Archive for June, 2009

The Second Update from India

Well howdy-

It’s June 24th, 2009.  We’re just about halfway through our summer journey to India.  As you could probably guess, it’s still hot.  Really hot.  But I have adjusted to the heat as well as possible.  It is difficult to understand how so much of the trip could be gone already.  I was reminded just the other day of how quickly times passes.  I wrote this in my journal:

” This is the only chance I’ll ever have to live today.

I can remember driving from Poway to Carlsbad with that sentence sounding off in my mind.  Up and over the hills with subdivisions of identical houses and high rises of newly built office buildings, I would drive the green Honda.  One the way to my security, my 9-5 job… with benefits.  My slow and steady, even comfortable, upward mobility, with one chance each year to take a small step up the ladder of social class.  I believe it was October 24th the first time that sentence hit me… 8 months ago.  And if I remember right, it didn’t make me want to quit my job immediately… it just made me want to live my life on purpose… to do everything for the glory of God… to make everything count.

Here I am 8 months later, finding that sentence to ring even more true in the corridors of my heart.  God has taken me on an adventure in the last 8 months, and I’m learning more and more to focus on him and his leading… because the times I have been truly happy in life, the times that I have known that I’m making my life count, is when I’m doing exactly what I know God wants me to do.”

So that’s a little of where I’ve been internally of late.  

Things here have been running smoothly.  I have been learning a lot, and God has definitely been stretching me.  One area that is most noticeable is how the role I am filling here is forcing to me be a lot more confrontational.  I’m a very non-confrontational person normally, but in protecting the girls on our team, I’ve had to confront several Indian men here.

Apparently in Indian culture, men and women don’t really talk unless they’re married or family.  So if a guy is saying things (like: “marry me woman”) to one of our girls, he’s overstepping his own cultural boundary.  Basically what he’s communicating is that he thinks the Hollywood stereotype of American girls is true: that American girls are whores.  If he were to do this to an Indian woman, she would have every right to slap him, hit him or push him away.  

So, because I know that the girl on our team are godly women, and because I want to defend their reputation as Christians, I’m forced to confront several men here that overstep those boundaries.  The thing that works in my favor is that Indian men are very bad with confrontation… and also the fact that the Hollywood action movie American male stereotype is that of dudes that run around killing people and blowing up things!  So, needless to say I’ve had a little fun with these confrontations.

Last week, I took a pair of binoculars from a guy who was on his roof looking at the girls on our roof.  Last Saturday, while we were sightseeing, men kept taking pictures of our girls with their phones.  So I would walk right up to them, look them in the eye, and yell a little bit.  Then I’d bust out my camera in their face and take a few pictures of them (in hopes that they would feel violated).  I think they got the point.  It was so funny when one dude was about 50 feet away with his camera phone out, all I did was look at him with the most stern look I could muster and then I wagged my finger ‘no’ and he immediately put up his phone even though I was at a distance!  So although that role is challenging for me, it has enjoyable moments as well.  I’m playing Cowboy and Indians.

Ministry with our team has been plugging along.  I preached to the church that meets in the slums last Sunday.  I preached on John 6 (when Jesus feeds the 5000 after asking the disciples to feed them) and how Jesus will let us face impossible situations so that we will learn that we can rely on him.  Then I talked about our universally impossible situation of being justified on our own merit before God, and how that Jesus is the bread of life for our souls.  God meets that need for us in Christ.

Our team was invited to do a VBS there Monday.  About 75 children were gathered and it was a great time of singing and teaching.  Things are going really well there.  At the leper colony Friday, we visited at the precise time that some Hindus were visiting to feed the colony… and they offered us their food too.  So we joined them in lunch, and in classic Indian hospitality they gave us much more than we could finish.  Each time I almost had my plate cleared, they would come give me more food.  This happened about 4 times!  I was stuffed with something really good and spicy and yellow.  

Ministry at the leper colony is really stretching me.  Much of the time I sit in silence with the men.  They aren’t really very talkative even though I try.  But I’ve learned that as I sit just to pray for them and that God would heal their spiritual blindness and their physical ailments.  

Our team has been doing great!  I am so impressed with how intentional they are about their time here and about really digging into what God has for them during this time.  Just the other night we had a 2 hour session of worship on the roof of our house : singing, praying, reading scripture, praying with each other.  It was beautiful.  I’m excited to see what God is doing in their lives while we’re here, and praying that God continues to lead us.

A quick book recommendation:  Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community by Steve Timmis and Tim Chester.  I wouldn’t recommend the whole book to just everybody, but definitely the first two chapters to any Christians.  The first two chapters cover the importance of the church being gospel-centered and community-centered.  The rest covers how that looks in practice.  I guess the main reason I like the book is because I’ve thought and prayed a lot about “what the church should look like” for a few years now, and this book really gives a framework of the ecclesiology that God has been placing in my heart.  There are of course some areas I disagree with, but overall it’s a great book if you’re interested in church.

Annnnnnnd, just because this is my one weekly entry, you get a little bit of everything: journal entry, ministry update, team update, culture lesson, book recommendation, and now… funny moment from the week. 

I’ve been driving a Scooty (small scooter) for market runs and such.  It’s great because a scooter was all I wanted for Christmas a few years ago… haha.  Anyway, like I said last time, Indian traffic is simply ridiculous.  Yesterday on the way to the market I actually got pulled over by the police!  The reason that’s crazy is that Indian police don’t pull people over with their cars, but they did to me.  Usually, police are on foot at check points on the road, and if they pull you over you just pay a bribe and are on your way.  Anyway, he came up behind the Scooty, sirens and megaphone and all.  Then he asked to see my driver’s license… so I showed him my California license, which he didn’t even read.  Then he just told me that it was important to have a helmet (because I wasn’t wearing one) and that was it.  I think he just wanted to talk to a foreigner.  Anyway, that’s one of those neat things that not many can say ” I got pulled over in India.”  

Well, that’s all for this week.  Thank you so much for checkin up on me, and thank you for your continued prayers and encouragement!  God bless you and keep you and may his face shine on you.

Update from Dwarka

Hello from Delhi-

So it’s been two weeks… I know, too long between updates, right?  Well, I’m sorry I couldn’t drop by sooner, but I’ve been extremely busy getting here, getting ministry set up, figuring out the right price for rickshaws and learning how to get around in the market.  

It’s been a great two weeks.  A lot has happened, so I’ll try to fill you in.  First of all, it’s really HOT.  Some days it’s near 120 F.  Our team is staying in Dwarka, a city in Delhi.  The first night we arrived at our house around 1 a.m. and it was 100 F.  We live in a 3 story house with several rooms and most rooms have a ceiling fan.  The top story is the roof, where we meet hang out, worship, and pray together some nights.  We’ve been cooking our own meals for breakfast and dinner, and eating PB&J for lunch.

Our ministry hosts here in Delhi done a great job informing us about Indian custom and culture, and they are really helping things run smoothly for our team.  Each ministry day, our team splits into 3 groups, and heads out to either an Orphanage, a Leper Colony, or a Slum area.  

I don’t think it’s really hit me that I’ve been in India for almost two weeks.  I guess I’ve just been so focused on the team and making sure things are going well.  But, India is an interesting place…

The traffic is exciting.  Every time we’re on the road it’s like being inside a game of MarioKart…. cars, motorcycles, bikes, rickshaws, scooters, dumptrucks… There are lanes, but they don’t matter.  There are stoplights but they’re not obeyed.  There are cops, but not cop-cars.  Pedestrians don’t have the right-of-way either.  A girl on our team said the safest place to walk is on the potholes because that’s the only place on the road that people don’t drive!  Needless to say, the roads are entertaining.  It’s very common to see 3, 4, or 5 people on a scooter.  Sunday on the way to church in the slums, our team saw a car t-bone a motorcycle with two guys on it.  The people involved yelled at each other, got back on their bike and drove off… no exchange of information… no payment for damage… but I guess that’s how it goes here!

There are beggars everywhere.  In the market.. at the stop lights.  Mothers with babies, children with charcoal rubbed on their faces to look dirtier.  But many people who beg, including the children, are basically “pimped” out as beggars.  Even if I was to give them money, it would go to the evil purposes of evil men who ‘own’ these beggars.  It is such a broken situation.  And it’s heart-wrenching because the initial emotional response to give, but that response would really be a bad choice in the long run.  So usually when I see them, I just try to pray for them.  

The ministry sub-group I am leading on our team goes to a Leper colony two days a week and the other three days we go to a kids ministry in the slums.  India is a closed country, so there is really not much open preaching of Jesus on our trip here.  Actually, the host Pastor of our ministry in the slums has been physically persecuted for the message of Christ.  He and his wife and children have been beaten for sharing the gospel.  Our ministry in the slums is limited to two hour time limits so that we can minimize risk of something like that happening.  We meet with about 30 kids in one room of a small brick house in the slums.  All of us sit “indian style” on the floor.  The kids are beautiful, and it’s awesome to see them pray and sing songs in Hindi about Jesus, because I know that most if not all of their parents are Hindu… but they are getting to hear about Jesus.  That is an awesome God-thing.

Our visits to the leper colony have been completely unlike anything I’ve ever done.  The lepers are part of the “untouchable” caste in India, and they are carted from different parts of the country to live in colonies set apart from the rest of society.  Because they have leprosy, most are not allowed to get jobs, so they beg.  At the colony we visit, many of them claim to be Christians when we visit, but claim to be HIndu when Hindus visit.  I think they want to be nice to whoever comes to visit because they don’t really get many visitors.  The colony consists of  two rows of connected houses, facing each other, and an open area at the end where the children play.  About 46 families live there.  The ‘president’ of the colony is 60 yrs old and has lived there for 31 years.  The secretary speaks some english, and actually cooked lunch for our team the other day.  It is so humbling to have a beggar serve you lunch.  We tried to express how thankful we were, and he kept saying “it is my duty.”

So that’s most of my update for now.  I’ll end with an outrageous story.  One of the first things that happened to me in Kenya was when I fell in the ditch and got “poop water” all over my shoe… the following story is similar.  

Saturday our team took an off day to go to a popular market place in Delhi.  People are constantly haggling you to buy stuff, pay them to clean your shoes and so on.  After a while of making sure the team was doing well, I walked off by myself to get some alone time.  As I was walking, a man suddenly turned around and said, “Sir, your shoe has something on it, let me clean it for you.”  I looked down at my sandle and saw that what our host had warned me of a few minutes earlier had happened to me: there was POOP on my sandal!… And even though I didn’t see him do it, I know the man who offered to clean it placed it there!  I was furious!  Apparently the same thing had happened to one of the hosts a few months earlier.  I let the guy clean it because there was poop on my foot… then he stood up and asked for 250 rupees (about $5) for cleaning my shoe.  I yelled at him and asked him for 250 rupees for putting poop on my shoe!  When people gathered around, and I noticed I was making a scene, I decided to give him at least something just to leave me alone.  Anyway, that’s my India poop story.  I guess I should have at least one poop story for everywhere I visit… sounds like a novel idea.

Anyway- hope that answers some questions and lets you know that I’m still alive over there in Delhi.  Pray that we survive the heat, because it’s only getting hotter for the next 6 weeks and monsoon season starts in a month!  If you have any questions you want me to answer next time, just put them on a comment and I’ll try to get to ’em.  Thanks for your prayers!

India Trip soon to commence

Hey All-

I arrived in Gainesville a week ago Tuesday and the past week has been PACKED full of  activity!  First was leader training, then the India team arrived on Friday and it has been a blast.  God has been doing so much in my heart and in my team.  He truly is preparing us to go on this trip.

There’s not much I can say to describe traning camp at AIM.  It’s hot.  The teams stay in cabins or tents, use port-o-potties all week, shower twice over the 5-day-period, eat meals together, pray together, do team builders, process all that’s going on, pray a whole lot, worship a whole lot, and learn what it means to be taken, broken, blessed and sent.  It really is a great experience for the teams and it’s been awesome for me to experience it again from a different perspective this time (leader instead of participant).

I have many responsibilities and many questions as a leader on the India team, and I’m learning to rely on the Lord through all of that.  I really appreciate your continued prayers as we leave for India on Wednesday.  Hope you’re week is going well… and I’ll keep you posted as much as possible…. although realistically the next time I’ll post will probably be from New Delhi!