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by By- Lok Gurung (Senior recordist, GRN India)
Changthang, southern region of Ladakh in the Tibetan plateau, is mostly without telephonic connection so getting regular updates of the translation works from the sole language helper, Tenzing was greatly difficult. Buddhism has a very strong grip among the local people with looming fear of being ostracized and persecuted by the community if anyone found to be helping Christian works.
Several months after initiating translation works in the mountains, GRN was finally able to make contact with Tenzing when she had come down to Chandigarh to prepare for a competitive exam last year. Negi, our contact person in Himachal Pradesh was rushed to assess the progress of the translation works and to possibly finalize dates for recording in early January. Tenzing and her two friends from the same village had private coaching classes to attend to better prepare themselves for exams later in the month.
Their tight schedules made it difficult for them to spare time for recording as their classes ran throughout the day. This was the best opportunity on hand we could not afford to let go. And they had plan to return to Changthang right after their examination. After much persuasion, Tenzing agreed to give just few hours every morning to proof read the translation and to do recording.
When dates were finalized Lok grabbed his equipments and set out for Chandigarh to record the priority one language. God graciously provided with a mission centre in the outskirt of the city. Marantha Mission provided us with food, place to sleep, a recording room and free transportation. What a blessing!
Eventually, the three girls also agreed to give us 2 full days so the recordings could be completed.
It took a lot of time to proof read the translations and to get the scripts ready for recording. When the scripts were checked and readied, recording started late in the evening. Lok's Dell laptop and USB Pre2 came very handy for recording. They allowed him to do basic field editing works in Adobe Audition and play the recordings for on the spot correction.
Finally, after two days of continuous recordings, the elusive language was captured. Two other university students- Tsering and Rinzin ably supported the process by helping Tenzing in translating, proof reading and reading the scripts. For Rinzin, whatsapp was a boon as whenever she got stuck to find a correct meaning for certain word, she would use it to get the meaning from her friend.
Initially the Ladakh Mission team was to be comprised of - Lok, Narayan and Hasim, a Maranatha Missionary. The Himalayan outreach mission was to begin from Chandigarh on Mission's jeep. However, hours before the journey began, Narayan pulled out from the trip due to his family obligation. His wife had just delivered baby at home so he needed to take care of her. Another Marantha missionary joined also us.
Also, considering the challenging road condition of the Himalayan region a driver was hired.
Finally, the team left Chandigarh in the early morning of September 11th . We took Chandigarh - Manali highway. After almost 15 hours of driving we spent the first night at Kothi just before Rohtang pass at 3979 m. Next morning, we started off around at 5am, crossed the pass and descended to Tandi and along Keylong road reached Baralacha pass (4890m) around 8 in the evening.
We wanted to reach Darcha but because it was getting dark and road ahead was very rough, we decided to halt at the only tent lodge in the area. Usually travellers need to slowly acclimatize in high altitude which avoids one from getting sick. Next lodge was only at Sarchu. Lok got a severe headache and could not eat and sleep throughout the night. The driver was also having headache.
It was freezing cold outside and the jeep would not start up in the morning. After one hour we reached Sarchu (4290m) and stopped at an army check post for breakfast at a tent tea shop. I was still having headache and dizziness and was unable to eat well and could barely walk.
Two Buddhist men from Ladakh area were at the tea shop drinking tea. I loaded my mobile phone with memory card and played the recording for them as they intently listened to the recordings.
Next stop was Pang (4600m) about 80Kms with nothing in between except barren desert like mountains everywhere. Driving through the rough mountainous road was a big challenge. From Pang to Tsokar ( 4530m) we covered another distance of some 64 Kms through the rugged mountains and stopped at a tea shop around 6 in the evening for our first distribution station. The owner was friendly and warmed to the gospel when we shared the message with him.
Changthang, a part of politically disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir, lacks good communication network. Partly due to sparse population, the entire area does not have telephone service. I had carried Saber players, Good News filp charts, and CDs and DVDs for the distribution trip. The tea shop owner and his wife wanted to hear, so I connected the player with solar panel so they could listen to the message during their free time.
A Buddhist lama from a monastery on hill top also joined the group and listened to the message. He wanted to hear more and asked if a set of Saber and some other materials could be left with them for future use. They offered every possible help for future ministry in the area and invited me again. We spent two nights at Tsokar sharing the gospel with people despite health issues.
We left Tsokar and headed toward Chomru at 45 Km. Half way, we narrowly escaped what could have been a fatal accident in the middle of nowhere. Hasim, 65, took the driver's seat and started to drive the jeep. But not been able to keep focus due to altitude sickness, his mind stopped working and the next moment as we were about to descend the mountain, he rammed the left front wheel of the jeep against a big pile of mud and rocks on the side of the road. Due to the impact, the front guard of the jeep came off and the left side of the metal guard bent against the tyre. The jeep was not moving and with no people to ask for help, we got stuck on the middle of the road. We were in great dilemma. Due to high altitude and sickness we could hardly be able to do anything.
After being stuck for about an hour, we could finally remove the front guard and free the tyre. But the jeep was still having problem, and it was making a loud noise in the wheel. Thankfully, the problem was detected after some time and after changing the wheel everything was normal again. Gasoline was not available anywhere, and we had only little left. During the trip we relied heavily on GPS from smart phone for direction. But sometimes it went off and we would get stuck with no people around to ask for direction.
We needed to fill the gas urgently. In Mahe, just few Kms from Sumdu, we saw a car coming toward us and we asked the man for a place to refill. They were Buddhist people from Changthang area. So we got opportunity to give CDs and Memory card to them. A lady from the same village had some gasoline at her house. She might have purchased it from the army people or some other tourist people who came to the area to later sell in higher price.
We saw temporary houses outside the army cantonment but without people. During summer most people stayed away from home taking their livestock to graze where grasses are found. On the way back from Mahe, we stopped at Sumdu where we gave away gospel CD and memory card to the shop owner.
We had gotten to the Leh highway now and our next stop was Chumathang (14000+ ft) where we planned to spend the night. This nice little town had couple of lodges, grocery shops and a place to fix the vehicle. People returning from Leh halted here for the night before heading toward different villages. We met with customers at the shop and construction workers to share about Jesus.
A good distribution and outreach was done here as people could use their mobile phones and shops had electricity to play CD and DVD players. Few shop owners and customers flocked around us to hear the recordings played in mobile phones.
Later, people who ate in the restaurant and those who came to get supplies at grocery shops, were given away CDs, DVDs and memory cards. Within minutes everyone was seen glued to their mobile sets listening to the good news. People warmed to the gospel and seemed open and keen to knowing more about Jesus. A woman at the shop recalled Christians visiting the area earlier to share the gospel.
Leh, the capital of Ladakh region at a distance of 138kms from Chumathang was our final destination. Stronghold of Tibetan Buddhism, Leh seemed just like an oasis in the desert. Good roads, countless monasteries, mighty presence of Indian army, restaurants, hotels, airport made the capital city look like any other modern city of the world. But darkness engulfed the place; negligent Christian presence and feeble witnessing of Christ.
There was a faction in the only Church- the Moravian- due to leadership issue and persecution and intimidation from the local Buddhists association.
Handful of Christians in the region's capital, Leh have faced intense oppositions from the Buddhist association and few years back a missionary couple were brutally beaten up and nearly thrown into the river for sharing the gospel in the area.
Your prayers are requested for the people of Ladakh who live in spiritual darkness and satanic bondages. As St. Paul has said, the seeds have been sown. Somebody else will water it. But ultimately it is God who will bring the increase.