Five weeks with the Mara People (Part 1)

By Nigel Lindsay

As a child and young person in the Methodist Church I followed the lead of my parents and was constantly involved in jumble sales for good causes, or visiting homes for the elderly, and so developed the habit , when I saw a need, of Getting On and Doing Something about it. When I started work in the hotel industry, I was very concerned for the children I saw outside public houses waiting for their parents.

I was already a Scout leader at that time and the general thrust of scouting, the badge work and the daily good deed, encouraged an outward-looking, do-something attitude. So I began a career in social work, mostly with children and families, but in my own time set up the Open Door youth counselling service in Eastbourne, and helped to run a fortnightly disco in Hampden Park Community Hall.

Later, as a community development worker, I showed residents how to Get On and Do Something for themselves, to achieve perhaps a skate park or other project. Involvement in the process gives a sense of ownership and the facility is used more responsibly. I took this approach to Nigeria in 2001 where I spent two years helping to arrange more basic needs for villages, such as a year-round food supply or clean water. This was a life-changing experience; and since then my faith in Jesus as my Saviour has grown.

In September 2007 I started a two-year course as a very mature student at Moorlands Bible College. The impact of the study of the Bible on my life has given me a clearer understanding of who God is and how He wants to use my life to impact others.

The other side of Bible College life is to Get On and Do Something. Last year I spent several weeks working with the Salvation Army in Hackney, the area of London where I was born. At the beginning of this year I spent five weeks in Mizoram, a remote part of India.

Flying to Kalkuta was exciting and the overcharging of the man at the prepay taxi desk at the air port and the con of the driver getting more money out of me was all part of going to somewhere new and not Knowing the ropes. You can become hardened to everyone and start to distrust all. Staying at the Baptist Society Guest house not far from where Mother Teresa had done her work was good and the taxi journey to and from the airport gave me good chance to see the streets of Kalkuta and take a few photos without being afraid my camera would be taken. I wandered the streets both on route to Maraland and on my return journey. My feet got dirty and small children asked me for food, I gave one lad and orange I had just bought and before long I had given all I had brought away. You become hard and say no as they follow up the street. Uncle, Uncle, you walk faster, Uncle, Uncle. People at the Guest house where working with the street families pick up Children giving them food, baths, education and then returning them to their parents on the street. One Woman and her daughter works as a teacher the School Liz and Jacob went to and Robin now works in, she is out there for five week teaching. Small world!

But this was not where I was to be for my five week placement. Back to the airport and a long wait and then plane to Aizawl the main city of Mizoram State North East India. I was met at the airport by Lachhua Lapi a senior pastor in the Congregational Church of India. He was to be my supervisor, Translator and roommate for the next five weeks. You have to get special permission to go to Mizoram and so I had some official paperwork to do before a journey of about 15 hours in truck to the city of Siaha. The scenery was brilliant, and the road near the edge, up or down and never straight for more than about 50 metres. We did stop to sleep on the way, leaving about 5am in the morning before the heat of the sun, not that that made much difference as we did not reach till about 5pm.

I stayed in Lachhua House, mostly all built on stilts and on the side of mountains, but in the city many of concrete stilts in the villages they are wood and sometime bamboo. I sort of checked under me before I went in. I am comparatively heavy and tall compared with many Mara People. Many came to great me; the main subject of conversation was my lack of a wife, which they felt they could sort out. I had plans to do some training of Youth work, Children’s work and some leadership training, but none of that happened. I did however have the chance to preach 20 times in about 9 different congregational Churches out of their remaining 18.

In the service they use a big drum to beat the tune and usually a young woman will call out the words in advance for those who do not have book with the hymn. The pulpit is central and the on a platform where all the elders sit. I got used to having to sit in the pulpit or on the platform, but I resisted and occasionally managed to sit with the normal people. Lachhua would introduce me and I never knew what he said, but as the weeks went on he said more. I would then bring greetings from you in England and apologise for anything I may do that was not normal for them. I would start my preach in the pulpit, but then escape down on to the platform and do the teaching in an interactive way with people involved and have visual demonstration of my points. For most they found this useful and so asked for more.

I spent 5 days in a village where I was said to be the first white man, they built me a toilet, but I can tell more next time. I had the privilege of staying at the house built by the original missionaries in 1913 and spending 10 days with the granddaughter and her family. (She is now 72)We got stuck on a road as they blasted it to make it wider and I did a tribal dance, but more about all that next time.

My thanks’ for your prayers whilst I was away. I ask that you pray for the unity of the Mara Church.