India Mission Trip – July 2014 – part 6 – Pune’s final chapter

giving talks and testimonies at the Cathedral parish's high school

giving talks and testimonies at the Cathedral parish’s high school

We also had opportunities to minister at some of the schools associated with the Cathedral. One main struggle we faced was the “I’m OK you’re OK” attitude. Because India is such a religiously pluralistic society, and because missionary activity is still a taboo thing in some ways, there tends to be a sort of laissez-faire attitude, even among well-meaning Christians. They are afraid to step on toes, they are afraid to recognize the uniqueness of their Christian faith and the sovereignty of the one and only God. In an effort to not offend others, they tend to neuter the power of the Holy Spirit and hinder the spread of the Christian faith. However, God himself knows they are well-intentioned. He knows their hearts, and he knows the difficult condition that they as Christians have to face. And because I am optimistic and because I believe God can make lemons out of lemonade, I know that he will work with this and through this and that he will ultimately triumph. This is where our ability to radiate God’s spirit and joy works to our advantage. It will be in the smaller meetings/assemblies and in the one on one interactions that I believe true progress will be made.

cuttin' up with some of our local friends in Pune :)

cuttin’ up with some of our local friends in Pune :)

 

Another big blessing of ministry here has been on the more laid-back path of building relationships with the locals. There are tons of opportunities to do spontaneous ministry with poor people we meet on the street, as well as locals who work at the various stores/stalls, security guards at our apts, rickshaw drivers, and various other locals. It’s also a huge blessing for us (The short term missionaries) as well as the full-time missionaries to have local friends and families who are friends and contemporaries. People who we can socialize with. We do young adult holy hours, prolife groups, and all other kinds of spiritual and social events. They invite us over and we invite them over for dinners, parties, and hanging out. Having these local friends and family members is a huge building block that helps us to really build a life here and form relationships. We’ve also had the chance to visit the local market and stores/stalls to get whatever supplies and souvenirs we were looking for.

the ride to our Desert Day was quite a colorful one!

the ride to our Desert Day was quite a colorful one!

having some fun on the bus :D found these badboys in one of the seatback pockets.....

having some fun on the bus :D found these badboys in one of the seatback pockets…..

 

For our weekly Desert Day prayer time (a time of prayer, reflection, and sharing) we were able to visit an ancient mountainside fort, dating back I think to the 1600’s. As I have during my entire time here in India, I felt a certain heaviness in my heart due to the strong ties this place has to a non-Christian  religion (in this case, Hinduism & Islam).  Nonetheless, it was still a very mysterious and beautiful sight to behold. The mistiness, dampness, and cloudiness (we were WAY up high, in terms of our elevation) only served to add to the beauty and mystique.

i was hoping this wasn't warning me that man-eating bears were lurking ahead. Since I'm writing this blog, we can assume that it wasn't saying that :)

i was hoping this wasn’t warning me that man-eating bears were lurking ahead. Since I’m writing this blog, we can assume that it wasn’t saying that :)

 

the view from my Desert Day prayer spot, identical to the one you see across the way

the view from my Desert Day prayer spot, identical to the one you see across the way

I was blessed to be able to find a perfect little “cubby hole” underneath one of the archways, about 3ft x 5ft x 5ft, where I had some really blessed prayer time. And everytime I’ve experienced that heaviness of heart, I used it as our opportunity to pray for those specific places, all of the people, and the entire country of India, to experience the love and joy of Christ. God loves them just as much as he loves anyone else, and I know he wants to and WILL touch their hearts. Another part of our Desert Day experience that I really enjoyed was the natural beauty. Yes, India does have over 1 billion people. Yes, at times there seems to be people piled on top of people, along with all of the other difficulties facing such a populated place. But, going to this old fort showed me that there were places of quietness, cleanliness, and natural beauty here in India. I enjoyed that experience very much and it was very refreshing for me, and for that I am very grateful.

some beautiful scenery on the way back from Desert Day

some beautiful scenery on the way back from Desert Day

purty, huh?

purty, huh?

 

Later that day, when we returned from Desert Day, we took turns sharing about our prayer time and our entire experience during our mission trip in India. Then, at 4pm local time, we put 3 of the 5 short term missionary girls on a shuttle to the Bombay airport to catch their plane ride back home. (As I mentioned earlier, the other 2 girls’ shuttle leaves later this afternoon.) And for my remaining time here, I’ll just be relaxing and hanging out, and joining the full-time missionaries in their daily lives, ministry, and activities.

 

To wrap up today’s entry, I have to touch upon the subject of poverty. In Calcutta one of my biggest shocks was the extreme poverty I encountered. It’s the most extreme poverty I’ve ever encountered in my life, even greater than what I’ve seen at other mission posts. And while it’s definitely to a lesser degree here in Pune, it still exists here too. At times it’s intimidating, frustrating, and makes you feel hopeless. You realize that you cannot reach everybody. You realize that your efforts are incredibly small. You feel guilt when you realize that you have or might have passed up someone who was in need of help.

But when I went to confession at the motherhouse in Calcutta, the priest (from Lebanon) helped me to realize that no one indvidual is supposed to do it by him/herself. We are all called to specific duties, tasks, and people, and we need to be open to the Spirit so we can hear the call to help the specific people and do the specific things we are called to do. He also helped me to realize that our other  great duty is to inspire others to do the same. Because as Mother Theresa said (obv. paraphrasing here), “as channels of God’s love we each contribute but a single drop of water in the ocean of God’s mercy here on Earth. But if we ALL do our part, and contribute our drop into the ocean, then there will be a tidal wave of grace that floods the world with his live.”

 

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India Mission Trip – July 2014 – part 5 – Mission: Pune

one of the first things i saw when i got to the guys apt in Pune :)

one of the first things i saw when i got to the guys apt in Pune :)


living room at the apt where i stayed. like the rest of the house, quite humble, but comfy and cozy as well

living room at the apt where i stayed. like the rest of the house, quite humble, but comfy and cozy as well

So our time in Pune was markedly different than our time in Calcutta. While the housing was a little nicer (apts instead of hostel), I did have to re-learn how to take cold-water bucket showers, a skill I had first developed on that Africa mission trip back in ‘97. The weather, however, was way better over here. Now that monsoon season has arrived, the daily rains and cloud cover really cool things off quite a bit. Pune is also further inland, so even though temps can get warm its still not nearly as humid. In Calcutta I’d be pouring buckets of sweat within 10 minutes of leaving the hostel. Over here, I think I can count on one hand with a few fingers left over the amount of times I’ve actually sweated. And while I grew up in the jungle heat of southern Louisiana and still live there, and while I much prefer hot weather to cold weather, keep in mind that A.) I’m used to always having AC, and 2.) less hotness is better than more hotness, in regards to the weather. Now you can see why I like it in Pune so much more, at least as far as the weather is concerned.

kitchen. notice the luxurious 2-burner "stove" :)

kitchen. notice the luxurious 2-burner “stove” :)


it may not be the Hilton, but after a long tiring day of mission work, it was the most comfortable bed ever :)

it may not be the Hilton, but after a long tiring day of mission work, it was the most comfortable bed ever :)

However, to be fair, I have to say that I was only in Calcutta for a week. And whether we’re talking in terms of weather or whatever other factor, I think I could gradually grow to like Calcutta a little more if I had the chance to spend some more time there. Pune has decidedly better traffic than Calcutta, although it still isn’t’ the best. It’s also cleaner and less noisy. Drivers here only use their horns when needed. Calcutta drivers practically lay on their horns 24/7. I even think that if their care horns didn’t work, then brains would go foggy and they just wouldn’t be able to function or figure out how to drive, even if the rest of their car functioned perfectly fine.

common occurence during the mission trip: negotiating with a rickshaw driver to get to/from a ministry event

common occurence during the mission trip: negotiating with a rickshaw driver to get to/from a ministry event

Our ministry in Pune was also different , not better (cuz it’s all good and necessary) just different. Aside from the huge differences in the cities themselves, in Pune things are driven heavily by the lives of the missionaries who live and work here full time. A big part of ministry here is in Ramtekdi slum. It’s a slum where one of our local friends (who is kinda like one of our honorary missionaries) is from. He’s a huge help to us, both in translating to/from Hindi, as well as actual ministry itself. In the slum, we work in a small 2 room building that is rented by the Cathedral parish that we work with. There, we do prayer meetings as well as “tuitions”, which is tutoring the local school kids. We also do home visits, and bring dispensas to people in the slum. It’s amazing to see the relationships that have been built by our missionaries there. As I just mentioned, some of our local friends are a HUGE help to the ministry here.

Ramtekdi slum

Ramtekdi slum

Please pray for 3 of them in particular, who are praying and discerning , and are in various stages of the process of trying to join and come to be with FMC in Louisiana for Intake and to go into foreign missions. We’re also blessed with another local couple who are great friends and co-laborers in the vineyard. They also come to some of our prayer meetings and help to lead music/worship as well as translating. They also have an amazing ministry on their own. They offer housing and assistance to some of the girls from the nearby slum. They tutor them in English, and Hindi (and maybe some other languages) as well as teaching them how to cook, clean, run a house, and all types of other practical skills. They also offer them a life of focus, discipline, and direction. Lest we forget the most important part, they also minister to them by prayer, Bible teachings, etc……

children's prayer ministry in the slum

children’s prayer ministry in the slum


sharing a teaching

sharing a teaching

They are such an amazing, joyful, hospitable, and holy couple. I was really blessed to be able to meet them and I pray that God continues to bless their ministry. I also really enjoyed the fact that even though they were of a different Christian denomination, we still worked together as well. It is definitely a thing of God. In India, Christians have to stick together, because they are such a vast minority. There’s a certain kinship and brotherhood because we are all in the same boat. And I think this closeness and collaboration will one day ultimately lead to the Christian unity that we all seek.

RCIA ministry at the Cathedral

RCIA ministry at the Cathedral


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Another big part of the ministry here was based at the Cathedral. Our missionaries here help out with the RCIA program. To American Catholics, this doesn’t sound like a big deal because RCIA is so prominent and common place in our parishes. But in India, it is one of only 3 RCIA programs in the entire country! What is even more unique is the approach they take. Back home in the US, most people coming into the Church are from other Christian churches. But here, most people coming into the church are from non-Christian faiths, mainly Hinduism and Islam. So the program was developed by a convert (forget if he was Hindu or Muslim or whatever else) and is tailored to teach the Catholic faith, in an orthodox manner of course, to people who for the most part come from a totally different faith and mindset. It’s a truly amazing and unique ministry and I pray that it continues to bear much more fruit and that many more parishes would adopt this program.

Bible passage in Hindi and in English, the 2 main languages of India

Bible passage in Hindi and in English, the 2 main languages of India

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India Mission Trip – July 2014 – part 4 – Train Trip To Pune

Saturday – July 26, 2014 – 11:02am – Cafe Coffee Day – Pune, Maharashtra, India

platform at the Howrah train station in Calcutta

platform at the Howrah train station in Calcutta

Praise the Lord. Two days in a row that I get to come to this cafe and unload my thoughts into this little journal. Before I forget, I gotta mention the vision Mrs.Genie Summers had before I came to India. At FMC’s weekly Mission Formation at Our Lady Of The Bayous retreat house in Abbeville, the Wednesday before I came to India (July 2nd), they all prayed over me at the end of the meeting. After they prayed over me, Mrs. Genie told me that she had a vision of me and Jesus with our arms around each other’s shoulders, dancing in India. I was happy to hear that, but not sure exactly what it meant. I’m still not totally sure what it meant and think it might take some more time to reflect and pray about what it meant.

here's a little "appetizer" leading up to the train ride stories. Can you guess what it is? :)

here’s a little “appetizer” leading up to the train ride stories. Can you guess what it is? :)

Anyhoo, later today I have to run by a couple of stores to get some stuff for T and P’s house, and then I’m gonna go visit at S’s house with the 2 remaining girls from the short-term group before they leave today. Oh, and I saw this pretty little flower arrangement at one of the roadside vendors on the way here, and since flowers are pretty cheap here, I think I’ll buy it and bring it to the girls. You know, just doing something nice for the girls and helping to spruce up their place a little more than it already is, add some more womanliness to their apartment. Not that it’s not spruced up enough or womanly enough already. Just figured the gals might like it. (addendum: didn’t get a chance to get those flowers. Hopefully the girls won’t read this journal entry and realize they were supposed to get flowers but didn’t. :D )

waiting for our 33 hour train ride to Pune!

waiting for our 33 hour train ride to Pune!

So now I guess I’ll talk about my time in Pune with the short term group. I still have 4 more full days in India before I leave, but there’ll be 2 VERY long layovers in the Zurich, Switzerland and Newark, NJ airports to write about that. Not to mention two very long plane rides. But I digress….. To get to Pune, we took a train from Calcutta’s Howrah train station to Pune. Thank God we were in the A/C sleeper car because it was a mammothly colossal huge ginormous 33 hour train ride! That meant leaving at 10pm on the night of Thursday July 17th and arriving in Pune at 6am on Saturday July 19th. I was a little bit fearful of the train ride because it was going to be so long, but my saving grace was that we had beds to sleep in. So after a little bit of stress because of a delay in getting to the train station, and the train being delayed in leaving, we were settled into our “cabins” and off by 10pm. And in all honesty the train ride ended up being pretty enjoyable and passed by pretty quickly.

this is what meal time looks like when you're trapped on a 33 hour train ride

this is what meal time looks like when you’re trapped on a 33 hour train ride

As you’d expect, a large portion of our time was spent sleeping both at night and during the day. We brought food with us for our 3 meals on Friday, so that took up a good chunk of time also. Alot of the remaining time was spent praying and visiting with each other. In fact, one of the good things about being in such cramped quarters with the entire group was the fact that it gave us no choice but to bond. It was kinda cool too because I experienced a bit of deja-vu from 17 summers ago. That was the summer of 1997, when I went on a summer mission trip with TMI (Teen Mission Int’l) to South Africa and Zimbabwe. When we were in Zimbabwe, my team took an overnight sleeper car train to Victoria Falls. It was also one of those great bonding experiences. Good times, good times. Dear Lord, I hope and pray that wherever my African mission trip teammates find themselves in life, that you would draw them close to your heart and give them peace. If we get the chance to visit again, praise God. If not, then I know that I will be reunited with them in heaven one day.

At last! We have arrived! The train station in Pune never looked as good as it did that day :)

At last! We have arrived! The train station in Pune never looked as good as it did that day :)

But as much as we enjoyed and were blessed by the train ride, we were all very happy to finally arrive in Pune. Once we arrived, we were met by a friend of our missionaries who live there. He loaded our luggage and some of the team members and brought them to the girls’ house and the remaining guys’ luggage to the guys’ house. The rest of us caught a ride with rickshaws (small motorcycle-like cabs) to our respective houses. By the way, I can’t really name the missionaries who live here because of prudence. Again, it’s a little frustrating to not be able to freely admit who we are and what we’re doing, but if that’s the price we have to pay to be here and do what we do, praise God, we’re gonna do it, because the people here are worth it. On a more comical note, a missionary brother of ours, who serves here in Pune along with his wife in a group called YWAM (Youth With A Mission) were using the new code word that me and another missionary brother decided on. Instead of “missionary” we started using the word “monster”. Now we may find a better substitute word in the future, but for now this one will suffice. So you can just about imagine our smiles and laughter when talking freely and unhindered about monster trips, monster work, monster life, monster kids and families, and many other matters pertaining to monsters. :)

rickshaw ride from the Pune train station to the apartment

rickshaw ride from the Pune train station to the apartment

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India Mission Trip – July 2014 – part 3 – Calcutta wrapup

the New Market in Calcutta

the New Market in Calcutta

Our evenings usually consisted of adoration with the MC sisters at the motherhouse, supper time, and chill/prayer time with our group. On a few occasions we also got the chance to go to the local markets(where I scored a sweet India corta[traditional shirt] and paijama [traditional pants] combo) as well as a nearby grocery store. All in all, our time in Calcutta was what it needed to be, both amazing and difficult. Being a religious minority was difficult, because we had to be very careful about how we shared our faith. It is legal to be a Christian but it is illegal to evangelize. We even were advised to try and not wear our missionary crosses or any overtly Christian stuff during our time there ((which has also been the advice here in Pune). It’s also a situation where the “m” words (mission, missionary, ministry) are not to be used and our missionaries can’t say that they are missionaries or post anything online or on social media about being missionaries.  And while we never had any problems and were never in any real danger, it was still very taxing on my mind and heart to be in a place where i did not feel fully free to express my faith. It gave me a whole new appreciation for the religious freedom and protection which I have back home.

 

It even got to a point where I was even letting myself become a little bit fearful. I’m ok with being cautious but I hated feeling fearful. But as my time here has gone on, I have become less fearful. While I am still prudent, I am learning to be less fearful. For example, I’ve begun to wear my mission crosses on the outside of my shirt more and more I feel that for the sake of the Gospel, and the sake of souls I have to have a little bit of boldness, because ultimately my concern is to not let prudence degenerate into fear, or to control me, but to let God use me as a channel of his love and to bring people closer to him. It was also interesting to see how in this country I felt a certain closeness to all my Muslim brothers and sisters. We are both in the vast minority when compared to the 80 – 85 percent majority of Hindus. And in a country that is not always friendly to any non-Hindu faiths, we kinda have that bond I suppose. Not that I don’t want them also to come home to Christ, but I’m just stating that God allowed me to feel that closeness to them. And whatever bond I felt with them I felt to an even greater degree w/my fellow Christians, seeing as how we were even moreso in the minority. Again, I long for all my separated Christian brothers and sisters to come back home to the Catholic Church. but in a country like India, we are often co-laborers in the harvests, working side by side. We have to stick together. We can’t bicker and fight like we tend to do back home in the states.

 

The massive amount of people in Calcutta (15-20 million-ish?) also highlighted other difficulties I experienced. The city is extremely crowded, with very little free or quiet space. And as someone who enjoys his quiet/chill time, this proved to be quite difficult. There’s also a big problem with cleanliness. Pollution and smog are really bad. Animals (stray and otherwise) sometimes roam the streets and shall we say, make “deposits” on the streets and sidewalks. Litter is a really big problem too. It’s also extremely hot and humid. We were ALWAYS sweating (thank God for our AC-ed sleeping quarters). Because it’s monsoon season, things never really dried out. I was utterly amazed at the amount of sweat that poured out of my body during the week we were in Calcutta. Utterly amazed. However, even these difficulties were used by God to help me grow in humility and thankfulness, and I hope that that fact will allow me to be a better missionary and a kinder person.

one of the Spanish (Spain) volunteers who was working at the same MC house where we volunteered

one of the Spanish (Spain) volunteers who was working at the same MC house where we volunteered

Another part of volunteering at the motherhouse that I really enjoyed was getting to meet people from all over the world. I met people from the USA, Italy, France, Spain, Argentina, Korea, and Lebanon. I got to speak to fellow volunteers in 3 different languages (English, French, and Spanish). And as short as my time there was, I made some great friends and really enjoyed their company. It reminded me very much of my experience as a pilgrim at World Youth Day. I’m pretty sure I can also say that I now have a place to stay in at least 3 different countries if I decided to visit. :) You could also say that I now have even more friends from all over the world who might come and visit me.

one of the "chai-wallas" on the street in Calcutta, whipping up a deelish tea/milk/sugar combo drink called, yep, you guessed it, "chai" :)

one of the “chai-wallas” on the street in Calcutta, whipping up a deelish tea/milk/sugar combo drink called, yep, you guessed it, “chai” :)

On our last full day in Calcutta, we were able to visit Titagarh, a leper colony that was started by Mother Theresa. Leprosy has a horrific stigma attached to it and even though there is now a cure for it, and many times it can be stopped before any outwardly noticeable signs appear, lepers here still have a difficult and almost impossible chance of being accepted by their families and society. At Titagarh, they are given a place to live and as at Nabo Jibon, access to 3 meals a day and basic medical care. They also have various ways that some of them can learn basic vocational/work skills to try and be self-supporting. One really neat thing is that all of the sarees that are worn by the MC’s worldwide are made right here at Titagarh. If I ever get the chance to return to Calcutta, I hope to be able to return to Titagarh and spend some more time there visiting and praying with the residents. When we got back to BMS that afternoon, we had time to eat, shower, and rest before beginning the next chapter of our mission trip in Pune.

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India Mission Trip – July 2014 – part 2 – Calcutta ministry

Welcome to Kolkata! :)

Welcome to Kolkata! :)

After a 5 hour flight from Singapore to Calcutta (which made for a total of 26 hours of flying) I finally arrived at my destination. Originally I thought that I would be by myself until the next morning when James and the rest of the short-term group would arrive. But sometime late that night the India missionaries returned from FMC’s 1st ever Asia Mission Summit. After everyone else from the group arrived the next morning, we loaded onto our 2 “buses”, which in places like India usually means “van”, we headed to the Baptist Mission Society (BMS), which was to be our home for the next week. It was also the first of several experiences I had with the mind-numbing madness which is Calcutta traffic.

our ride from the airport to our hostel

our ride from the airport to our hostel

Calcutta traffic is crazy, and the lines in the street and the traffic signals are more of a suggestion than a command :)

Calcutta traffic is crazy, and the lines in the street and the traffic signals are more of a suggestion than a command :)

Once we arrived at BMS, which is very nice but still affordable hostel, we got settled into our rooms and had a little time to rest. Since India has so few Christians, whether they be Catholic, Baptist, or otherwise, it was nice to be at a place here we felt at home and knew that we were also supporting a Christian facility which also supported missions. Another really nice part about staying at BMS is that it’s just a short walk down the road from the Missionaries of Charity (MC) motherhouse (where Mother Teresa lived and worked, and where her tomb is) which is just down the road from another MC house, Sishu Bhavan, where they do volunteer orientation 3 times per week. Our orientation later that day was basically the end of our day. The rest of our days in Calcutta were essentially the same.

The original Motherhouse of The Missionaries of Charity, started by Mother Theresa in Calcutta, and now they are located worldwide

The original Motherhouse of The Missionaries of Charity, started by Mother Theresa in Calcutta, and now they are located worldwide

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Mother Theresa's tomb at the Motherhouse of The Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta

Mother Theresa’s tomb at the Motherhouse of The Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta

We would wake up early each morning and head to the motherhouse for 6:00am Daily Mass with the sisters. After Mass, we headed down to the Volunteer Room. This is where volunteers assemble daily for breakfast and prayer before heading out to their various locations. The guys from our group were assigned to Nabo Jibon, which is run by the MC brothers. It’s a home for the disabled and handicapped. The accommodations are basic, and they are given a bed to sleep in, 3 meals a day, and basic medical care. During our time there we assisted a little bit with manual labor such as helping to feed the residents. However, most of what we did was to spend time with the residents. Walk with them, talk with them, sing with them, play with them, hold their hands, hug them, and pray with them. One of the MC brothers who is from England said that their greatest lack was that they don’t have anyone to just come and love on the residents and share God’s presence and love.

Nabo Jibon, a home for destitute and handicapped men in Calcutta, which is run by the Missionaries of Charity brothers, the male religious branch of Mother Theresa's order.

Nabo Jibon, a home for destitute and handicapped men in Calcutta, which is run by the Missionaries of Charity brothers, the male religious branch of Mother Theresa’s order.

The brothers are so busy with running the home (which also doubles as a novitiate for the MC brothers) that they rarely have time to spend with the residents. Knowing that these handicapped and destitute men were Jesus in disguise and that they are very near and dear to his heart, I made sure to make my prayers requests known to/through them. On the Sunday we volunteered there, we also had the chance to help bathe and feed all the kids from the surrounding neighborhood. That meal was probably their only meal of the day, and one of the brothers told me that it was the only bath they’d get all week. It was quite a humbling thing to realize, and one of many instances that helped me to appreciate my blessings. Yet, as poor as they are, those men and children are some of the most joyful people in the world. They do not have the comforts of this world to trouble them or weigh them down, and whether they realize it or not, they only have God to rely on.

Another memorable part of our time at Nabo Jibon were the bus rides to and from, and everything in between. That home was the MC house that was furthest from the motherhouse. This meant 2 separate 45 minute bus rides through the maddening Calcutta traffic to get there. But as you already know by now, it was well worth the ride/effort ;) It was also a little but good chance to be one with the normal, everyday people. It was also a good chance to just be immersed in the sights, sounds, and smells of Calcutta.

a typical bus we would take on our numerous bus rides to and from the handicap home where we volunteered

a typical bus we would take on our numerous bus rides to and from the handicap home where we volunteered

hordes of people at the Howrah train station in Calcutta

hordes of people at the Howrah train station in Calcutta

The subway/bus station at Howrah was the halfway point of our journey each day to and form Nabo Jibon. This was where I truly got a sense of the massive sea of humanity that is India. As I descended for the 1st time into the subway station to make my way to our next bus stop, I saw this 40 – 50 foot-wide section of stairway leading from one area of the station to another. I also saw people. Lots of people. Lots and lots and lots of people. There were so many people descending those steps at such a constant non-stop rate, that the best way I can think of to describe it is to imagine lava cascading down the side of a mountain. Or imagine someone stepping on a large ant-hill and seeing hordes of ants spilling over the side. It was the first time I’ve ever witnessed that and it was like something straight out of a movie. I dunno if I’ll ever witness something like that again in my life.

Our daily afternoon ministry consisted of breaking up into small groups of 2 – 4 people and bringing dispensas (bags of food) to people on the street and also praying and visiting with them. Because of the language and religious barrier this was a bit intimidating for me. And in spite of almost 3 years of prior service as a full time missionary, I’m still not very good at approaching people. But in the end, all of the effort was worth it. We had some amazing and blessed interactions with people during this particular ministry. I pray and I ask you to pray that all of the seeds that were planted would be watered and grow, and that these people would come to know more of God’s love.

one of our many encounters while distributing "dispensas" (bags of basic food items). we would also visit and pray with the people as well

one of our many encounters while distributing “dispensas” (bags of basic food items). we would also visit and pray with the people as well

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India Mission Trip – July 2014 – part 1 – The Journey There

Friday – July 25, 2014 – 10:45am – Cafe Coffee Day – Pune, Maharashtra, India

I feel like this is my first chance during my entire time in India where I can finally take a breath and relax. To journal I have to be able to relax and not be rushed, to be able to collect my thoughts. And up until this point we’ve been so busy with the mission trip that I haven’t been able to. But praise God, here I am. I’m thankful too that there are little tastes of home, of Western culture, such as this nice coffeehouse, to give me a bit of respite and to know that God still spoils me sometimes.

India's flag

India’s flag

In a way it’s been frustrating that I haven’t been able to journal until now because I feared losing some of the details from my time here. However, I think the delay has also given me some time to sit back and reflect on what has happened so far, remember what I’ve learned, and what’s truly touched me and not worry about all the little details. Before I get down to the story of my time here so far, I would like to thank all those who have supported me both financially and spiritually. Without your help, I would not have been able to have this mission experience. In no particular order, and hopefully not forgetting too many people, I’d like to thank David Wyble, Logan and Jennifer Lirette, Momma Lisa, Mrs. Kristy Lattier and Lauren Latter, Paige Patout and Mrs. Vicky Patout, Fr. Bill Melancon, and Mrs. Kim White.

thanks Mrs. Kristy and Lauren for this awesome journal!

thanks Mrs. Kristy and Lauren for this awesome journal!

And since God transcends space and time, please pray retroactively when you read this post, that my fingers will not tire out as I write this journal entry. There is so much to share and write about! :) The first part of the journey was the packing up and leaving my family, friends, loved ones, and yes, even my pet cat. Leaving that which is familiar and comforting, that which is a blessing, even when it is for the sake of something good, is always difficult. But I know God is taking care of them while I am gone. It also gives me a whole new respect for those who are full-time missionaries and the sacrifices they have to make.

see that chicken scratch? that's gonna take awhile to decode and type up :)

see that chicken scratch? that’s gonna take awhile to decode and type up :)

The next part of the mission trip was the journey to get here. While not necessarily horrendous, traveling can still be difficult for me. Even though I love to travel, go on mission and see new places, the journey can be lengthy and taxing at times. To get to Calcutta, my first part of the trip, I had an 11 hour flight on Singapore Airlines from Houston to Moscow, Russia. In Moscow, we deboarded the plane, passed thru customs, and then headed to the gate to wait for the next leg of our flight. After a one and half hour layover, I had a 10 hour flight to Singapore City, Singapore. Surprisingly enough, these 2 flights went by quicker than I thought they would. Since I don’t sleep well in vehicles of any kind, I thought the flights would drag on forever. But between the meals, snacks, naps, movies, reading, praying, and conversations, things went by fairly quick.

the Merlion National Monument in downtown Singapore City

the Merlion National Monument in downtown Singapore City

Once I arrived in Singapore, I knew I’d be ok. My itinerary (all w/Singapore Airlines) left me with a 15 hour layover. I don’t think that’s an accident on their part though. They know that the longer they have you there, the more money you’ll spend and the more things you’ll do. But that was ok with me. I know that would give me a good chance to unwind and rest. You also have to realize that the Singapore airport is the nicest airport in the world. Seriously though it has been voted as nicest airport in the world several times. There are tons of places inside the airport to rest, eat, shop, and be entertained. I was pleasantly surprised that time passed by as quickly as it did. First thing I did when I got there was use the free internet computer station to email back home and touch base. And since I’d been able to do some research on Changi Airport beforehand, I knew that they did free bus tours of the city every 3 hours. So I went and signed up for a spot. the bus tour passed thru a few main areas of the city and proceeded to make a 20 minute stop at the downtown waterfront area. I was able to get a good picture in front of the Merlion National Monument, thanks to a fellow traveller from the states who I met. She was also on a long layover before her flight to Borneo. Wish I could remember her name. She was headed there for 3 weeks to do an internship at a primate research/sanctuary facility. Super nice girl. It’s amazing the people God puts on your path when you travel…

see the "cruise ship" on top of this hotel?

see the “cruise ship” on top of this hotel?

I was also able to get some good pictures of all the beautiful architecture, including this one waterfront hotel in particular that had a top floor/terrace that was built to look like a huge cruise ship. When I got back to the airport, I headed to Subway for lunch (nothing like some comfort food from back home). Besides, I didn’t wanna order some strange dish from one of the ethnic restaurants and not know what I was eating. At some point I made my way downstairs to the koi pond. That’s right, I said koi pond! I told you this airport was nice. :) I went down there b/c there was a massage chair that massages your calves and feet for free. You don’t have to pay a gajillion quarters like you do with the ones they have in US airports. And it felt GOOD! Yet another reason I like the Changi airport and wouldn’t mind travelling thru there again at some point. While I was getting my massage, I saw some airport employees go to the koi pond for the 1st of the twice daily feedings. As they fed the koi, they also let the kids nearby help with feeding. Since I’m a big kid myself, I decided to partake in the fun as well. They told me to take a handful of food and close my fist, but leave an opening where my thumb and pointer finger are. Then I put my fist in the water and sure enough, the fish would eventually swim up to my hand and suck the food pellets right out of it, same way you see them do it in a normal fish tank. And since they have no teeth, it was like being attacked by a horde of old geezers with no teeth. :)

yet another reason why the Changi International Airport in Singapore is the coolest in the world

yet another reason why the Changi International Airport in Singapore is the coolest in the world

Later on I passed by an area with several large screen TV ‘s they had specifically set up for the World Cup soccer matches. Got to see the exciting end of the Argentina-Netherlands game, which Argentina won in a shoot-out. Then I checked out the 2-story butterfly garden. The plants and butterflies were absolutely beautiful and it was so peaceful in there. After that I made my way to the Sunflower garden on the outside tarrace/obervation deck and got a few good pictures and some much needed sunshine out there. Sprinkle in some reading time, a little bit of souvenir shopping, and some much needed nap time, and that pretty much wraps up my time in Singapore.

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I’m leaving for India tomorrow! :)

Hey y’all!

Just wanted to send a quick update that I’m leaving for my India mission trip tomorrow. I should be arriving in India late thursday night. Please pray for a safe and blessed trip! I’ll post updates when I return. God Bless!

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Ain’t no turnin’ back! I’m goin to India!

I would just like to report that I GOT MY TOURIST VISA AND PLANE TICKETS!!!!!!!!! YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ok, now that i’ve composed myself, let me explain. Monday April 28th, I filled out my visa application, and sent it off, via overnight FedEx with my passport to the visa processing office in Houston. Got notified on Friday via email that my packet was submitted to the embassy/consulate. From what I’d previously heard from other missionaries, I was assuming it’d be at least 2-3 weeks from that point until I received my passport and visa. Also, there was no guarantee that it’d be approved, or that it would be for the 10 year term i applied for.

Well, not only was it approved, and not only was it for a 10 year term, but I got it back exactly 1 week after it was submitted to the consulate. If that’s not God parting the Red Sea, then I dunno what is! :) Another good bit of news is that yesterday (Monday May 12th) I purchased my plane tickets to and from India. So that’s it. It’s settled. I’m goin! :)

It was already starting to feel real, and get me excited. But now it’s definitely settled in that I’m going to India for three weeks in July. Now I’d like to thank y’all for your financial support and ask that you would continue praying for the mission trip, for all of us who will be involved, and all those we’ll be ministering to. Stay tuned for more updates!

God Bless,

Sid

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July 2014 India Mission Trip Update/Prayer Request!

Hey y’all,

Just a quick update…..

Fundraising and garnering prayer support continues to go well. Please continue to pray for my mission trip, and all of the others who will be a part of it in anyway. Please also continue to give generously.

I’m super excited because this past Monday, I filled out the documents for my India tourist visa and sent them off, along with my passport, to the visa processing office in Houston. Please please pray that my tourist visa is approved quickly and smoothly, and that I receive it back ASAP so I can begin looking for and booking my plane tickets to/from India.

Thank y’all so much for your prayer and financial support. I’ll send another update soon! :)

God Bless,

Sid

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St. Lucia 2014 Easter Mission Trip – Prelude to India

I guess the good Lord knew I needed a tune up for the India mission trip. So how does he do that? Sends me back to my first love in missions, St. Lucia! :) Me, Mark Eckstine (mission partner from St. Lucia), and his daughter Ellie (who is like a little sister to me) were leading the trip. We had 20 students from Pope Paul VI Catholic High School in Virginia (DC area) who arrived on Holy Thursday and departed yesterday (24th). 

We did a little bit of work project type of stuff, and a whole lot of evangelization. It was an EXTREMELY blessed week, and I was blessed to be a part of it. Here is my reflection from our Desert Day prayer time, which we got to do at the Gros Piton in the southern part of the country. 

And please please please y’all continue to pray for the India mission trip I’m doing in July and my fundraising efforts. God Bless!

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Daniel 3 – Fire and heat bless the Lord (say what?!?)

ps 63 – my body pines for you like a dry weary land without water

its awesome when our life reflects the scriptures and when we realize that god knows us and knows our pain

the more we embrace sacrifice, the more we can be like jesus, the more we can endure, the more we can do for others

the sacrifice (our tough journey today) leads to blessing (extreme peace and unity w/God amidst the beauty of creation)

in reflecting on the small amount of voluntary suffering we’ve embraced on this mission trip during the 1st week of easter, I wondered, why this suffering during a season of rejoicing? and then I remembered that line from the passion where jesus says that “no servant is greater than his master” and tells his apostles that if he has to suffer then they have to suffer too. but he also teaches them that it is not a hopeless suffering, but a suffering full of hope that leads us to life w/him

“If we have died with Christ, we believe that we are also to live with him. We know that Christ, once raised from the dead, will never die again; death has no more power over him. His death was death to sin, once for all; his life is life for God. In the same way, you must consider yourselves dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus.” –Romans 6:8-11–

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