Recently I had the opportunity to visit some of our members in India. I arrived in Hyderabad, India, late at night on March 14. Unfortunately one of my bags was mistakenly picked up by another passenger at the airport, which caused a certain level of stress as I tried to track down its location.
Some of the stress was due to the fact that the bag contained my Bible, sermon notes and various articles of literature for the members in India. (Thankfully I was able to obtain my bag more than a week later, the night before I departed India. A lady took my bag by mistake but would not return my bag to the airline until she received her bag!)
Thursday, March 15, I had a wonderful meeting with Dr. Ali and her two daughters, Arjumand and Nargis. Dr. Ali has been a member of the Church since 1960. After a very enjoyable discussion on several subjects relating to the Church and the Bible, we sang several hymns. Dr. Ali is able to receive sermon CDs, but she really misses the opportunity to fellowship and sing hymns with other members of the Church.
The following day I spent the morning with G.P. Samuel and B. Yohan. These men represent Sabbath-keeping congregations on the eastern coast of Andhra Pradesh. Since Passover was approaching, we discussed the observance of Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread.
It was inspiring to compare our observance of these Holy Days and discover the similarities of worship. This was my third opportunity to visit with Mr. Samuel, and I hope to visit some of the congregations in his area during a future trip to India.
Sabbath in Chennai
Friday afternoon I departed Hyderabad for Chennai. On the Sabbath, March 17, I held a Bible study in my hotel room. During previous visits to Chennai, some of our Good News subscribers asked me to conduct a Sabbath service or Bible study in southern India. So I was able to spend the entire afternoon with Simon Daniel, Darwin Paul, Vivek Raj and his parents, M.J. Kolandai Raj and Molly Philomenh. I conducted a Bible study titled "What Is a True Christian?" that was followed by many questions.
It was a most enjoyable Sabbath and everyone requested that we have regular meetings with the goal of having Sabbath services in the future. The challenge that we face is the manpower and distance involved. Simon Daniel traveled 450 kilometers to reach Chennai and the Raj family traveled 165 kilometers.
Early Sunday morning I flew to Cochin to meet with a prospective member, J.G. Paul. We spent the day discussing conversion and baptism and challenges he faces with his job.
Often many of our prospective members face conflicts between their jobs and the Sabbath. Many employers do not grant a leave of absence for the Sabbath, and our members' faith is often tested in this area. After my visit Mr. Paul informed me that he was offered a job in Djibouti with the assurance that his leave would be granted for the Sabbath, and he is already working at his new job.
Cochin is a fascinating port city with a long history involving the spice trade. In fact some of the most delicious food in India can be found in Cochin. Cochin also contains the oldest Jewish synagogue in the Commonwealth of Nations, built in 1568. A tablet in the outer wall bears the inscription from a synagogue built in Cochin in 1344, but the first recorded synagogue built in Cochin dates back to the fourth century.
Monday, March 19, I traveled from Cochin to Pune via Mumbai. I was able to spend Monday evening and Tuesday with members Prakash and Sara Mandora. Sara is completing her master's degree in education and Prakash is developing a marketing business. The Mandoras are able to view video sermons for the Sabbath but would really appreciate regular fellowship with other members. The nearest member lives more than 1,200 kilometers from Pune. Thankfully Prakash and Sara have been able to attend the Feast of Tabernacles in the Philippines and Sri Lanka and have met several members in the Church.
On to Agra
Wednesday, March 21, I traveled to Delhi and arranged transportation to Agra the following morning. In the afternoon Delhi and the surrounding area experienced a hailstorm. Thursday morning I departed for Agra at 7 a.m.
The drive from Delhi to Agra is five hours, so I informed our member, George Samuel, that I would be arriving in Agra by noon. Three hours into the trip, after passing elephants being ridden by their mahouts, camels pulling overloaded wagons of grain, cows chewing their cud in the middle of the road, dancing bears and snake charmers at toll booths and tractors traveling the wrong direction on a divided highway—traffic came to a complete stop. In fact it was backed up for more than 20 kilometers!
Farmers blocked the road demanding that the government provide assistance for their crops damaged by the hail. Three hours later the road was cleared, and we were allowed to pass. I arrived in Agra three hours late and much to my surprise discovered a group of people waiting for me in the hotel lobby. Our member had explained the teachings of the Church to them, and they gather each Sabbath as he teaches them from the articles in The Good News. They had waited three hours at the hotel for my arrival! After a brief discussion, we traveled to Mr. Samuel's home where I conducted a Bible study and answered questions.
Friday morning I left for Delhi, and thankfully the road was not blocked! Sabbath morning, March 24, I left Delhi at 6:30 a.m. and traveled to Moradabad. The scenery was interesting as we passed through the countryside. The road as always was one long obstacle course with construction, wagons loaded with farm produce and sugar cane, cows, bikes and pedestrians.
I arrived in Moradabad at 10:30 a.m. at the home and school of Robinson Yousof and family. The Yousof family was joined by Mr. Dalchand and his extended family. Some of these individuals have been members of the Church since the 1980s. After fellowship and a wonderful lunch, we held a Sabbath service. During the service I had the pleasure of blessing Rex, the son of Eugene Kumar, the son of Mr. Yousof. (In the late 1980s Eugene was a camper at a camp that I helped to conduct in Sri Lanka).
After the service I departed Moradabad for Delhi and arrived at the international airport at 9 p.m. I boarded my flight for Thailand sometime after midnight and arrived in Bangkok by 6:30 a.m. on Sunday, March 25. Although exhausted, I departed India inspired by the people I met and their desire to live God's way of life. UN