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Return to Mizoram February-March 2015

March 19, 2015 - Mizoram

I will start with my love/hate relationship with Jet Airways. When things go right they are tremendous, however twice before, when things did not go righ,t I found them unsympathetic, uncaring and completely unhelpful. I was about to find this again!

We had received a text message the day before our flight advising us to be at the airport 3 hours before the 0935 flight. We felt this was too long but decided to do it. When we arrived at 0630 the airport was closed and didn’t open until 0830 – a long time to sit on a bench in the foyer.

The agent was most helpful and when we explained our mission of eradicating malaria she waved the overweight baggage charges – we had 50 books on Natural Healing plus other related literature so were 18 kilos over weight. About 20 minute before scheduled departure and agent called for me and Dawnga. We were told that the plane would be an hour late and that meant we missed our connection in Kolkata.

No they would pay for accommodation in Kolkata, no they would not switch us to a later Air India flight out of Kolkata unless we paid a large cancellation charge, no our luggage could not be checked through and we would have to pick it up in Kolkata and recheck it in, no we could not use their phone or e-mail to advise those picking us up at the airport near Aizawl.

We spent a day in Kolkata and then when we checked in there was no way we could get the agent to wave the overweight fees of almost 100.00. This was more expensive than a one way ticket for an Indian citizen but there was no way that they were willing to sell a ticket unless someone was flying on that flight.

As I say when something goes wrong with Jet Airways they make sure the paying customer pays for the problem. The info supplied on the plane tell how much they care and that if you are not satisfied the owner will personal try ot make it right. Numerous letters to the owner have all been ignored.

The three times I have been delayed, each meant a 24 hour layover, a number of missed appointments and flight connections and almost 1000.00 in accommodation and penalties. As I say when Jet Airways does it right they are great – but!

The delay did allow me to experience Kolkata again. We visited the famous New Market which is an experience – it is huge and wild. When I think back of my first visit to Calcutta (the old name) back in 1996 the change is staggering. It is many times cleaner now, there are no longer millions living on the streets, the infrastructure has vastly improved and it feels so much safer. It has become a modern city and I can no longer call it “the armpit of the earth.”

A short hop to the Lempui airport and the pleasant surprise to find the collapsed bridge has been replaced by another temporary bridg,e so the drive to Aizawl was one hour not the 2.5 hours I feared. The detour which was in place for several months is now eliminated PTL.

We got to Konga’s in time for a short visit then he was off the Kolkata. Dawnga’s excellent driver Sanga dropped me to the Hotel Chief and then they left for the 7 hour drive to Lunglei.

Dawnga and Driver

The Chief is certainly not a four star hotel closer to one star, but I have learned to accommodate. The six floors of steep steps kept me in shape. Food was OK and the rooms was reasonably clean.

I went for a walk to see who I might see in downtown Aizawl. My first stop was at Mimi’s (Faith Ministries) where I learned of a spectacular revival which started in a small village near Champhei and is sweeping across Mizoram. Many very young people have been suddenly proclaiming the gospel and prophesying. She also told me of a three day fast and meeting in 100 Indian cities, under the theme “Winning India for Christ” which was starting that very evening.

Next stop was Maggie Ralte’s shop and she was in. We had a good visit but with sad news. Her brother John, also a good friend with a young family passed away. His heart slowed and with no cardiologist in Mizoram it could not be corrected soon enough and his organs failed. It is ironic that we had studied a herb in Ranchi that could have saved his life. It was the only herb we studied that is known to have very dangerous side effects. It dramatically speeds up the heart and if you give it to the wrong patient they will die. However it has saved many lives with John’s problem. At the same time her other brother James had a severe attack of gout and is still not back to work.

Maggie works closely with a drug rehabilitation center and was thrilled to hear that Artemisia has been used very successfully in greatly lessening the pain of withdrawal.

Then on to Dr. Chaawna’s – their two children are away to school in Hydrabad so they are suddenly empty-nesters. Had a good briefing on Mizoram’s economy and the real fear of suddenly losing the welfare money India has made them reliant on. This is something I have tried to warn them of for years.

Spent the evening at the opening of the hundred city crusade which got off to a slow start but I am told by the third night the large church was packed, God is on the move!

Wednesday was a wasted day – I couldn’t contact anyone.

Thursday was exactly the opposite, a fantastic day. It started with an early morning meeting with Somte. This past two years have been more than rough, financially and relationally, including the deaths of three members of one close family, in a very short period of time.

Then a sudden change, God seems to be blessing her at every turn. It is a truly amazing story starting with a plot of land she sold for times more than she expected, then going on and on. An amazing turn of events. It is very similar to the book of Job. What the locusts have eaten is being restored 100 fold. Somte will be a key factor in the malaria project.

Dengh transplantingDengh transplanting

Then just up the hill to Denghnuna’s. Dengh has retired after being the deputy minister of finance and education for Mizoram. He is a tremendous horticulturist and a deep thinker. Time with Dengh is always a blessing. This time I found that both his grandfather and father had Savage (one of the first two missionaries to Mizoram) a close mentor. Dengh was greatly influenced by both of them.

He wanted to spend a day with Kyle to have input on Kyle’s thesis on Mizo history, during the time of the early missionaries, however I heard after that Kyle and Lindy cannot come this year, so I will ask him to allow me to video it especially for Kyle.

Then only three blocks away I met with VanLalNaghka who is probably Mizoram’s top theologian and evangelist. Also the first contact I had with Mizoram way back in 1984 when he was in Canada with the Mizo choir. It is staggering to think of the changes that has made in my life.

Stuart with Vanlal and sonStuart with Vanlal and son

VanLal has been living in Shillong for many years where he has coordinated the work of almost 1800 Mizo missionaries in the rest of India. He is now retiring and moving back to Aizawl – he was packing for a trip to Shillong so most of my time was spent with his son who is a lawyer in Delhi. There he is doing much to help Mizo farmers to get decent prices for their goods. Both plan to be in Aizawl when I get back there so I hope to have more time with them.

Then Somte took me to Aizawl College where she teaches. She allowed me to take two of her classes and I gave a very challenging talk on the urgent need for Mizoram to again produce the food they need to sustain themselves without help from Delhi. When I first visited Mizoram in 1996 they were 100% self sufficient for food. Delhi has now made them less than 50% self sufficient by flooding the market with cheap food from Assam. Due to the massive amount of insecticides on this food, cancer of the stomach and bowels has increased very dramatically. A major effort to again become self sufficient is desperately needed.

Aizawl College ClassAizawl College Class

Aizawl College Motto

The talks were extremely well received and now I have been asked to come back to speak in their main auditorium with all staff and students invited, plus the press PTL.

Thursday was a great day!

Friday was Mizoram’s biggest festival The Chapchar Kut the celebration of the end of harvest and the beginning of planting. There were thousand of singers and dancers and tens of thousands of spectators. I only stayed for an hour and a half as it was my third time seeing it and I found the crowds overwhelming. Did manage to run into a couple of friends going and coming.

Then out to Cedar to visit Maawmi, who has a factory producing mainly ginger and turmeric powder and is working with over 5000 organically certified farmers. Maawmi is probably the most important single person if our malaria eradication project is to become a reality. We will need to grow 200,000 plants, hopefully by October 2016. To achieve our target, many farmers are needed.

Maawmi is ready to get full steam ahead and we will be spending time laying out the strategic plan to make this possible. Much prayer is needing for this massive project.

I was booked to leave for Lunglei on the noon Sumo so had a full morning. First visited Mimi again who filled me in on the India wide crusade which seemed to surpass all expectations. As stated above the three day fast gained momentum each day.

Mimi showed me her new guest room and that is where I will stay when I get back to Aizawl. Very nice and ideally located.

Then I stopped at the house of VanLal’s sister-in-law who holds a high position in the Department of Education. It was her family who lost three members is a very short period of time. We spent a very meaningful hour together sharing deeply on life and faith. To make it even worse she had just got word that another close relative had died the night before in Lunglei.

She also told me more of the revival sweeping \Mizoram and showed me a video clip of a four year old, son of an American Evangelist, who was visiting Thensawl. The four year old gave an powerful sermon challenging people to repentance. God is obviously moving in Mizoram.

Somte is also a close relative so at the last moment she joined me on th Lunglei trip to help the grieving family,

Stuart and Somte on the roadStuart and Somte on the road

The 6.5 hour drive to Lunglei was a breeze after the 10.5 hours it took on the old road. Was more than pleased to see many birds. Myself and many friends managed to get both the church and government to mount a campaign to save the birds. The tradition was for all Mizo boys to kill birds with slingshots and they did a good job. I even managed to see one Great Hornbill, a bird I had only heard before. The driver spotted it and stopped so we could try for pictures but it flew off to soon.

It was great to be back with Dawnga’s family. They are all well and it has been wonderful lot watch the four boys grow up. They are definitely like grandchildren to me.

CJ is in Shillong studying social work. Our hope is he will come to Vancouver as early as this fall to do volunteer work with Wagner Hills Farm. He is an excellent musician and will have complete a BA in social work by that time.

Cana is in college. He loves farming and is working hard on the new family farm. My prayer is that he will become a first class farmer and encourage and teach others. His faith has blossomed over the past few months.

Sanpuia aspires to become an international soccer player and his dream is realistic. Their team is Mizoram champions and on April 5th he has a trial with the Pune team who are Indian champions. The striker he has played with since five years old was the leader on that team and scored 13 goals the 7 game championship tournament. The third member of their powerful line is also getting a trial at the same time.

The youngest brother Santea has become a youth and again a serious soccer player. On the 19th I will be cheering him on as they play for the junior Mizoram championship. Shortly after that he has a tryout for a great soccer scholarship

.

Dawnga continues his great work as R&D Director of the Baptist Church and continues to be a great champion for farmers and rural villages. Dawnga is definitely my inspiration. The driving force behind the malaria project and sustainable farming in Mizoram. Without him there would be no ZoClinics here or in Africa or Indonesia.

Zani and he have just acquired a good farm which will be used for Artemisia and many other progressive farming experiments.

I met with the two Bru pastors and re-enacted the water carrying episode from last trip. On a morning walk I came on this young man carrying water and he had just stopped for a rest. I picked up the buckets and with him protesting that it was too much for an old white guy I carried them to the next house which turned out to be his. I found he was the son-in-law of a Bru pastor I had met on the trip before. We ended up talking for more than an hour. This turned into the greatest blessing on the whole trip last year.

Stuart with Bru Pastor Stuart with Bru Pastor

Up to that time nothing seemed to be going the way I had planned. From that moment everything went right – after I surrendered my plans and God took over.

Dawnga left for Kolkata to attend the board meeting of CASA and India wide major Christian organization. He is now back in Lunglei and informs me that he had the opportunity to present the Mizo Malaria experiment. CASA has now set up a committee to study our web-site and consider trying to take the idea nationwide. This is more than we could ask or imagine.

Monday morning I was to leave for Darzo but when Cana took me to the station they had the reservation for Tuesday. I was there when Dawnga made the reservation and it was definitely Monday. Cana’s suspicion was a relative of the Sumo company needed the seat. In India you learn to go with the flow or become very frustrated.

On the way back to Dawnga’s house a small black insect, which I thought was a slender ant ran across my hand. I tried to squeeze it to kill it but it was hard and I was unsuccessful. It’s tail came up and then down hard and the searing pain let me know I had met my first scorpion.

We got to the house I used the sting kit. Thank you Lord for that. Except for a sore hand for three days all is well. I am told even a baby scorpion like this one can cause major problems.

I used the rest of the day walking and to finish Wilbur Smith’s book Men on Men. A novel on the early diamond rush in South |Africa. What an epic of man’s greed and evil inhumanity to man when wealth becomes god.

Tuesday 9:00am we left for Darzo. It is only 100 km but a hard 6 hour drive. I tease the Mizos that the reason they are all Christian is that they are never more than three feet from death and this road is the perfect example.

The first person I meet in Darzo is the assistant direct of The India Tea Board. They have discovered Darzo tea and want it produced in large quantities. Pray that this is right. Too many times in the past the government has asked farmers to massively grow a crop and then didn’t find a market for it. The ones I know about are tapioca pineapple, ginger, turmeric, and rubber. In each case the farmers put their eggs in one basket then the government, which controls marketing didn’t sell anywhere near the amount grown and the farmers lost dig time.

In the evening I was invited to a meeting of 45 farmers, 40 of which become organically certified. This is a huge step forward but hopefully they will not depend on the anticipated windfall and still grow food for their families nd the surrounding villages.

I was given the opportunity to talk about the malaria project and 19 farmers expressed an interest in growing it. On Tuesday next week we will conduct a seminar of this.

Darzo Dining RoomDarzo Dining Room

Wednesday was spent writing an addendum to the instruction for growing Artemisia successfully. It is a delicate plant and needs much loving tender care to reach it’s potential. This is going to Martin for his corrections and additions and then it and the existing instructions will be published in Mizo. Also wrote a shorter version of this blog. However God must have wanted the longer version, I am doing now, for all traces of it have disappeared from my computer.

Yesterday no power and my computer battery went dead. Hopefully this morning I will be able to get 0n the internet and get this and the corrected first blog sent. However the pictures have to follow later and internet connections are not good here.

It was also a sad day for Darzo, the last day for the only English School. It was an excellent school, however the principal, Joseph is a Seventh Day Adventist and most of the village, including his students are Baptists. The Baptist church announced they are opening a Baptist English school and there is no way both can survive. Joseph had 103 students and 7 teachers and there will be no English School for a period until the Baptist open theirs.

Joseph, who loves the school and students, was already sacrificing much to keep it open. Too often he couldn’t pay himself and struggled with the wages and rent. It was a sad day with many of the students in tears.

I had dinner with Joseph and his wife and then insisted I walk home. He wanted to drive me back on his bike. This was a huge mistake on my part and came close to losing my life. I had given my tiny flashlight away to someone who found it intriguing and hadn’t replaced if, but the road was fairly wide and I thought I would have no problems.

However in the first dark section the road took a slight turn and my eyes had not adjusted.
Next thing I know I hit a barrier and came down hard on it. As my chin hit rock I saw some brilliant stars while my chest hit the next rock. My body was half over a drop. Don’t know how far down, will see that after I finish this. I still had 1.5km to walk home and believe me each time I hit a dark spot I stopped until my eyes adjusted.

When I got back to my room I saw a large bloody bump under my chin – it is low enough only kids will spot it, a large v shaped bruise on my chest and two oversized fingers. Pain is very tolerable this morning but I have learned a lesson – next time I take the offer of a lift and today I find a flashlight.

I woke up a number of times in the night dreaming of the many ways I could have died or been badly injured. God is good and he just taught me a needed lesson. I guess He still has things for me to do!

Today a visit to a new Tea company, then,hopefully to meet four denominational leaders here in Darzo. Their cooperation will be needed to accomplish the malaria eradication experiment.

Dawnga and hopefully Somte and a couple students arrive tomorrow, probably early evening and then straight on the South VanLalPhei where we have meetings on Sunday and Monday morning teaching Artemisia growing. Then back to Darzo where Tuesday will be another short seminar. Will get back to Lunglei on Wednesday.

Had a long phone conversation with Somte this morning. She has a huge amount on her plate. This includes a girl who must have expensive heart treatment right away or death, a conference to ok her and students trip to Darzo and ongoing college work in Darzo, plus a major media scrum, all today.

I feel like I have lived a lifetime in the past 2.5 weeks. Next blog whould be from Lunglei.

Two Mizo elders just arrived at my door, one the president of the farmers union. How I wish I could speak Mizo or their English was better. They are very anxious to get at the malaria project.

Power off again. Hopefully internet will work today.

Still no internet so I have now seen in the daylight where I fell and have taken picrtures. If I had gone over the edge the drop was over 60 feet and they would have found the body in the morning. If I had hit any other part of my face or my neck there would have been a grievous injury. Angels must have protected me.