India Diary Note 4 (Sept – Dec 2011)

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My dear friends,

You know in many ways it is much easier to evangelise in India than UK.  Firstly, people in India are much more spiritual and respond more to what they do not see. Secondly, people have much less material wealth to show in India. Thirdly, there is no welfare state to provide financial support or housing etc. Many people (rich and poor) in the UK would say ‘why do I need God, look and see what I have and its me that has done it’ even if it is provided by the state, thus vainly showing that people think they are more powerful and wiser than God!! Because Jesus is not in their lives.  But all things belong to God. It is not what we have that makes us wealthy, but who we are and whether Jesus is in our lives leading to a relationship with God.  This has been mentioned before in a previous diary note but thought it was worth mentioning again, especially so, as Ranjit an Indian Pastor friend of mine has recently been preaching in Somerset and has now returned to India, he has formed the same conclusion and in fact mentioned it in his sermon on Sunday which I was present at, but he said with love and kindness.  From both our points of view, this is an observation and not a judgement of any person or place.  Sometimes I personally feel, wealth, possessions and the obsession for the need to control others gets in the way of what really matters in life, which from a Christian point of view is a relationship with God through Jesus.  It is his truth that sets us free     John 8:32-36

A friend of mine has a severe drink problem that is linked with ‘Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome’ very challenging for him and his family, he is an Indian journalist and has stated the stress comes from his experiences as a journalist having witnessed many difficult situations in his profession.  His family is also suffering badly because of his illness and struggles to know what to do and how to support; he has a wife and a twelve year old son.  An added problem is that the landlord will not allow him to stay at the rented accommodation because of his drinking habit therefore difficult for him to find accommodation for himself, which may be due to his financial restraints, his family have been able to stay in the rented accommodation on the agreement he does not come there, this of course has made family living very difficult for them as a family.  The wife is not Indian and therefore finds it somewhat difficult, but in the circumstances she seems to be coping very well.  As a friend of the whole family it gets difficult to know how to support for the best so much prayer is needed for guidance through the Holy Spirit.  In India there is little or no family financial or housing support for such situations, unlike UK.

This story is being told by the permission of the family but without using their names.  It is to show how destructive drink addictions and stress related issues can be and the limited resources available for the family unit in India when things go wrong, and how low life can become especially without having a social government support for families except in real emergencies.  It is in no way judgemental of any individual or government that has such a large population to control thus has inherent problems to contend with. Unfortunately there are no direct family members in the area to rely upon for my friends. The wife and young son are strong Christians and have a strong faith which gives them great strength.  The husband is knowledgeable of the bible and Christian faith but indications are that he is not at a secure depth of faith as yet.

The drinking and stress related issues have been going for some years, so it is not a new issue to them but it is becoming more difficult for the family to handle effectively.  During one of his heavy drinking sessions the husband did inform me that he had left home and wanted his family gone and to leave the country, deep down this is not a very reliable statement, but more of a state of mind at the time, as he has not stated this when not drinking or in a stressed situation.  He was sleeping rough without a permanent abode, but somehow has money for buying cheap drink and cigarettes, both of which has its own degrees of dangers as the quality will be suspect.  One Saturday evening I was invited to stay for a night on an island called Divar with a Christian family I knew, caught the early Sunday morning ferry (7.30am) back to Panjim to go to the church I like to frequent.  When walking through the streets to Church about 8.30am I heard a voice call me by name, looked around but could not see anyone, then I heard the faint voice again and was able to locate where it came from, it was a man in a ditch.  My first thought was the man was injured, on approaching I could see it was my friend who had been missing for quite a number of days, he was in a terrible state, had obviously been drinking heavily, was unwashed, dirty clothes that smelt of urine and his eyes were as though they had been cut with a razor and bleeding, somewhat of a frightening appearance.  He said you are my friend lets go for a drink, but at the same time was so low with tears in his eyes, saying ‘I need help, help me’.  I sat in the ditch with him to comfort and just listened to him, then I called a Christian friend who came within ten minutes, we all sat in the ditch and talked of Jesus, my drunken friend confessed and repented of his sins, accepted Jesus as Son of God and asked for Jesus to come into his life, we were all still sat in the ditch at this time, it was all very emotional, it is going to be a long hard road for him but it’s a start.  My Christian friend and I got him to the local bus station where I knew his family would be worshipping in a local church, in fact we actually met them on the road as they were travelling to Church, then left them as I was giving a biblical testimony at a nearby Church gathering at 10.30am.  The family took him, whilst they went to Church he agreed to wait at the bus station for them, unfortunately he disappeared again and could not be found so the family had to go to their home not knowing where he had gone.

The following day he came to my home un-expectantly at about 4pm, once again it could be seen by his eyes and appearance that he had been drinking and looked really bad and frightening in appearance, once again the red bloodshot eyes were evident.    The previous day I was given an Indian man’s contact in Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) by the name of George, so I phoned him and we agreed to meet up at one of their meetings at 6pm that very evening.  After a shower and change of clothing my friend looked a little better, I did ask him if he had any alcohol on him and he said no so it was ok for us to go, so we set off down the hill to meet up with George at AA.  George said it was ok for me to sit in and be at the meeting with my friend to support him, so I did.  It was held in a school and there were about 20+ people there giving their testimonies, all were at different stages of their journey of recovery.  My friend was not really interested in the talks as he said they depressed him, he was quite agitated and kept leaving to go and smoke outside.  When he came back from one of his many smoking breaks he sat beside me and wanted to talk in preference to listening to the others testimony’s, then I felt my side and clothes were getting wet and I thought my friend had urinated, but in fact it was a bottle of alcohol he had in his pocket and the cap was loose so leaking.  I really wanted to leave at this stage as I was repulsed by his appearance, smell, attitude and behaviour, but I kept looking at him deeper and knew that a child of God was in there somewhere trying to get out, so knew I had to stay and try and support him the best I could.

The AA chairman called me to give a testimony by mistake, when I said I was not there for me but my friend and that I was not an alcoholic, it started some aggressive comments from those present of why I was there, the anger then pointed to the chairman, I thought ‘my’ what have I gone and done, anyway it all got sorted out fairly quickly and I was allowed to stay.  My friend did get up and give a brief testimony but did not go as far as to say that he was an alcoholic but at least he spoke, and to be honest maybe he is not an alcoholic, maybe it is something related to PTSS!  The meeting finished and I took my friend to find some low cost accommodation for the night.  We went to at least 10 places but when they saw him they almost immediately said no, I guess because of his appearance.   It was now getting on for 9.30pm so I took him for food and he agreed to go to an orphanage he knew that would possibly give him a bed for the night.  George my AA friend gave me details of a doctor at a government psychiatric hospital and addiction clinic, so it was agreed that I would try and contact his wife and meet him at the bus stop at 9.30 the following morning to go to the hospital which was about 17 kms away.  Before parting we did pray together which was so encouraging.  It was not possible to take him to my place as there was no guarantee that he would not drink and it would not be fair to the landlady if a problem was caused.  Mood swings were evident and with his drinking it could not be risked.  Unlike UK, surviving outside even if he had to sleep on the bus station would not be such a big deal as it is warm weather.  Later my AA friend George informed that there is only so much we can reasonably do to help and maybe it was good for him to have to rough it as it would be a wakeup call for him to change.  Then I walked home by 10pm feeling very low, tired and concerned for my friend.

As planned we met at 9.30am, having contacted his wife who then joined us. The whole day was hard, we went to so many different hospital places, my friend at times through the day became aggressive, and picking a fight with a man in a hospital queue, argumentative with a doctor and very short tempered with his wife, and of course for him not being able to drink made it worse.  He was finally admitted to the hospital at 11pm after many medical tests for general health, alcoholism and psychiatric concerns, he was taken to an outside ward that was under security control.  Unfortunately the patient in out wards has to have someone to stay with them in the hospital; no bed is supplied; only a piece of floor which is under the patients bed, a humbling experience.  His wife stayed the first night and a few nights after, one night I volunteered to take a turn, just to give his wife a break.  My friend is now under medication and treatment but the medical staff will not say what medication as the information could be abused, strange system!  Several days later signs of progress are being made, the eyes are back to normal, he is cleaned up and no booze, a few shakes but that is to be expected.  It seems the, post-traumatic stress syndrome triggers the drinking but the drinking problem has to now be treated first.  With the wife having to stay in the hospital arrangements have to be made for the 12 year old son.  There are challenges in India that one does not have in the UK, but none the less has to be confronted.  The food in the hospital is very basic, insipid tea and a bread roll for breakfast for example, in fact the night I stayed we prayed and broke bread together at breakfast and the insipid tea became our wine.  The patients rely on families members to bring more substantial food; the staffs are well uniformed and very firm but quite pleasant in manner.  One man in the ward when I stayed, became quite aggressive in the middle of the night, the staff pounced on him quickly, using sheets tied him hands and feet to the bed so he was spread eagled for the night, it sounds primitive but it was affective, it did not stop me from getting a part night’s sleep but will admit, without a mattress I was a little stiff in the morning, just have to get used to it really.  In a funny way there was a quiet gentleness about it all on the ward, we were all sharing the same experiences with such a feeling of people being united like a family.  When my friend gets through this with the help of Jesus, he will have a great testimony to tell.

I thought when I spent the night in the hospital with my friend it would be a great opportunity to evangelise but I was not allowed to communicate too much with anyone other than my friend, but the way I see it, purely by actions and being in support of my friend, smiling at people, being courteous and sharing in some of their hardships is a way to show our Christian faith as thus is another way to evangelise, so I was not too saddened.

Attended a full submersion water Baptism last week at a beach location, it was led by Pastor Ignacious of a believers Church with no name, just followers of Jesus, which was a wonderful experience.  Five people were baptised all over sixteen years of age, we started with worship songs followed by appropriate words from the scripture from memory, it had the same meaning as we have in our Church back in the Forest of Dean but with less formality and more involvement of the people present and of course a beautiful setting on the beach and sea.  People joined in to pray what was on their hearts which gave a real meaning to the baptism.  A fellowship meal was served afterwards at a nearby house of a church member; it was such a joyous occasion with such warm feelings.  There were a few people around that watched with interest but no problems or anger was seen.

A few weeks ago I was invited to attend a house group of believers quite a distance from Panjim, in the north.  It was in an area that was predominantly Roman Catholics and Hindu villages, the believers (born again Christians) amounted to only twelve including me.  The house group was part of a fairly large following of a Pentecostal Church which is well established.  The leader of the group Manuel, told me a sad story of a friend of his who joined the Church and house group but died within two years.   The RC’s do not like the believers as they believe that people are paid to attend believer’s gatherings and the Hindus became judgemental regarding the death.  Basically what happened was, the friend became a believer much to the objection of his family who were RC, but he none the less stayed with the believers group and therefore went against his family as they saw, the man started to suffer ill health and died within a year or two of joining as a believer.  The villagers accused Manuel as being responsible for the death because he got his friend to join the house group and became a believer; therefore they said it was a cult.  This happened just over six months ago and some people have made life very difficult for Manuel and his family, but they remain true to the faith.

It was my intention to go to Orissa and be with Pastor Sameer to evangelise in East India, but this will have to wait until next year, too many events and things happening in Goa.  But we have kept in touch and feel sure I will eventually make it, if led by the Holy Spirit.  When I phoned Pastor Sameer last week to enquire how his wedding had gone, he was quite short on the phone and said he would phone back and abruptly hung up, mmmm funny I thought!  True to his word he phoned back and apologised for his abruptness but when I heard the reasons why, he was more than forgiven.  When I phoned, he was actually being detained and questioned by the police for being a Maoist (communist related) activist and causing problems.  Sameer flatly refused to accept this, he said to the police, “you can send me to jail but not for being a Maoist, but for Jesus Christ who died for us on the cross, I would gladly go to jail as it is Jesus I follow”.  The police then accused him of converting Hindu’s to become Christians, Sameer replied no, “I convert no one, it is the individuals choice to become a Christian through the power of the Holy Spirit and our, Saviour Jesus Christ, it is not for me to decide for them”.  The police then said, but you admit that you have baptised people, Sameer said, “gladly yes I have, but once again it is the individual’s choice, no one forced or paid them to be baptised, if you want to lock me up for the work of faith in Jesus Christ I will be happy to go” but not for being a Maoist.  This all happened over 36 hours so there was obviously a lot more that went on but this is what Pastor Sameer told me, the police released him without charge.   Read, ‘The Great Commission’ Matthew 28:16-20 “And surely I am with you always”.  Please send prayers to Pastor Sameer and his team of soldiers for Christ.

Well my dear friends, these are just a few of the stories to tell.  The biggest part of this diary note is taken up with my friend that has the severe drink problem and ‘Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome’, because it involves so many different and so many people.  Comparisons can be drawn between UK and India, as it’s a problem that exists in both countries but some of the procedures in handling the situation is somewhat different.  It is worth noting, that Goa is the state with the lowest priced alcohol rates, the drink items should not be purchased and taken over the border to the neighbouring states and other states of India, there are strict customs controls relating to this.

That’s It folks.  Take good care of yourselves and will write again in a few weeks. God Bless.

Jim F.

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