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.

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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!

 

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.

Well that’s new…

Well that’s new…

So India. This place is crazy! There is so much going on that sometimes I find that if I don’t just put my head down and ignore my surroundings for a minute, I might have to develop multiple personalities in order to deal with it. However, at the same time if I keep my head down for too long I WILL get hit by a bus. That is true, I was nearly hit by a bus today, and it was terrifying. I apologize for the delayed nature of this post, I have been finding it somewhat difficult to find reliable sources of internet access. (Related: I am thinking about getting a portable wifi hotspot, does anyone have experience with them and if so, good or bad? Comments are appreciated!) And in all reality, I have had no idea what to write about, and let’s be real I still don’t really. But I figured that maybe if I just throw my hands toward my keyboard in a hopeful fashion something good may come out. Maybe that’s how the Twilight series was written? Anyway, India, living here has been incredible, hard, gross, amazing, fulfilling, and challenging. And I have only been here for three weeks! Everyday holds a new experience and gives me the opportunity to learn and grow, but it also gives me the opportunity to be closed minded and be negative towards the culture and the people. There is a choice to make everyday of whether I am going to choose to embrace all that God is teaching me through people and culture, or whether I am going to neglect this and try to remain in my own world. Every time I use my flip flop to heartlessly murder an enormous cockroach (a battle that I am winning by 16-0 kill/death ratio by the way) I have to ask myself if I am going to hold this as mark against living here, or if I am going to see the humour in it and learn that ADDA flip flops are the best for this task. Every time I go into a public bathroom and I am greated by the sight of a soaking wet and slippery toilet seat, I am confronted with the choice to hate it, or think about how going to the bathroom normally is rather boring and not knowing if you are going to slip off the toilet and break something mid-movement is quite exciting and really enhances your bathroom experience! Or how about when the guy on the train decides that he wants to practice his MMA skills and decides to throw an elbow directly into my sternum, should I get physical with him and say that he is a problem, or should I maybe realize that everyone on this train just wants to get home/to work/to their friends house, and maybe even that when he becomes the UFC Welterweight champion I can say that he practiced his wicked elbow-to-the-chest move on me first. Constantly there are experiences that cause a confrontation within me. Am I going to curse the smell that, after steeping in the humidity all day, can only be described as “funky”, or think about how amazing the view of the rice fields and palm trees was as I rode through the countryside on the back of a motorbike? Am I going to sit at the back of the church with my arms crossed and repeatedly tell myself that charismatic worship is not what I believe in theologically, and therefore will not take part in it, or will I join in and appreciate the fact that we are all part of One Body, and God has created diversity within the body. I must admit that I am guilty of the former. The thing is each day, whether you live in India, Canada, America, Barbados, Mozambique, or Fiji, we are faced with challenges and they each present a confrontation between our own ideals of how we think life should be and what life is. We want our lives to be cockroach, wet toilet seat, and funky smell free but, in reality they are not! And I am glad they are not because, life would be boring if we always knew what was coming up and we wouldn’t learn anything from that. The age old saying that “Familiarity breeds contempt” comes to mind. The thing that makes life so awesome wherever you are, is the unexpected, the challenge, the new experience, and I think that we, me especially, miss out on things because I expect life to fit in a box. I don’t think that’s how God designed life to work. When I look at the Bible, and more specifically the message of the Gospel, I see that it was full of unexpected lessons and experiences. People didn’t expect that Jesus was going to come as a baby in a manger, I mean they should have based on the prophecy, but they didn’t! They didn’t expect Him to be a humble carpenter, they didn’t expect Him to die. How could the Saviour of the World die? The disciples didn’t expect to see Him again but they did. The Bible is chalked full of examples of God using the unexpected experiences of life to teach, affirm, and build people and groups up. I guess what I am trying to say is that I think that God shows us a lot through the things we go through and we have a choice to make. Are we going to be open and willing to learn from the challenges and experiences that we have, or will we choose to close ourselves off to them because they don’t fit in our category of what life should be like?

As always, these are just some thoughts that I am processing and I do not mean to accuse anyone by this. Thanks for readin! (And for real with the wifi thing, comments are appreciated!)

So you want to travel?

So you want to travel?

         So travel? The great adventure! Seeing the world, expanding your horizons, opening you mind, educating yourself, being spontaneous! Travel is one of the most envied hobbies in our world today. Scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or (insert social media platform here) you are bombarded by ads, posts, or pictures, of exotic frontiers somehwere far away from wherever you are it seems. Travel is a promised rush, a guaranteed adventure, and a new experience in many aspects. The food, the culture, the dress, the language, the people, the art, the societal structure, the politics, the infrastructure, whatever your shtick is, travel is sure to strike a cord with you in one respect or another. However, travel is not always sunshine, lolipops, and unicorn farts (they are supposed to be rainbows, or candy, or something). Sometimes, it’s rain, chicken cartilidge, and diarrhea in the most uncomfortable places. Travel can WILL be one of the most amazing things you will ever do in your life. It will be amazing in ways that you didn’t expect, and you will learn more and more, the more you do it, and think about it. But, you will also find that travelling can be a very hard thing as well. Culture shock is real! Poverty around the world is nothing like what most of us experience in North America, or most of the western world. There are sicknesses that occur when travelling that can make life somewhat comparable to the human version of a busted fire hydrant, and above all travelling can be downright exhausting! The purpose of this post is not to discourage people from travelling at all! Travelling has been, and is continuing to be, a key contibutor to some of the most interesting and valuable experiencs that I am happy to say I have had. But rather, the purpose of this is to give you a heads up that it can be difficult as well. So I have decided to mention some key things I have found to be important, from practical physical supplies, to emotion, and spiritual, preparedness.

1) EMERGENCY BATHROOM KIT

I have found this to be an essential, ESSENTIAL, part of any travellers kit! Include in here toilet paper, sanitizer, wet wipes (for the more luxurious people out there), pocket bible – trust me, and a spare pair, if you know what I mean. You may ask why the bible? Well, there is a thing called traveller’s diarrhea which we all prepare for, but it’s little known evil twin, traveller’s constipation (I made that up), may strike at any time! And what better way to spend many minutes in the ol’ restroom than reading God’s word? Bring this kit with you everywhere, or you may have to use a rock in the mountains in Central Asia and things may get very, very ugly.

2) GOOD SHOES

I feel like my mom right now. But, if you plan on doing a lot of walking, or even if you don’t, bring shoes that have great support. You never know what opportunities may present themselves and you don’t want to hike The Great Wall of China in Vans. Trust me. Don’t limit yourself with bad shoes!

3) LONG PANTS

Why long pants? Well, you can’t go naked. And also, most of the world (at least Asia) doesn’t really do the whole shorts thing. Pants are especially important if you will be doing any ministry work. Making yourself stand out to the people you are trying to build relationships with can make them feel uncomfortable. With long pants comes long sleeves. Sometimes, things like tattoos, or just arms in general, need to be covered up. It’s better to be able to roll them up if that’s appropriate than to be stuck looking foolish and promiscuious with short sleeves.

4) PRAYER LIFE

This one is really geared toward my Christian friends, but feel free to consider this point anyway! Through travelling I have experienced some of the toughest challenges to my faith yet, and I expect there to be many more. I really believe that this is due to the nature of my trip, but all the same, there are many other religions around the world. And, coming into contact with these religions can and will open you up to some tests, and challenges. However, God is still God over that, and when we don’t, and can’t, understand what is going on around us all we can do is pray. I have really relied on prayer to get me through a lot of challenges that I am facing, and during extended trips, this will be a lifeline! Do not under estimate the importance of this!

5) THOUGHTFUL PROCESSING

This is kind of an obscure tip, but it is important. Travelling through some of the more impoverished parts of the world (and still more to come). I have learned a lot about life, some things about simplicity, some things about joy, some things about suffering. All these things have come through taking time to process what I have seen. Sometimes, when we see poverty constantly, we can become blind and numb to the reality that lies before us. I urge you to take time to think about what you are seeing, experiencing, and feeling. This will make travelling a much more valuable experience, and may open your eyes to new ideas and perspectives. As a Christian I think this is really important in order to understand what God is really doing and how we understand who He is.

6) THE ABILITY TO BE FLEXIBLE

This is important. Plans change, you get tired, you want to do something else, it’s okay! I think most people are okay with the fact that things out of their control change sometimes, but I think that things in our control are hard to be flexible with. At least for me. Sometimes, we want to experience the place that we are in so much that we go, go, go, see, see, see, eat, eat, eat, do, do, do, ourselves into exhaustion and we end up not really enjoying our time. (Did anyone laugh at the do, do, do part? I did.) Make a list of MUST DOS and WANT TO DOS, do the must dos and make it okay for you not to do the want to dos. Sometimes, a day of chilling at your hotel, hostel, host home, or tent, is just as much of a good memory as seeing  the next cool tourist attraction!

I hope you have enjoyed reading this! This is not even close to an exhaustive list, but just some things I have learned so far!

GlobeTREK update: I am in India for my 6-months now! It is a crazy place with lots of new and interesting things! Everyone else on the team is safely in their 6-month locations as well. If you would like to donate to Globetrek you can visit the Donations page on my blog or click this link, Praire Donations, in order to go directly to the donations page. Thanks for reading!