Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Pilgrim's Christmas in Bethlehem Pt 3

The next day was Christmas Eve and everyone in our hostel was making plans for spending the day in Bethlehem. 
Word was that the Latin Patriarch would lead a procession from Jerusalem to Jesus’ birthplace at noon. But the big question was: How would such an old man walk 10 kms to Bethlehem in just 1 hr in time to lead a service there at 1pm?
We got our answer, but again, not what we expected!  
We waited inside Jaffa Gate for the procession to begin: people crowded around; an Israeli soldier came over and joked with me about my cowboy hat: ‘Ringo?’ and I nervously laughed, not wanting to upset his sub-machine gun.
Suddenly, without any announcement,  2 jeeps loaded with soldiers and more machine guns sped through the square with 3 Mercedes Benzes following just as quickly out the gate – so quickly most of the waiting crowd didn’t even get a glimpse of the patriarch in the back of one of the cars!  In fact, it was a while before we realized the procession had indeed come and gone! A few in the crowd started to laugh, realizing the farce, but soon a general ho-hum and laughter took hold and the crowd dispersed. No processional reality, let alone regality, and most headed for special Israeli Egged buses waiting outside the gate to drive them.
But again, I was determined to walk, pilgrim-style, into Bethlehem. After all, it was sunny, a little cool in the shady spots, but it was only 10 kms, so about 100 others, mostly freaks like me, started walking. A couple of us gradually got ahead of the others as we made our way out from the Jerusalem suburbs into the Judean wilderness. Just over halfway, we stopped at Rachel’s Tomb, a simple white-domed shrine with a Jewish canopy draped over the resting place of Jacob’s wife: one of Israel’s oldest shrines.
Then just a short distance further, we turned a corner...
And there, in the middle of the road, stood a little lady,  turned sideways, one  half of her  moving forward while her other half  seemed to be running  in circles. Probably 65, with a kerchief pulled around her graying hair tied in a bun at the back, and a shopping bag draped over her arm, she looked like she was bargain-hunting for the nearest thrift store.
But my first impression soon proved unfair and incorrect.
‘Say, do any of you speak English?’
She sounded exhausted, but her question rose strong, above the road's busyness.
‘Of course!’ we answered.
‘Oh good! Do you know how far it is to Bethlehem? I’ve been walking, started in Jerusalem, for quite a while now and no one understands me when I ask. Some say it’s just a little further and I go a little further and then someone else says it’s just a little further more  and I go that and here I am, and I’m still not in Bethlehem.’
‘You can see it there, right now!’ we both answered and pointed to the church steeples just a short ways ahead.
‘Thank God,’ she sighed. ‘I’ve come so far!’
And then she recounted her story: one of the greatest determination tales I’ve heard! 
She’d been doing missions work in the US Mid-West and on her retirement, decided to go on a 3-week pilgrimage to Fatima in Portugal and Spain. But while there, she had such a great time, she found it hard to take it all in. 
‘You know, they’re always giving you a drink with breakfast, lunch, mid-afternoon, always before you go on the tour to the sacred places and when you finally get there, you’re so woozy and floating around, you miss half the place!’
She was so struck by what she’d seen and experienced, she decided she wanted more and go further…  to Rome. 
So she asked the tour director to reimburse her return ticket home.
However, they refused, saying she had to fly back with the rest of her group.
But she remained adamant in her desire to go anyway, although she only had $20!
She determined:  ‘I’d have hitch-hiked, just like all you young people, if I had to!’
However, the rest of her tour group came to her rescue at this point and together they collected $210 for her – just enough for the price of her ticket home from Rome. So she purchased a train ticket, took a night train across southern France and Italy to save on hotel costs, and spent a week in Rome visiting the sites: very special for a Roman Catholic! She'd then planned to take a train to Paris and fly back to the US, but just when she was leaving the Rome train station, she met another couple who'd just come from Greece and they convinced her to again change plans and head further east to Athens.
‘It’s so close,’ they said, ‘and warmer too and you can see all the places where Paul preached!’
So she traded in her train ticket to Paris for a boat to Athens and after a week in Greece... wouldn’t you know it? she met others who told her the Holy Land was only a short ways across the Mediterranean and…
‘You know, I couldn’t miss that, especially since this might probably be my only opportunity to ever go there!’
So she spent the last of her money on a ticket to Israel. 
She’d been staying with the Franciscan Fathers in Jerusalem for 3 weeks, visiting all the holy places, waiting for Christmas so she could visit Bethlehem on this special day, and now, here she was, approaching her final destination on her marathon journey… and somehow I’d been chosen to share this special  moment with her.
Yes, she talked like a gabby old lady, but she had something essential to say. Her voice rang with such exuberant excitement and her story - such a testament to the triumph of her will and faith - sang like fresh lyrics to the bells chiming Christmas carols. Together, they joyfully filled the air as we rounded the final turn into a sun-flooded Manger Square. The square was filled with confusion, but her simple song sounded a distinct melody – harmony and humility amid the surrounding cacophony.
We had to bow low to enter the door of the Church of the Nativity. Miss Davis (I think her name was Alice) was quite disappointed at how bare it looked inside! I, however, was quite impressed by this simple lack of ostentation in a Greek Orthodox Church: its columns showed only traces of what had been once vivid, colourful paintings and looked abstractly authentic, quite appealing to me after all the Jerusalem churches' embellishments.
We made our way down into the grotto where they said the manger had actually been, and sure enough, a priest was there, standing ready at the door with an outstretched offering plate! 
However, Alice, with me now in tow, surged right past him into a crowded little room, and  there in the middle of a marble floor was an inlaid golden star: her destination, and now mine, Jesus’ manger birthplace - slightly modified!
And as others stood by, pressing against the cave’s walls,  gawking as if unsure of what next to do, this true pilgrim, completely at peace with her God, herself, and her surroundings, had but one focus and took the last steps of her journey.
Without hesitation, she got down on her knees.
I watched her for a moment and then knelt also beside her.
She'd gotten her beads tangled around her neck and couldn’t loose them, so she turned and asked me to help.
‘Say, madam, could you help me?’ she fumbled, totally unaware that I was the guy who’d walked that last mile with her. It took a little to get her loosed, and then she leaned forward. By this time, I was right in step and followed her as she kissed the top of the star. 
And the revelation of the moment came as I heard her softly whisper:
‘Thank you, Lord, for bringing me here.’                                                  
Faithful throughout, thankful to the end: what beautiful and timely words from a child of God! 
Oh yes, she gabbed, and she well fit that annoying caricature of the American tourist that I so despised, but I got to see and share grace at that moment in all she carried within her. She had overcome insurmountable odds in her quest: a virtual Senora Quixote! No ordinary person; hers was an exceptional story and what a privilege I had to share this priceless moment with her!
During our walk, she’d asked me about my journey, and when I told her about hitching across North Africa, her curiosity stirred and she asked: ‘What are the people like? Is it dangerous? Could I do that?’
I left her at the star in the manger and I knew her journey was not finished yet.
I never saw her again, but in that very short time she gave me access to a spiritual  realm such as I’d never witnessed.

I’ve never forgotten her: this angel in a very human form – a messenger from God to guide me right to the very heart of the Christmas miracle and reveal a pilgrimage beyond just my wannabe!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A Pilgrim's Christmas in Jerusalem Pt 2

This view from the Mount of Olives and Gethsemane quickly became my favourite retreat in all Jerusalem.
The Franciscans gave it a sense of true spirituality: solemnity + reverence abide there; people even whispered as they entered the church; something the herds didn’t honour in the other shrines; I felt they may as well be auction markets, museums, or didn’t Someone once call them ‘a den of thieves?
I left this place where history says a man struggled to become God; or was it the other way around? I wasn’t sure.
And I returned to the Old City through Lion’s Gate, tracing my way through its darkened streets to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, perhaps the most sacred shrine in all of the Christian faith.
What happened there that night was the most dismaying display of religious impropriety I have yet encountered: hypocrisy, lying, spiritual usury; it was all there at one of the holiest sites. I felt both cheated and defiled by what I saw take place. And yet, the Via Dolorosa leads directly to its door, and 5 of the Stations of the Cross lie within.
The building is jointly administered by Roman Catholic, Orthodox + Armenian churches who have also granted privileges to Egyptian Coptics, Syrians + Ethiopians. Here in one building, actually 5or 6 different denominations worship, share + participate together where Christ was believed to be crucified + rose from the dead.
But this ‘harmony’ didn’t last too long for me; its fa├žade was soon exposed before my very eyes.
It is an old church, dating from Crusader times and even some remaining parts from a Byzantine church built upon Queen Helena’s discoveries 1700 years ago. During a 1926 earthquake, it was badly damaged and is still undergoing extensive repairs. Whole pillars are being replaced; its ceiling and vault are also being redone. Quite a monumental task, for while the restoration progresses, the church itself yet remains open.
Gratefully, the building’s importance has not closed its doors from fulfilling its original purpose.
So I was quite amazed by a scene of widespread commotion that greeted me on arrival: workmen straining to lift a new section of  pillar into place; people rushing about, shouting orders, carrying them out, all this in a holy place.
I knew nothing about the church’s layout and only by chance I discovered the actual Sepulchre, directly beneath the central dome, sheltered within its own private chapel.
Being late in the day, there was no lineup, so I ducked under the low stone doorway, and suddenly I was alone amid a treasure of  jewel-encrusted lamps, aged icons + flickering candles. The rich decorations proved a kind of distraction at first, but I accepted these fixtures to be Eastern expressions of what was considered suitable for such a holy place, so I let it rest.  
I felt awkward, not knowing what to do in such a  ‘holy of holies’, but after standing there a while, I wondered,
‘Well, what does a pilgrim do when you’ve come to one of the most significant shrines on your journey?’
I’d read stories, seen pictures, but now I was here. I had stepped into history and considered my response.
Well, I knew pilgrims don’t just stand around, they bow… so I knelt down and took off my cowboy hat; somehow it just didn’t suit the solemnity of the place.
Then I thought, ‘Pilgrims pray,’ but I really knew nothing about that. But… I thought I could at least be honest and speak out my heart and truth so far as I knew it; so I bowed my head, closed my eyes, and simply spoke,
 ‘Well, God… here I am. Some people say that Jesus was your Son and rose from the dead in this place.
   I don’t know about that, but if it’s true, I’d really like to know. Could you show me? Thanks.’ 
I think I also knew enough to say ‘Amen.’ and then left it with God, whoever that might be.
I walked out of the chapel and noticed a few elderly men seated off to the side, busy talking together, so I turned the other way.
Suddenly from behind a pillar, two black-robed men wearing black KKK-like hats appeared and invited me in broken English to ‘Come see… here!’
Not knowing who they were, I followed them around to the rear of the chapel I’d just been in.
One of them quickly lit a candle, knelt down in a tiny alcove and motioned me to join him.
‘Come see’, he beckoned, ‘Here, more closer!’ and I knelt down to his level.
The other ‘priest’(?) spoke better English and assumed leadership at this point. He moved his candle into a small opening at the base and pointed to some black stones inside.
‘See… the only real stones of the real Sepulchre!’
I leaned in for a closer look and … suddenly, the first priest, right in my face, grabbed my right hand, and before I could submit or resist, cried out, ‘Holy water!’ and splashed some heavily-scented water on the palm of my hand.
At the same moment, a collection plate appeared in his now outstretched other hand and without skipping a beat, he asked me,  ‘And now, what will give for the Church?’
It all happened so suddenly: the progression from spiritual revelation to crass materialism took place so quickly, I was quite taken aback by their rude boldness.
‘Thanks, but I’ve already given,’ I mumbled, got up and hurried away as fast as I could from these priestly bandits.
I ended up back in front of the chapel entrance and the same men who’d been previously talking together there now noticed me and stopped their conversation.
I asked them what I should see in the church and the one with a long beard, dressed like an Orthodox priest responded:  ‘Have you seen the Sepulchre yet?’
‘I think so,’ I replied and added my question: ‘Which one?’
‘Oh, you’ve been to the Copts, have you? And what did they tell you? Did they show you the black stones and the holy water?’
‘Yes,’ I answered, both confused by the events and somewhat shocked at his mocking tone.
And then they all laughed heartily, which both shocked and repulsed me all the more, this being, I figured, such a sacred place. I began to move away. In fact, I was ready to leave without seeing anymore. I’d seen enough.
But then another of the group, the shortest, with just a wisp of white hair combed straight back, asked me if I’d like a tour of the building.
I concluded he was a guide and declined his offer immediately.  I was a traveler, not a tourist! He insisted; I resisted and it seemed we were ready to get into a big argument – ironically, right at the entrance to where Christians say the Prince of Peace rose from the dead! I turned to leave when the 3rd man asked me what my religion was:
‘Catholic?’           ‘No.’
‘Orthodox?’          ‘No.’
‘Are you Coptic?’ No!’
‘Protestant?’         ‘No.’
‘Well, what are you? You must be something?’
… and then I gave them my philosophically noble, stock answer: ‘Well, I try to be a Christian.’
They seemed quite startled at my response and grew immediately quiet.
But just as suddenly, the guide jumped up and, greatly delighted, explained what I’d just said to the other two.
The others then laughed lightly, as if my answer had struck some kind of vein of simplicity within them.
And then their laughter grew louder!
‘A Christian!’ they repeated it to one another, as if that name had not even been in the realm of possibilities!
The guide especially seemed to appreciate my response and offered to show me around the church for free.
 ‘For you, I do this for God,’ he explained and proceeded to lead me upstairs to Golgotha, the 5 Stations of the Cross, the tombs of Baldwin and Godfrey de Bouillon, all the while telling me details of their stories.
His name was Isaac, an Armenian who’d lived in Jerusalem practically all his 75 (?) years and made his living by giving tours through the church. He had a truly expressive face: a complement to his single wisp of white hair on top was a solitary semi-white tooth poking through the bottom of his lips when he smiled.

And he smiled. And we grew to be good friends during the months I visited and revisited the Holy Sepulchre. Later he confided to me what surviving the Armenian genocide at the end of WWI had been like: the hardships of living in Jerusalem during those war years , the famine when the Turkish army stole all the civilians’ food  and forced them to forage or die. Atrocities that I had read about suddenly became real and took on a face,  a fascinating face with a fascinating story, while around me the church’s walls reverberated with living history and bones once dead rose again to witness truth to the Father’s promise.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Pilgrim's Christmas in Jerusalem - Pt 1

We are all pilgrims. Temporary resident aliens passing through this world; exiles on a homeward journey of discovery, questing for meaning and truth.  Life-long, sometimes it feels like merely aimless wandering, seeking empty self-fulfillment, or is it responding to some greater call and purpose to worship and reach beyond ourselves?
We’re all on this journey, but at different stages of place and time, sharing seasons of gratification and breaking, resting and awakening, accumulating and giving, mystery and revelation. 
Many just don’t realize who or where they are, but lie trapped in contentment or fear to venture beyond their comfortable horizon.
The question is: are we a Don Juan, Don Quixote or Donald Trump?
The choice is: ours to leave the comfortable for the unknown, embrace the tension between the secure and the adventurous, follow the open road of destiny or settle, satisfied with what we’ve always known and been.
The answer lies: somewhere out there … beyond… within.
Amazing things happen en route: destinations realized inevitably become incomplete forms of our original vision. Something remarkable transpires while pursuing vision: not only do goals change, but we are changed also. Pilgrimage is that journey of the soul where personal transformation experienced along the way actually becomes more vital than the physical destination secured. On attainment, our goals are often not all we initially hoped  they would be. Indeed, what is there left to conquer after you’ve summited Mount Everest?
Robert Frost touched on this in The Road not Taken.
A modern proverb puts it: Life’s a journey, enjoy the ride.
TS Eliot revealed this phenomenon for me many years ago in Little Gidding:
  ‘We shall not cease from exploration
   And the end of all our exploring
   Will be to arrive where we started, 
   And know that place for the first time.'
My destiny road was elusive, confusing and even frustrating for me as a young man in the 60s.
My Baby- Boomer generation called everything into question; nothing was either sacred or off-limits.
The Vietnam War, Watergate and drugs turned our world’s roller coaster ride upside down and inside out. Disillusioned with both my university education’s empty textbook answers and the counter-culture’s invitation to simply ‘Tune in, turn on and drop out,’ I determined to find out for myself what validity the status quo or its alternatives actually held. I didn’t see myself as an idealist and I definitely wasn’t very practical; I just knew I needed to discover the basics of this life and how things actually work: either in justice, mechanics, love... whatever.
I realized I had to search these out for myself and I wasn’t going to get my answers from a book, sitting at a desk.
So I picked up a packsack, stuck out my thumb and started hitchhiking…to see firsthand the differences between what was real and only wannabee.
First, I travelled through Eastern Europe. The Cold War got hot at times and I wanted to know if those communist ideologues who’d confronted me so often on the UBC Library steps about class struggle really had it right.
It didn’t take long to see through their red mask. In all my travels, I’d never seen so many miserable, unhappy people as under communist rule and concluded it would only be a matter of time before that empty system collapsed from within. 
Then I bought a Qu’ran, read it while hitching across North Africa and tried to discern Islam’s answers to my quest. But it was very confusing and I in turn became even more confused. I read it straight then, surmising that I was the problem, I read it stoned. But that didn’t help either. Like… why doesn’t the Sura (chapter) entitled The Cow even mention a cow and how does that relate to anything in general anyways? I was baffled.
But these were only preliminary steps towards my real destination: Israel.
I remembered my old Sunday School stories and wanted to find out if they were indeed for real.
A previous trip a couple years earlier had ended prematurely.  I’d come oh so close, but never reached Jerusalem. Now I was close again and planned to be spend Christmas in Jerusalem… even in Bethlehem!
I stopped a couple weeks in Greece, my home-away-from-home. Now that I styled myself a pilgrim, I figured I needed to act like one and so I had to take up my cross… whatever that meant?
Didn’t Jesus say that in one of those Sunday School stories?
So I shopped around Athens.  I didn’t want a big flashy fashion-statement cross that people hang on their outside.I figured somewhat more of a small, discreet, subtle symbol - tangibly spiritual, but not religious, would do.  I found it in the Plaka – a maze of streets and shops strung around the base of the Acropolis. It was lightweight, a very simple Orthodox crucifix, silver with inlaid lapis lazuli on its right and left points. The shopkeeper said it was Russian and that bit of information sealed the deal for this student of all things Russian! Its tooling was simple and delicate, tastefully precise yet not ostentatious: its blue inlay well-worn, authentically antique, even chipped in spots.
I was now ready for the next step. I took up my cross and flew off to Israel.
And a few days before Christmas there I stood, right at the road’s intersection from Tel Aviv up to Jerusalem.
But I ran into my first obstacle when I got into a hitching battle with an army of Israeli soldiers wanting rides in the same direction and their countrymen seemed more apt to pick up one of their own than this lone Canuck. I watched as wave after wave came and went: reinforcements appeared out of nowhere; their line was never-ending and, like all their other adversaries, I felt I didn’t stand much of a chance.
But an old pickup eventually pulled over, I threw my pack in the back and I was off on my journey’s final stage: only 61 kilometers till I reached this life goal!  
My ride was a Jewish soldier-farmer plus another ‘auto-stopper’: Ferdie, a California surfer-type with a black-and-white-checkered Arab kaffiyeh wrapped around his head. He was unique, not your average tourist or kibbutznik. He’d been in Israel 8 months, working in a hostel, learning Evrite-Hebrew so he could deliver a John the Baptist –type ‘prophetic’ message to the nation in its own tongue. Our driver, doubling as a tour guide, kept pointing out the passing scenes: burned- out tanks, wrecked army trucks, memorials to past battles. But not understanding Evrite, I was missing a lot of  his meaning. He then tried a smattering of German –which I understood a bit more; so between  Ferdie and  me in English, Ferdie and  the driver in Hebrew, and the driver and me in broken German,  we somehow got more of each other’s picture, and made our way to Jerusalem, 3 of us tightly jammed together in his small cab.
And clear communication became crucial when I explained to Ferdie how I only wanted to drive within a few kilometers of the city and then walk. No one, I contended, can drive into Jerusalem, the holy city, on his first entry! Even centuries of conquerors had shown at least this respect: Allenby humbled himself, got off his horse and walked through Jaffa Gate! And that was the least that I, if I was a real pilgrim, could do! Ferdie seemed to understand my desire perfectly, but when he conveyed this to our driver, he thought me crazy to walk when he could drive me all the way. 
But I insisted on entering Jerusalem ‘im rege’, Hebrew: ‘on foot’, and finally, after much insisting, he finally consented.
Not long and city-looking apartment houses appeared; we were getting closer to the city and our driver let me out.
A final ‘todaraba’ –Thank you, I adjusted my packsack and headed in what I figured was the right direction, excitedly apprehensive what my next turn might open up: my first glimpse of the Holy City’s golden dome!
But I hadn’t gone far, just turned a corner… and suddenly there stood Ferdie, waiting for me! He’d persuaded the driver to let him off  too so he could join me and walk that last stage together. It was like meeting an old friend!
We headed south, from where I strategized we could circle around and view the old city unobstructed.
But my pack was growing heavy: very heavy!  And my burden grew even heavier as we continued up and down a series of hills and valleys. I hadn’t thought Jerusalem was built on so many hills! But we must be getting close: the buildings were now made of stone and looked older. Everything, even the people, exuded an air that this was no ordinary city, but one with history, character, culture, and purpose – a timeless city that had withstood men’s ravaging over millennia and would continue to withstand every future antagonist!
Then suddenly, there it was! A part of the wall off in the distance, and then a gate – the Jaffa Gate!? 
and in a few minutes,  I  was walking through what I’d seen before only in pictures! My legs walked on their own; my eyes drank in more than they could swallow; my hands clasped together tightly to only suddenly collapse loosely at my side. Mind racing and heart in awe, I entered almost unconsciously, absorbing and caught up with so much that I don’t remember many details, but I soaked in the Big Picture… all at once. And I liked it and drank in its life!
People seemed easy-going; even the Arab shopkeepers weren’t obnoxiously in-your-face like in North Africa.
Herod’s Gate, Damascus Gate – their very names seemed timeless and sacred and suddenly, here I was, walking down the Via Dolorosa. I rid myself of my burdensome pack and continued exploring!  I was hungry and devoured my first of many falafels as well as some sesame seed-peanut-honey dessert… heavenly sweet!  
But I was really hungering for something more: food for the spirit was in the air + life was everywhere!
I cut through a maze of streets to the Wailing Wall: the Jewish rallying point; separate men + women sections; head coverings mandatory for all, but even me, a Gentile, could put on a little black paper beanie, approach and  touch the timeless wall.  I didn’t feel a bolt of electricity hit me, but I did sense more what this Wall that’s stood for so long through so much means to so many.  I gazed on its craggy face, heard its cries of lamentation, felt its tears of joy and sorrow, smelled its profundity, touched and was touched in my inner being.
It was getting late and I wanted to see for real what before I’d only seen in pictures: the Old City from the Mount of Olives. So I rushed through Dung Gate and crossed the Kidron just in time to catch Jerusalem in her sunset splendor. She looked and even tasted mellow – mellow yellow, as her stones absorbed and reflected the sun’s last rays. Together they joined in an ancient wall, circled the hilltop, crowned with a golden Dome.
Many times cast down, but not destroyed. Many have wept for you and bewailed your destructions, but you stand:
a city secure, eternal, and no matter how often beaten, you have  risen again and again to still stand 3000 years later! Triumphant in glory amid the thirsty mountain wilderness; encroached upon by modern technology, yet unbeaten; confident that what men desire and strive for within your mysterious walls will only overcome them in the end.
You hold close your mysteries and disclose them to only those who seek and find their peace in you.
Truly, you are even more than your name: Here is Peace! David’s City, creation of both God and man on earth.
So silent at sunset, she lies now, preparing for sleep so she may awake again come the morning sun.
She glowed brilliant and I felt I had come home!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Beautiful sunny day along the Fraser: the eagles were chillin', my new cozy fireplace is hummin' + Zander, our resident fireman is chummin' with his new firetruck!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

30-hour marathon of flights from Kathmandu-Bangkok-HongKong-Vancouver + I'm home from Nepal today! Thank you for your prayers + encouragement along the way + a special Thank you to Prem + Lalita + their school for hosting me! This is my 3rd time in Nepal + I feel more + more like I have a home away from home each time I visit. Please keep praying for the kingdom of God to continue to rise up! Each time here I've seen a parallel with the Philippian church: birthed in an earthquake, poor yet constantly giving, a true testimony of the Resurrected Christ! So many changed lives, the harvest is ripe! So many challenges, yet such strong overcomers! Please keep praying for labourers + an end to the Hindu extremist embargo against fuel + medicine that has made life so difficult for so many. But even this is turning as an opportunity for many to see the difference between the light of Jesus + the world's darkness: real relationship with God rather than spinning wheels with sleeping dogs, whole poinsettia trees, not just potted plants. So thankful for my own bed tonight!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

PLEASE PRAY FOR NEPAL! Things are a bit confusing here today: arsonists burned down a school overnight so the government closed all schools because of possible further attacks. But there is no fuel to run the buses to get the children to school anyways because Hindu extremists (there are no Muslim extremists here as yet), pressuring for a Hindu state, have blockaded the border with India for the last 3 months + prevented fuel + medicine from coming into Nepal. Then the Maoist party declared a general strike today to pressure the Communist government to put pressure against the Indian government which is supporting the Hindu extremists. So Nepal is locked in a power struggle + that means… no fuel or buses for Prem + I to travel to Pokhara in the Himalayas today, but tomorrow??? Hopefully!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

We had our final class here in Kathmandu yesterday, then I gave them a test - they did best on their memorizing Scripture; the eagles definitely got their wings! Last night stray dogs howled all night outside our windows - definitely a sign, but don't know what exactly! Today church - they meet on Saturday mornings here, I preached on .... Jesus! + then communion together + now the students are beginning to leave for their homes after having been here for 4 months. Tomorrow Prem + I will go to Pokhara in the mountains for about 5 days

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Some of the sights walking around Kathmandu today: harvest + blossoms at same time (?), resting, schoolgirls, loaded bus (do you think we could convince Skytrain to try this for rush-hour?) even a wedding!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Church here in Nepal this morning: after the April earthquake killed 10,000 people:
'But you have come to Mt. Zion...
 Yet once more I will shake not only earth, but also heaven…
 since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us have grace... (Heb 12:22-28)
 Earthquakes are terrible natural disasters, but also signify changes from old status quo to new order.
Jesus foretold earthquakes (Matt 24:7) ‘in the last days’ = the last days of the Old Covenant Temple
+ when He 'yielded up His spirit, earth quaked + temple veil torn from top to bottom + rocks split’ (Matt 27:50-51)
+ when He rose from the dead 'behold there was a great earthquake’ (Matt 28:2), Earth has never been the same!
All creation + humanity groan amid earth’s turmoils, but through faith in Christ, death throes become birth pangs!
The devil means evil, but God turns even these for good + His Church rises - more than conquerors (Rom 8 22-37)
Acts 16:16-34: Paul + Silas in prison… dungeon… chained… at midnight – couldn’t get any darker!
But they were singing praises + the other prisoners heard them;
Suddenly there was a great earthquake! foundations shaken, doors opened, chains loosed!
The jailer asked, ‘What shall I do to be saved?’
How did he know he needed to ask that question???
*** Paul + Silas had been singing about their Saviour beforehand, now he believed + a new church was birthed! ***
April’s earthquake hit right at the end of Saturday morning services, and a number of believers died also: but the Nepalese Church looked beyond their own suffering and reached flattened villages in decimated mountain areas. They fed people, helped others rebuild + shared the gospel in word + deed.
Whole new churches have sprung up! That’s what Jesus meant,
 ‘I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.’ (Matt 16:18)
There: that’s the sermon in action from Nepal today!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Friends + family of God on this trip + ice cream too, in the middle of the jungle! ... now how'd those 3 monkeys get in there? ( Grandpa misses you Anya, Zander + Judah!)