Posted tagged ‘Bible Archaeology’

Mississippi School of Biblical Studies Concludes First Quarter of Instruction

March 7, 2013

Gary HamptonThe first battery of classes by the Mississippi School of Biblical Studies came to a close on Thursday evening, March 7, 9 p.m. CST. However, all of the classes for the two courses taught have been archived, and they are available over the Internet by visiting the webpage of the Siwell Road Church of Christ at http://www.siwellroad.com/. Simply follow the link “view live service.” Gary Hampton, evangelist for the congregation, taught about correct biblical interpretation or hermeneutics. I taught about Bible geography, Bible archaeology and sacred history; however, I was personally absent for four of the eight weeks on an overseas mission trip. Brethren Gary Hampton and John Allen taught my materials in my absence. New classes will resume in August with other qualified instructors and teaching additional subjects.

We’re Back!

June 13, 2012

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Tuesday evening, June 12, Bonnie and I arrived back in Winona, MS from our nearly two weeks of mission work in Guyana, South America. We taught five workshops in various parts of the country, visited patients in a hospital, participated in home Bible studies, taught youth in a boarding school, attended a marriage seminar and worshipped with two congregations.

In the workshops, Bonnie taught Christian women about The Role of Women in the Home and in the Church. I taught Male Leadership in the Home and the Church. Sessions were conducted in Georgetown, Linden, New Amsterdam and outside of Charity. Sometimes lively panel discussions concluded each appointment, where a capable Guyanese brother and I fielded questions on the workshop theme and other Bible questions.

We were in Guyana during the rainy season. It rained off and on every day! The combination of heat and high humidity made for sticky days. Bugs aplenty made their presence known, with ant, mosquito and spider bites populating our skin with pock marks from time to time literally from head to toe. Of all the places we travel in the world, Guyanese mosquitos cause the greatest, swiftest and longest lasting effects on me personally. One dark, early morning I felt the bite on my forehead, and immediately I began to swell in the affected area. The bulging bump stretched my skin until that hurt, too.

The larger bridges we crossed were all floating on barges. These toll bridges were approximately a mile in length, and they bobbed up and down as voluminous traffic traversed them. The most interesting mode of transportation was a speed boat we rode each way across the mouth of the Essequibo River at the Atlantic Ocean. The boat held about 18 passengers and cargo. It was open topped and traveled around 60 mph crossway to the current and around islands. The water was calm in the morning, and the ride was smooth but we could barely open our eyes for the force of the wind. The return trip across the river that afternoon was bumpy, comparable I would imagine to riding a mechanical bull. We do not have to buy excitement at an amusement park! Passengers hold up across the benches what resembles the upholstery off of a couch when anticipating a blast of water shooting up over the bow or pushed by the wind over the side. Sometimes we deflected the water, and sometimes our timing was imperfect. Even when we managed to avoid being smacked in the face with a wave of water, still the water fell into the boat and soaked us. It was virtually impossible to open one’s eyes due to the force of the wind. Forty-five minutes of bouncing on the waves with the boat battering our kidneys and bladders, sodden with saltwater baths, arms aching from using them as masts to steady the furniture fabric sail meant to protect us, we arrived on the opposite shore. This trip involved a two-day drive, boat ride and taxi ride to our destination near Charity. We went attired in dress shirt and pants with tie in place to be ready for the workshop upon our arrival. We could only laugh to ourselves and know that we could not adequately describe this affair to anyone back home. By the way, one Guyanese brother told us the life preservers were required – to locate bodies easier! Another Guyanese brother pointed out the plastic jugs strapped to the underside of the benches – so the boat wouldn’t sink when it overturns!

There is a lot of ongoing interest in Guyana by American Christians who devote themselves to the employment of various methodologies for evangelism in that country. Perhaps some missionaries edify congregations that they encounter. However, we are not aware of any widespread investment by American Christians to help mature the Lord’s church in Guyana. That is why beginning in 2012 Bonnie and I are devoting ourselves to working with church leaders on a national level to help grow the church from the inside out. We want to contribute to the stability and maturity of the congregations throughout the country – in the more easily accessible areas as well as in the bush as the nationals say. Our primary partner in Guyana is Nigel Milo. He is a graduate of Heritage Christian University in Florence, AL, and he was mentored by Edmond Cagle. Nigel is academically qualified, experienced in the USA and his homeland of Guyana, and he is fully devoted to the cause of Christ. Through him, Bonnie and I will continue to work with Guyanese preaching brethren and their congregations throughout the entire nation of Guyana. We are already planning an extended mobile program for 2013 that will take us to most areas of Guyana. Whatever good comes of these humble investments of ourselves will we pledge to the glory to God and earnestly desire to be a blessing to our Guyanese brethren.

Kakinada, First Full Day

November 1, 2011

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011 began two hours before my wristwatch alarm sounded to arouse Bonnie and me to new opportunities. Since yesterday started for us as 3:30 a.m. and we retired for the evening at our usual late hours, sleep was a welcome attraction for both of us. At around 5 a.m., the traffic horns of Kakinada began their tooting, birds chirped and not the least of all, the 80 children with whom we are lodging awoke full of life; vibrant young voices and the thud of bare feet on the tiled hall floor were the last things we remember as we slumbered last night and among the first sounds of the new morning. Just now, I heard the long, whining blasts of a train not far from here readying to begin its journey.

Our room atop the Kakinada church building amidst the children is one of the most commodious we have experienced anywhere in India – and more comfortable than many in any nation, including the USA. We had air conditioning by which to sleep, an overhead fan, a refrigerator (though other than for water we have nothing of consequence to deposit therein) and a connected bathroom (with a western toilet). Last evening, brethren had an inline water heater installed so we would have hot water conveniently; we have been using a bucket heater purchased while in Kakinada last year. Imagine my dismay when we tried to use the shower we discovered that there is not enough water available to use it, and only with the passing of 30 minutes can we get enough water to trickle (though hot it is) into a bucket for bucket and cup bathing; especially Bonnie’s hair is difficult to adequately wash and rinse that way.

I was disappointed to discover that we cannot connect to the Internet this morning, though we were able to wirelessly connect last night; Ricky Gootam moved the router to the middle level last evening so that all three floors could access the signal. Then, the electric power failed, which is typical each day throughout India (and other parts of Asia). Probably between the special event for which food preparation is underway in addition to water to accommodate the residents of the children’s home, it was not long before there was no water at all available; the lone storage tank atop the roof was likely exhausted. I was back to cold water shaving out of a cup in the bedroom to take advantage of the only available mirror; fortunately with the curtains pushed to the side, I could see well enough to shave. Next, for breakfast I decided to forgo the jam and bread provided us in our room and opt for one of the last remaining cereal bars that we brought with us from the States. It is 8:20 a.m., and the lectureship program begins at 10:30 a.m., at which time I will be the first speaker.

It is only 9:33 a.m. and the morning is dragging on forever. This winter weather India is experiencing has about melted me; I am drenched in perspiration with the electric off – therefore, no air conditioning in our room and no fan. Walking on the roof hoping that the breeze would give me a break from the heat, I followed the screeches of some creatures to a huge tree towering at the back of the building. It sound like a herd of agitated pigs, but it turned out to be the largest (brown) bats I have ever seen – about the size of cats. Hanging upside down from branches, the tree swaying in the wind, they seemed to be complaining – dozens of big bats.

Finally, relief (for now) as the electric has been restored. We expect repeated outages during the day, but we hope that electric will be available during the dark hours, which will accommodate us with the fan or air conditioning by which to sleep. It is now 9:56 a.m. Did I mention that the day has been a long one already?

Now that I have finished my whining, what of the day? I spoke in the morning about The One True Church of the Bible to hundreds of people gathered, seated on every pew, every added chair and the floor. The congregation meets in an upper room, the second floor. Roger Wright from Vincennes, IN spoke secondly, and he provided an excellent, biblically solid sermon. We were in sync as though we had studied together what we would say and with what intensity and emphasis.

We have tasted some interesting food, including ground up, spiced shark meat at supper last night; nothing that exotic was served today following morning lessons. At lunch time, I met a family of which the wife and the wife’s mother were converted as a result of radio and television broadcasts by Joshua Gootam. She came to Kakinada to be baptized, and then upon returning home she taught others and led them to be converted; six Christians now meet in her village as a result first of mass evangelism and secondly due to a convert sharing her faith with family and friends. Initially, the husband and father of the family evicted his Christian wife from the home. Eventually, though he not only allowed her to return but to permit the church to assemble in the home. He accompanied his wife, mother-in-law and three children to the lectures; he is a candidate for conversion; I prayed for them all, including that he would become a Christian and be the Christian husband and father that can lead his family to heaven.

After lunch, I made my PowerPoint presentation about Bible Archaeology to a hall full of preachers. I was followed by Vinay David from New Delhi; he made a loud, emotional presentation about successfully running the Christian race. Following that lecture and upon dismissal of the daytime schedule, I met up with a brother who lives 180 kilometers from Kakinada and who I had met for the first time through Facebook last night (the brother with whom I also conversed from Kenya, Africa couldn’t make the appointment today!). There is an evening session beginning at 6:30 p.m.

About 500 people crammed in every available space to hear the Word of God proclaimed, and 150 kilograms of rice (plus other foods) was cooked to feed the crowd; the projected 500 kilograms of rice for the four-day lectureship will fall short, and more will need to be purchased. All age groups were represented throughout the day – six hours of lectures in the auditorium plus two hours of lectures for women. Indian culture segregates women, men and children from each other (until space runs out). First tonight, Vinay David preached another passionate lesson. Second up, Roger Wright likewise preached another fine lesson. Incidentally, Telegu singing does not have four part harmony, but they sing in unison. Bonnie and I are exhausted. Instead of waiting to morning, we are going to try and bathe tonight, hoping there will be sufficient water. Not! It’s bucket and cup again – but at least the trickle of water is hot.

The Day that Would Not End!

October 24, 2011

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Early Monday morning, October 24, Steve Hogan received information that his mother-in-law was at death’s door. The day’s schedule was delayed for a while so Steve could make contact with his wife and other family members and to begin the procedure of changing his flight dates to accommodate a sooner return to the States. The nearly 12-hour difference in time zones from India to Alabama stalled changes that could be made through his travel agent in Alabama.

So, with a belated start to morning classes, now beginning at 11:30 a.m., Steve assumed his station at the church building to teach about 50 men, mostly denominational preachers. Bonnie taught about 50 ladies under a canopy in the courtyard of the Anil and Florence Kumar home, and I taught 25 adult Bible School students on the roof of the home (where the school is located in two tiny rooms, which spills out on to the roof). Because Bonnie’s location was the “dining hall” as well, she had to conclude first – at 1 p.m.; I concluded at 2:30 p.m., and Steve finished his class at about 3 p.m. A combined class of men from both venues resumed from 4 p.m. through 5:30 p.m. I taught Bible Geography first to the Bible School students and then continued with the subject to the larger group.

At 6:30 p.m., Anil, Steve, Bonnie and I rode in a hired car 2 ½ hours to the village of Maddulur – the last 40 kilometers across dirt paths and through potholes the size of small craters. Arriving at 9 p.m. – an hour late – a crowd of denominational people had been sitting atop empty feed sacks on the ground for more than an hour awaiting our arrival. I preached The One True Church of the Bible to an attentive audience, many with Bible pages turning and notepads being annotated with the biblical information presented. Next, Steve preached about Naaman. We concluded the open air services at 11 p.m. Numerous persons approached we three men and requested prayers for various reasons, which we obliged them. About to depart the meeting area, four precious souls requested to be baptized. However, there is no standing water in the area or container large enough to immerse. Finally, it was decided to take the candidates for baptism and ourselves to a creek about three kilometers away and hope we could find enough water for Christian baptism.

One woman, though, declined to be baptized, noting an open sore on her leg; she said she would be baptized later. The rest of us made our way to a concrete slab over a creek, and with headlights of the car and prodding by brethren in the water, a suitable spot was located. One new brother in Christ (who happened to be a dwarf) and two new sisters in Christ arose from the muddy water joyous to be Christians.

Next, it was back to the village for “supper” in the home (outside of) a Christian family. It was now 1 a.m. on Tuesday, October 25! Thereafter, we made our long, difficult journey back to Chilakaluripet – arriving back in our hotel room around 3:30 a.m.! Now, Steve Hogan checked emails and made phone calls to determine the status of his mother-in-law and discover the travel arrangements for his premature return to the States. At long last, we were able to turn our attention to the much needed rest and sleep from which we were deprived for too long – at 4:15 a.m.! But alas, sleep did not come easily as demolition workers were using a sledge hammer and smaller hammers in an adjoining room to dislodge and remove cement blocks; I could hardly believe that a hotel would schedule demolition work alongside of paying guests trying to sleep!

At 8 a.m., Bonnie and I awoke and showered; next, Bonnie washed clothes in the bathtub. Steve stopped by at 9:30 a.m. to discuss the balance of our trip on behalf of the Florence Blvd. Church of Christ, before leaving by taxi (with Anil) for his 11:30 a.m. departure from Vijayawada, India. He was to have overnight layovers in Hyderabad, India and London, England. (Later, we discovered that Steve did not arrive home before the passing of his mother-in-law.)

The previously planned Gospel meetings for the daytime in another village were cancelled due to the circumstances, mainly of not getting back to our hotel rooms until the next day from our previous venture, but also respecting the arrangement of Steve’s departure and Anil taking him to the airport – a day’s journey for roundtrip travel. After tea and cookies (Indians call them “biscuits”) in our room courtesy of Florence and Anil Kumar and breakfast in their home, we returned to the hotel and Steve accompanied by Anil went to the airport.

Another Gospel meeting was scheduled for the evening in a distant village, but due to heavy rains, that meeting was cancelled as well. Instead, I showed my Bible Archaeology PowerPoint to the Bible School students atop the residence/Bible school – amid a severe thunder and lightning storm. Saddened that still another opportunity had eluded us, nevertheless we were pleased that we could easily get back to our hotel at a reasonable hour for a night’s rest.

Hmawbi Bible School

October 13, 2011

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Thursday, October 13, Winsome, Bonnie and I returned by turboprop airplane to Yangon. Our plane was about 40 minutes late departing for Yangon, but around one hour after takeoff we landed in the old Rangoon and former capital of Burma.

A short drive from the airport back to Yangon Hotel, and we were ready to unpack both the suitcases we had taken with us on the most recent jaunt to northern Myanmar as well as the four pieces of baggage we had left in storage at the hotel. The hotel had moved us to a different room than we had occupied before our flights to Mandalay, etc.; we found ourselves on the eighth floor. Besides skipping out to a restaurant for a bite of supper, it was wash night – Bonnie washing clothes in the bathroom sink and me rinsing them in the shower. With the overcast skies, our room looked and smelled like a laundry for days as we hung our clothes to dry on the window rod.

Friday, we headed to the Hmawbi Bible School three quarters of an hour by taxi from Yangon. That day as well as Monday through Friday of the following week, Bonnie would teach ladies’ classes, and I would teach men’s classes or sometimes a combined class of men and women. Bonnie taught morning and afternoon of that first Friday back at Hmawbi, as did I. The following week, Bonnie taught ladies in the morning and I taught men in the morning about sermon preparation and presentation, while I taught men and women in the afternoons about Bible Geography and Archaeology. Bonnie taught character studies from her book Living Principles.

Saturday, October 15 was an unencumbered day. We stayed in the hotel room all day with two laptops a blazing, working on various literary items, including Gospel Gazette Online for October; I was able to publish Gospel Gazette Online to the Internet with some difficulty. At one point in the day, we had just gotten into the elevator when the electricity failed, temporarily trapping us (about 10 minutes) between floors. Eventually, it slowly descended, dumping us out on the ground floor where we had begun minutes ago. Shortly, the generator kicked in and we were able to take an elevator to the eighth floor where we were lodging.

(On another occasion, we had an interesting event in the elevator when someone riding with others and us didn’t know how to operate the elevator but was determined to be the one to make it work; he kept pushing the button to open the door every time he wanted the door to close, and he kept pressing the button for the ground floor twice, which turned it on and back off. Heads were shaking; it’s a wonder we’re not still in the elevator! On still another occasion, a passenger in the elevator with us leaned on one of the control panels; I saw the lights on the panel closest to me blinking repeatedly like Christmas tree lights. Our poor elevator didn’t know whether to start, stop, go down or go up; Bonnie said that the gentleman was a little embarrassed when he realized what he had done. On yet another day, some mature gentlemen from a far away, mountain village came to our room for a scheduled Bible study; they had never been in a tall building before, and one of them clutched with both hands the upright frame of our glass-walled elevator as it climbed the exterior face of the hotel to the eighth floor.)

Saturday, we also were visited by Jay Ahti, who we had helped purchase a laptop computer and printer to aid him in his continued translation of materials into Lisu and Rawang languages. He came by with the computer to show us what he had gotten. Later that night after supper at Winsome’s, a tailor stopped by to measure Bonnie to finish off some longis that she had purchased at Inle Lake.

Upon return to the hotel, I stopped by the front desk and requested additional lighting in the bathroom so that I could see to shave. Asia has already adopted some of the new lighting that America will experience very soon – which is about as bright as a nightlight! In response to my request, the hotel sent up to our room a battery operated light with two small fluorescent bulbs, only one of which worked.

The next morning (Sunday), Bonnie held the flashlight so I could attempt to shave! You can only imagine the ridiculous sight of trying to shave by flashlight! A little later while I was brushing my teeth, the doorbell rang, and the building’s engineer requested entry. Bonnie opened the door, wearing traditional Burmese dress, long hair and a slightly darker complexion than mine, whereupon the engineer started rattling off words in Burmese to her. I can only imagine that she stood there dumbfounded, at which time I emerged from the bathroom with a toothbrush in my hand. Looking at me, obviously a white guy, the engineer quickly surmised that Bonnie was not Burmese. He told her, “I’m sorry, I thought that you were Burmese!” Bonnie gets that a lot, only in India she is mistaken for Indian; sometimes in America, fellow citizens have puzzled over Bonnie’s ethnicity, too. As Bonnie says, “They’ll only think I’m Burmese until I open my mouth” and speak. Later in the day upon returning to the hotel after worship, we discovered that the engineer installed a new fluorescent light above the mirror in the bathroom; I felt obligated now to shave daily since the hotel made a capital improvement just so I could shave. Sunday, I spoke at worship in the home of Sheila and Winsome as well as in the afternoon at the home of Esther.

Tuesday afternoon, brother Kyaw Sein brought two gentlemen by our hotel for a Bible study. I thought they were Baptists, but soon I discovered that instead they were animists. Of course, that completely changed the nature of our study, which we had over the next hour and a half. They were extremely attentive and interested. I suspect that after further study within the year one or both of them will obey the Gospel. (We are not looking for people we can merely dip in the water, but we and the brethren with whom we labor are more interested in converting souls, a part of which conversion involves immersion for the remission of sins.)

Wednesday evening, we treated several of the brethren from Yangon and Hmawbi to a supper meal at the Airport Million Coin restaurant. We appreciate these brethren and their families so much, and they are great encouragers of us as well. Monday through Friday, both Bonnie and I continued to teach daily at the Hmawbi Bible School. Friday evening, we fly to India.

4 States + 4 States

June 27, 2011

East Side Church of ChristSaturday, June 25, Bonnie, Rebecca and I left Winona, MS early, en route to Cleveland, TN. Our course had us in four states throughout the day: Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. We arrived in the afternoon at the home of brother Robert and sister Barbara Wright; they graciously agreed to lodge and feed the three of us. We continue to be humbled by the extension of hospitality to us as we travel weekly; we are indebted to good brethren who take care of us and with whom we develop close relationships. Though appreciated when congregations provide motel lodging as visit them, it is more difficult to grow close to brethren when our time together is largely limited to Bible class and worship.

Central Church of ChristSunday morning, we were with the Central Church of Christ in Cleveland, TN. For Bible class, I presented Motivated by the Cross to 4th grade through adults. During worship, I presented Bible Archaeology. Several members expressed appreciation for both presentations, and many of the members took advantage of the good World Evangelism books we had for sale.

We three travelers had multiple opportunities to enjoy the company of good brethren and share meals together. I feel that we make new friends and enhance former friendships, as we did this trip, nearly every time we fulfill appointments to apprise brethren about our mission work or to present other biblical lessons.

Sunday evening, Bonnie, Rebecca and I worshipped with the East Side Church of Christ; this congregation has been a longtime participant with J.C. and Betty Choate in their mission work. With the illness first and later passing of brother Choate, Jerry Bates and I, accompanied by our spouses, visit such congregations, in addition to churches to whom we report for ourselves. After worship, I reported to and showed Motivated by the Cross to the mission committee. Afterward, we three were the guests of Rick and Fay Hinson in their home; he is the go to person for missions at the East Side Church of Christ. Once more, we were treated to precious hospitality; we made new friends. As a sidebar, Rick’s hobby is making high quality, unique ballpoint pens by turning hardwoods and soft metals, combined with things such as rifle shell casings or animal antlers.

North Topsail Beach, NCMonday was another travel day. Since Rebecca had a narrow window of opportunity to visit her brother Raymond in North Carolina; she and we are going to make a mission trip to Guyana, South America in July, and then she returns back to teaching school in late July (at first, preparatory days before children return). She has to go in for at least a day before the mission trip have her classroom moved from one building to another. During the summer break from school, Rebecca also participates in one or more VBS programs.

We traveled from Tennessee through North Carolina, Georgia and South Carolina to get to North Topsail Beach, NC where Raymond lives while stationed with the Coast Guard in the vicinity. Four states and ten and a half hours later, fatigued, we three arrived. Almost there (within two hours), we encountered severe cloud to ground lightning, heavy rains and pushy wind. We slowed down, but kept going and finally drove out of it.

Rebecca was unable to afford plane tickets and she did not have enough air miles for a ticket, so it was doubtful that she was going to be able to see her brother. Therefore, though Bonnie and I had visited Raymond in April (we used our air miles), we wanted to ferry Rebecca to Raymond’s temporary home for a few days. We will just force ourselves to enjoy the sandy beach across from his condo, the sound of rolling waves, sea breezes and water lapping at our bare feet. I’m just not sure when we will point the car toward Winona, MS. We do, of course, need to get back in time to ready ourselves for our trip to Guyana. If you know Bonnie and me, we will be hammering away on our computer keyboards (e.g., The Voice of Truth International, Gospel Gazette Online, lesson preparation for our mission trips, etc.). Stay tuned for updates between the sunburns and cookouts! (We will be participating in worship and classes with local brethren on at least three different days, too.)

Two-State Hop

May 16, 2011

Leaving Maywood Christian Camp (the annual Maywood Missionary Retreat) Saturday morning, Bonnie and I headed for Georgia and Florida for weekend speaking appointments. We had an eight-hour drive ahead of us (plus brief necessary stops) to Dasher, GA – just south of Valdosta. Our accommodations, courtesy of the Dasher Church of Christ, were superb, among the best we ever have anywhere at our disposal. Finding brethren at the meetinghouse Saturday night, we set up books, tracts, newsletters, etc.

Sunday morning, I presented the PowerPoint Motivated by the Cross in Bible class. During worship, I presented the PowerPoint Bible Archaeology. This congregation and some of its members help make our foreign mission work possible, including providing funding for the distribution of tracts and Bibles abroad in the respective languages of the peoples to whom Bonnie and I go.

Following worship and after Bonnie and I took lunch at Cracker Barrel, we pointed the car south along I-75. Next stop, Jacksonville, FL. We were wonderfully received by most of the members of the Chaffee Rd. Church of Christ, where I presented Motivated by the Cross. Karen and Mary Fox treated us to a superior fish supper at a local eatery; Mary Fox surrendered her master bedroom for Bonnie and me for a few nights. We have a Wednesday evening appointment with the Riverview Church of Christ, also in Jacksonville.

Over the next many days, appointments will take us to another location in Florida, Alabama, Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia. Between stateside travel and overseas mission trips, we are on the road over 40 weekends annually. We may be coming to a congregation near you soon, and if not now scheduled, arrange a visit by contacting me: rushmore@gospelgazette.com.