A Visit to Orissa in North India and Calcutta - 2015.05.10
By Börje Norlén, member of New Life Church Stockholm
The start of this adventure occurred when I surprisingly met Hans Sundberg, who was my Pastor for nine years. When we met this time, we had not seen each other for about ten years. He asked me spontaneously if I wanted to go with him on one of the mission trips he regularly makes – to India and Nepal, in co-operation with a mission organization called Touch Asia. There, Hans Sundberg has initiated a project where he gathers a number of local pastors and evangelists for ten days of intense Bible teaching, followed by group reflections, and good fellowship before the Lord. After every seminar the pastors who have been participating go home to their local sites, where they share what they have learned with another 10 to 30 local pastors and evangelists. The ambition is to go through the whole Bible in a period of a few years.
The same day we left Sweden, a strong earthquake hit Nepal. That earthquake caused great destruction in the area, with approximately 3,000 casualties and 15,000 injured. Pastor Sundberg, who planned to spend the second week of his visit in Nepal, was now unfortunately forced to go home after one week in India. We arrived to the Calcutta airport and from there we continued by night train to the province of Orissa, a Hindu dominated area in the north of India. Bishop Prathap Pradhan met us at the train station and his son Caleb drove us to a little fenced compound on the outskirts of the city. On this site we found the house of Bishop Pratham, a small church, a children’s home, and a dormitory for school children. Bishop Prathap’s wife, Shikah, was in charge of the kitchen, which every day served us with nice food and many other practical things.
During the first day, most of the participating pastors arrived from a very vast area. The first week Pastor Sundberg went through 1st and 2nd Peter, the three letters of John, and the letter of Judah. Hans Sundberg was a good guide through these Bible books and the following group reflections indicated that the teaching had really sunk in to the hearts of the pastors. When Pastor Sundberg left after five days, it was time for me to go through the thirteen chapters of the letter to the Hebrews. My wife, Görel, was leading the group reflections following each part of the teaching.
It did not take long for us to realize that we had managed to have the seminar during the warmest period of the whole year! In the middle of the day, the temperature varied between +38 to +45C. The record heat Sweden has ever had is +38C, but where we were, that temperature was exceeded almost every day. We had to take siesta in the middle of the day and go to our bedroom, which was air-conditioned. The temperature in the small church (where regularly the power failed and all the fans stopped working) was sometimes almost unbearable.
After our ten days in Orissa, we returned to Calcutta for a few days of fellowship with our friends Maria Mondal Sandberg and her Indian husband Dev Mondal. Maria and Dev took good care of us and showed us parts of Calcutta that you hardly get a chance to step into as a tourist. We even got the chance to visit some local homes where we got to know nice people, living under extremely poor life circumstances. Dev and Maria work practical and on a long-term basis with the objective to, in different ways, build relations with people living in the residential area where they rent some premises. On top of conducting ordinary services with worship and sermons, youth and child ministry, they also organize help with homework and a training school for football (soccer). We even visited the plot which Maria and Dev, through their organization, have been able to buy. On that plot they will step by step build facilities to house the growing work.
We left India after two weeks with many impressions which had made such a strong impact on us. The heat, the traffic jams, the crowds of people, the poverty, the contrasts, the nice food, the children who had been saved from trafficking and liability to a safe environment in a center, and many other things. To sum it up, this trip surpassed all our expectations and we would love to go back some other time, if we are given the opportunity.