Flying at 36,000 feet from Delhi to Siliguri takes you alongside the Himalayas before descending onto the plains at the base of the mountains. While the foothills are fairly close to Siliguri, they are usually impossible to see because of the dusty haze in the air. But the monsoons have ended leaving the sky clearer and the watershed lands green and full. The Himalayas loom over these plains. I am told that for the next few weeks the mountains will be visible. But then they will again fade into the haze. While they disappear from sight, no one is unaware of their presence, because the rivers that flow from them dominate life here.
I came into town among much celebration. The Ganesh festival is devoted to one of the Hindu gods and it is a state holiday. The worship of Anant Chaturdashi is on the last day (September 16, this year). All the household idols are taken out to be immersed in the rivers. During the day the river was crowded with people chanting, drumming and dancing. During the night the streets were lined with neon signs to celebrate the god of electricity (somehow Anant has morphed over the years to have lordship over electricity) and there was more drumming, dancing and chanting. Why do they do this? In order to be blessed. It is part of ancient family tradition and there is fun and excitement in the air. It really is another world.
Pastor Ajay has been with me all week. He has been helping with everything from getting around to negotiating for construction materials (he gets an Indian price, whereas if I go in with him, we get an American price). The majority world is very similar wherever you go, though the faces change. It seems as though poverty has a leveling effect that ends up reflected in each culture in a similar way – very poor roads, incessant traffic, dilapidated buildings, bustling roadside produce markets under corrugated roofs, burn piles, electric poles with messes of tangled wire, broken concrete rubble on the side of the road, and people walking everywhere. Ajay picks me up on his motorcycle in the morning and we cruise into the roadway mayhem without fear or helmets (ok, maybe one of us has a little fear). To me it is reminiscent of driving on Haiti roads only we are driving on the left side.
I am here at the request of Premila, the founder and principal of The Bright Hope English School. This school is devoted to providing an education to “the least of the least.” In this region of northeast India life for women is very, very difficult. They work from sunrise to sunset for meager wages. Life for them can be very brutal and short. Education is the one way that a girl can begin to change the course of her life. Premila is committed to seeing change in the culture through education of girls. Built on meager earnings and donations, the school itself was incomplete. Beaverton Foursquare Church and a couple of very generous donors have come alongside her to improve the facility significantly.
When I was here in February, the dormitory was incomplete, the security wall was barely started and there was a lot of work to do before the monsoons set in. We assisted Premila in hiring local contractors to complete the dorm and the wall. The dorm is now complete and there are 24 girls living in the spacious clean room on clean and comfortable bunks. The wall has one small section to complete which will happen in the next week or two. The monsoons beat the contractors to the finish so they had to wait until now. By next week, they will have a working computer lab with Internet. I am also working on water project preparations that will be completed by a subsequent team in October.
This school is a little outpost of the Kingdom. Like the Himalayas that are powerfully present whether you can see them or not, God’s presence is unmistakable. And like the rivers that water these plains, there is an outflow of the Spirit that is touching this little community and the families of the girls who are attending. It is an entirely indigenous school run by Christians who want to share the Gospel in tangible ways. Their prayer is that people here will find new excitement in being part of a family that is eternal; one with a Father who longs for them to come home.
Our contribution in resource will be a big boost to the school, but the engine of it is a move of the Spirit through committed people who laid down their lives to do this years ago. It is a privilege to be able to serve with such visionary brothers and sisters here in this part of India. I am again reminded of the full Gospel foretold by Isaiah and spoken by Jesus in his hometown…
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;(Isaiah 61:1-2, ESV)
Good news is indeed being proclaimed.