Today we met in the hotel restaurant for breakfast. We were introduced to one another, met our hosts, some local pastors and leaders from Chennai and Mumbai. We broke into three groups and loaded up into rented vans with drivers for the day. The day was led by Tim, (I don’t know his last name) who has worked with YWAM for the past thirty years. I think he has spent most of that time overseeing the Asian YWAM bases. On each bus we had one of the hosts. Our host was Lawrence Vincent, an Indian man who is an expert on Indian history, especially Hinduism and Hindu religion. I did not realize there was a difference until today. During our bus rides from location to location, Lawrence discussed the history of Hinduism, Hindu religion and Christianity. I would like to have a concentrated time to listen and ask questions of Lawrence. He made some compelling statements about contextualizing the gospel in India. He cautioned us over and over to not look at India and Christianity through our Western worldview. He is a wealth of information. Deborah and I were on the same bus. I enjoyed our group. There is a pastor from Cairo, Egypt, a woman professor from Azuza Pacific University, Geoff, a young church planter from San Diego, Craig who pastors a church in Lynden, Washington. There were three men in the back of the bus that I did not have a chance to meet or talk with.
We were told today that the weather is mild. I don’t think I would want to be here for there summer if this is mild. It is very hot and humid. Driving through India is a trip. There is traffic everywhere. Not just automobiles. There are bicycles, rickshaws, electric tuk tuks, cows, pedestrians, there does seem to be any rules of engagement while on the road. It is sort of every person, or animal for himself.
Our first stop was the Mount of Saint Thomas. It is said that the apostle Thomas came to India in 52 A.D. There he taught the local people using symbols from their culture about Christ. There were seven churches planted by Thomas in India. The Mount we visited is the place where he was martyred in A.D. 78 while praying for the city. Ray made an interesting comment, he said, “Thomas was the only apostle who was not converted during Jesus’ life, he was converted after the resurrection.” There was a small church built to mark the spot where Thomas was said to have been killed.
Our next stop (after being in traffic in a very hot van) was The Theosophical Society. Theosophy is the body of truths which forms the basis of all religions, and which cannot be claimed as the exclusive possession of any. It restores to the world the Science of the Spirit, teaching man to the Spirit as himself and the mind and body as his servants. It puts death in its rightful place, as a recurring incidence in and endless life, opening the gateway to a fuller and more radiant existence. The main tenets of Theiosophy:
Consciousness, Universal and Individual
Immortality of Man
God’s plan which is evolution
The society was founded by a French woman, who was very into the occult, astro travel, great manifestations. She later married a man, Colonel Olcott and together they made the Society’s headquarters in India around 1881. Today the headquarters are run by a married couple from New Zealand who are in their mid-eighties. We met them today and listened to a very short talk on the Society. In the main hall, we saw the World Religions displayed on the walls. They believe all religions are the same. They are basically the headquarters for what is now considered secular humanism. The man (I don’t know his name) while making his short presentation talked about the equality of all people. I asked his wife after the presentation what she thought about living in a country that propagated oppression via the caste system. Her answer, “everyone is entitled to believe what they want, we treat the lower castes with respect” that was not a satisfying answer to me.
Our next stop was the Temple of Sri Ramakrishna. Sri Ramakrishna (1836-1886) was very clear in his mind from boyhood that the aim of life is God-realization. He believes as well that all religions are one. He was known as the prophet of harmony of religions. The temple was very plain with a massive altar. The doors to the altar were closed. We arrived shortly before they were opened, revealing the massive idol. A stature of Sri Ramakrishna. There were several worshippers in the temple. What I noticed about the worshippers was that their faces were contorted. I’m not sure how to explain it but there were several people I looked at right into their eyes and their faces seemed contorted with pain. I felt very sad at the temple. I found myself praying for the people in the Spirit that somehow Jesus would be revealed to them and bring freedom. I really was not trying to feel anything. I just wanted to notice people. I could not help though to feel sadness for them as my sense was that there was so much oppression that was revealed in their faces.
Our next stop, the Temple of Sri Kapaleeswarar. This place was unbelievable. Lawrence pointed out to us that it is modeled like the temple that Solomon built. This temple is dedicated to the Lord Siva. There is a lot of history here but I am not sure I really understood it. There were gods and goddesses in holy places that we were not able to enter. There was a sign over some of the inside rooms of the temple that said, “Non-hindus not allowed beyond this point”. I said to Deborah as we stood in the courtyard and watched the worshippers go inside where the priests were with the god or goddess that I felt like we were in the court of the Gentiles. Once again, while at the temple I was more interested in looking at and seeing the people there rather than the structure and the history. There were many, many young Indian women sitting outside as we were waiting to go from one place to another. I like smiling at them and nodding. They all smiled back and nodded. One woman came and talked with me. She asked me where I was from and asked my name. She asked me if I thought the temple was beautiful to which I replied, “yes”
We left the temple and walked to a restaurant for lunch. Lunch was at a traditional Indian restaurant. Tim had pre-ordered our lunch. We sat in an air conditioned part of the restaurant. It was a nice break from the heat. I sat at a table with an Indian man from Mumbai who works for the Mustard Seed Foundation in India. The Mustard Seed Foundation is the Bakke family foundation.
I will return to posting either later tonight or sometime tomorrow. It is now 5:00 p.m. and we are meeting to go to dinner at Sparky’s. Sparky’s is an American style diner that the YWAM base started. We are going to hear from several people tonight. One speaker is from the International Justice Mission. It is a lot to take in. We actually cannot keep up with journaling the schedule is very full.
It is now 10:00 p.m. We returned from dinner about an hour ago. Rich phoned me so I got to talk with him and Alex! Before I left we phoned T-Mobile to see about access in
Okay, back to the day.
After lunch we visited Saint Thomas Basilica. It is the Roman Catholic church that has a bone (relic) of
We left there and had a tour of the beach area. I think I already said this but the beach in Chennai is supposed to be the second largest beach in the world. No one here knows where the first largest beach is. I guess we could google it.
Our final stop of the afternoon was the complex that houses the writings and works of Periyar Ramasami (1879-1973) who was known as the Voltaire (1694-1778) of
Before we left this site, Ray took us aside and asked us to reflect on Acts 16:6 – “Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and
With that I need to stop and go to bed. I will pick up the rest of our day tomorrow a.m. Thanks for your prayers. Today was exhausting but good!