Randolph Gonce

Shanti Chetri on my left and Parsuram Sunchuri on my right

Lyle Starnes, one of the directors of the Institute of Biblical Studies, invited me to join him in India where he planned to visit Grace Home 1 at Puri, and Grace Home 2 at Vizianagaram. Gopala had planned for four days of village evangelism in the area around Parvatipuram, visiting some of the churches started by graduates of IBS.

I recently obtained a ten-year tourist visa for India, and had determined that I could enter India from Nepal. I planned to join Lyle at Puri, visit Gopala, and then return to Nepal where I had some meetings planned with brethren from Nepal, North India, and Bhutan at Birtamod, East Nepal. The picture on the left was taken on Sunday on the way to India, as we were attending assembly at Shanti’s place in Birtamod.

Lyle had a flight directly from Chicago to Delhi with American Airlines. I had a flight from Los Angeles to Hong Kong to Bangkok to Katmandu to Bhadraphur, East Nepal, across border by car to Bagdogra, India, to Kolkota, then by train to Puri. I arranged for Parsuram Sunchuri, evangelist from Katmandu, to accompany me on the trip because I did not feel up to traveling on the train from Kolkota to Puri alone. Also I thought it would be good to spend the time with Parsuram, since we are in the process of changing our teaching program in Nepal.

Along the way from Bangkok to Katmandu, Katmandu to Brathapur, and return, I flew past Mount Everest four times in daylight with good viewing conditions. The flights purposely take a route close to the top of the world, because of the splendid view of the mountains.

The crossing into India from Nepal was uneventful. The immigration official looked at my passport and visa, asked when I had visited India the first time, and put down my passport and visa number in a journal. They had no computer.

After traveling to Bagdogra, India, by car, Parsuram and I took a short flight to Kolkota, where we had the taxi ride to hell from the airport to the historic Howrah train station. The ride should have taken thirty minutes, but it took 2 ¼ hours, in the worst air pollution imaginable. The dust and toxic fumes from worn out engines was almost unbearable. The next day a sinus infection that would trouble me for the rest of the trip got started. Next time I will fly to Bhubaneswar.

Along the way I got an email from Gopala saying that Lyle had been turned back as he was trying to enter India at Delhi. I had the same experience when I tried to enter India with Roger Wiemers in 2002. Somehow several directors of IBS have been restricted from entering India, likely as a result of our first IBS graduation program in the Daspala Hotel at Visak, India. After that program, the intelligence agents visited Gopala and asked questions about what we had been doing in India. Our involvement in arranging religious meetings is a technical violation of our tourist visa. As a result of that, Ken Shoop, Stan Hurd, and myself have all been refused entry into India.

We took the Puri Express from Howrah to Puri, where Steven Jyothi met us at the train station. We checked in at the Gondhara Hotel and then went over to visit Grace Home. The children were busy in school, and I took their pictures by class.

The children are doing well. They look well, and they sing about Jesus with joy in their hearts. None have yet been born again into the kingdom, but they have basic faith in Jesus. Steven is sensitive to avoid the appearance of coercing conversion, so he is waiting for their personal faith to become strong enough for them to make their own decision about following Jesus. Perhaps some will make that decision while the folks from Australia are visiting in Jan 07.

The radical Hindu activists are constantly trying to find fault with this operation of a Christian orphanage. Some RSS activists encouraged relatives from their native place to come and remove some of the children. But the exemplary operation of Grace Home has nullified the critical spirit of the Hindu radicals. It is obvious to all that the children are receiving excellent care. One evening the children put on a song and dance program. Steven is a dance choreographer, among his many talents.

While in Puri, I went early morning to the seaside in the Telegu fishing village, the area where Grace Home is located. I always enjoy watching the fishermen put out to sea in their fishing boats, which are launched by hand through the surf.

You can see the cloud of diesel smoke from the outboard engine that is used like a tiller to guide the boat out into deep water, where the keel board will be installed, a bamboo mast tied into place, and the wind will power the boat until it returns to near shore.

From Puri, Parsuram and I traveled by train to Vizianagaram, where Gopala met us at the train station, and took us to our home in India, the Grace Home II. The children gave us a great welcome when we arrived.

The following day we left for Parvatipuram for four days of visiting and teaching among the churches established in the villages of the area by graduates of the IBS teaching program. There are more than thirty-five churches and that have been established through the work of Gopala Raju. We had the opportunity to share the gospel with small groups at each village we visited, and eighteen people obeyed the gospel during the four days, including a blind man.

He put on a new set of clothes following his baptism, and was very happy. This opportunity to teach Jesus in the villages is something I have missed very much during the six years I had been unable to travel to India.

T.V. Sampson Raj traveled from Hyderabad to visit with us at Grace Home II. He is a long time friend and operates a Bible School and orphanage in addition to doing a lot of evangelism in many places in India. It was good to get to visit with him in India. He has visited with me in the USA several times. He provided some song books for the IBS students, for which we are grateful.

P.V. Ratnam, his wife, and brother-in-law from the Rajamundry area, and Benarjee and his two sons came to visit at Vizianagaram.

It was a great experience to see dear friends after six years. PD Prasada Rao from Mumbai also came to see me. We discussed care for ten orphans whose parents died with HIV AIDS, members of three different congregations in the Malwani area, who do not have family able to care for them.

And we had lunch with Babji and Arun in the Daspala our last day in Andhra.

We caught a train from Vizianagram to Bhubaneshwar, since there was no flight direct from Visak to Kolkota. From Bhubaneshwar we flew to Kolkota, and from there to Bagdogra, India, and crossed the border back to Birtamod in East Nepal. We spent the night in the Daniel Hotel, and the next day visited a nearby town where a new congregation had been started.

I gave an orange to this blind sister, and her baby is feeding a section of the orange to her mother. We started out in a tent, but the wind blew it down. It was cold, but the sun came out brightly, and it felt warmer once the tent was down.

We flew back to Katmandu, and visited with Depak for the graduation of his ten IBS students. This was the highlight of the trip to Nepal.

This will likely be the last graduation from IBS Nepal, as we have closed the school and trust that Nepalese brethren, Parsuram, Shanti, and Depak, will continue with a similar school they are calling Grace Bible School, translated into the Nepali Language.

The IBS program has been very successful in Nepal, and has helped to bring unity to the brethren who have a sincere desire to serve Jesus. Ken Shoop and Stan Hurd are to be commended for the good work they started there after they were shut out of India.

I am very grateful for the support given for this work. It has been a great blessing to me. I hope to continue traveling to encourage basic Bible training and simple faith in Jesus.

March 2 Roger Wiemers and I are scheduled to visit Manila, Philippines, and surrounding areas, to help get the IBS teaching program going there. Then in June we plan to visit Ghana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, following up on the IBS basic Bible faith building program there. Christianity is not meant to be nearly as complicated as many of us have tried to make it for the last 1950 years. Basically, following Jesus involves learning who He is, learning to love and trust Him through faith, coming to Him in repentance to be born again into the family of God, and then living in Him, forming a community of believers who are dedicated to loving Him and each other, and to carrying the message about Jesus to the world. We can be united in the core teaching of Jesus, and in the kind of people He calls us to be.