It's just gone 7.00pm here and it's been a very full day which seems strange as back home, on sporting Saturday, England haven't yet beaten Italy at rugger, in the footie Ipswich have yet to kick off against Fulham and in the cricket (which doesn't have a silly nick name) England are getting ready to beat Australia. Oh well, two out of three ain't bad.
Never, ever let me hear anyone complain about British trains. We travelled two hours North East of Kolkata today on the most bum (can I say 'bum' in a church blog?) numbingly hard seat I have ever sat on. If that wasn't bad enough It was only just wide enough for three people to sit on. As the train filled up nicely (or became dangerously overcrowded depending on your view if these things) a fourth person sat down I became much more closely aquatinted with my travelling companions than would have been acceptable on the 7.00am from Norwich to London Liverpool Street. And then, would you believe it, everyone started talking to each other. Other than my good friend John Wright I don't know anyone who actually talks to people on the train. Shocking. I have found every Indian person I have met engaging, polite and interesting. That included the chap, whose name I can't pronounce let alone spell, who is a primary school teacher and wanted me to tell him how it is that Jesus is the saviour of the world, something that he had read recently. Vendors of all sorts of snacks, fruit and Magic slate drawing books seems to appear in the carriage from nowhere on a very regular basis. Oh, and chai!
The purpose of the trip, as I mentioned yesterday, was to look at a building that Ben has bought as a training centre for his team of church planters. It currently has lots of empty rooms that could possibly be used as an aftercare housing for young women and girls rescued from prostitution. According to the IJM Kolkata office there is an urgent need for 200 aftercare places.
After arrival in Basirat where the house is and the blood had just about returned to the lower half of my body I got onto the back of a cycle rikshaw - well, actually, is was a horizontal board attached to the back of a bike, the sort that my great, great grandfather probably rode. The fact that I shared the board with 4 other people didn't make it any more comfortable I'm afraid. 15 minutes later and rather shaken we got to the house. A description would take too long. I'll provide some photos but suffice it to say that it has potential! No, really!
A number of Ben's planters were also gathered at the house and following a time of worship and sharing highs and lows of ministry life (my lows didn't really compare with theirs, it has to be said, as they didn't involve imprisonment, physical threats or being hounded out of town). And so I felt both humbled and inadequate when Ben us me to 'share a word of encouragement from God's word'. Tap an, whose wife had been murdered because she and Tapan had come to faith and were sharing their faith with others, was sitting next to me. As I say, inadequate. But God's word is true for us all so I hope and pray it spoke to them through my stumbling.
Some of you may be old enough to remember an advert, for some tinned fish I believe, where the actor says "I don't fancy the journey back, neither!" Enough said.