below, it is really stifling at night, no luxury of air conditioning to cool the room down.  Still I’ll survive and in a way I have started to get use to it.  They do say that by mid to end of November it starts to cool down so I am looking forward to that.

At the end of my last diary note (2) I said there was a heart warming story to be told, of a little girl called Brianne, well here it is.  Brianne is a lovely little girl who is three years old, she goes to a local nursery school which is where the story has happened.  Queenie her mother teaches the keyboard from her home and her husband Savio work’s for the British Council but also teaches guitar playing in his spare time, partly from his home and sometimes out, they are a great little Christian family and show such love which will be clearly seen as the tale unfolds.  Brianne went to school one day with a new pencil case, unfortunately it was taken from her by another little girl, which made Brianne very sad, even sadder was when she asked the girl to give it back the girl refused, Brianne did not want to tell the teacher to get the little girl into trouble, so went home without the case.  Queenie (mother) noticed the pencil case was not with her and when she asked where it was, Brianne told her the sad story.  Queenie talked with Brianne, to say she thought it better to ask the little girl to give the case back when she went to school the following day, Brianne said she would try.  A few days went by and Brianne made no mention of the case but told her Mother that she had shared her tiffin meal (lunch box) with the same little girl who had stolen the pencil case.  Why would you do that, asked her mum knowing it was the same girl that stole the case, Brianne looked up, looked her mother in the eyes and said, “because I have forgiven her so it is finished, and I wanted to share my food with her as friends”.  There is a biblical message there isn’t there! especially from one so young.  A lesson to us all I am thinking.  Brianne’s photo is attached to this diary note.  One day maybe, the little girl who took the pencil case will return it, but Brianne’s heart is clean, so maybe it does not matter so much to her now.

A few days back I got a phone call at 7pm from a friend of mine called Rajesh Khalogi, a man I have known for the last 5 years.  He was at the hospital with friends, they were visiting a lady who had met with an accident (not fatal).  He asked me if I would join them to pray at her bedside, it did not matter whether I knew the lady or not as it was prayer that was important not the formality of knowing the person, and of course this is right, so I said I would.  The hospital although large was not really in a good state of repair.  The wards were rather crowded but did have a resemblance of order and comparatively clean.  The lady was quite uncomfortable as it was very hot, drips were leading from her arms and there was no air conditioner installed, let alone operating, she was feeling and looked distressed and a little frightened.  We spent fifteen minutes praying, then we left and Rajesh took me back to my room.  The Lord gave me such a wonderful feeling of being made useful in a most humble and simple way.

Diwali is an annual Hindu festival (festival of lights) which has a number of explanations, the one I like is that it is the destroying of the devil and his demons by fire.  For about a week many parts of the sides of the streets/roads are used to build large images, maybe 30 feet tall, very decorative and frightening looking things made of straw, sacking and then held together with like a plaster coating.  The constructors of these images take a week to build and then on about the 26th Oct or thereabouts at five in the morning, they are set fire to, to destroy the devil and his demons. Following the burning ritual are about five days of festivities.

There is one particular short cut I use when leaving home to go to the city where I pass these images, one part leading down to the town has 135 steps, at the bottom of the steps was one of these large devil images which was very impressive.  In the right hand of this figure of the devil, a man was being held, dressed in orange clothing like I wear, it appeared the man was trapped and trying to get out of the fist of the devil.  The devil is known as Narakasur; narak being Hell and asur meaning devil/demon – devil from hell.  When I first looked at it, it appeared it was over the fire stack ready for burning, so I naturally thought the man struggling to get out of the devils grip was also going to be burnt alive.  There was quite a large excited crowd around and I must admit, I was feeling hesitant to ask any questions of who the man in orange was!  But I looked around and chose a person who looked the least threatening and a friendly looking character, anyway he explained the image being held was a Sadhu, the men of peace, prayer and wisdom’ so didn’t want to hear that really’ and instantly started to look for a quick get-a-way.   But this friendly man I chose could see my concerned face and said ‘don’t worry’ the fire was not to burn the Sadhu but to burn the devil, that when destroyed the devil would release the Sadhu into freedom.  That’s cool I thought, took a photograph and quickly went on my way.

A few days later I was discussing this with a few Hindu friends and we had great fun when talking  about the incident, all done in great friendship.  One of the friends imparted to me, that they had difficulty in understanding Jesus and his actions, as most of the Hindu Gods were warrior like and displayed mighty power, not necessarily good power at times but power none the less. Jesus to them was seen as weak and submissive, as he hung on the wooden tree (cross) and was far too humble, why, did he not fight and show aggression as a Hindu God would do, especially if Jesus was supposed (their words not mine) to be God.  They had difficulty in understanding why and how he could die for our sins and then forgive those who killed him.  Anyway, the seed has been planted.

Early last week I went to my favourite Christian bookshop (OM), just to say hello to my two friends there Vikash and Santosh, there was an Indian Lady there reading, we exchanged smiles and courtesies and I left.  Had only gone about 100 meters when realised I had left my bible in the shop so went back. So once again I said hello and farewell, when I came to leave again the Indian lady looked up and said “excuse me are you in ministry” I explained about my work in evangelism and about the Alpha course.  She said her name was Sister Francis a believer and was a humble pastor with about 20 people that included some men who has drinking problems, some Muslim and Hindu ladies looking for more from life, she also has a small Sunday school for children.  We agreed to meet in a few days for a cup of tea and to discuss more about Alpha and how it could help her.  I need to explain here, that when one says believer in Goa, they mean not Roman Catholic, to us in the UK of course all are Christian and there is not the division that is evident here and in other parts of the west coast of India, it’s a wall that needs to be broken from both side, not with judgement but love and to focus on what all the denominations have in common and not that which divides them.

Sister Francis and I met at my veranda a few days later for the tea and a chat on Alpha.  After our greetings and fellowship prayers, we watched a promotional clip of Alpha India, lasting about ten minutes.  Before the end of the clip had finished, she asked for the DVD to cease so she could ask some questions.  Just to explain here:   For those not familiar with Alpha, it is a ‘meaning of life Christian course’ based on a structure around Meal (fellowship) Message (Biblical reference and talk) and Meeting (to discuss the message by interactive discussions).  She said she had three points, when she revealed them they were all very interesting and somewhat of a challenge.  The first question was this: The people that she had in her house church would not have enough money for putting on even a small meal, so I informed her that maybe just a biscuit and a cup of tea,  she said smiling and gently, even that would be difficult even for herself sometimes. We talked that even if it were just a cup of water in a clean cup given with respect and love is a great act of love and kindness. Later we found this bible reference Matthew 10:42 And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward. She was very happy with this.

The second question was that most of the people were illiterate and therefore could not read nor write.  It was explained, the action of reading to them from the Gospels and sharing Gods inspired words would be sufficient and would start working in their lives.  The Third question was what if someone gets angry and abusive in words, won’t listen and walks out! We should never underestimate the power of genuine hospitality and just mentioning the name of Jesus.  Maybe 10 years would pass and then a period of loneliness or desperation could affect  someone who got angry and walked out, and then maybe they will remember the fellowship, the clean cup of water, love, respect and the power of the word of Jesus that they experienced all the years before.  It is not for us to determine when someone comes to submission with God through Jesus Christ, that’s between them and God.  All we need to do is to have faith and believe it will happen.

And now, just a quick update on some of the previous diary note items mentioned:

  • The rat population has decreased and no longer come anywhere near my dwelling place, lessons have been learnt, but vigilance remains constant, in the end it took a week to resolve. 
  • Alpha training day organisation for 7th December is well underway and has now been added to, as some people I have spoken to also want the youth Alpha to be done.  So have now arranged with Alpha India in Bangalore to have their trainer Malissa Thomas to come in Dec to do the Youth Alpha, so lots to do and be thinking about.
  • Maria Mendes, brother Christopher, Roman Catholics from Mumbai (who were mentioned in the first diary note), and I, have embarked on long distance learning by sms and email of how to study the Bible and also a specific topic of what is meant by ‘Born Again’ using Gospel of John 3:1-21.  It’s something a little different and done quite slowly to allow questions and answer leading to better understanding.  An interesting evangelism tool and proving very inspiring from both our points of view.  We are comfortable and have mutual trust together which is really good and full of love, it’s because Jesus and the Holy Spirit is in the centre of all we are doing.

That’s it folks for this time.  As always you are in my heart.

One last point, I often think of our beloved Pat Allen, on discussing with her one day when I first got the calling to come to India to evangelise.  My question to her was what happens if I get into difficulties when discussing the Word of God, she said don’t worry, just always remember to lead back to the Gospels, how right you are Pat. It’s all about being in Spirit and in Truth.

Specific prayer request to Dorothy and the ‘Pause for Prayer’ group.  Incidently, this is a wonderful group for those who would like to pray for others and world situations, please be encouraged to go.  My request is this; It has come into my heart to take Alpha to the Goa prison, this desire has only recently come into my heart but is not going away, and don’t really know where it will lead to, but would request your help in prayer.  Thank you.

Bye for now and God Bless your days in the forthcoming week.

Love to all.

Jim

To see photos from Jim’s travels, please visit our ‘Jim in India’ gallery.

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