Presbyterian Missions Weblog


In Dehradun

Posted in India,Uncategorized by lenpine on April 23, 2008

We began our day today enjoying breakfast with the Principal of Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Dr. C, and taking a tour of the campus. It is a beautiful place, loaded with big shade trees, rose gardens, and wonderful facilities for the hundred or so students that attend there. They come from all over India, and some from Nepal as well. Maybe 20% are from Presbyterian churches, the rest from a variety of other traditions. In the afternoon we spent the better part of three hours teaching and fellowshipping with the students, meeting with members of the presbytery in this area, and getting a glimpse of the heritage of Bible Presbyterian missionaries from a generation ago. We taught on the importance and challenges of being “confessional” in our churches, meaning holding on firmly to the historical Reformed confessions of faith as a guide to our understanding of the Scriptures and to the government and discipline of the Church. Graduation is tomorrow, and the students were gracious enough to be a good audience even as they anticipated being set loose for the summer in two days!

We finished up the day at Anup’s house for dinner (Domino’s pizza and wings, a very special treat), and will part company with him at the train station in the morning. He is a precious friend, and our parting will be bittersweet. We hope that we have been an encouragement to him and the work he is trying to do in this place. He is a faithful man of high integrity and unusual wisdom, and I am honored to call him my friend and colleague.

There’s another wedding outside tonight (our hotel is a popular spot for them apparently, and this is the wedding season around – looks like another loud one. Thankfully, they have to kill the noise at 10 pm. Tomorrow (Thursday here) will be a travel day mostly, back to Delhi. Backus heads back to New York around midnight. After a short night’s sleep for me, I take off for Singapore and ministry there for a few days. I am eager to renew my friendships with the brethren there. Next time I write, the Lord willing, I’ll be there. Thanks again for your prayers!

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A Different World

Posted in India,Uncategorized by lenpine on April 23, 2008

Since I wrote last, we’ve had an enormous amount of experience packed into just a couple of days. (Consequently, this is a long blog!) On Monday, we got up early and headed for one of the many trains stations scattered around Delhi and caught a 6 am train to Agra, the site of the Taj Mahal, Fatephur Sikri, and the Agra Fort. We figured that we couldn’t very well come to India and not see one of the wonders of the world.

First, though, we drove out with our guide to the site of the “Phantom City” of Fatephur Sikri. This huge city was built of red sandstone about 500 years ago by the great Moghul king Ahkbar the Great, who united India into a single kingdom and established a dynasty that lasted until the British conquered India. The palace complex has been amazingly preserved, and the stone work is incredible. We particularly liked the private audience hall, where the king sat above the floor in a throne perched on top of a lotus flower shaped pedestal (the lotus was the traditional seat of the gods).

Next, we traveled to Agra, where the Taj Mahal is situated. The Taj lived up to its reputation. I kept getting chills up my spine every time I looked at it – never thought I’d be able to stand next to, walk through, or touch this amazing place, and we did all three. We wandered over the grounds slowly, trying to take this enormous tomb’s dimensions and beauty in as best we could. The wonder doesn’t diminish when you get closer: it’s not just the size of the place, it’s also the detail. Made of hard crystallized marble, embedded with hundreds of thousands of tiny shaped pieces of semi-precious stones in the shape of trees, flowers, birds, leaves, vines, and other motifs, and carved profusely with bas relief flora images (not to mention the immense ornate carved screens made of single slabs of the marble), the closer you looked the more wonder there was. I don’t think I will ever forget visiting this place. I should mention that by the time we got to the Taj, the temp was nearing 110 degrees Fahrenheit! But, at least it was a dry heat (Dr. Backus hates it when I say that!).

After lunch and a little shopping for some of that wonderful marble work, which is still done by the descendants of the same family that was in charge of the work at the Taj hundreds of years ago, and done with exactly the same techniques (even the glue is the same, a secret family recipe), we took a brief tour of the Agra Fort, built by Ahkbar again in red sandstone. It is IMMENSE. You can’t go through most of it, since it is still occupied by the Indian military, but the palaces are beautiful. By then, it was time to head back to Delhi by plane, in time to catch another train up to Dehradun. During our layover, we were able to rest a bit at the Solankis’ house again, which was another blessing.

Our train to Dehradun was an overnight special, so both of us enjoyed a first-time experience of sleeping in a sleeping car on a train. Pretty cool, though the berth was a little short for me. We were met at the station by my good friend Anup H, whom I met back in the US a couple of years ago, and who is now laboring here for the Lord teaching and preaching and seeking to help a faithful Reformed and Presbyterian witness in this area. He is the one who made the initial invitation and who was our liaison with the brethren here in setting up this trip. We checked into our hotel, got a little breakfast and rest, and then set out for a visit of the area. Besides seeing a good bit of the city of Dehradun, which is nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, we made a couple of very interesting stops. First, we visited the site of the oldest Presbyterian church building in the region, which was started by Bible Presbyterian missionaries a long time ago, and is still operating today in conjunction with a children’s home, started about the same time. The children who are there are not orphans: their parents are all lepers, and cannot be part of society (there’s actually a large leper colony right next to the Taj Mahal), so the kids come here to learn and be prepared for society. Out of this sad situation comes joy many times. The pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church is a close colleague of our friends H and S, and adopted two of the girls years ago –those girls are now teachers at the children’s home school.

After a nice tea with the pastor and his wife, we set out for the Hindu holy city of Rishikesh, further up in the foothills, perched on the bank of the upper Ganges River. High mountains surround the town, and temples march up their flanks. Enormous multi-story buildings lined the river, occupied not by people but by thousands of idols. The locals call it “the city where the gods live.” We crossed the river twice on the suspension bridges that hang high over the water, and once on a boat. At water’s edge, people dipped themselves in the water in the belief that they were washing their sins away for the next year. Higher up the banks, pilgrims wandered through the narrow streets from temple to temple, trying to cover the bases. But with countless gods (I’ve heard estimates of anywhere from 36000 to 3.6 million) to try to appease, it’s a hopeless situation. I was struck with thankfulness that my sins are covered by the sacrificial blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, once for all, for eternity. He has satisfied the justice of the one true and living God, who is not and cannot be made by human hands.

Anyway, the ride there and back was really beautiful. In this foothill country the roads were winding and shaded under the forest as we drove through. It is much greener up here than down in Delhi and the plains. It is a land with wild elephants, though we didn’t see any, and lots of monkeys, which we did see. They hang out by the roads waiting for people to feed them and are generally a nuisance. On the way back, Anup wanted me to drive. We went by some back roads so there would be less traffic (have I mentioned how BAD the traffic is?), and I drove for a few kms. Haven’t done the left-hand driving for quite awhile, and there’s lot of passing on curves, and dodging pedestrians, cows, motos, and trucks. Car mirrors are folded in most of the time, because they go so close to each other that they would get ripped off if they were extended! It was fun, and I didn’t hit anything. Mission accomplished! We finished up the day with tea at the Hiwales’ apartment, which was a great way to end a most interesting couple of days. Tonight, as I write, a local wedding celebration is loudly going on outside our hotel – and I mean loud! But Dr. Backus is so tired that he’s sleeping through it like nothing was going on. As you can tell, it’s been an eventful couple of days.

Tomorrow, we will speak at Presbyterian Theological Seminary in the afternoon, and meet with faculty and students there. The following day we head back to Delhi, and prepare to part company as Dr. Backus heads back to New York and I continue on alone to Singapore. Won’t be alone for long, though…. Singaporean friends are awesome! Hope you enjoy the pics.

A Day in Jaipur

Posted in India,Uncategorized by lenpine on April 20, 2008

With a day off on Saturday, our hosts suggested that we complete the third leg of the “Golden Triangle” here, which is the city of Jaipur, in the state of Rajastan. The other two points of the triangle are Delhi and Agra, which we’ll head over to on Monday, the Lord willing. Jaipur’s history you can look up on the web yourself, but suffice it to say that it is a well-preserved medieval period city, and is the site of the magnificent Moghul palace called Amber (or, Amer, depending on who you talk to). It was a long ride down there, and we started early. We really were not prepared for what we saw and experienced. It was like stepping back in time. The beauty, the size and scope of the place, mounted on top of the hills and surrounded by walls resembling the Great Wall of China snaking over the ridges was stunning. We pretty much could anywhere in the palace, and explored it thoroughly.

Speaking of snakes, we did run into a snake charmer while we were there — and saw lots of elephants, camel carts — yeah, we weren’t expecting camels in India, either. Rajastan, though, is a desert state, similar in topography to inland Souther California, and camels do better than horses. We saw some monkeys, too, and there are parrots everywhere. It was a good day.

We finished off the day by returning to Delhi and enjoying the hospitality of Pastor Solanki and his family. He and his family have become very precious to us. And, I have to say, his wife is a marvelous cook. She prepared the best Indian food I’ve ever had, bar none. Anyway, we enjoyed fellowship until late in the evening as we learned more about the ongoing work of the presbytery here, and talked about the vision of planting 25 churches in Delhi and its suburbs. Right now, Solanki’s church of about 50 people has started seven other congregations, and is beginning work on an eigth. They are systematically making a ring around the city, with the idea of eventually having a Bible Presbyterian church within 5-7 kms from anywhere in the city. It’s a great vision, and they are well on their way.

This morning we gathered with the central church here in Delhi with the congregation. They do not own a building, but rent space from Faith Academy, an independent Christian school founded by Rev. John Dorsey, who I mentioned previously as being instrumental in the establishment of the church as well. In a simple classroom, the believers gather, seat themselves on the floor on rugs (women on the left, men on the right), sing praises, recite the Catechism, read the Scriptures, and attend carefully to the Word. I was privileged to preach this morning, and Backus brought greetings from our churches here in the States. It was a great time of worship and fellowship.

Tomorrow morning early, we catch a train to Agra for the day to see the Taj Mahal and some other sites there. From there we head north to Dehradun for a few days, where we will visit and minister at the presbytery’s seminary. More on these things in the days to come….

Thanks for your prayers.

Seminar Done, Blessings Continue

Posted in India,Uncategorized by lenpine on April 18, 2008

This morning (Friday 18 April), we wrapped up our seminar on church planting and government with the brethren here in Delhi. It’s been a tremendous time. This morning I was a little woozy, since I decided to take a sleeping pill last night — the dopey feeling stayed with me on into the morning, and I had to skip Dr. Backus’ session to go lie down. I gave the closing message of the seminar, and the Lord was gracious to me and provided the strength and clarity of mind that I needed.

After lunch, we all went our separate ways, the brethren returning to their homes around the country, and Backus and I being treated to an afternoon tour of some of the city’s monuments, prominent buildings, and beautiful neighborhoods by a deacon in the main church here, Mr. P. This dear brother owns a tour company here, and has taken it upon himself to make sure that we are well provided for in the way of transportation and local knowledge. He is a gracious and articulate host, and we enjoyed our afternoon together much. Tomorrow, he’ll be taking us to the “Pink City” of Jaipur, some 160 km from Delhi (we’re leaving early!) to see an entirely different side of India. We’re looking forward to it. I’m throwing in an assortment of pictures from our day today. I also took some video of the brethren singing, which was a blessing. As soon as I get it down into a manageable file, I’ll post a little of that as well. Thanks again for your prayers!

Another Day, Another Experience

Posted in India,Uncategorized by lenpine on April 17, 2008

Well, today was a good day again. Neither Kevin nor I slept well last night, so we were pretty tired as the day began. Nonetheless, we had an excellent day of teaching — so much so that our host, Pastor S., wants to use our materials in his training for the licentiates of the presbytery here for the next several years! We are humbled and grateful for this development.

Turns out there is already a good working presbytery here, which we were not expecting. The churches have their roots in the work of BP missionary John Dorsey, now with the Lord since 2002. He left behind a legacy of churches and mission stations that are doing their best to do thing properly. There are 8 congregations in the Delhi area, two of which have ordained pastors. The others are training for ordination. The process for ordination is very rigorous, more than most American churches. There are two licentiates as well who oversee local works. They have been planting churches at a rate of about one a year for the past several years now. There are also five lay pastors from the eastern state of Orissa, and one from the Mombai area as well. Some of these men took two days to get here by train! Altogether, there are about fifteen or sixteen men attending these lectures.

We are teaching in the general area of church planting and church government. The response has been very good, and we have just one day left to finish up tomorrow here. We shall regroup over the weekend, see a few sights, worship and minister at Faith Bible Presbyterian Church in Delhi on the Lord’s Day, and then head north to Dehradun to minister at the Presbytery’s seminary there. We’ll be teaching on the importance and challenges of confessional Christianity there. We are expecting about 115 students to attend those lectures.

It was pretty warm today, and the power in the building kept cycling on and off, which made presenting difficult at times. Finally, my laptop quit entirely — thought I had lost it for good, but it turns out I only fried the battery. I’ll replace it in Singapore, the Lord willing. In the meantime, it works just fine without the battery in it and plugged in directly.

Traffic in Delhi is living up to its reputation, with a lot of gridlock. It was worse than usual today because of the running of the Olympic torch through the middle of the city, which shut down the city center for several hours. Our taxi added to the congestion by quitting about a kilometer from our hotel. We walked the rest of the way. It was faster! Today we have seen (one or the other of us) a man riding an elephant down the street, sacred cows clogging up the works on the streets, women in saris wielding mattocks in a street construction project, and more motos, bicycles, trishaws, and pedestrians weaving in and out of traffic than you can shake stick at. S tells me that he will let me ride his scooter around on Saturday, which I may or may not do, depending on the schedule. Backus already has dibs on my laptop, even without the battery! Seriously, we may head out to see a beautiful and ancient area outside of Delhi called Jaipur “”The Pink City,” complete with palaces, etc. One of the deacons of the church operates a tour company here, and is happily taking us around.

Well, I’ll sign off for tonight. Thanks for your prayers for us as we travel.

Safely Arrived in India

Posted in India,Uncategorized by lenpine on April 15, 2008

After 20 hours + of travel across the Atlantic, we’re (Dr. Kevin Backus and myself) safely in India. Just unwinding for now, it’s about 2 in the morning. Tomorrow we’ll rest in the morning, and then begin our work in Delhi this week in the afternoon and evening. Pray for our host in the city of Dehradun, who came down sick and is in the hospital today. Don’t know yet what the problem is!

Our host pastor here in Delhi told us on the hour long trip from the airport to the hotel that Delhi is a city of 17 million people, and is 70 km across! It takes a long while to get anywhere. Talk to you later.