Maiden visit to the roof of the world
They are numbered among the highest New Apostolic congregations in the world: Ghankula (2,151 metres) and Naugaon (1,435 metres) in the Himalayan foothills. Day-to-day life, getting around, and divine services—this is another world.
There are thirty-five members between these two congregations in northern India, located on the border to Tibet. They are looked after by three Priests. Ghankula in the Uttarkhand District and Naugaon in Gherwal District belong to an Apostle district that stretches over an area of 1,500 kilometres. To Delhi, the country’s capital, the aerial distance is 350 kilometres. The congregations in the region are small, scattered, and hard to reach. The people in the region speak Hindi.
Locating congregations by GPS
Google Earth supplies satellite pictures of this region, but the network of roads in this region has not been completely mapped. The congregations are easy to locate by GPS—at least online: Ghankula 30.175297, 78.907718 and Naugaon 30.14666667, 78.94166667. The brothers and sisters who live in the region know their way around, fortunately. The linear distance between the two congregations is only five kilometres. But because of winding mountain roads and two mountain peaks that have to be traversed, the distance is inflated to 40 kilometres, which works out to about a three-hour walk.
The people in these remote regions farm for a living. Most families have livestock. Those who do not work in the fields collect firewood for a living. Tourism is booming. There are several small guests houses along the route with breathtaking views. Many locals—including some of our members—have their own four-wheel drive vehicles, which can be hired. There are many pilgrims who visit the temples of Badrinath and Kedrinath, and many travelers who want to see the unique beauty of the mountains.
Flying, driving, climbing
District Apostle Helper David Devaraj also had to cover the steep terrain on foot when he was there in March 2017. “The terrain is merciless. Steep climbs by foot are the only access in these Himalayan foothills,” he reported when he came back. He visited four congregations, celebrated two divine services, conducted seminars, and spent visiting the members. But before he could take his final ascent to the villages, he had to cover 2,440 kilometres—meaning two flights and a seven-hour drive on winding mountain roads.
“Being surrounded by the cradle of Hinduism and its revered pilgrimage centres, the congregations have survived through very testing times,” David Devaraj says. He was awed by the faith of his brothers and sisters. The congregations in the Himalayan foothills were established in the 1980s by Apostle Ram Sahae (1932–1986). The members are scattered, and live in small Christian pockets in a country in which most people profess Hinduism or Islam.
On the roof of the world
District Apostle Helper Devaraj is awed and highly motivated: “Being surrounded by this natural beauty and being embraced by eagerly waiting warm hearts was a feast in itself. Unimaginable. Now I feel the need to help these members even more.” His next step will be to establish the presence of the Church in the area in order to strengthen the brothers and sisters, Apostle Devaraj says.
Divine services, seminars, family visits
The day after the divine service in Ghankula he undertook a journey on treacherous mountain roads to visit the members in Naugaon, where the Church was first established in the Gherwal region. He held a teaching seminar, which was followed by a divine service with Holy Baptism and Holy Sealing. The small mountain congregation was delighted and insisted that the Apostle and his team visit their homes. This entailed crossing from one mountain slope to the other, which the members did effortlessly. But it was not so easy for the city-bred visitors.
In the village of Pokhari, Apostle Devaraj visited the three New Apostolic families who live there. His visit there was in the middle of the week on a morning and could not have come at a better time. The local Priest had just been hospitalised, the Apostle reports. He spent time with the members and comforted them …