A quarter of a century ago, the Lord called brother Raghu Rangarajan and his wife Lydia to leave Bombay to take the gospel to Nepal and the northeast corner of India. They settled near the Nepal border in the city of Siliguri, West Bengal. Pioneer work was engaged in and there are now some assemblies on both sides of the border in that region. In earlier years, there were occasions when the late Mr. Will Penfold of Bicester visited the area and was of great spiritual help to Brother Raghu. Will’s son Michael continues to take an interest in the district.
I first met Raghu some time ago in Sri Lanka. He invited me to pay a visit to his area and at the end of November 2012, I spent two weeks with him. In the Lord’s will Raghu will be at the Langstaff, Ontario missionary conference in May, so some readers may have already had the opportunity to hear his report firsthand and also an account of the way the Lord saved him from a high caste Hindu background.
Part of my visit was spent in Siliguri itself. We had ministry at 7:45 each morning before the people went to work. Some contacts who are not in assembly fellowship attended and there was opportunity for conversation with some of them in Raghu and Lydia’s home. After the ministry meeting each morning I visited the school for which Raghu and his wife are responsible. The school work is seen as a vital part of their witness in the area. A short word was given to the children, young people from a mainly Hindu background.
In the evenings there were visits to outlying villages in tea plantations where the gospel was preached in the people’s yards. One of these was a place called Amjamni where a little assembly meets. The others were preaching points where a brother called Raymond from a nearby assembly gathered the people. Good numbers attended. They sat on the ground in the semidarkness, improvised lighting allowed some to use the hymnbooks and to follow the Scripture readings. Generally, the people in these areas are poor and some of them are illiterate. Work on the tea plantations is hard, accommodation primitive, and wages very low.
A prestigious secondary school in Siliguri was also visited on three occasions. Lydia has a Bible teaching class for students at lunchtime twice a week. These classes are completely voluntary and it was good to see the numbers who attended and the interest that was shown. Verses are memorized and it is evident that some of these young people are building up a considerable knowledge of the Scriptures. Pray for their salvation.
At Siliguri they do not generally convene the gospel meeting in the hall but it is held on a Friday at believers’ homes. There are nine families who participate so the meetings rotate around these nine venues. I had opportunity to preach at two of these places and on both occasions there was a nice number of outsiders present plus Christians’ children.
Raghu took me over into Nepal for three days. The first day was lost because of a general strike with pickets blockading the roads. Apparently there is a little unrest in the country and it surfaces from time to time. The Lord’s Day was spent with a small assembly in a place called Dharan in a district of Nepal where a brother by the name of Vikram labors. Vikram is married to a Japanese sister, and they visited Japan for the birth of their first child a few months ago. It was expected that Vikram’s wife and child would return to Nepal at the end of December, but the baby became seriously ill, and at the point of writing mother and baby are still in Japan. This is a matter for prayer.
The second day in Nepal was spent in an all-day conference in Aiyabari, a village assembly where there are around 100 in fellowship. I had four sessions of ministry, and attendance and interest were good. It is a very rural area. A sow was feeding her numerous piglets outside the hall on one side, and “the cattle were lowing” on the other side. Most of the believers sat on the floor for the whole day of conference!
We visited the state of Sikkim from a Wednesday to a Friday, with meetings in the capital, Gangtok. Sikkim is a former independent kingdom that has now come under Indian administration. Gangtok is on the lower slopes of the Himalayas and clings to the mountainside. The assembly in the town has a fine new hall. There is a brother there called Jiwan, a school teacher, who has a great deal of input into the work of the assembly. He is married to a Canadian sister, Rachel (Vance) of Ontario. We had three sessions of ministry in Gangtok on both Wednesday and Thursday and traveled back to Siliguri on Friday. The hall was full and appreciation of the ministry was encouraging. God has been at work there in recent times. Brother Charles Davidson, a business man from Northern Ireland has visited a few times in the past 18 months for gospel meetings and quite a number have been saved. Charles was back at the end of January and with brother Gaius Goff and a brother from Delhi shared in a conference. Our brethren were encouraged that a few of the believers’ children professed to be saved over the conference period.
Please remember Siliguri, Sikkim, and Nepal in your prayers, that God will bless the ongoing labors of the assemblies there. In that northern part of India they don’t boast of the numbers that are spoken of in other parts of that vast land, but it is good to know that in the past generation souls have been saved and assemblies planted and maintained in a way that reflects the New Testament pattern.