by Richard Lee
Teaching in NBI, Guawahati, Assam, India.
The ground temperature was 38 degrees Celcius when the plane landed at Kolkata Airport in the evening. From Kolkata, I needed to catch another flight to Guawahati, Assam. That would be another day as the day’s flights were all ready to take off.
Upon arrival at Guawahati airport which is about one hour’s flight up north of Kolkata’s airport, I was met by bro. Jim Waldron, bro. Scott Richards, a lecturer at the North East Bible Institute (NBI) and bro. Colin, an NBI student. Bro. Jim, a good brother and faithful gospel preacher, had been to Malaysia many years back, but is now dedicated to help the brethren in India Mission work by establishing preaching schools and planting churches in many part of India. That Sunday, an April Fool’s day, I preached to the students and church in Garchuk, Guawahati during their evening service.
NBI was previously located in Shillong, Meghalaya (a cool and hilly region like Cameron Highlands) but a year ago moved to Garchuk, a small town not too far from Guawahati City which is near the famous Bhramaputra River. Two units of two storey apartments were rented for the school’s use and also for the students’ accommodation. They have a small plot of land in front of the apartment and the students turn it into a vegetable garden. They planted maize, chilli, okra and some other vegetables. They also rear chicken for their own consumption. They have chicken for their lunch only once a week. (Are you complaining about your food, brethren?)
Bro. Jim has this vision of teaching the students “HOW TO” study the bible, preach the word of God and also learn living skills so that the students can be “tent making preachers” when they leave the preaching school. It is indeed a noble task. Entrepreneurship. So, it is not surprising to see many students going out on weekends into the villages and other towns to preach the gospel while they are still students in NBI. Some travel two hours, some four hours to preach and to encourage brethren and churches in the North East. The Christians here speak in their local vernacular which comprises more than 50 dialects, Hindi which is their national language as well as English. English is also the medium of instruction used in schools. So, I have little difficulty in teaching there.
Yes, my main mission there was to teach the first year students the books of Hebrews and James. Two weeks on Hebrews and one week on James. Most of the students come from North East which includes Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh. Some of the students are from the South. There were sixteen students in my class. Bro. Adam Evans, my roommate and also teacher for the second year students flew in from the States to teach the 1 and 2 Peter.
What is the schedule like? Well, India is a big country with a huge population. However they have only one time zone. Bro. Adam had to wake up at 4.30 am and I at 5.00 a.m. to get to school which is which located in the far East. Morning devotion was at 5.45am and class started at 6.00am. Adam and I had breakfast at 8.30am. Guess who cooked? Bro. Jim and bro. Scott prepared us breakfast, lunch/dinner everyday, American style (wow!). But two main meals for me was hardly sufficient, I felt “yow see” (hungry) at night. There was also devotion in the evening at 5.00pm when the students took turns to preach. Singing was loud and clear. Ask bro. Paul Goh about it, yes, they opened their mouths big!
Water is pumped up via tube well into the tank. I remember using water directly from the tank to rinse my mouth after brushing my teeth. A few days later I had mouth ulcers, so I began to use filtered water instead. The school had installed two filters. No more ulcers in my mouth! After washing cutlery, kitchen utensils, pots and pans, we rinsed them with Clorox laced water. I learned some new things from the school.
On weekends, I was given the opportunity to preach in congregations nearby, about 100 km towards the hilly, cool and beautiful city of Shillong, but it took 4 to 5 hours to travel to the destination.
Three of us from NBI went up to Shillong on April 6th and we visited some of the members and guests of the church that night as well as the next day. One member confessed that he was a slave to alcohol; he repented after I spoke to him and we prayed together.
On Sunday, April 8th, I preached to the Lai Kum Khra congregation, an English speaking church in Shillong. They have about 30 members and they meet in the home of bro. Timothy’s mother, also a member of the church. Her house has a nice view overlooking the city of Shillong. Well, it is a church on top of a hill that is sitting on a mountain. You must go and visit to appreciate it.
On April 13th, I made another trip to Shillong with bro. Scott Richards. During this trip we worked with the Mawlai congregation in their Gospel Campaign.
Bro. Scotts preached on Friday night. I spoke on Sunday morning worship service. Bro. Sunny David from New Delhi was the keynote speaker for the campaign that ran from April 11th to April 15th. Their local speaker, bro. Dram Singh (Singh is quite a common surname to some there BUT they are not Punjabis or Bengalis as we call them) is a very interesting speaker. He is 80 years old, he led singing and he spoke with great enthusiasm. Though, I do not understand him but I could hear him loud and clear and felt his message. He certainly has a great voice for his age.
What will we be doing if, by God’s grace, we live till 70 years old, or “by reason of strength 80 years old”? All the foreign speakers spoke in English but the sermons were translated into their local Khasi language by Dr. Kharluskhi.
Another interesting feature about this Campaign was they had “extended the church building” by constructing a canopy, 50 feet by 80 feet in front of the building. They had many microphones in the church building tied to the columns of the building. They had four microphones in front of the pulpit. They had a few loud speakers outside the building. You could actually hear the singing and lessons from as far as ONE KILOMETER away. What an innovative and wonderful way to have the gospel preached to the community! Amen! They had 15 baptisms during this Gospel Campaign.
We left that Sunday afternoon; it turned out to be a 5 hours journey. It rained and some students from NBI had to ride behind an open pick up that belonged to the Institute.
(Part 2 will be published next week)
<Editor’s Note: Bro Richard Lee is planning to do Mission Work in Myanmar this Nov. 7th – Nov. 15th, 2012. The cost is about RM 2500.00 (Air Asia flight, food, lodging and transport). He already has Sis Chan Ai Lin and two other ladies as traveling companions and he is looking for two more, preferably another guy and lady. If you are encouraged by his work in India as shared by him in the appended article, then do join him in his next trip to Myanmar. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)>