After traveling for approximately 24 hours I arrived in Bangkok, Thailand, at 12:30 a.m. on Jan. 11. After a few hours of much-needed sleep I enjoyed lunch with our member, Fil Olimpo. Fil is a magazine editor for several publications in Bangkok. Originally from the Philippines, Fil has lived with his family in Thailand for several years.
Shortly after lunch I returned to the airport for a flight to Hyderabad, India. After several hours of delay, my flight arrived in Hyderabad at 1 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 12. After a few hours of sleep I had the pleasure of conducting a Sabbath service with our members, Dr. Ali and her two daughters, Arjumand and Nagis. Dr. Ali is a longtime member of the Church (baptized in 1960 at Bricket Wood, England). She has set a wonderful example of faithfulness.
On Sunday, I traveled to Chirala to meet G.P. Samuel and members of a group known as the Church of God that he established in 1982. I first met Mr. Samuel in March 2005 and during the course of several meetings he requested that I visit his area and meet members of the Church of God. Their stated beliefs are very similar to those of UCG. In fact, they have requested to be a part of UCG. Most of the members of this group are a part of Mr. Samuel's extended family.
I was able to spend a couple of days fellowshipping with them and had the privilege of visiting most of the members in their homes. There is also a small group meeting in Sampath Nagar, which is located approximately 30 minutes by car. Mr. Samuel has spent a few years visiting this group traveling by bicycle. I was very impressed with the sincerity and humble attitude of the members of the Church of God. I look forward to returning for a future visit.
On Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 15, I traveled to Calcutta to visit and baptize Tarun Ghosh. Mr. Ghosh has been corresponding and counseling for baptism since September 2005. After completing our counseling on Wednesday, I had the privilege of baptizing Mr. Ghosh in the Hooghly River.
The Hooghly is one of the distributaries of the Ganges and is considered sacred to Hindus, and its water is considered holy. Hindu belief holds that bathing in the river causes the forgiveness of sins and helps one attain salvation. Most Hindu homes will contain a vial of water from the Ganges. People travel from distant places to immerse the ashes of their kin in the waters of the river; in fact one can view funeral pyres located at various spots along the river. So as Mr. Ghosh and I approached the river for the baptism, individuals taking ceremonial baths or washing their clothes paid little to no attention to our actions. (In East Africa I have often witnessed as many as 50 curious bystanders watch a baptism before continuing their journey along a road paralleling a river or stream.)
After the baptism Mr. Ghosh and I enjoyed a light lunch and toured some of the streets of Calcutta—a city governed by the Communist Party and known for its congestion, overpopulation (approximately 15 million) and pollution. But the city is also known as the City of Joy and is described as a city of love and warmth, sorrow and despair, dreams and hopes, poverty and squalor, grandeur and glory. Mr. Ghosh is certainly a beautiful light in this city.
Jan. 17 I traveled to Delhi and spent an enjoyable evening visiting with Mathew George, a Good News subscriber. Friday I traveled to Moradabad, a city located approximately 100 miles (four hours by car) east of Delhi. Moradabad is predominantly Muslim. Nestled in one of the neighborhoods of the city is the home of Robinson Yusuf and his family. The Yusuf family has been a part of the Church dating back to the 1980s. The family operates an English medium school in their neighborhood.
We were joined on the Sabbath by Mr. Dalchand, a longtime member of the Church from the village of Milak Qazi. After a very enjoyable Sabbath service and delicious lunch of north Indian food, I departed with Mr. Dalchand to his village. After the visit I continued my journey to Agra, a five-hour drive by car.
Jan. 20 I spent the day in Agra with member George Samuel. I spent the morning with George and his wife, Shobha, counseling her for baptism. In the afternoon we held a Bible study at Mr. Samuel's home with a group that meets with him on the Sabbath.
On Monday, I returned to Delhi by car and flew to Pune, a city with a population of approximately 5 million located about 100 miles east of Mumbai (Bombay). I had the pleasure of spending the evening with our members Prakash and Sara Mandora and their little daughter Osin.
Tuesday I flew to Bangalore to visit a couple of Good News subscribers and Wednesday traveled to Madurai, located in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Simon Daniel is a member who lives in Madurai, and I enjoyed spending Thursday with him discussing future possibilities for the work in India. Mr. Daniel is a lecturer in English literature at American College.
Friday I flew to Sri Lanka and enjoyed a wonderful Sri Lankan dinner of chicken curry and hoppers (like bowl-shaped pancakes) with our members. On the Sabbath we gathered for services and fellowship at the church hall in Mt. Lavinia near Colombo.
Please remember our Sri Lankan members in your prayers. Sri Lanka has been suffering from armed conflict with the Tamil Tigers since 1983. The recent flare-up with the conflict has had a devastating effect on the local economy. The rate of inflation is approximately 17 percent while the wages of the average worker have not increased. Also, as the national armed forces are pushing the terrorists from their strongholds, the terrorists are retaliating by hitting softer targets within the country.
On the Sabbath of Feb. 23, while our members were attending Sabbath services, a bomb was discovered on a bus in Mt. Lavinia. The passengers were evacuated before the bomb exploded, but 18 bystanders were injured during the explosion.
Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia
On Monday, I returned to Thailand and spent a few days with Fil Olimpo and then continued on to Singapore. I had the opportunity of spending the Sabbath with our brethren in Singapore. The congregation is pastored by Jeff Caudle from New Zealand. Mr. Caudle has asked that whenever possible, as I transit through Asia, I visit the members in his area. It is always a pleasure to spend time with our Singaporean brethren; I have had the privilege of meeting some of them as early as 1981.
On Sunday, Feb. 3, I accompanied two of our members, Samuthiran and Clement Lim, to visit our members living in Batam, Indonesia, Edward and Lilik Simanjuntak and their daughter, Bellinda. We left early Sunday morning and took a fast ferry across the Singapore Strait for approximately 12 miles to the island of Batam.
Edward runs a private school teaching English. He showed us his classroom adjacent to his home and related how God had blessed him with many students. Lilik served us some delicious Indonesian food and we relished the opportunity spent together. Unfortunately the few hours that were allotted for the trip passed quickly and we had to return to Singapore for the evening. By 4 a.m. the following morning it was time to depart for the airport and return home.
Getting to know our brethren in Asia is a wonderful opportunity. I realize that it is impossible for many of our readers to personally meet and fellowship with our scattered brethren, so I hope this and similar articles will provide an insight into some of their lives and environment.
Please remember to pray for them and their circumstances as they pray for you. I send you warm greetings from your brethren in Asia! UN