Archive for November 2011

Last Chapter

November 24, 2011

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Sunday, November 20 was the last chapter of our 2011 mission trip to Asia. We had left the USA September 29 for Myanmar, India and Sri Lanka. On the Lord’s Day in Colombo, Sri Lanka we worshipped with parts of two congregations assembling at the Shrubbery Garden congregation. Saturday was a down day, during which Bonnie and I were left to ourselves mostly, and we worked on office work.

For worship, I presented What Is Jesus’ Plan for My Life? Between worship and Bible class, the church had lunch in the auditorium. Next, I taught the adults What Is the Mission of the Church? while Bonnie taught children ranging and young women ranging from 12-years-old to 20-years-old (the older ones being women).

About 9:30 p.m., a taxi took us to the airport in a fraction of the time than during the heavier traffic experienced upon our arrival. There were no unwelcome surprises at the airport, and we settled down in the airport awaiting our departure. Leaving Sri Lanka, we made our way via Singapore Airlines first to Singapore, then to Tokyo and then to Los Angeles. We had enough time between flights in Singapore to wolf down a burger and fries from Burger King, consequently not enjoying it as much as we had hoped. At Tokyo, we had to deplane and to go through security before reboarding the same plane – while it was being refueled.

Like our journey across the Pacific Ocean to Asia, returning to America, we flew the largest commercial airliner made and had an empty seat between us. This permitted us some space and enabled me to work on the PowerPoint of our trip for presentation the first Sunday upon our return to the States.

Our travel plans hit snags as soon as we arrive in LA. Our plane was delayed for two hours, which caused us to miss our connecting flight in Dallas, TX. Consequently, we were lodged by the airline in a hotel overnight. We ordered supper from Pizza Hut, having it delivered to the hotel room; disappointing but not a catastrophe, the delivery person got our order and an order for another stranded passenger in the same lodging confused; we ate it. I also called Don and Sylvia Petty who live in Farmers Branch, TX – not far away; they came to the hotel Tuesday morning, and we enjoyed breakfast and fellowship together at the hotel until time to leave for the airport.

At 1 p.m. the next day, we continued our journey to Memphis, TN. Upon arrival we had to wait for Rebecca to finish teaching school before she could retrieve us from the airport. It was in the airport awaiting our daughter that we determined not to fly American Airlines again if we can avoid it, since the baggage handlers utterly destroyed our luggage – two for two in two successive trips on this airline. There is no excuse for this, and no other airline treats our bags so poorly.

By about 3:20 p.m., we three were headed toward our son Raymond’s temporary home near his duty station in North Carolina – more than a dozen hours away by car. We finally arrived at 10 p.m. Eastern Time. We could not have made such a trip so soon after our return from Asia due to jet lag if it were not for Rebecca driving much of the way – especially toward the end of the journey. Raymond invited us to have Thanksgiving Dinner with him, and we were happy to oblige.

Sunday, though, we must be back in Mississippi for two appointments at two congregations. Afterward, we must take Rebecca back to Collierville, TN so she can teach school on Monday. Therefore, we must leave North Carolina Saturday and make the long drive back to Mississippi.

Thursday and Friday, however, will permit me to catch up on blogs and finish PowerPoint preparation for this coming Sunday. Of course, we will enjoy time with Raymond, too. Someday, Bonnie and I are going to take a day or two off to rest, relax and recreate. I’m not sure when that will be as we have an immense amount of mail and work awaiting our return to Winona, MS.

Majoring in Preaching, Minoring in Plumbing

November 15, 2011

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Bonnie noted in her travel diary for Tuesday, November 15:

Once again Louis was asked to speak on a particular topic. It seems that a new false doctrine is affecting the Lord’s church, and P.R. wanted Louis to refute it. He had a copy of the book that promotes this false doctrine. So, Monday evening Louis skimmed the book, and during part of Tuesday morning’s seminar session he discussed some of the false doctrines taught. Then, he taught No Hermeneutical Gymnastics, Please! and The Church Divine, which reinforced the truth and further refuted the false doctrine. Classes were from 10 – 5 with an hour and a half break for lunch. Much to my surprise, we returned to the Douglas home for lunch. Shelia fixed our evening meal as well.

Every false doctrine among some of the members of the churches of Christ makes its way to India and other foreign venues as well (e.g., antism, liberalism, etc.). Even when false teachers cannot gain a following in America among many Christians, printing a book and sending it abroad infects numerous Christians with such heresy. I cautioned the Indian church leaders before whom I spoke for the three-day seminar not to believe what they hear just because a white-skinned, English speaking, American Christian says it (1 John 4:1)! I reminded the brethren of impending personal, individual accountability before the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). About 60 Christians left the Lord’s church and formed a separate congregation to practice the heresy of Jay Wilson and his erroneous doctrine declared in his book Cleansing the Inside of the Cup.

Also excerpted from Bonnie’s notes:

On the way to the Douglas home, we stopped at a hardware store to purchase a new showerhead for our bathroom. The one there is clogged and almost useless. Upon arrival Louis replaced the showerhead and the screens in the faucets in our bathroom. It was a minor investment for us to make compared what the cost of a hotel for the several days in Bangalore would have been. Shelia was astounded that Louis was capable of such endeavors. It would take at least two weeks for a plumber to come, and Douglas does not know how to do such things.

We discussed until a late hour with Douglas proposed plans P.R. Swamy and he are considering about replacing the Bangalore Bible Institute with an international quality college in which the Bible is taught. The first step is relocating from the site on Davis Road to someplace peripheral to the city center; it is anticipated that the sale of the current property should net sufficient funds to repurchase property elsewhere either with suitable facilities or to build on a lot adequate campus buildings. The church meeting place would accompany the move. The courts must officially decide whether the present real estate may be sold and whether a purchase may be made elsewhere. Then, the legalities and a host of other considerations respecting some type of institution of higher learning must be explored carefully.

Wednesday, seminar classes resumed, during which I continued presentations from my book The Church Divine, which emphasizes that the New Testament church is divine while discussing a number of topics. In conversation between sessions, the preacher of the breakaway group and the three other brothers accompanying him wanted to know why a respected India brother translated and printed the book noted already for its false doctrine if, in fact, the book teaches false doctrine. I assured them that I share that question and will be making my own inquiry of that Indian brother. This topic would not rest, and I agreed to review the book in more detail and forward that information to brother Swamy for translation and distribution.

Bonnie was teaching a ladies’ class the last session of the day, and P.R. tried to collect me and leave, until I reminded him that Bonnie was teaching a class and not with us yet. It took us three trips on successive days to the little hole-in-the-wall mom-and-pop store to get all of the correct pieces to finally replace two facet screens and the showerhead (once to get the showerhead and two facet nipples with screens, secondly to return one of the facet nipples and screen and order a bigger one and thirdly to retrieve the larger facet piece).

Thursday, the seminar concluded at 1 p.m. Before the seminar began on Thursday, two women and a man were taken to Davis Road Church of Christ for Christian baptism. Brother Swamy took us to a Chinese restaurant to which we had been in previous years often before while in Bangalore for lunch. Beside that establishment, we always find our dessert at a Baskin Robbins; Bonnie and P.R. each had one scoop, but I had two scoops of the sweetest, best tasting butterscotch ice cream I can remember. Afterward, Bonnie and I were deposited back at the home of Douglas and Sheila.

Around 5 p.m., P.R. called to say that he was on the way and be ready; trying to be ready for whatever the venue might be, I took my bag with the minicomputer and whatever else we thought we might need, not knowing to where for what purpose we were on the move. We knew there was a possibility that we be having a home study as we had last year. Instead, brother Swamy took us to Sheila’s workplace whereupon he exited the auto rickshaw and she boarded it. This new trio headed to a shopping district, and Sheila asked us what it was we wanted to buy. We were surprised because we had not expressed to anyone a desire to buy anything and nothing occurred to us to purchase. Therefore, we window shopped, and yes, we did buy some items – some clothes for Bonnie, some scarves and some trinkets for our grandchildren. Finished with our little shopping spree, we found an auto rickshaw to take us to Davis Road.

Shortly thereafter, we boarded a rented car to take Sheila (Douglas had to be out of town with the children’s home for which he is the director), Saroja and P.R. out to eat at a restaurant of their choice – another Chinese eatery! Twice in one day I had Chinese chicken and noodle soup. This time, though, I had some tasty roasted chicken slices.

Friday was moving day for us again. We packed our suitcases, weighing them to ensure that we did not exceed the combined allowable weight of 44 pounds per bag, and that our carryon bags weighed no more than 15 pounds (difficult when the empty bag weights seven pounds). After breakfast, we resorted to our rooms where we proceeded to catch up on computer work.

Around 11 a.m., Saroja and P.R. arrived bearing gifts of a necklace, earrings and hair clips for Bonnie. We returned the gesture by bestowing upon them a jade bracelet for Saroja and a little jade elephant for P.R.

Brother Swamy and I also settled accounts. I failed to put a cap of expenses ahead of time on our participation with brother Swamy this year, assuming it would cost about what it did last year, $1,000. I was shocked at first when on the last day of our visit to Bangalore that P.R. said, “You owe me $2,000.” He readily produced figures to validate the itemized expenditures, and brethren always have a good explanation for the funds expended. Prior to our arrival, the program we had discussed was to travel to Namakkal and Velur as we had the previous year, but to my surprise (why am I continually surprised?), the program was completely different than what we had discussed. Travel for preachers attending the seminar from afar, their lodging, food, hall rental, video and still photographers, video production and mailing, our transportation and food comprised the figure that P.R. uttered – all of it valid and needful expenses. We gave him additional funds, too, for printing tracts.

Next, we headed for the airport in time to permit us a two-hour window ahead of our scheduled departure. Note Bonnie’s observation from her notes.

Sri Lankan Air disputed our international luggage weight and informed us we were 5.5 kilograms overweight. Louis reminded them that we were international travelers and what were we supposed to do with extra bags upon arrival to Asia if they were not honored as we travel among the various cities in India. They finally informed us they would make an exception this time, but in the future upon landing in India, we would have to pay extra baggage weight for all flights. Upon reflection, I would think that since Sri Lanka and India are two different countries that this flight would qualify as international travel! Besides, other airlines when shown that our tickets were purchased as part of an international travel plan, do not hassle us about extra weight. I suppose in the future we need to limit ourselves to one checked bag and one carryon (weighing less than 15 pounds) to avoid this hassle. However, I simply do not see how we can manage this as I need one set of clothes for Myanmar and a different set of clothes for India, besides our teaching materials that I usually leave at our last destination. We typically bring books and tracts to leave with various individuals as well as some crackers and cereal bars for our consumption while traveling. This allows us to pack at least one suitcase inside another for our return trip home.

Finally, we made our way through the various processes required to leave India (e.g., immigration and security) to our departure gate. We had just finished availing ourselves of the nearby restrooms and were about to look for a cold drink to buy when our plane began boarding – an hour earlier than scheduled! To our surprise, we arrived in Sri Lanka at about the time our plane had been scheduled to depart from Bangalore. Perhaps, I thought, Sri Lanka was trying to compensate for Indian Standard Time! No, I was informed by our hostess Lilani Thomas in Sri Lanka that rather than an hour late like Indian Standard Time, Sri Lankan Standard Time is customarily only a half hour late.

We rented a small van taxi without air conditioning, which in hindsight was not my brightest move, and spent more than double the time in flight trying to navigate the many miles through congested roads to our destination. Our driver didn’t speak English, and we could not get our phones to call Lilani. Two of the three numbers I had failed to contact her as well through the use of the driver’s phone, but fortunately a third number reached her, and she was able to give him directions to near where we were going.

Our communication with the outside world is somewhat hampered. Our phone company sent us a text to advise us that our international data plan for our phone we have with it is not covered at our “present location.” We suspect that making phone calls to the US, for instance, at a hefty price is not affected, and we were able to advise our daughter through a text message that we have arrived safely at this next leg of our journey.

Sometimes friends and brethren tell us of how tired they get from just reading about our journeys. We get plenty tired from experiencing them as well, plus chronicling them tires us a second time, too. Everywhere I go in several nations, beloved brethren approach me and tell me I look like I’m tired, and I guess that I am, but I expect to rest a little along life’s pathway and then to rest eternally in heaven above.

Rajahmundry to Bangalore

November 14, 2011

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Bonnie keeps a trip diary, which I consult in putting together our online blog. Today, I make substantial use of her observations below.

We were supposed to visit the farm area with Samuel before leaving for the airport at 9:00 a.m. However, we did not see him, so we did not go. On the way to the airport, John told us Samuel had an emergency call that required him to leave around 5:30 that morning. I checked on my sewing and was informed that the tailor was not finished with it. …However, as we were in the car getting ready to leave, she brought the skirt and the extra fabric; she had not started on the top. …I should have been more direct in what I wanted done; if she had made the underskirt and top out of fabric on hand and left the material as is for a sari, she should have been able to complete it with no problem. As it is the skirt is too long and not tight enough at the waist, and I will need to buy a top. I will leave the extra fabric as is for a scarf.

 John confirmed his desire for Louis to teach at the extension of the Bear Valley School with which he works next fall, and he will contact us with more info later. It should be the week following our time in Kakinada for their lectureship. This will necessitate going to Myanmar first then India as we did this year. On the bright side the weather in India is much cooler now.

 Travel and check-in at the airport were easy. Personnel at Kingfisher were amazed that we questioned them about our international luggage by saying, “of course,” when Louis mentioned we were international travelers and allowed two checked suitcases each. [Half of the airlines in the States and in India refuse to honor our international status per their own documentation – creating frustration and nightmares in our travels.] Our afternoon flight from Hyderabad to Bangalore was cancelled, but the Kingfisher desk in Rajahmundry was able to confirm that the only flight to Bangalore was at 6:30 p.m. and gave us our boarding passes with our luggage checked through to Bangalore. Our preferred air carrier in India is Kingfisher; their customer service is topnotch, and we never have a problem with our extra, international luggage. Louis called P.R. Swamy and informed him of our late arrival.

 We had a six-hour layover in Hyderabad. With some difficulty, we found McDonalds on the lower level just outside the airport, and [we each] ate a chicken burger and fries for lunch – [topped off with a Diet Coke each, too]. Unfortunately, this McDonalds does not serve beef as the cow is sacred in India. Upon finishing our meal, we enjoyed the pleasant weather and sat outside in a garden-like setting – complete with a fountain.

 We were welcomed to Bangalore with P.R. and Douglas waiting just outside the airport doors for our arrival. With some difficulty, we managed to get our luggage (we packed one suitcase inside another bringing the total to three checked bags) into the car, and we were on our way to Douglas and Shelia’s home, our lodging for the next several days. We happily discovered that we were not going out to Namakkal and Velur this trip, but we were having a seminar in Bangalore.

Upon arrival at the home of Sheila and Douglas, we commenced catching up on the time spent apart over the past year. Afterward, to bed we went for some much needed rest. I slept better this first night than I had slept in many days.

Surprise Party!

November 13, 2011

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Sunday, November 13 commenced with worship at a congregation less than 10 kilometers from Skinner’s Garden. John Dean and his father Samuel Raja alternate between preaching for that congregation and the one that convenes at Skinner’s Garden. I preached Which Covenant? Around 260 were in attendance. Bonnie and I once more received leis (following worship) as a token of Indian appreciation of our presence.

Left to our own devices for the afternoon back at Skinner’s Garden, we were hampered without electricity, making it impractical to pack our luggage for the next day’s travel, and limiting severely what office work we could possibly accomplish on our laptop computers. John Dean, though, did inform me that we would be meeting at his father-in-law’s home in the evening for a cottage meeting, and that a few people would be present.

Waiting for John Dean to return from his father-in-law’s home to retrieve us, Bonnie and I went downstairs to the courtyard so we would be ready. Immediately, we attracted a swarm of children from among the 106 junior residents of Skinner’s Garden. They began to sing back to us a song that Bonnie had taught them in English, and for the next hour we sang various songs with the growing number of young ones who swamped us with their presence. They were so close to us that the temperature escalated the closer they came and it became increasingly difficult to obtain a breath of fresh air; once in a while, an adult caretaker would move them back a couple of feet from in front of us, only to reclaim the surrendered space little by little over the next subsequent moments.

When John Dean did return, he directed us back to our room to be fed our supper. Quickly concluding the formality of our evening meal, we loaded ourselves into the Jeep-like vehicle and headed for the evening’s venue. On the way in the dark of night, John Dean informed me that the nature of the gathering to which we were going was one of thanksgiving, and that I should speak accordingly. My mind racing and somewhat irritated at this late notice of a change in plans (again), I contemplated what might be possible to accommodate the request. Having my minicomputer with me, I searched for lessons I had previously preached over the past few decades, trying to find something fitting; I also turned to Strong’s Greek Dictionary on my small laptop, and with a small gathering, I could relate definitions and example passages for a small, informal group.

Imagine my surprise to find that our cottage meeting turned out to be another street meeting with hundreds of people assembled. A street was blocked and coated with the popular Asian plastic chairs under a tarp; bright lights illuminated the night, and loudspeakers were already blaring from the affair begun without us. Still people kept coming until they were seated on my right as well; still, people kept coming until the canvass wall at my back was removed and another audience had assembled behind me. This was no little, informal assembly in the confines of someone’s cottage home! So, I opted to present the intended lesson for which I had prepared, The Three Bears from Galatians 6. I pivoted as I spoke, facing front, my right side and behind me and back again to the side and to the front.

Afterward, the host family provided food for all of those in attendance. Bonnie and I were ushered to the second floor balcony and provided each our own bottle of Sprite soft drink. The occasion for the gathering was a second celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the marriage of John Dean and Vani.

When back at the compound (10 p.m.), Bonnie and I spent the next two hours packing our bags for our morning flight. Tired, we slumbered through what remained of the dark hours until early in the morning. Another chapter closed in our 2011 fall trip to Asia!

Let’s Party!

November 12, 2011

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Saturday, November 12, 5 a.m. and the power was out once more as the compound assembled in the ebonized, still air before sunrise to the sound of the big, rusty bolt clanking against the railroad rail splicer suspended from a tree limb in the courtyard. Yet again, traffic of all dimensions and kinds of locomotion scurried on the ribbon of pavement abutting Skinner’s Garden, each variety contributing its own unique sounds to the din confronting our sleepy ears. Lacking the electrical juice on which they feed, the fans were silent and the lights were dimmed; unable to pump water, the facets were dry. Winter was never like this from where we come – warm and muggy at best and sweaty otherwise.

It was to be a down day for us, during which we could do some office work – such as continue to work on Gospel Gazette Online. However, without electricity work will last no longer than battery life on our computers, which isn’t nearly long enough. Bonnie and I strolled around the compound and through the lush vegetation, snapping pictures occasionally as we walked. Everyone has a job to do, from the littlest to the oldest, and the walled mini city is well groomed; little boys with a bucket between them on a stick to enable them to carry it watered their assigned part of this little Eden; girls sweep the structures while boys sweep the compound. It seems that even the crows have their work, cleaning up the rice grains that sometimes escape the fingers of young and old as they consume what seems like immense portions of rice (for each meal) – but remain slender and gain no weight.

At one point in the day, Bonnie and I sat for a while outside the front gate or strolled the edges of the roadway, hoping to snap some pictures of vehicles unique to us, such as the oxcart we spied earlier from the third story that was loaded with rice hay to about four times both the cart’s width and height – literally, consuming all the space between the ditches. However, though we got some interesting pictures, we did not have an opportunity to photograph an oxcart laden with rice hay. Bonnie, though, made an interesting and true observation: “We have observed that most places we go in Asia, especially out of the cities, we are an oddity. Standing outside the compound next to the road was no exception. Every passerby stared at us for at least 100 feet as they passed. I am not sure how they keep from wrecking as they crane their necks toward us even after they pass.” I told John Dean that he could raise funds by putting us in a cage out front of the compound and charging admission to the passersby – for maybe a week or two until the locals tired of the exhibit.

Saturday evening, hundreds of family, staff and wards were present for the commemoration of the 10th wedding anniversary of John Dean and Vani. I was one of the speakers. Indians know how to have a party!

Downhill Slide

November 11, 2011

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Bonnie and I are on the downhill slide – in many respects. We are past the middle mark on the calendar for our seven to eight weeks on this year’s Asia mission trip; we left the States on September 29 and here it is November 11. We gave the last of the peanut butter and cracker snacks that we brought with us to John Dean’s little girls; all we have left are some cheese and crackers and one or so drink mixes to combine with bottled water.

We are also on the downhill slide of services provided us at Skinner’s Garden. Originally, we planned to rise each morning at 7 a.m. and eat around 8 a.m., though hot water came to our room earlier and earlier each day, until yesterday none came at all. Fortunately, we had drawn water in a bucket the day before and since the electric was working I could heat my own water with my bucket heater. One morning we were required to eat at 7:30 a.m., but yesterday it was between 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. before breakfast came. Today, no hot water was delivered and without electricity we cannot heat any water for bathing or shaving; alas, my mustache trimmer appears to have died as it will not retain a charge long enough to complete its task. Breakfast is still elusive at 8:36 a.m., so we have donned our robes over our nightclothes and have begun the day at the (mobile) office, awaiting breakfast and an opportunity to request some hot water. Of course, office work is only possible as long as the computer battery permits!

Bonnie’s illness, once improving, now is beginning to get the better of her again. I will have to leave her at the compound tonight since the cool night air and the dusty wind whipping in the bus windows seems to be detrimental for her.

Classes this morning for the seven male and the 15 female Bible School Students was delayed due to the illness of John Dean’s older daughter Sarah Carolyn Joyce, which he took to the hospital with a throat infection. The onsite Bible School has slots for 15 men (2-year program) and 15 women (1-year program), which includes some vocational training as well. We still managed to convene for four hours during daylight hours during which I presented PowerPoints Fishers of Men and Cruise Ship or Battleship; I also taught a sermon outline entitled Divine Design about the church and the home. Just after dusk, Bonnie presented her two PowerPoints on How We Got the Bible to the 106 children from the children’s home; they sat on tarps in the compound common area – girls on one side and boys on the other side.

A little after 8 p.m., I left Bonnie at Skinner’s Garden and headed to the evening meeting appointment at still another congregation; each evening we go to a different venue. We traveled absolutely the worst road on which we had traversed anywhere in India; at one point, the potholes were so deep, broad but narrow that the bus drug its back bumper navigating them. Beyond this battery of impediments was yet another Indian village, painted in drab shades of cement and dirt (lots of dirt). On a small side street we found our destination – one of the nicer church buildings in India where approximately 100 assembled inside and just outside; I preached Which Covenant? Four women and one man responded for baptism, and they were immersed in the muddy, stagnant water of the masonry baptistery at the corner of the property. The brethren with whom Bonnie and I labor do not encourage impulsive responses, but they rehearse the matter of salvation with candidates and strictly charge them regarding their conviction and the necessity for true conversion. We wouldn’t have it any other way; Jesus Christ didn’t send me to baptize, but He sent me to preach the Gospel, the consequence of which is that those who truly are willing to convert to Christianity require of us to be baptized for the remission of their sins (1 Corinthians 1:17). We returned to Skinner’s Garden at 10:42 p.m.


November 10, 2011

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One hardly thinks he is sleeping at all because he is fully aware of the traffic sounds, the roosters crowing, the crows squawking, bells sounding, the chapel singing and voices everywhere. However, evidently, I slept soundly enough to miss the double alarm of my wristwatch, which I had purposely moved up by 15 minutes because people keep coming to our room earlier and earlier daily. I was lying awake just waiting for the alarm until finally upon examining my watch I discovered that I was an hour late resurrecting my tired body from its pallet.

Strangely, though, no one had come to the room. No one delivered hot water for bathing. No one requested entry to bring us our breakfast. Heating the little water we had drawn yesterday for just such an instance as no available water in the faucet, we took abbreviated bucket and cup baths. I hadn’t shaved yesterday because I had no electric light by which to sufficiently see my face to shave it. Today, we had electricity, perhaps as a result of the humming diesel generator near our building, and so I shaved, though for some reason it did not turn out to be a very close shave. My battery powered mustache trimmer, however, refused to work properly – I discovered upon closer examination – because I had assumed that like other shavers, laptops and mobile phones that it cared not whether it was recharged with 120 or 220 volts and 50 or 60 Hz; time will tell if it performs better after recharging it with the aid of a voltage converter.

We were left to our own devices all day as the scheduled classes for two days with visiting preachers had concluded, and John Dean needed to be away from the compound the entire day – not arriving back until time to depart for the evening meeting. Sometimes we feel somewhat like objects placed on shelves when not in use; we are literally “dismissed to our room” when whatever function or meal in which we are involved is over – not just here at Skinner’s Garden, but elsewhere in India. Bonnie and I worked on various aspects of office work to busy ourselves; I managed to get half of the November issue of Gospel Gazette Online prepared. I napped off and on since I am not getting sufficient rest at night, and napping may help me later as we get back from evening meetings late at night. Bonnie and I played some games on our respective computers, and Bonnie did some reading, too.

Periodically, one or both of John Dean’s little girls (Sarah Carolyn Joyce, 8-years-old and Mary Beth Salome, 5-years-old) would stop by and visit us. Sometimes we were not sure whether they were stopping by hoping that we would proffer upon them more peanut butter and crackers, or if they were simply stopping by the zoo and we were the prime exhibits; we cause a stir every time we make an appearance in the compound, and twice at evening meetings a boy would swoon after shaking my hand; John Dean explained that we were the first foreigners who had ever visited some of these villages – or at least the first white people some of the younger villagers had ever seen.

Mary Beth Salome turned five today, and her father brought her a birthday cake from Rajahmundry upon his return. After a quick birthday observance and the obligatory pictures, we mounted the minibus and headed (late, of course) to our evening appointment. Conveniently, the children from the children’s home (boys on one side and girls on another side) were already seated on tarps in the compound open area for the evening prayer meeting; so they were in place for noticing the birthday bash and positioned well to receive their share of the treats.

Our driver seemed to be trying to make up for lost time and was driving even faster and more erratically than typical of all Indian drivers. To say that the roads are bad is a severe understatement, and every driver maneuvers his vehicle (bicycle, ox cart, motorcycle, three-wheeled auto, truck or bus) in any direction which at the moment seems to promise the better route between craters, irrespective of the proximity or velocity of oncoming traffic.

We went to a new place for a street meeting where the church has never met before. Two Indian brethren have selected this town as a good place to begin a congregation, and they are working to establish a congregation there. About 70 people convened, seated upon a tarp laid on a narrow street between houses. Many were attentive as I preached about the church and salvation. This town is comprised of the lowest caste in Indian. Outwardly, they do not appear different from other Indians from most other castes, but inwardly and socially they are poor or humble in addition to being economically challenged. These combinations should make them good candidates for conversion by the Gospel of Christ; the Gospel of Christ is void of societal and economic distinctions relative to salvation (Galatians 3:27-29). We arrived back at Skinner’s Garden at 11:38 p.m.

Noise Pollution

November 9, 2011

Honoring Us

Add to the pollution of the ordinary sort in India noise pollution, too. I arrived back at Skinner’s Garden compound at 12:39 a.m. from a village meeting in which I had preached, and at which five souls responded to be baptized. Then, a few short hours later the continual buzzing of the ceiling fan ceased with the daily failure of electric power, but the noise of the ceiling fan was quickly replaced with the compound morning bell, calling the children’s home residents to 5 a.m. chapel services. About the same time, a Hindu temple not too far away evidently began blaring incessantly the banter of its religious dogma; throughout Asia, anyone’s music or radio or point of view is broadcast at any hour of day or night nonstop to as far as the volume knob can carry the sound waves. Did I mention that our bedroom is three stories above the din and adjacent to the compound wall bordering the road; trucks, three-wheeled autos, motorcycles and bicycles all have horns or bells, and the operators know how to use them – and often. The other day an American brother and some Indian brethren were traveling when the car horn became stuck on. Do you know what the difference is in India between a car horn stuck on and the frequency with which Indians typically blow the vehicles’ horns – there isn’t any difference!

Street Meeting

Scalding hot water in an aluminum bucket arrived at 6:58 a.m. courtesy of two young Indian boys, each of whom had a hand grasping the bucket bail. At 7:35 a.m., brother John Dean wanted to bring breakfast into our room, but we were not dressed yet; I was getting dressed, and Bonnie was still applying the bucket and cup bathing. Another American, Cleo Turner was passing through, had spent the night and was preparing to leave, but the Indian brethren wanted to feed him first. The problem was that our lodging is for our sleeping and bathing, but it is also the dining area for visitors. We hurriedly finished dressing. Somehow, neither Bonnie nor I feel overly rested; we are looking forward to our bed back in Winona, MS.

Throughout the day (five hours), I taught Bible Geography to 48 Gospel preachers, for which they were very thankful since they had not had an occasion to study this background material to the biblical text. Bonnie taught 40 ladies for 2½ hours on Sapphira and Dorcas Bible characters. For the evening meeting, Bonnie and I traveled to a village about an hour away where we had a street meeting – up to 90 attendees seated on a tarp placed on a street that had been commandeered for the occasion. I spoke for an hour about The One True Church of the Bible – before and after which brethren provided Bonne and me each a bottle of cold Sprite, plus fruit and cookies as we boarded the bus for our return jaunt. We arrived back at Skinner’s Garden compound at about 11:30 p.m. It had been another full day, a good day of service to the Lord Jesus.

A New Day at a New Venue

November 8, 2011

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The day began rudely Tuesday, November 8 with the sounding of the bell to summon the compound residents, young and old, except for Bonnie and me. The “bell” is really a splicer for railroad rail suspended from a tree by a rope on which the summoning minion beats with an oversized bolt. Shortly thereafter, PA amplified chapel services blared from the meetinghouse – until the loss of electric power once more deadened the boom of distant voices and plunged our little world back into the abysmal darkness of the predawn day. Our third story room was adjacent to and towered over the roadside, perimeter wall, so the horn blowing traffic from early morn compensated for the sedated young voices from the distant chapel. It was a new day at a new venue – Skinner’s Garden.

Without electric, there is neither indoor lighting nor water, since the rooftop storage tanks ran dry overnight. However, a gentle voice of a preteen child at the door announced the arrival of campfire heated hot water in two aluminum buckets. Had I been the one lugging them across the compound and up three flights of stairs, my aging body would have complained from the aching knees to the lungs grasping for breath – besides having sloshed much of the liquid cargo along my pathway.

The pink, pedestal, bathroom sink drains directly on to the floor immediately at one’s feet, and from gravity’s drawing force empties through a corner hole in the exterior wall at floor level. On the plus side, there was a mirror above the sink by which to shave, between dipping my razor in the aluminum bucket of nearly scalding water just a half stoop away. At another location days ago and also on an occasion of an electrical blackout as the day began to dawn, I fumbled with our toothbrushes in the dim light. The foregoing along with my poor color vision, I failed to distinguish in the near darkness between the pink and the purple toothbrush cases. To my dismay and to Bonnie’s horror (you guessed it!), I brushed my teeth with her toothbrush. Yuk, Yuk and Yuk!

Everywhere we go in India we come face to face with what even the Indians call Indian Standard Time – which means virtually nothing starts at the appointed hour, but is more likely to begin at least an hour later. That translates to “wait, wait and wait some more!” Time is relative, but here time is nearly meaningless. However, the airplanes do not run on Indian Standard Time, as one fellow lecturer from New Delhi discovered when he missed his airplane. A second commonplace phrase is The Indian Way when it comes to trash disposal. Any location where the one dispensing the trash is not personally sitting or standing is a suitable discard site for virtually any unwanted wrapper or other item (e.g., over the compound wall, out the window of a car or a building and on the ground where one emptied the disposable teacup, etc.). Indian Standard Time and The Indian Way may be what bind together the diverse Indian states, cultures and languages into one nation.

Fortunately for Bonnie and me, everywhere we have lodged in India (and Myanmar before coming to India this trip) has sported a western toilet, and few of the places to which we have gone away from our temporary homes have lacked what we have come to think of as a civilized necessity; only rarely has Bonnie needed to succumb to the inconvenience of an eastern toilet, and only sometimes did I need to face the same scenario. Maybe not so good for dehydration or for our kidneys, we are good at not drinking too much or waiting for a more opportune occasion. Frequently under the best of circumstances, though, hygiene and cleanliness completely escapes the hosts with whom we lodge or the inns in which we stay. Where we travel in the world, a bathroom is a luxury, indoor or outdoor, and most nationals use any and every little piece of real estate as their personal but public toilet facility – shamelessly in plain view of passersby.

Today for breakfast we were introduced to “black salt.” Upon reading the ingredients, black salt is powdered rock salt. Bonnie commented that in the USA we put that on snowy and icy highways, but we do not eat it. When discussing last night our breakfast meal for today, I opted for scrambled eggs or oatmeal, but not both – we got both! I had never thought of having tomatoes for breakfast, but I enjoyed the whole saucer of those slices, since Bonnie has never developed a taste for them.

Nearly every year when we come to India, I get sick with bronchitis, but this year so far I am fine. Instead, Bonnie took ill yesterday with sore throat, swollen glands and coughing. She is sleeping even now from some medicine she took, though happily, she is not feverish. In less than an hour each of us begin four hours of teaching; I will teach preachers and Bonnie will teach their wives and other women who have convened for the next two days of biblical edification. I will be teaching Bible Geography and Bible Archaeology while Bonnie will be teaching character studies from her book Living Principles. Brother John Dean has already scheduled me for teaching next year in one of the preacher training schools with which he works – teaching Hermeneutics as well as Sermon Preparation and Presentation.

Over an hour after the scheduled beginning of our classes, they finally commenced. Bonnie taught about 40 women as Vani (the wife of John Dean) translated. John Dean translated into Telegu for the 42 men besides the two of us as I taught preachers. I lost six or less to slumber in the hot, Indian winter morning, but vowed to dance on the tables if necessary to keep them awake in the afternoon sessions. Whereas in the a.m. I made my PowerPoint presentation about Bible Archaeology, in the afternoon I introduced the Bible Lands Overview and Palestine Maps. Then, it was the students’ turn to recreate the map on a blank wall by pointing out selected points in relationship, for instance, to the city of Jerusalem. The class had a lot of fun with that exercise.

In the evening, I went with Indian brethren to a village congregation about an hour away; we left Bonnie behind to rest since she was ill with maybe bronchitis and a fever. Perhaps 80 gathered for the meeting, but it was impossible to know how many were present as attendees seated themselves in an irregular pattern from wall to wall until no room between persons was left. In addition, numerous souls gathered outside the small, plaster walled structure with a thatch roof. Besides these, the village could hear every word spoken inside the humble meetinghouse by way of bullhorn loudspeakers affixed to the roof.

Spiders repeatedly repelled themselves from the thatched ceiling during our services. Walking between the minibus and the building without the benefit of light beyond what the moon provided, I was shocked when children began pelting me with something; I had seen them upon exiting the bus, and they were holding the tin pans out of which they customarily eat their rice meals. Though I had greeted them, in the dark of night as we walked, the young girls began hurling the contents of their plates at me, getting it in my hair and down the back of my shirt. Were they throwing their leftover rice at me? That’s what I thought, but they were throwing flower petals at me similarly as people in America throw rice or birdseed at newlyweds.

Four precious souls indicated by standing amidst the crowd seated on the ground inside the building that they wanted to be baptized. Two men had been outside, but came inside when invited to obey the Gospel. However, upon carrying people miles away to a creek, another woman also decided to be baptized, bringing that number of conversions to five. With headlights shining on the water, a brother waded into the muddy water in the otherwise blackness of night to receive the baptismal candidates and immerse them into Christ.

We arrived back at the Skinner’s Garden compound at 12:39 a.m. The long drive over rough roads – sometimes not as good as goat paths – made my stomach uneasy. I popped another acid reducing pill and laid my tired body down on the elevated pallet where Bonnie already slumbered. Indian style, we had a sheet on what seemed like padded plywood; the only other covering is a blanket, but cool, not warmth is what we desired, so we rested as best we could under the whirling ceiling fan, awaiting the soon beginning of still another day.

Sunday in Kakinada, India

November 6, 2011

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Saturday, November 5 we spent some time at the Gootam residence. After supper, Kabita Gootam took Bonnie shopping and had her retrieve a salwar kameez from our room at the church building. Ricky Gootam was going to take Vinay David, Roger Wright and me shopping but he slipped into his room and fell asleep.

Sunday morning as Bonnie had just begun putting on her sari, we heard a knock at the door and there was a delivery for Bonnie, a new salwar kameez. Kabita had a new outfit made overnight for Bonnie.

Bonnie taught a children’s class from 9 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. I taught an auditorium Bible class from 10:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. Roger Wright preached during the worship, which concluded around 1 p.m. After lunch, Bonnie and I returned to our room at the church building and later in the afternoon readied most of our luggage for the 10 a.m. trip tomorrow to Skinner’s Garden. Just before 7 p.m., another knock at the door announced the arrival of our supper meal.

We have our computers with us, and there is plenty of work to do respecting Gospel Gazette Online, The Voice of Truth International, online book store management, email correspondence plus numerous additional items that we can perform in our mobile office wherever we are in the world. Of course, we didn’t feel much like doing any of those things this afternoon. We amused ourselves with some games on our computers, and Bonnie read a book; Rebecca has gotten Bonnie hooked on occasional pleasure reading. Bonnie uses Rebecca’s home library as the preferred, preselected booklist from which to garner her reading material, and she brought some titles with her to sponge up some of the idle moments in flight or pauses between teaching venues.

The lectureship has been merely one more of many good works that is ongoing by the Lord’s church in this part of the city, and we were glad to be a part of it. We have been invited to return for the program next year, and we are making plans accordingly. Too, it was a pleasure to get to know the Gootams better, as well as to know better and enjoy Vinay David from New Delhi. We were blessed to meet and become friends with Roger Wright, and I think we have begun a long-lasting friendship. With this blog entry, we close the 2011 chapter of our visit to Kakinada, India. It was all good. Amen.