June 24, 2008

Out of the Blur...

Sorry I haven't posted in so long. We didn't have any good internet spots for the last week in India, plus I flew into Texas and went straight to youth camp. From camp I had a weekend, and this week we're doing VBS. So with no internet at the apartment I haven't had the time or care to post. There is so much I missed the last week in India so here's a brief and short recap. To conclude the class I have to write a reflection paper, so hopefully in the weeks to come I'll get some thoughts on India and my experience posted.

  • I mentioned this last post but we met a Hindu Christ follower (HCF). I'll post more on this phenomena later, but it's an extremely intriguing movement of Hindu's remaining with Hinduism but turning to Jesus as their guru, leader, lord, then God.
  • Meeting the HCF was a rare and great experience. The HCF is probably one of the important voices in theology today in that he is a contextualized and living Indian bowl, doing theology in the South...the future (as in tomorrow) home of Christianity. The tone and theology of this Indian Christianity was beautiful and did not reflect Christendom, but the Kingdom of God.
  • The following night in Varanasi we witnessed a Puja or Pooja to the Ganges river. Every night in Varanasi hundreds, if not thousands, of men, women, and children gather to offer up worship to the god or river. The city at any given moment has 1 million pilgrims in it either to puja to the river or to die at the river.
  • Having these two very contrasting pictures of worship and God/god has been very good, challenging, and provoked many good conversations.
  • We shopped some in Varanasi and in one of the back alleys some random Indian guy tried to sell me India's finest marijuana.
  • We took another 12 hour train ride from Varanasi to Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal.
  • The hotel, Taj View Hotel was beautiful. The city was okay, but a tourist trap...way to expensive.
  • We went to the Taj Mahal...yes, I've seen one of the 7 wonders of the world. The Taj is an amazing and beautiful structure.
  • One of the most amazing parts of this trip was spending a month with 12 friends and Truett companions. One night in Agra we had a pizza party and spent that night encouraging and showing love to one another. The air was full of grace and love, full of cherished memories and truly meaningful words. I grew to love all 12 of my friends and miss them.
  • From Agra we rode a bus for about 8 hours to Delhi. Delhi is the capital and most Western city of India. This may have been one of my favorite cities, because we were able to meet and spent some good time with some missionaries in the city who are working with the Hindu Christ follower movement. Also, they cooked us Mexican food, mango salsa, and cake.
  • At the missionaries home, other students who are spending their entire summer in India and we held out own contextual Satsong and Puja to Jesus. It consisted of India songs, learning the story in Luke about Jesus crossing over to Legion in the land of the Gerasene, questions, rehashing the story ourselves as a group, praying, praying, and praying more, and the Lord's supper done with coconut. It was a good experience, because in Minneapolis we began with a satsong and I felt it was more of a spectator event for myself, but in Delhi I was able to worship.
  • We flew out of Delhi and since then everything has been a blur. The flight from Delhi to Hong was 6 hours I think, then a lay over for 4 hours, then we flew to San Fran in 12 hours and missed our connecting flight so I flew to lil' John Wayne Airport in Orange County, CA then I flew into DFW. I landed about midnight and was so excited to see my wife.
  • CHARLOTTE! She was at the airport waiting, it was a glorious reunion.
  • The next day I went to camp, which was great. I enjoy the youth at FBC Austin, they are fantastic. This week we are doing VBS. I really I'm not clear about my job still, but orientation through camp and VBS don't quite show normal, daily routine.
  • I'm excited to be home. I missed Char so much and have enjoyed getting to tell her about the trip. I miss India, especially my friends. The trip was excellent and more then worth it.
  • Thanks to everyone that supported me, no matter how much or manner.

June 11, 2008

Day 26- Varanasi

After riding the train for about 11 hours from Calcutta, we arrived yesterday in the oldest and holiest city in India, Varanasi, home of the Ganges river. The frustrating thing has been that it is very difficult to appreciate the culture, rituals, or religion because it often seems that we are walking dollar marks. It's hard not to want to withdraw and get jaded, but at the same time this is just one of the ways these people who are poor make money. The questions about taking up my own cross and allowing myself to get cheated and what does it mean to love these people who are so different continue to sound in my ear.
  • Slept well on the train.
  • Varanasi, probably because of the river, has a repugnant and strong smell. Plus the city all around has a different feel, animals fill the streets, especially cows.
  • We were able to view part of a funeral ceremony yesterday. Traditionally, Hindu's want to be burned and spread or floated along the river.
  • Last night we met a Hindu Christ follower. We talked with him for about 5 hours. I feel like we've been waiting to meet him since Minneapolis. We had really good conversation and many questions were answered.
  • It's strange knowing that I only have 6 or 7 days left until I'm home. I missing Charlotte more, so pray that I'll be able to be here and remain engaged. Also, please pray for camp stuff. Youth leave this Sunday for camp and I fly in on Wednesday and will probably go to camp either that night or Thursday.

June 9, 2008

Day 23- Calcutta & Mother's House

It's been a while so I'm not sure what all to include. My health has returned, which I'm really grateful for because it was getting really hard to not focus on myself and my own suffering to see all the suffering around me. This last part of the trip for myself seems to have taken a turn from a more tourist type feel to being here to act, love, and be transformed.

  • Saturday we saw Indiana Jones in an Indian theater...not that good of a movie.
  • Sunday we attended Mass at the Mother's Home, Mother Teresa's home. I had the honor of reading scripture in the service. Looking out into a crowd of sisters while reading Hos. 6:3-6 was very humbling.
  • Then we attended a Baptist church founded in 1811, it was very different then the Mass. The most suprising thing was the larger number of young people at the Baptist church.
  • On Monday and Tuesday one part of our group worked at an orphanage, while the other part that I was a part of worked at the House of the Dying. There is so much to be said about this place. I really liked getting to meet volunteers from around the world. Also, there is so much to be said about creating an environment of dignity. The Hous of the Dying is a place of life. Furthermore, after meeting a few men in the house that spoke English, I was reminded how nothing is promised in life.
  • Later today we leave Calcutta on train. Hopefully it will only take the projected 11 hours, not the 25 hours that it took someone else we spoke to.
  • General health for the group is well, except for w few. Continue to pray for us, that we'd seek to learn how to be open and what it means to follow Christ more deeply.

June 2, 2008

Day 17- Cochin, Cherai Beach Resort

This morning we are about to leave to Jaipur, but the last few days have been about slowing down and learning about ancient Hinduism while sleeping in some pretty plush places. This, our second resort, is located right off the Arabian Sea. We went body surfing a few days ago in it.
We've visited alot of historically important places in Cochin and Mamallapuram. In the latter we saw five different ancient Hindu temples. In Cochin we visited the oldest church built by the Portuguese in 1503 in India.
Although it has been nice to slow down and learn about Hinduism, I think the entire group is ready to move on. The next two weeks are going to be much more hands on, engaging, and about meeting Indias. This also means that the next two weeks are going to get much harder.
I'm not sure where we are staying, so I don't know when I'll get to post again.
  • I'm struggling with identifying myself as an outsider in relationship to the "other," that being the Hindu, Muslim, Idian etc.
  • The resorts have been nice, which is good because several of us got sick. Pray for health because it's going to be much harder to be sick in some of th eplaces we're going to.
  • I've learned enough about Hinduism and Indian culture that I'm really confused.
  • Sometimes ministry is about taking a stab and working from there.
  • The novelty of India has worn off, thus culture shock is settling in. I'm much more calloused toward the shopkeepers, vendors, and beggars then I was before.
  • Last night we had a variety show. The guys sang a song and the girls had a melody of songs. All of them were rewritten to include funny and memorable experiences from the trip thus far. I'm really enjoyng my traveling friends.