My journey to India and meeting with 28 pastors

      - a greeting from Claes Rangsjö´s journey in November 2014

I left Arlanda on the 8th of November with Hans Sundberg. Our destination was India, more specifically Sundergarh, Orissa. Our mission was to help with teaching the Bible. Hans was to teach on the Gospel according to John and I was to teach on the Gospel according to Matthew. After a long journey we landed in Kolkata. Now only the last part of our journey by night train remained. Howrah, the railway station, looks like a camp of waiting, sleeping people. Thousands of people, maybe five thousand or more. I looked for others who might be from Europe but couldn´t see any. No backpackers, but Hans being 1.94 meters tall and I being 1.82 really stuck out.

As we were sitting there waiting for our train, we struck up a conversation with a man. He was from Dacca, Bangladesh. He wasn´t a Christian but on his way to a Christian hospital for treatment. After talking for a while we asked him if we could pray for him.Our prayer in the name of Jesus was of course for salvation and healing. We laid our hands on him and prayed. Our prayer didn´t cause any attention, after all we were at Howrah. We will probably never see the man again, but Jesus knows who he is.

It is not easy to understand the Indian railway system. However, after a lot of running and two minutes before departure we ended up in a waggon with the help of a guard. Sitting on a sleeping bunk we slept through the night , head to foot. We were pleased to get off the train and were met at the station by Bishop Prathab. We were almost there. It is now Monday the 10th of November and after a nice breakfast, we understand that the plans have been somewhat modified. We would get much "practice" in that during the time ahead. The pastors are arriving and tonight we´ll start with prayers. Another day of waiting and in the waiting there is strength. Thank you Jesus.

November 11. Now we have started and it´s full speed. The pastors who also had travelled long to get here, are praising God with the drum, the tambourin. the guitar and with singing. I don´t understand a word but I can feel the joy. Hans starts with the writing of the gospel according to John. Very methodical and thourouh. The teaching on Matthew has also started. After the teaching, we introduced time for group reflections and talks. This was by no means natural in the beginning but it grew and developed little by little. Group talks are really good. It presents an opportunity to go through the teaching together. A little awkward perhaps but very good. We closed the evening with intercession. It was so moving to see fairly young pastors sitting in groups of four persons, holding each other´s hands , praying for each other. After a hearty evening meal at 9, the day was ended with a theologocal talk with Bishop Prathab. He has many good thoughts and reflections. Above all he has faith in a great God, whom he has witnessed work with power.

November 12 Today we start teaching a little later. The morning assembly lasted a little longer than usual. My teaching started half an hour later. I think that I may have to let go a little about keeping the time. I take it as a challenge. We only have so many days and we want to give them as much as possible. Now all the pastors are here. A bus strike etc caused the delay. The little church where we gather is filled with pastors. Wonderful! The group talks get going again. I don´t understand a word but the God who understands all languages is there and rejoices with His children. After the prayers and the meal it is time to do some preparations before bedtime. Oops! There goes the electricity. That happens sometimes, so good that the spare unit is working.

November 13 The group of pastors opens up little by little as each day passes. We grow together. And as I begin to recognize and know them, I also wonder " What are their lives like and their situations? What are the people in their congregations like? What is God doing? What are the problems and worries like?." Another day of teaching is over. The food tastes so good and my stomach is fine. Thank you God!

November 14 It is amazing how quickly a day passes by. It gets dark around 6 pm. And today we had the time to visit S:t Erika´s Orphanage founded by Bishop Prathab. They have an interesting and good work with good relations with people in the surrounding villages. We understood that God has made a good work there through the years. It was dark when we left. Oh dear, here you need to pray and drive carefully! People and bikes suddenly appear in the dark from nowhere. So good to be back in the pastor´s home, which actually can be described as a "congregation center". Here they also have living quarters for 46 children, who attend school there. The church we visit is used for this purpose. The church also holds an office and of course lodgings for our pastors, and a wall sourrounds it all.

I sense a "tension" in India. We don´t talk much about it, but we understand that here the Christian church has a good witness in the community. Just one example of this is the story about the 12 year old boy I visited the other day. The mother had died and the father disappeared, so the grandfather was left to care for the boy. However, the grandfather wasn´t good to him at all. He kept him as a slave, beat him and used him as a labourer and took the money to keep for himself. One night the police came to Bishop Prathab with the boy. His grandfather had hit him in the head until he started to bleed. Could the boy stay at the home? Of course he could. Now the boy was standing before me, looking down, ashamed as if all that had happened was his fault. When I had listened to the whole story, I hugged him and thought "this is what God wants to do right now." It was a powerful encounter. Now he was staying with Prathab and could remain there.

November 15 Today it is time for birthday celebrations.Bishop Prathab turns 57. We sang and prayed for him. Prathab´s wife Zikha fed him a piece of a birthday cake. Today I talked with Bishop Gabriel, a little humble man. He, too, is the leader of a church planting movement. Oh, I think I forgot to tell you that these two "bishops" have each founded 130 churches. The party with a birthday cake came as a surprise. So much is happening all the time. We are trained to be flexible. Hans and I smile a little at what is going on. We are in a different culture and at the same time we try to make the best and most of our limited time. Today is Hans´last day. I hope he will get a bed all to himself on his journey back to Sweden. But now it´s time for intercession. We had a wonderful time of prayer with prophetic words. So encouraging!

November 16 It is Sunday and time to worship. I don´t understand a word, but I think that the sermon is about Luke 15. Manuel is preaching today. He is a travelling preacher in India. What a challenge. Today our group was on Matthew 13 and it went so well. Each group told the others what they had found. It was a little slow to begin with but then they opened up and you could feel their joy. There is nothing better than listening to the pastors´thoughts and see the joy in their eyes. We all felt that we are doing this together and it was a wonderful experience. Only God can bring about such creativity and joy. Somewhat tired but grateful for yet another day and going to bed seems a very good idea. Heard that Hans got a bed on the train. Top bunk? There´s nothing quite like going by train in India.

November 17-18 Now I can really feel that my stay here is almost over. Teaching, evaluating and group photos. So this is real. It´s the last morning with the pastors. We work intensely with Matthew chapters 26-28. We couldn´t have any better word for sending us out into the world. It´s 1 pm and time to say goodbye. Bishop Prathab expresses his thanks to many. And the pastors in turn thank him. Prathab, a calm and happy man with authority among the pastors gives instructions and explains yet again how the continued training will look like.

My journey back went well. I still don´t understand how you´re able to find the right train waggon. I am so thankful to Prathab and his son Caleb who was also there. Back in Kolkata and the hotel there, I have time to think. India, what a country. Almost like a "universe" of its own. Kolkata with so many impressions through the taxi windows. How will the man with the full loaded cart get to hear about Jesus? It is obvious that men like Prathab and Gabriel who have founded so many churches really make a difference. And God can do the impossible. His Spirit can sweep across and through villages, cities. He can awaken a spiritual hunger. And therefore my journey and teaching of these 28 pastors really felt so important., that the teaching really served them. I know that they are doing a great job. That the churches are a light in the dark. That the prayer "Your Kingdom come" is alive in their hearts.

It is like waking up from a long sleep, as I see how we are flying into Sweden. And surprisinly enough I find that there is strength in my feet as I walk to the passport control. Now I just have to get on the train from the Central station( Stockholm ) to Skövde. As I go to buy a ticket I can hear a woman talking to the SJ staff telling them how irritated she is about the staff not arranging for buses to replace the broken down train. Now she had missed the connection. "I will see what I can do", the man from SJ says. We´re back in Sweden, I think to myself. Once again I felt a great gratitude to God for everything I had experienced the past few days.

To the reader: Your prayers for India are so important. Especially prayers for men like Bishop Prathab and Bishop Gabriel and their families. Your prayers are also needed for the 28 pastors who now will pass on the teaching to their regions and gather groups. Your financial support and your prayers will bear eternal fruit.

Kind regards Claes Rangsjö, pastor at Betaniakyrkan, Skara