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Paul Vadakumpadan, Guwahati says,
Letter from the Himalayas
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Guwahati, Nov. 29. Recently, I almost reached the Himalayas. Not quite. Well, I was on the foothills.

I was privileged to visit some of the most beautiful spots on the Himalayan foothills. Our journey started in one of the fastest growing cities of India, Siliguri, the gateway to the region. Hardly out of the city, we were already climbing steadily. In about two hours we were at Mirik, a little hill town, known for its scenic beauty and friendly people.  The majestic Don Bosco School, beautifully designed and impressively built is the pride of the town. The four member local Salesian community gave us, Fr. Mathew George and myself,  a most cordial and affectionate welcome.  The 600 Don Bosco school children in that attractive Himalayan town know well that Don Bosco loves them too.
The next day our destination was the world famous tourist centre of Darjeeling. Enroute we spent some unforgettable moments in front of the glorious Kangchendzonga. I was reminded of what William Wordsworth wrote in another context ``Earth hath not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty.``

In Darjeeling, Bishop Stephen Lepcha welcomed us heartily. The diocese is celebrating its golden jubilee this year.  He shared with us an elaborate plan that has been drawn up to mark the event.

While driving from Darjeeling to Sonada, we passed by  the nondescript village of Rangbull. For me it was full of touching memories. It was here, exactly forty years ago, I started  my missionary life (sorry for a little boasting), as a young student of Philosophy at Salesian College, Sonada. The College itself has changed hugely. It is an institution that has formed generations of Salesians. It continues to do so today. I was pleasantly surprised to see several of my former students serving now on the staff.

The next part of our journey took us down to the Tista river and up to Kalimpong town. I admired the engineering skills of the men who built these mountain roads. At some hair pin curves, my heart was in my mouth. But Fr. Mathew at the wheel was in perfect control. The Salesian community of Kalimpong welcomed us heartily. Fr. Pulingathil (Jr.) with whom I started my missionary life four decades ago in Rangbull, still works here. We remembered, in fact celebrated, the memory of those days. We prayed in the new church dedicated to Don Bosco which was to be blest in a couple of days.
Early morning  the next day, while driving back to Siliguri, we stopped again to admire the mighty Kangchendzonga, dressed in immaculate white, seemingly asleep. Motionless but magnificent. Pity that Wordsworth was not privileged to see this heavenly sight. If he had, Composed upon Westminster Bridge would have been only his second best.
What was a missiologist doing on the Himalayan foothills? Something missiological, of course. Archbishop Thomas has been speaking about a Himalayan strategy of evangelization. The fact is there are about 800 million people who call the Himalayan region their home. The Himalayan range itself crosses Bhutan, Tibet, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. A good part of the 1700 mile long range is located in the Indian states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh in India. Southeast Asia has remarkable affinity with this region. While Pakistan and Afghanistan may look distant and Kashmir inaccessible, not so the areas closer to us.
The last issue of Newsline carried an article from the BBC website on the spectacular growth of Christianity in China. Northeast India, granted its strategic location, is significant from every point of view, including that of Christian witness. The small but vibrant communities of the Himalayan foothills as well as the large and flourishing communities of the Northeast are facing a great missionary challenge: ``Look all round from where you are, to north and south, to east and west, for all the land within sight I shall give to you...`` not for you to occupy but to sanctify with the good news of Jesus Christ (Genesis 13:14-15).



 
 
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