Sleeping on the floor.

Sleeping on the floor.

“If the rain doesn’t stop, how will you go?” I looked away from the window to see who was talking to me. I saw my friends wife standing there waiting for a reply. I just looked kind of blankly at her while I considered my options. And keeping in mind that this was only my second full day in India, and I had no idea which part of the city I was in, my options were rather limited. Now, let me explain why rain caused such a big problem for transport. The first reason being that we had come on a motorcycle with absolutely no rain protection. And the second being that Kolkata lacks appropriate drainage for such a downpour and so with the numerous potholes and curbs that litter the streets hidden by water, it would be almost idiotic to try to ride a motorbike across the busy city in the dark and the rain. As 10pm hit, our cut off point, my friend broke the news to me that we would be sleeping on the cold cement of the old schoolhouse that was hosting a large church conference. We had no pillows, no blankets, and no sleeping mats. I was crushed. I should explain that in the 4 days prior to this I had, been awake for 34 hrs, been traveling for 12 hrs, preached in two churches, and “slept” for a combined total of about 13 hrs. I was pretty tired, mentally and physically, and honestly a little frustrated at the lack of solutions to our problem. Long story short, I ended up lying awake on a church floor in the middle of a rainstorm for about 5.5 hrs.

During this “adventure” I was reminded of the disciples as Jesus sent them out and told them to bring nothing with them. I wondered how many cold church floors they had to sleep on. I thought about the fact that there were hundreds of thousands of people who didn’t even have a hard church floor to sleep on in the same city where I was complaining about not having my warm hotel bed. Even though it was something so miniscule and seemingly unimportant, it gave me a window into what it means to sacrifice your comforts. There was no feel good reward of having helped someone by sleeping on the floor to ease the sore back and drowsy eyes. But there was an awareness that this is sometimes what it means to be a Christian. Sometimes we need to give up our comforts, sometimes we need to just go and do, and not worry about what we get in return.

What about India?

What about India?

Hello, friends! I apologize for the tardiness of this post. I have recently begun a new job and with all the busyness that it brings, I haven’t found time to write a post in a while. I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about the reason why I chose to spend three months of my life in India recently. To be more specific I was in the mega city Kolkata. To put it lightly Kolkata was chaotic. For the purpose of perspective let me throw some facts in here. Kolkata proper has an area of 185 km2 and a population of over 4 million people. By contrast Calgary has an area of 825 km2 and a population of just over 1 million people. I must admit to using a more shocking statistic than necessary here, in reality the total metropolitan area of Kolkata is 1,886.67 km2 with a total population of 14 million. This is true for most of India, as the second most populous nation on earth, and yet by area it is the 7th largest. People are everywhere! There is very few places that you can go without seeing people. But, this is part of what makes India, India. People.

India has 2,295 people groups as defined by the Joshua Project, and of these groups 2,077 of them are considered unreached by the gospel. This equates to over 1.2 billion unreached people in India alone. Out of the countries included in the studies conducted by the Joshua Project, India has more unreached people groups within it’s borders than any other country. India is one of the least reached places in the world. I think that this is something that people don’t really think about when they think about India. We see it as an exotic far off land, full of culture and adventure. Which it is, but at the same time it is a country desperately in need of the gospel message.

In 2014 I was able to go to Kolkata for the first time. And on this trip I was exposed to the depth and all encompassing nature of the extreme poverty that exists there. I realized that the reality that I grew up in – a life filled with hope for good education, and the ability to really become whatever I wanted to be – did not exist for the people in Kolkata. It was on this trip that God opened my eyes to the need for His love to be shown to these people. The reality for people in Kolkata, and the rest of India, is that Christianity a) has been portrayed as part of British colonialism, or a foreign ideology that is trying to change their culture, and b) is becoming increasingly dangerous to observe as the government leans more towards Hindu nationalism. With these two things combined, India has become a hard, and resilient ground to the message of Christ. However, God is raising up some incredibly gifted and passionate leaders from within India.

One of my closest contacts while living in India most recently was a young man let’s call him Jonathan. His story is one of miraculous healing and signs from God. When he was a young man he developed cancer, and as he prayed to a God that he did not yet know, or follow, he began to receive healing. Jonathan was healed of his disease and as a result of this turned to Christ for his provision and health. Now, he is a pastor pursuing pioneering efforts in and around Kolkata with the vision and dream to see 1,000 local people come to know Christ by the year 2020. Another friend that I had the pleasure of meeting was a man in southern India. He had grown up very, very, poor. He was not able to receive a proper education, or have a real childhood. But God has given him a great ability and passion to minister to the poor and downtrodden where he lives. He plans to begin a program that would help send young Indian men to school for proper training and equipping so that they can continue to minister to those around them. The thing is that even though India is a hard ground and becoming more hostile towards Christianity, God is doing some incredible things in that country. I have been lucky enough to meet some of His servants there and I am amazed and encouraged by the faith of these people.

We don’t always here about India, at least in a positive light. And while there are many amazing happening in India, we should not forget about this amazing place that is so in need of the love of Christ! We can’t always go and be part of the work that is happening there, but we can pray for those who are there doing amazing things in the face of such opposition. If you think about these things in the coming days, weeks, or months, take a second and pray for those who are in ministry in a country across the world that we don’t get much exposure too.

Thanks for reading friends! Please take some time to pray for these incredible people and the ministries that they are part of!

Grace and peace!

 

Symbols.

Symbols.

Something that I have noticed recently is the use, lack thereof, of symbols in our Canadian culture, but also in other cultures around the world. While in Asia, these symbols were especially prevalent. Symbolic significance is all around you when travelling throughout Asia. Nearly everything can, and often does mean something. For example, the placement of certain rooms around the homes of indigenous Vietnamese tribal people, signifies different levels of importance in relation to the other rooms of the house. Or how about in China, where historically, the number of beams that would stick out of your house symbolized your status in society. In Central Asian countries, when praying it is customary to open your eyes while looking up, and holding out your hands. This is symbolic of the relationship between the person prayng and God. I vividly remember an experience we had as a team while visiting Central Asia. As we were driving a, seemingly homeless, man was sitting beside the road as we were passing by. As we passed he lifted up his hands and covered his face briefly, he then brought them down and looked at us with a large smile. I didn’t understand what it meant at first until our friend told us that it was his way of blessing us as we passed by. This experience is something that will always stick with me when I think about travel, blessing, or symbolism. The man on the street did this because in that culture it is customary to “wash your face” with the blessings of God after prayer. I look back at my time spent in Asia and I realize how rich many cultures are with symbolism. I wonder now about Christianity? I am writing this on the evening of Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of Lent. This day, and season, is full of symbolism for the Christian life. Now this was my first time observing Ash Wednesday. The symbolic nature of this service with it’s liturgies, and marking with ashes, make this a very powerful ceremony. I sat in my chair realizing the significance of this, though still not to it’s full extent, and I began to wonder if there are other symbolic evets, ceremonies, or celebrations, that Christian culture has downplayed to the point of apathy towards them. I know in my life Christmas has been more about the gifts than the birth of Jesus on more than one occasion. Or how about Easter? I’ll admit that I do look forwardto this time of year for more reasons concerning chocolate, than concerning the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When I think about symbols, I think about them as just that, symbols. I do not mean, for a minute, to say that symbols can save you, or make you a better Christian. However, I do think that observing symbols that help us reflect on what it means to be a follower of Chist can help us to gain a better perspective and avoid becoming indifferent to something that should exude from every part of our lives. In short, symbols are so important to many other cultures and religions around the world, so why aren’t they to us?

I always love to hear feedback about these kinds of topics! Please feel free to submit a question on here or on Facebook or Twitter (wherever you found this).

Thanks, for reading!

 

 

 

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

So one of my favourite parts about travelling (other than all the stuff I have already said is my favourite) is the different types of transportation. I didn’t realize how different transportation in Canada is compared to the majority of the world. Just getting into a car and running to the grocery store is a blessing that I was unaware of. However, the different types of getting around are what make travelling such an adventure. From riding scooters through the mountains in India, to whipping through jungle in Cambodia in the back of a truck, getting places is always…interesting. Below I have assembled a list of my favourite ways that we got from point A to point B while we were travelling.

5. TAXI

Taxis are a tricky one. In terms of convenience and speed, they often are the best option. And I will say that riding in a big Yellow Cab in India is something that, if you go to India before these go extinct, is something you must do! There is nothing quite like the tattered leather/woven seats, the thick smell of incense, and small holes in the rusted out floor that allow you to see the asphalt race by below. Other countries like Thailand or Vietnam have really nice taxis for the most part and are very comfortable to ride in. However, in some places, like Central Asia, you just flag down a car and ask if they will take you to where you are going. All that stuff about not getting into a stranger’s vehicle that your parents said, it goes right out the window! While the plus side of taxis is that they are really easy and convenient, they often end up costing a lot of money and can be a hassle in some places.

4. TRAIN

This refers to long distance trains. This one was difficult to rank so low because I believe that everyone who visits India should take a trip on a long distance train. It is truly a surreal experience as you pass through small railside villages, and watch landscapes change as you move into new areas. You have the opportunity to meet new people, and try new food which is always a plus in my book. These trips are a great bucket list item, and they offer an unparalleled travel experience. However, if you choose the sleeper class you will stick to the plastic/leather bunk bed no matter what you do. I do not know what trains are like in other parts of the world, but the trains in India are definitely worth taking a trip on.

3. BUS

Oh buses. I will say this, I will never complain about riding a bus in Canada ever again! After doing a significant amount of commuting by bus in India, I have to say that I think I could be a contortionist, or a professional bull rider, with little to no training. Buses provide an up close and personal experience  with people that you rarely, if ever, get experience in other ways. The busy businessmen, or labourers, trying to get to and from work. The college student just trying to stay awake until they get to their stop. Or the mother with two small children who somehow manages to carry both children without falling off the bus, even though she isn’t holding on to anything. These are the types of people you will meet on buses. Because the bus is often very cheap, I’m talking like $0.10-0.20 depending on the distance, you meet a lot of the working class population. This provides an opportunity to really experience the country that you are visiting because it takes you out of your tourist bubble, and places you in the local community and culture in a different way.

2. TUK TUK/AUTO RICKSHAW

These are a staple mode of transport in Asia! Often cramped, and a little sketchy, these offer a transport experience that is always exciting, and different in some way. This was my favourite daily transport as a 20 minute route would cost me around 25 cents. Buzzing through traffic with someone you’ve never met pushed up against you, hanging halfway out of the cab, wondering how much longer you can hold on for, is an exhilarating experience to put it lightly. Whether you a weaving through the bustling streets of Kolkata, India, or whizzing through the through the countryside of Cambodia, these open air vehicles will make it an unforgettable ride!

P.S. If you have a stomach bug, these are very easy to get out of in “emergency” situations.

1. PERSONAL VEHICLE

While these pose greater risks, they offer an unlimited sense of freedom and independence! Riding through the mountains of southern India, or the jungles of Cambodia where some of the fondest memories I have of Asia. Sitting in the back of a truck singing songs with new friends, while winding through the confusing streets of Siem Reap, is an experience that I will never forget! With a personal vehicle you can go where you want to go and do what you want to without someone else’s schedule dictating your activities.  Riding motorized scooters or bikes is really popular,but make sure you know a little bit about them before you go, or you may end up cartwheeling through the busy streets of a mountain town like I did.

Transportation is one of the most iconic parts of travelling! I know for me it was one of my favourite parts of being overseas. It’s something we take for granted I think, and it is so interesting to see how other cultures solve the problem of getting from one place to the next. What are some of your favourite modes of transportation?

 

 

 

What would Jesus do?

I know that this is the ost overused phrase in all of evangelical Christianity. We all (well most of us anyways) remember the fad like fashion accessory that donned this phrase. You know what I am talking about, the woven, often multicoloured, bracelets sporting the acronym “WWJD” on them. This became another phrase that evangelical christianity used over and over and over until it became almost meaningless. We didn’t live our lives according to what this bracelet said as was the intention of it’s designer. I can say for myself that I rarely, if ever, though “What would Jesus do?” before I engaged in something I knew was not right. From childhood to early adulthood this thought seldom crossed my mind. And I wonder what things I might have avoided if it had been more prominent in my thoughts. Would I have done some of the things I regret? Probably not. Recently, I have been thinking about our world and the chaos that exists within it. (Brace yourselves, political content will follow) I wonder what our world would be like if this was the question on the front of our minds before every decision we make. I think most recently of the ban that president Donald Trump emposed on seven countries. Now I don’t really know a whole lot about it, but from the research I have done I feel like we have forgotten this question completely. I know that we cannot change the way people in power make decisions, however, we are responsible for what we say and how we accept those decisions. In the wake of this executive order I cannot help but think of the people who have been left out with nowhere to go. I am not talking about tourists or business people who more than likely have a home and a life to go back to. But I am talking about the students who after 90 days of missed classes will probably have to retake the whole semester. I am also talking about the families who have been seperated for far too long that are now having to endure another period of seperation from their loved ones. Or how about the families who have saved every penny for years in order to be able to afford the costly visa process, and travel expenses, who now are left without a place to go and may have to reapply for those visas. But most of all I think about the refugees, the people who have been forced from their countries because of violence towards them and their families. The order that President Trump issued suspends the refugee admission program to 120 days. And the Syrian refugee admission program indefinitely. I could go into the facts about refugees and terrorist attacks on American soil, but that is not what this is about. What I am trying to say in this post is that as Christians should we not open our doors to those who need our help? What did Jesus say about the least of these? What about welcoming the sojourner from a foreign land? What happened to trusting God as our protector? What happened to loving mercy, and acting justly? As far as I know there is no “But only when you are safe” clause in there. The argument I hear too much is that “We need to keep our country safe.” It saddens me deeply that we are at this place in our society, and even deeper that I hear this argument coming from Christians. I know that we cannot make the United States government change their mind, but we can control how we react and talk about this situation. The reality is that this sucks for a lot of people around the world, and I think, I KNOW that it is our obligation to at the very least empathize with those who have been affected by this order.

Grace and peace,
Caleb

Home bound.

Home bound.

      A 11.5hr flight with a seat back TV that has no audio provides one with plenty of time to contemplate their own life, and the experiences within it. Fortunately for me, (or unfortunately, depending on the way you look at it) I was given the opportinity to do just that! For those of you who have been keeping up with my sporadic blog posts, you may know that I was preparing for a move to Rwanda in East Africa at the time of my last post. Since then, much has changed in my life! Let me first say reiterate that my proposed move was due to academic requirements for the GlobeTREK program. It had nothing to do with the ministries or people there! So I was ready and waiting to head to Rwanda and continue my missionary journey as I beleive God had called me to. My Visa was approved, and I eagerly awaited ticket booking confirmation. I dreamt of what God would do as I pursued Youth Ministry in the heart of Africa. I imagined the stories I would have, the picturies I would take, and most importantly the people I would meet and work alongside in the pursuit of building the Kingdom! It has been a dream of mine to work in Africa as a missionary, since my mom read us a book about David Livingstone, and his adventures throughout Africa as an explorer/missionary, when I was quite young. The last frontier, untamed jungle, and exotic animals were on my mind as I considered the adventures that lay ahead of me. That was all brought to a significant halt when the ticket confirmation was declined. I was supposed to leave in less than a day, and I had no ticket! I frantically tried to sort it out, but the reality was evident, I would not be leaving for Rwanda as soon as I had planned. As I talked to my professor about the next steps, she brought up the idea of me going home instead of going to Rwanda, as it would make sense financially. My heart was pounding and I began to have a bit of a freak out. “Would I really have to go home because of this?” This thought raced through my mind on a continuous loop the whole day. We both decided to pray and ask God for guidance as to what decision should be made. Needless to say as we waited overnight for guidance from God I got little to no sleep. I asked God to somehow find a way to change my professor’s mind and allow me to go to Rwanda. I felt (feel) such a strong call to pursue overseas missions, so why was God letting this happen? I would be lying if I were to say that I didn’t feel like God was telling me to go to Rwanda, the fact that they were even willing to take me on as an intern with such short notice was a work of God in itself! But the decision was not mine to make. Regardless of what I thought, the decision had been made and I would be going home on a flight leaving in less than 8 hours. I hard heartedly packed my things as quickly as posible, said my goodbyes and headed to the airport. My GlobeTREK was over. Needless to say, my trip home is the least favourite flight that I have ever taken. I spent most of it in disbelief and the rest of the time trying to hold in angry outbursts. Sometimes I was in disbelief about how upset I was! I felt as though my ability to follow God’s call had been put on hold for somebody else’s reason. As it is right now, I am home in Calgary and will not be continuing on in the GlobeTREK program. It’s a weird feeling not being able to do what you think God has called you to do. Maybe, God was wrong? Or maybe it was human error on one of the sides. Yeah, that’s probably more accurate.

Lessons, learned.

I sat there thinking that this wasn’t really happening to me. Not now.
“What a brilliant way to ruin a holiday, you dud.” And similar thoughts played over and over through my mind. As I sat there sulking in the living room of a friend-of-a-friend whom I had literally just met, I wallowed in a rather emotional puddle of self-depreciating thoughts and feelings. I realize this sounds a bit dramatic but having just crashed a motorized scooter on a busy roadway in the middle of nowhere India (actually it was a lovely town called Ooty, I highly recommend a visit if you are ever in India) the adrenaline and negative thoughts were flowing fast and full! The sound of the wreck is something that has startled me as I continue to think about it. I remember pulling out to pass a bus on a road at rush hour, I remember seeing the Jeep turn into the oncoming lane, and I remember seeing my front tire skidding aimlessly about as I desperately tried to avoid the chrome grill of the aformentioned Jeep. What happened next was, what I can only describe as an act of God. The bike was devoured by the front right wheel of the Jeep and I was sent hurling down to earth. I am convinced that Columbia Sportswear’s Circuit Breaker backpack is actually an angel in disguise, as I tumbled onto my back the pack provided excellent cushion and sufficient bounce for me to complete a tumble and pop up on my feet, about a meter in front of the bus that had come to a stop sometime during the ordeal. I ran over to grab the bike and endure a good tongue lashing from an understandably angry driver. On the side of the road, mangled bike by my side, I started to contemplate the significance of the event. This could have been the end of me. But God, my protector, had other plans. It was that night, sitting in a good friend’s house that this thought really impacted me. My friend’s father said to me, “God has spared you, I feel that you have a great call on your life from God.” It is this phrase that has seemed to be a recurrent theme throughout the year for me. Although, it has been expressed in different ways, the main point is that God is in the refining business! There is a purpose for me and God is preparing me and using me to fulfill that purpose. However, this kind of refining does not come for free or with ease. It is often filled with hardship and trial, often with confusion and heartache, sadness, anxiety, etc. the list is nearly endless. But the hope in this is that God is still there through it all. That is the thing that this year has taught me again and again! Maybe that’s because I’m a slow learner? Regardless, God has consistently shown me so many things through the trials I have faced. In the refining fire of life the things that I so desperately need have been absent, at the same time the character of God has been shown by the same fire. When I have lacked commitment, God has shown his faithful pursuit of me. When I have lacked relationship, God has shown Himself to be a friend like no other. When I have not seen justice or mercy, God has shown me His undying empathy and sorrow for those effected by injustice. As 2016 comes to a close, I look back at what has been a challenging year to say the least! But, I also look back at a year that has taught me, and shown me more of who God is than any other in recent memory. I look forward with hopeful anticipation to what God has in store for 2017, for me and those around me as well!

A quick GlobeTREK update: So for a while now my professors back in Canada and I have been talking about my internship placement. Unfortunately, there is not much opportunity for me to fulfill the academic requirements of my internship in Kolkata. So in an effort to make this possible, through much prayer and careful consideration, my professors have decided it would be best to move to another location where I will have more of an opportunity for the Youth Ministry requirements to be fulfilled for my program. So the country I will be moving to now is Rwanda in Africa. I am sad that I must leave Kolkata, a place continuously on my heart, but at the same time I am so excited to see what God has planned for Rwanda and my time there. This is a big transition and I would appreciate prayer as we figure out Visa requirements etc. Stay tuned for more on this coming soon!

Thanks for reading! Happy New Year friends!

Grace and peace!