India 2013

India 2013: traffic mayhem!

I thought I would post what I sent to a couple of prayer partners; I tried to send this earlier, but I’ve been having trouble logging in to  This weekend ended up a little differently than I had expected, and I think that may be for the best.  We left early (0600) Saturday morning to drive to Mysore, a city about 150 km southwest of Bangalore, to do some sightseeing on the recommendation of the Principal of SAIACS.  The school provided a van and a driver to ferry us to and around Mysore.  We stayed in a hotel there, with about Super 8 quality, for under $40!  The rest of the team toured around the city, but still feeling the effects of my cold, I opted to stay in my room and get some bonus rest.  It was worth it, as I feel quite a bit better today (though not 100% yet).  Our team leader, David Sherbino, suggested that we not take preaching engagements this weekend, since we all were so tired from the schedule of the first week of the retreat in daily life.  We all were glad for that.

The visit to Mysore was interesting, but what was most interesting is the whole process of driving to and from the place.  Not being certain of the population, I’d guess that Mysore is about the same size as Mississauga – maybe a bit bigger (I was close; when I checked this, the population is something close to 900,000).  Bangalore has a population of 10 million, and SAIACS is on the exact opposite end of the city to the Mysore Road, so that’s why we had to leave at 0600 on Saturday morning – to beat the traffic.  Coming back on Sunday at about 5:00, we could see why we left so early on Saturday.  Even though there is a ring road around Bangalore, I’m not sure we used much of it, as we zig-zagged through the city.  From SAIACS to the southwest edge of Bangalore, on Saturday morning, took us an hour and a half.  It would be like crawling across Toronto along Eglinton Avenue from one end to the other (and quadruple the traffic!).
Our driver is an expert in driving in India.  If there are any traffic regulations, nobody pays attention to them.  Sometimes, there are lines on the roads, but nobody pays attention to them.  There are speed bumps everywhere, and those are what people pay attention to, and probably what save countless lives every year (though I heard a statistic that something like 17 people a minute are killed on Indian roads every day).  We never saw an accident, but we saw a lot of close calls!  Thank heaven for Viji’s excellent driving skills.  I was sitting in the front seat with him, so I got the best view of what was going on – and I’m glad I trusted our driver completely!
Your prayers, and Viji’s driving, kept us safe on this weekend of sabbath rest.  We are geared up to go back at ‘er on Monday morning, looking forward to what God is going to do!
TUESDAY UPDATE:  We did go back at ‘er on Monday, and more people began opening up as they are getting to know us; we are seeing the same today, too.  Lives are being enriched by participating in the retreat in daily life.  We are immensely grateful for what God is doing among us, in no small part thanks to your prayers!
India 2013

India 2013: A visit to Mysore

With the weekend to rest, it was suggested to us that we take a road trip to the city of Mysore, to the southwest of Bangalore, to see another part of India. The drive was the most fascinating part of the trip: we left at 0600 on Saturday, in order to minimize the traffic problems. There is a ring road around Bangalore, but if we used it, it sure didn’t last long. It took us an hour and a half, in light traffic, to cross the city. After another half hour, we stopped for breakfast. Our great driver, Viji, went to an Indian place, and we all went to…wait for it…McDonalds! It was surprisingly good, and pretty clean (except for the restroom). The sausage in the sausage mcmuffin was chicken, but it really didn’t taste much different than the ones at home.

We visited a sultan’s summer home and a Hindu temple on the way. I did not go in to the temple, but even standing outside left me with a pathetic feeling, about which I may write later.

In Mysore, the rest of the team did some sightseeing while I slept at the hotel. With the cold I brought with me not yet shaken, I felt the need to get some additional rest. Hopefully a good night’s sleep tonight will help with that, too.

Thanks to everyone who is praying for us. The whole team senses your prayers and joins me in gratitude.

India 2013

India 2013: the blessing of prayer support

One of the sustaining graces about being on a trip far from home, doing God’s work, is knowing how much prayer support one has from people back home.  So many people have offered to keep me and our whole team in their prayers, and I cannot be thankful enough.  We are finding God’s grace pouring out steadily, both on us and on those among whom we minister.

This morning, Lina preached on 1 Kings 19, helping those listening to look at Elijah’s story from a different perspective – a perspective of spiritual formation, of listening for God’s still, small voice.  While this is new for most of those among whom we are serving these days, we pray that it will become a new approach for them in reading the Scriptures and listening for the voice of God.

We remain very grateful for all your prayers as we use the gifts God has given us to make a difference in another place.

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?

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.