Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Wednesday Feb 27th Hyderabad

I only have a few minutes to quickly post. Today's lectures were awesome. We began with Sunil Sardar. He spoke about Phule and Ambedkar and the caste system. He was very good. Some of the students challenged his theology of salvation...he is using the cultural story of ancient India before Brahminism to call people back to God. I will blog more on that later.

The next speaker was a professor of political science at the University here in Hyderabad. I am in an internet cafe so I am giving you a bare bones summary. I don't have my notes with me. This professor does not claim to follow Christ. His studies of history and politics have led him to believe that India will become a post-hindu nation in the very near future. He believes when that happens there will be such a vacuum of faith that 400 million people will be left to convert to either Islam, Buddhism or Christianity. He chastised us as westerners for not bringing the message of Christ to India. He laid out a powerful argument to show how we abdicated to Islam. If what he believes is coming his question to us is what will we do about it...

I am not doing his lecture justice. We were stunned to say the least. 40% of the planet's population is now located in China and India. If India becomes a post-hindu nation the implications for how that will change the world is monumental. The IT industry and other business that is booming here has set the stage for India to become very, very important.

His lecture reminded me of Revelation 3 -- I had a sense the Holy Spirit was saying through him, Western church this you have done well, but here is what I have against you...

Very, very powerful message. I had bought his book for this course and had not read it yet. Now I can hardly wait to read it.

We went out and saw another micro-credit org today. I can't even remember the name of it.

I will have to finish updating when I get home. Tomorrow we have class until evening then Deborah and I go to the airport to start our 24 hour journey home. I will see some of you on Sunday. Thanks to all who have been praying. I have had a wonderful trip. So much to think about and process.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Tuesday - February 27th

I am in Hyderabad. I am in an internet cafe that has a very slow server. I have been journaling - the overnight train trip and the first day here but can't upload from my laptop here. I will try to do it before I leave but don't know if I will find a place to do it. In the meantime I had some more thoughts on our time in Chennai. We do so much without time to reflect or think it is hard to capture or process much. I imagine I will have a lot to think through as I return.

Thoughts on our time in Chennai
I realized I left some things out of my daily notes. There just was not enough time for it all. One of the more 'dreamy' (Deborah's description) moments was on Thursday evening. Tim and Carol arranged a dinner for us at a 5 star hotel. We were outside under palm trees and amidst beautiful flowering plants. It was beautiful. The moon was crescent shaped and I felt like I was in an Aladdin story. The food was delicious. We had an outside buffet of every kind of Indian food. I heard the wine was delightful but I didn't try it. I did not want even the chance of getting a migraine.

Another thought I had in reflecting on our time in Chennai was about the visit we made to the House of the Destitute. The women were so beautiful. I wish I could describe in words what I felt there. Fifteen elderly women sharing one room with cement a cement floor and walls. One bathroom that was a hole in the ground and a shower hose. I saw Jesus in the midst of their beauty. I heard the Lord say, "The Kingdom of Heaven is such as this."

And then the micro-credit visit. Christine, a woman in my group had a great idea. I would like to begin a monthly group of men and women. We would meet monthly and bring $25 each to contribute. We could send the money to the micro-credit group in Chennai (or other places) and ask for the profiles of the women we were sponsoring. The average loan they were making is about $75 so for every three people in our group we would be sponsoring one woman. we could keep a board or some way to display the women. We could pray for them and their families. We might even want to follow the news of what is happening in Chennai or in India...

I need to sign off now but wanted to update...

Hyderabad is a bit different then Chennai. Some of us are getting a bit cranky because there is not much down time but it is good.

Thanks for commenting ...it is nice to get news and comments from home.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Chennai – Day 7 (Sunday)

We left at 8:00 a.m. this morning in three vans to see how the church in Chennai worships. We spent about 10-15 minutes in each church:
A very large Pentecostal church (over 5000) that has grown through their deliverance ministry
A Syrian Orthodox Church – it was like a high mass in a RC church
A Presbyterian Church – The COO we met at ‘Sify” attends (large church very intellectual)
Powerhouse – a very young contemporary church – when we entered they were being led in worship by one of the best known bands in the city – they were singing David Ruis’ song Whom Have I But You…
Assembly of God - (38,000) there were three services going on simultaneously – they have many services a day – first we went into the indigenous gathering – it was very large, the music was loud and good, then we went up to another part of the building that was jammed full of young people, very Western feeling, they were sing I Will Sing of Your Love Forever, then we peeked into a third very large gathering that was like the first one in Indian.

We came back to the hotel. It is about 2:00 p.m. We had lunch and will now get ready to go to Hyderabad on the train. There are 2500 Christian churches in Chennai. We had only a birds eye view but what we saw was a very thriving, energetic church. Joyful and worshipful is how they all felt. Ray would convey to us the history of the church in Madras/Chennai after each visit. He is a church historian, it never ceases to amaze me when he can call up facts of history and then will bring a theological reflection. Chennai has been very interesting. Tim and his wife, Carol have been here since 1974. They think their time is coming to an end. They will be returning to the U.S. in the next six months. Carol’s attitude is that they will come back and have to relearn the church and the culture, much like Newbigin after he spent 30 years in India. Returning to see how much the culture has changed and then asking the questions on what that means to be a follower of Christ. I am going to pray for them. It will be a huge transition. They have been gracious hosts to us. Tim is one of the most dynamic leaders I have ever met. Very humble yet very strong. He has loved this city and Chennai loves him. This was apparent especially the few days we were exposed to city officials. Tim and Carol are coming back to the States to relearn the culture but I think they will have much to teach us in how to contextualize the gospel in our culture.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Chennai – Day 6 (Saturday)

Description

At 7:00 a.m. this morning I met with Ray to discuss what my area of specialization might be. Right now I am leaning toward Church and Ministry Multiplication. Ray agreed that choosing a specialization that fits with the ministry I am involved in makes the most sense. He wants to introduce me to a woman that created and developed much of the work at Lawndale. I may try to do an Independent Study with her. I also got the go ahead from Ray to do an Independent Study around the work I have done and continue to do with John Savage, Strategic Leadership Institute. Ray agreed with me that Winn would make a great dissertation advisor.

Now we are getting ready to observe a City Seminar. The title of the seminar is Mobilizing the Local Church to Serve the Community. There will be representatives from the various city government and pastors and teachers from all over the city in discussion. Our job is to listen and observe.

Chennai – Day 5 (Friday)

Description

We once again began the day with Ray giving us a bit of perspective. How fast is development happening and should we be critical of it? When we (the U.S.) were as old as these countries black people and women could not vote. He often wondered how Hindu India has bookend countries that are Muslim. Pakistan and Bangladesh were once part of India. These countries were Hindu long before Islam. Pakistan was created at midnight 1947, I’m not sure about Bangladesh. The river people (Pakistan and Bangladesh) were discriminated against and when Islam came they were prime for conversion. He then put our own history in perspective. He told us not to be judgmental about where India is as a country. Thought India is an ancient civilization it is a very new country. India was occupied by the British for 200 years and only gained independence in 1947. Two thirds of the nations were created after WWII. The U.S. is just a little more than 200 years old depending on where you put the beginning, 1776 or 1789. 57 years later, which is the same age as India we were in a civil war. Women could not vote until 1920 and Black people 1965. India is doing well compared to us at their age.

Our first presenter was Prateep Philip, Inspector General Police, Social Justice. Founder of Friends of Police.

When Raji Ghandi was assinated in 1991 Prateep was the assistant superintendent of police and was 3 ft away from the bomb blast and the only one that survived.

In India there is one policeman to every 1000 people. He has developed a program much like our neighborhood watch. It is called Friends of Police (FOP) which is a training program for individuals to help the police prevent crime.

Next we had presentations from three women. Joshy Tewes of Intermission was the first to present. Joshy is married to a German man and their organization has given birth to the micro-finance organization we visited earlier and the Community College we observed yesterday. Joshy’s guiding Scriptures has been the story of the Samaritan woman at the well and the story of Moses’ mother. She was dynamic.

Next we heard from a young woman, Kavita, who co-pastors the Powerhouse church we heard about on Tuesday evening. She is one of the very, very few women in ministry that anyone here even knows about. She spoke on the plight of women in India. Even though they have had a woman Prime Minister, the Indians are very conservative and women do not have many rights. She spoke about violence against women, dowry harassment and numerous social issues facing women in India today.

The final presentation was by Sarah Chanda on women’s rights in India. She went right to the bottom line to say the problem is that India like many other societies is based on patriarchy. She is an activist for women’s rights.

We had lunch together at the hotel and then we went out for the afternoon. Our first stop, the community college that Joshy and her husband started They have 7 colleges for girls that are dropouts either due to poverty or orphaned. The girls are between 15-and 45 (women) – they are enrolled in a one year course…they offer six courses, tailoring, computer lab, primary school education training etc The site we visited currently has 162 students. You can find them at www.iida-india.org

We then broke into different groups. One group went to a leprosy colony, one group went to observe a street ministry and I went with 4 men to a ministry called The House of Destitution. 2 young Catholic women stared this org in 1992 feeding some hungry elderly homeless…now they run a residential house for elderly women who have been abandoned by their families or widowed and have no one to take care of them. They also run an after school program for children in the slum and feed them dinner. We prayed for some of the women. They were beautiful and so happy to see us. In the van on the way back to the hotel I began to emotionally process all I have seeing, hearing, smelling, touching. India is a very sensory place and coming from the U.S. it feels like an assault on all my senses. We were back for about one hour and then a group of us went back to Sparky’s for dinner.

Chennai – Day 4

Warning: I am too tired to edit this so am posting without proofing...

It is Friday evening and we just got back from dinner. A few of us went back to Sparky’s. We rode back in an auto-rickshaw which is an adventure all in itself. I am trying to stay on top of my journal but we don’t have much time. Everything is beginning to run together for me. I can barely think of what we did when. I will catch up on day 3 and day 5 tomorrow.

Description
Thursday morning we debriefed the previous two days with Ray. We had seen Opportunity International (micro-finance), Compassion Intl. (children), Sparky’s. Ray asked, “what similarities did we see, what text does each model operate under, what would I have to learn to do what they do, what is the tool kit in this ministry?”

He talked about one of the organization's very narrow focus. The text to describe them would be Micah 6:8 and Ezek 16:21. When there is systemic evil you can’t just repent of it. You have to change the unjust laws. He compared this to the book of Ester. Ester replaced a pagan queen and accessed the power to change the plan of evil against the Israelites. And here is what I love about Ray, from there he talked about Purim. That many of us need to recover a ‘party theology’ especially when working with the poor and marginalized. Passover is when you celebrate deliverance from slavery or oppression. Purim (party) is when you celebrate in the midst of exile or when you can’t change the outside situation. Don’t you love that?
He spoke on Compassion Intl as a ‘cup of cold water’ ministry. He rehearsed the beginnings of World Vision. There is no one way to love a city.

Our first lecture of the morning was from Vasantha Raju Albert, Church Growth Association. He spoke on the creation of self help groups which are like cell churches all over the city. India has the second largest population in the world. 650 million people. 40% of the planet lives in two countries, India and China. Urban India is the equivalent of the entire US population. Albert believes the Church in India is stuck in tradition and will have to contextualize in order to get a hearing.
Ray followed up his talk with a story about meeting with a group of pastors in Cairo. Ray asked them to invent models and strategies that might work…they had many…then he had them identify what were the barriers that would keep them from innovating…ten barriers were identified…they were all from within the church.

The next lecture was Bishop Ezra of ECI (Evangelical Church of India). Bishop Ezra worked with Donald McGavaran and oversees a church planting organization. He presented their church planting and training model. The goal for ECI is to plant ten thousand churches by 2020 and one hundred thousand house churches in the next fifteen years to accommodate the expected house church explosion.

Our last lecture of the morning was from Ananda Ranjan Doss
Former Chief City Planner for Chennai. His lecture was titled, Chennai City Profile
And the politics of Planning. Profile – 62 million people
State – Tamil Nadu – An overview
Most organized state in India
256 engineering colleges in this state
1427 IT firms….08 million jobs projected

2nd most important city in IT
40% of the 8 million people in Chennai live in slums.
While this man was passionate and ‘charming’ to use the words of a friend in class, I could not understand him. He spoke very fast (he was passionate).
After lunch we visited Sify a leading Internet Provider in India and then on to the Art Lab.

Analysis
I found the contrast between the first presenter that was convinced the Church in India is too traditional and will need to go the way of cell church/house churches in contrast with the second presenter who was very much into mega church (and house churches). Again we heard there is not one way to be the church.

Application
Once again I am encouraged that we can agree there is not one way to do ministry. The church comes in many forms and manifestations and that is good. Even though I did not understand all of what Doss, the former City Planner said I understand the importance of being involved in the city. If we are going to exist to serve our community we have to know what is happening. I am fully convinced that as long as we have a facility in a community then we need to be the presence of Christ in that community.

Chennai - Day 3

This will be short because I am very tired and need to get some sleep. Today was the best day! We had two classes in the morning that went until about noon. The history of hinduism which brought the caste system and racism and hindu religion. I did not know they were different. It was very good. We had lunch at the hotel and then broke into three groups to go out. My group was joined by a young man that works for Opportunity International, a micro-finance organization. They give loans to women to start a business. We went with him to a weekly meeting of a group of 20 women who have recieved loans. We arrived by van, went through a gate and saw outside where they cook, bathe, and wash their clothes. We went into one woman’s home where their weekly meeting is held. The home was a cement floor and walls with a thatched roof and was about as big as my bedroom. A family of six lives in this home. There were about eighteen women present for their weekly meeting. They were so thrilled to have us. The smiles on their faces, the hope they exuded was so very cool. I was immediately reminded to why I love the poor. The people we met today have virtually nothing compared to me and yet they are so filled with joy and hope!

These were Hindu women. We observed their weekly meeting which consisted of them reporting their income, savings and loan re-payment. Next they recited a pledge. Then they had an interactive exercise to help them learn how to dialogue with clients and finished with a brief talk from the Opportunity International team leader about bribery. We were able to ask them questions. They did not speak much English. We were only there about 45 minutes and then had to go. We sat on the floor and took pictures with them. There were lots of hugs and then we left. I wanted to stay and talk with them more.

Our next stop was at a Baptist Church that partners with Compassion International, an organization which sponsors children living in poverty. The church lets CI run an after school program. There were about 140 school age kids that come from eight different slum areas. When we walked in all the children withn one voice were saying “hello” then “what is your name?” that is about all the English they know. They were adorable. We learned about the program but I mostly just sat with the kids, waving discreetly across the aisles at the boys and sitting with the girls that were smiling away.

I will have to journal more later. I think my extreme culture shock has worn off. Thank you for all your prayers. Today was a very, very good day!

Back to Day 2

I cannot get into blogger to see where I left off. I can only access the create post page

The internet access here is sketchy and for some reason when I hit punctuation keys right now they are not working

I have been trying to post offline so the following is from yesterday--I am so tired I don't remember what day it is or where I have been the last two days...

I
Our second presenter was a young church planter, Pastor Jeyakaran of Powerhouse Church. He and his team are planting a church in a Call Center. Call centers have exploded in Chennai. There are 150k young people between the ages of 18-30 working in Call Centers in Chennai. They get paid a lot of money. 400 of the Fortune 500 companies have set up offices in India. Many US companies have outsourced to India. What the church planting team has discovered it that the Call Center jobs are high stress and are causing a high degree of burnout. The Powerhouse church is located in a facility that has 30k working within a 2 mile radius. The is a new people group in India. The church does a lot of bridge building events and has their main worship gathering on Sunday evenings. The Call Center employees work all night as most of their calls come from the States.

Next our host for the day, Tim with YWAM told us briefly about 'why 'Sparky’s. Pretty much our entire group was so jet lagged he decided to keep his talk brief. We went down an sure enough, Sparky’s is like a US diner. It reminded me of walking into a Hard Rock. We ordered dinner and while dinner was being prepared we went to a gift shop a couple of doors away that Tim and his team also run. We got some souvenirs at a very low rate. After dinner I rode back to our hotel in an auto-rickshaw with Bert from Holland and Ray Bakkke. The three of us crowded in and were on our way. The term I have learned for traffic in India is “healthy chaos”.

Analysis

Visiting the two churches and the two temples were interesting. I was more interested in observing the people in each than I was so much in the history of them. In all four places the worshippers I observed seemed very devout. I sense a very deep spirituality here. Our host with us for the day, Lawrence was adept in Indian history, especially the ancient hindu religion. He also was an expert on what is known as Dravidian (first nations people of India) St. Thomas Christianity. His ability to interpret in the temples a knowledge of the Triune God and also the way that Thomas taught the native people about Jesus reminded me of the way St. Patrick taught the people in Ireland.

The Theosophical Society was a very interesting place. As we walked through the (I think they told us 300 acres) compound it felt like we were in a national park. I had moments when I could picture the Beatles sitting on one of the benches high on hashish writing Yellow Submarine. My thought about the Society was that even though they are after unity and equality of the brotherhood of humanity I couldn’t help but notice as we walked into the complex and outside their gate were beggars starving on the corner. I also did not like the answer to caste that I heard. They are missing freedom. In my opinion it seems that in their effort to be free it is missing much. As a follower of Christ I know of the freedom His way offers. I left this place thinking these are good people that want unity and freedom but there is a piece missing. I felt the subtle or not so subtle worship of knowledge.

Sparky’s, and the gift shop were great models of doing ministry in an urban setting. There is a story to the business development of the two businesses. All profits from both businesses go to seventeen different charities. Many of the gifts in the gift shop (Coco’s) are hand made by different artists working with the poor. Very innovative. Sparky’s reminded me of a present day, Potters House which is in Washington D.C. The restaurant is a third place. Most of the staff are non-Christians.


Application

I love that Ray takes cities and uses them as laboratories for the students. Going and seeing the temples and churches had me thinking about the different ways of interpreting the story of Jesus in my own city. Lawrence told us he has become a hindu to win the hindus. This is a profound statement. Many innovative Jesus followers here see that one can become a hindu follower of Christ. The earliest followers of Jesus in Chennai were the Dravidian followers of Christ. They began to see Christ in all their traditions. Lawrence told us over and over again not to view the work here through our western lens or we would not be able to grasp it. He kept reminding us you have to look at the context. I think many of us at home are trying to learn our context. That the traditional church we were handed might not be telling the story of Jesus our listeners can understand. We need to be re-evaluating the story we live in and tell if we want to see people choose to follow the way of Jesus. The International Justice Mission reminded me that it is necessary to focus. They focus on one aspect of justice. In our context I think we need to continually remind ourselves of our mission at the same time we need to be evaluating if we are communicating through words and actions the story of Jesus.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Chennai - Day 4

It is 8:00 a.m. I have been us since 5:30. I typed my update and filled in Day 1 and 2. I couldn't post it because the wifi is down so I couldn't get online. I am using the business center computer to say hi. I am doing well. Today we have classes at the hotel until 3:00 then we are going on another field trip (I'm not sure where) then dinner at a 5 star hotel where there will be entertainment.

Hopefully I will be able to get online later today and can update my blog. Thanks for all your prayers and emails. I have to go.

Chennai - Day 3

This will be short because I am very tired and need to get some sleep. Today was the best day! We had two classes in the morning that went until about noon. The history of hinduism which brought the caste system and racism and hindu religion. I did not know they were different. It was very good. We had lunch at the hotel and then broke into three groups to go out. My group was joined by a young man that works for Opportunity International, a micro-finance organization. They give loans to women to start a business. We went with him to a weekly meeting of a group of 20 women they gave loans to four months ago. We arrived by van, went through a gate and saw outside where they cook and bathe, and wash their clothes. We went into one woman’s home where their weekly meeting is held. The home was a cement floor and walls with a thatched roof and was about as big as my bedroom. A family of six lives in this home. There were about eighteen women present for their weekly meeting. They were so thrilled to have us. The smiles on their faces, the hope they exuded was so very cool. I was immediately reminded to why I love the poor. The people we met today have virtually nothing compared to me and yet they are so filled with joy and hope!

These were Hindu women. We observed their weekly meeting which consisted of them reporting their income, savings and loan re-payment. Next they recited a pledge. Then they had a interactive exercise to help them learn how to dialogue with clients and finished with a brief talk from the Opportunity International team leader about bribery. We were able to ask them questions, they did not speak much English. We were only there about 45 minutes and then had to go. We sat on the floor and took pictures with them, there were lots of hugs and then we left. I wanted to stay and talk with them more.

Our next stop was at a Baptist Church that partners with Compassion International, an organization which sponsors children living in poverty. The church lets CI run an after school program. There were about 140 school age kids that come from eight different slum areas. When we walked in they all in one voice were saying “hello” then “what is your name?” that is about all the English they know. They were adorable. We learned about the program but I mostly just sat with the kids, waving discreetly across the aisles at the boys and sitting with the girls that were smiling away.

I will have to journal more later. I think my extreme culture shock has worn off. Thank you for all your prayers. Today was a very, very good day!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Chennai – Day 2

While this is actually day one of our class it is day two for several of us. I am going to format the rest of my journal the way my course work is required. We are required to find a way to document each session, both formal in class or other ad hoc sessions throughout the trip. Describing, narrating and summarizing the essence of what we heard and saw is the first part. Part two is your analysis of what was said or not said, i.e. the theological assumptions of the presentations, the social location of the presentation, etc. In part three, we are to extrapolate the transferable principles for our context and ministry.

Description
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
Reincarnation
Karma
Universal Brotherhood
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 India. They were able to turn on something so I could have my cell phone while in India. They told me if Rich phoned me it was free but if I phoned Rich it would be 2.99 per minute. When we arrived I could not get coverage. Deborah also has T-Mobile and she had bars. When we were settled in our hotel room we called T-Mobile customer care from Deborah’s phone. We found out that I did not have the right type of phone for coverage, they apparently failed to tell me that before I left. We thought of a solution. We asked them to forward my phone to Deborah’s and that way if Rich phones me it is still at no cost. No one else can phone me though or it will cost too much. It’s nice to come in every evening and talk to Rich and Alex before I go to sleep or journal.

Okay, back to the day.

After lunch we visited Saint Thomas Basilica. It is the Roman Catholic church that has a bone (relic) of St Thomas. We went into the basement where they have a life size mannequin of St Thomas encased in glass and wood. The church was not as extravagant as some of the basilicas we saw in Italy.

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 South India, particularly, in Tamil Nadu. Both were rationalists who aroused their people to realize that all men are equal and it is the birthright of every individual to enjoy liberty, equality and fraternity. We were told by Lawrence our historian that Periyar was the first person to break the caste system. He loathed the Brahmans and the oppression of people. When Lord Mountbatten was charged to disengage India from the UK, both Ambedikar and Periyar bitterly opposed it because it was not going to bring freedom for “all” people. The backwards, lower caste and the untouchables would not be free. They were the first of social reformers protesting on behalf of those that were oppressed.

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 Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia.” Ray said he has often reflected on why the Holy Spirit forbade them to go east. The choice was for Paul and his entourage to follow the Roman road (west) or the Silk road (east). He then made this statement, “The west had a strong government and a weak culture and the east had a strong culture with a weak government” He thought the Holy Spirit knew that it was easier to take on and change Rome with a weak culture then it would have been to take on and change Asia with a strong culture.

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!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Chennai - Day 1

Jon Michel a Colonel in the Air Force arrived one day before Deborah and I. He rented a car (which comes with a driver) and we (Deborah and I) went with Jon out to see the sites. Chennai reminds me of Bangkok. So many people, smells, lots of garbage, open sewer systems, tons of street vendors and markets. There are cars and tuk tuks everywhere and apparently there is a very common language usedin driving here--honking. Apparently honking means, lookout I am right next to you, or I am coming through, or get out of the way and so on...

Our first stop was the beach. It is supposed to be the second longest beach in the world. I can’t remember the name of the beach, I know it is the Bay of Bengal (bear with me I am so over the top tired right now but I made a commitment to journal each day before going to bed). There were all kinds of vendors on the beach. It is very hot, in the 90’s and very, very humid. After we walked on the beach our driver took us to a temple by the sea. A Hindu temple. We had to take off our shoes, then the priests took us on a tour of the temple. They offered something to several statues then gave us a handful of holy water to drink. I pretended like I did but did not. Then they took us to another part of the temple and asked us for money, they took the money made some sort of offering to the statues and put some kind of red powder in our money and gave it back. Apparently the red powder is for good fortune and it is also the same powder they put on your forehead like a third eye or something. I was not quite sure what it all meant. As we were in the temple there were several young Indian men and women with us. I would guess they were in their 20’s. When we were in the rooms with statues I noticed how these young people were so earnestly praying. They seemed very devout.

Our next stop was lunch. Our driver took us to the Sheraton Towers hotel. We had lunch in one of the restaurants…I had curry chicken, rice and naan bread. I liked the curry, the naan and the rice but honestly I couldn’t tell if it was really chicken or not so I did not eat the chicken. I am not very adventurous when it comes to strange food. I also lose my appetite when my sense of smell has been over stimulated by overpowering and pungent odors. I have to use a lot of energy to keep myself from feeling queasy.

The conversation at lunch with Deborah and Jon was great. We talked about Jon’s dream of taking one city in the U.S. and turning the entire city into a “serving city” that the faith communities and businesses, all the sectors would come together and work together as a city known for serving.

After lunch we went to Spencer Plaza which reminded me of a very small version of the MBK shopping center we went to in Bangkok. I bought a few items. I bought a pashmina and some silk scarves that were really quite inexpensive. They are beautiful. We got back to our hotel around 6:00 p.m. went to the bar and had a beer. Ray and several other students arrived this evening. We had some introductions and then Deborah and I retired to our room. Viju, is an Indian man that is one of our hosts while here. He is from Mumbai. He is staying in the hotel. He brought us water tonight. Deborah asked him what the fuzzy things were on the walls. He didn’t know but he phoned house keeping and had them come up and clean the walls. He is a very kind man.

For those of you that pray. Please pray that I could turn off my sense of smell for the next 2 weeks. Also, for my headaches, I was on the verge of one today but took some Tylenol and kicked it.

Tomorrow we are leaving at 7:00 a.m. to go on a city tour with our cohort and a couple of the professors.

I am really thankful I am traveling with Deborah. She’s great. Good night all.

Seattle-PDX-Frankfurt-Chennai

Deborah and I departed Portland at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday. We flew 10.5 hours to Frankfurt. We met our connection immediately boarded our connecting flight and flew another 9 hours to Chennai. I actually slept a good portion of both flights. The movies from Frankfurt to Chennai were Bollywood C types with subtitles. We arrived Chennai at midnight on Sunday. By the time we went through customs, changed some money and found our taxi it was 1:00 a.m. The drive from the airport to the hotel was a bit surreal. It was dark so we could not see much. We drove by cows on the side of the road and blocks of what looked like tent city. The smells are so pungent. I asked Deborah what a particular smell was, it was overpowering, she said it was the smell of burning garbage and open sewer. For those of you that know me, you have to know that this is going to be hard for me. I have a keen sense of smell and when it is not pleasant I have a very weak stomach.

We drove through a section of the city that by night it seemed like the City of Joy. There were mass people sleeping on the side of the street. Entire families asleep in bed rolls right in the street. There were so many people, it was almost 2:00 a.m. when we passed them. Blocks and blocks of people, dogs, goats, right in the streets with small shanties behind them. Our hotel was about 2 blocks off this road. Deborah thought it was just like Ray to have us staying within blocks of the slum areas. When we arrived at the hotel there were several Indian men in the lobby. Just kind of hanging out. They didn’t have a room key for us, apparently the guests prior to us took the key with them when they checked out. Our room is simple, semi clean with twin beds. We took the top covers off the beds and remade our beds with our heads at the opposite end. Deborah saw little clusters of some kind of larvae on the walls above where our heads would have been had we left them. We were so exhausted we fell into bed and slept pretty good.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Departure Day

Today I leave for India as part of my DMin course with Bakke Graduate University. Last night Julie, Leigh, Diane, and Sharon came by to say goodbye. Nicole spent the night and is here this a.m. to say goodbye. I will miss my family, but I am excited to go. I fly from Seattle to Portland this morning where I will meet up with Deborah Loyd. We will travel together to Frankfurt, a 10.5 hour flight. We have an hour layover in Frankfurt then a 8.5 hour flight to Chennai, India. We arrive in Chennai around midnight Sunday evening. We will have all day on Monday to meet up with people, see some sights. On Tuesday we begin classes. I am going to use my blog as my journal (which is part of the course work) so I will be updating as I go. Please send safe travel prayers my way, especially if you could pray that my health holds up. I fought a headache all night last night, have a bit of one this morning.

Got to go now...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Make Sure You Get Your Tickets

This is going to be fun...

I hope you can make it...

You get to pick the topics of conversation...

I am looking forward to meeting Scot and Kris...

It is always fun to be with Todd...

March is going to be a full month...

First India with school...

Then a conference the day I get back...

Then this a week later...

On the home front, good, good things happening with VCC and Turning Point... I think this is going to be an important year to remember...

Monday, February 05, 2007

St Patrick's Day

This is where I will be...