India 2013

India 2013: Samuel stories

One of the common themes I’m hearing from several of the men I meet is that they were offered up to the Lord for Christian service either as small children or even before conception.  These are what I’m starting to call “Samuel stories” – stories that parallel Hannah’s offering of Samuel to God as recorded in the opening chapters of 1 Samuel.  We never hear about this idea in the west, yet in the east – and particularly in the Indian states that are nearer China, interestingly – this seems more common.

Any idea why?

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India 2013

India 2013: Clay in the Potter’s hands

This morning – it’s Wednesday morning here now – one of my teammates, Cynthia, spoke in chapel in a powerful way. Using much the same message (adapted to the context) that she used whenshe spoke at St. Paul’s, Nobleton last June, Cynthia used pottery to illustrate the wonder and grace of God our Potter.

I could listen to that talk over and over and over again, because it’s a constant reminder of the fact that with God, who shapes us, there is no waste.  Nothing is thrown away.  God is always going to mold us and shape us and make us into what he wants us to be, but there is no waste.

This is a good message for the people among whom we are serving right now, for people in this culture are often seen as cast-offs.  They need to be affirmed in their God-image, that the Lord has made them for his good purpose and with him, there is no waste.

I look forward, today, to spending time with more people for whom I pray this truth will come to life in a new way.

India 2013

India 2013: The Retreat In Daily Life begins

On Monday, we held the opening session for our retreat in daily life, offered to the students and faculty of SAIACS.  More than 80 people have registered, which will make it a very busy week for us 5 directors!  I have 21 directees myself, including the principal and the dean of students, along with 19 students.  Women meet with women, and men with men in this culture, which is why the male directees have the bulk of the workload; the good news for the women is that all women interested in participating have been admitted to the RDL.  Some men, students and faculty, have had to be turned away simply because there are not enough hours in the day to meet them all.

Today, we begin meeting with them.  We will meet each directee for half an hour every other day.  They will have read a few Scripture passages, and asked the Lord to speak through them.  We directors will help them process what God is saying through the text, and what God is doing in the midst of their busy lives.  The goal is to provide enrichment for their walk with God, and to deepen their awareness of his presence in their lives.

Thank you for your prayers.  Each of us is blessed to be participating in this ministry!

(And a big shout out to my colleague back home, Jon Dennis, whose wife, Susanne, gave birth to their first child on Monday morning!  Congratulations to Jon and Susanne and their daughter!)

India 2013

India 2013: We have arrived!

I had hoped to post sooner than this, but arriving on the weekend meant getting internet access would take a couple of days.  Thankfully, yesterday, I was able to Skype to St. Paul’s to bring greetings from India, thanks to the Principal of SAIACS, Dr. Ian Payne, who let me into his home to use his personal WiFi.

We will be offering the opening session of our Retreat In Daily Life this afternoon.  There are over 80 people who have signed up for the retreat, comprising more than 3/4 of the student body.  However, because in this culture men must meet with men and women with women, we are not able to meet with all the men who have signed up.  There are only two of us men providing spiritual direction for the RDL, and we can only see so many people in a day!  Priority has been given to the students taking David Sherbino’s Intro to Spiritual Formation course, and students who are graduating.  All women who wish to participate will be welcomed to do so, since we have 3 women directors.

There is great interest in spiritual formation here at SAIACS.  We look forward to providing this unique form of pastoral care to the students, as well as equipping them to take these tools into their own congregations to encourage their people in their walk with Christ.

It is warm here; 30 degree days and 15 degree nights are common.  We are seeing all sorts of flora and fauna that are uncommon to Canada.  We visited the inner city of Bangalore on Sunday, and saw the sea of humanity that one expects to see.  Not as many cattle as I had expected, though!

Thanks to everyone reading this who is praying for our team.  David, David, Jenn, Cynthia, Lina and I really covet and appreciate your prayerful support.

Encouragement From The Word

Mission in God’s Big World

As you read this, I will be en route to Bangalore, India, where I will be providing spiritual direction to pastors and students (and possibly their family members) at the South Asia Institute for Advanced Christian Studies.  A team of six of us are helping to equip leaders of churches with new tools for spiritual formation.

This is a new thing for me.  And as I’ve told my congregation, it’s way outside my comfort zone.  The last few days of preparation were remarkably difficult, because my dear wife and I, in twenty years of marriage, have never been apart for three consecutive weeks before!  However, I pressed on, because I know God is in this in a powerful way.

One of the things I know this trip will teach me is just how global the church really is.  Never having flown farther than Vancouver before, I know this will stretch my picture of human society and enhance my understanding of what God can do in the world.

In that sense, I will almost certainly receive more than I give in this trip, but I hope to make a contribution to the Asian church as it enriches its understanding of spiritual formation.

God is at work all around the world.  While we in the North American church lament the closure of congregations and bicker over points of biblical interpretation and theological practice, the church in Asia bustles with excitement and activity.  People come to know Christ every day.  And I’m excited that I get to be part of that for just a few weeks.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28.19-20, NIV).  Wherever in the world you go to make disciples, know that the Lord is with you.

Please keep our team in your prayers.

Biblical Messages

Drawing the circle wider

“Epiphany” – the feast that always falls on January 6.  It means ‘revealing’ or ‘manifestation’.  It recalls the time that foreign soothsayers followed a star and visited the child Jesus with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, marked in Matthew 2.1-12.  I contend that this event, and not the giving of the Great Commission, marked the beginning of mission in the church.

You can listen to the message by clicking here.