Presbyterian Missions Weblog


Last Sunday on the Road

Posted in Uncategorized by lenpine on May 13, 2008

Well, this was an interesting Sunday. We started out by going to what is probably the largest foreign church on mainland China for their early service. They fill up an enormous theater in a hotel complex, and the stage was filled with the electronics and instruments for the worship band. Their services are bilingual, and are only for foreign passport holders (they checked ours at the door). It was a very contemporary service, without much form or formality, but with lots of pop style music to get everyone in the mood to worship. The preacher of the morning was a guest from Oklahoma, and his message was all about how Jesus doesn’t love crowds, he just loves everyone. The logic of that one escaped me, and about the time he said that Jesus loves everyone (Romans 9, etc., notwithstanding) for the fourth time I had enough and stepped out. It was pretty bad. Lots of glitz, but not much substance.

 

From there, we went to the regular services of another church that ministers to the expatriot community. The contrast between the two services was stark. A very small congregation, their service was very orderly and quiet, with more substantial praise and a basic sermon based on the Word (which I understand is pretty typical). We celebrated communion together with them, and enjoyed the fellowship.

 

Both of these churches, as well as the other expat churches in the city, are targeting their work at those who are already Christians pretty much. The big one has a lot of small groups set up around the city for fellowship and targeted content according to what people want. They also have a counseling center and a lot of other ancillary ministries. None of the expat churches are really there trying to vigorously evangelize the expat community, of which there are about a million in Beijing alone, 300,000 of them English speakers. So, that is a real need. A big part of the expat experience in China could be summed up as “eat, drink, and be merry,” if the advertisements and articles in the expat magazines are any indication.

 

In the afternoon, a group gathered at our friend’s place for a few hours and I was able to talk about the history of music in the church, complete with lots of sound bites! We had a great time together, and the hope is that we will be able to do this again in the future, on this and other subjects. So I hope that will happen. We wrapped up the day with a number of us enjoying a wonderful meal together and fellowship until I had to go and finish packing!

 

This morning as I was leaving China an enormous earthquake struck the country in Sichuan province, about a 1000 miles south of the capital. The tremors were felt there, and as far south as Vietnam. At the epicenter, over 12000 are dead, 18000 are missing, and the count will certainly rise. Between that and the astronomical death toll in Myanmar from the cyclone that hit there, Asia has been dealt major blows to their economies, their futures, their pride, their people. I’m thankful for the privilege that I’ve had the past month to travel through the region, and my heart aches for these many millions who need to know the Christ of the Scriptures more than anything else. Thanks again for your prayers. I’m writing this last post from Detroit, waiting for my connection home. It ‘s good to be home – and yet as I watch the hundreds of people streaming past me here on their way to wherever, it occurs to me that most of them are in as great a need for Christ as anyone there might be in Asia. The fields are white, ready to harvest – where are the laborers for the King?

People Met, The Future Beckons

Posted in Uncategorized by lenpine on May 11, 2008

The meeting with the gentleman from here the other night was really something. Here’s a successful guy who comes to Christ later in life, who once he does so finds his business suddenly frittering away to nothing, a baby on the way (their first – actually born two days after our meeting! It’s a girl!), and a country with a lot of believers who don’t really know much about the Bible or how to really operate properly. He struggled against the idea of becoming a pastor for a long time, but the Father just took care of his business by relieving him of it – now, he is committed to service, and wants to go abroad to study. So, we had a long evening of fellowship on that subject and others, to good result. I’m praying that in a few years he’ll be able to see the desire of his heart fulfilled when he returns and starts a new fellowship in his home town.

We met for coffee with a sister whom I’ve heard about for a quite awhile the next day. She’s been helping our friend here with an important translation project up until a couple of weeks ago, when a situation at work got way out of hand, and people have left, been arrested, and are generally living in fear for their livelihoods, while she has been the one who has been tasked with trying to hold it all together. It finally came to a head this week, and it was a pleasure to come alongside with biblical counsel and comfort, and see the Father just wipe the care away from her countenance. We were all able to continue our fellowship that evening as we walked (about 3 km) to this really terrific hot pot restaurant for dinner. The food was great, and the noodle man put on quite a performance taking a lump of dough and acrobatically turning it into a ten foot long noodle to cook in our pot. Neat stuff. The ladies finished off the evening with a time of study, and I returned to the hotel to contemplate in insides of my eyelids.

Yesterday (Saturday) we went downtown again (frankly, all of Beijing seems like downtown, but this was the CBD – the central business district) to wrap up a couple of minor shopping stops and see more of the realm of the expatriate, or expat, residents of this city. This group of over 1 million people have very little in the way of any sort of ministry aimed at them. About 300,000 are English speakers. It’s a burden of our friends here that a fellowship should be started specifically aimed at this group. There are a few other gatherings here, one or two of them fairly large, but are theologically lacking in much substance, being more in the line of the church growth mentality that has turned so many western churches into consumer driven smorgasboards of human preference and entertainment rather than real houses of worship. Today, we’re going to visit one of the biggest ones, and then go to a smaller denominational fellowship where folks like our friends here tend to gather. Then, I’ll be giving a seminar on music through the history of the church this afternoon, and we’ll wrap up the day with a time of fellowship around a meal, a fitting way to end my time here before heading home on Monday. I’ll let you know how the day goes with one more installment to conclude the trip’s blog.

Thanks again for your prayers all this past month. I’ll get some more pictures up once I can get somewhere that doesn’t block access to my site. There’s a lot to show you! Blessings!

On Walking When You’re Not Used to It

Posted in Uncategorized by lenpine on May 11, 2008

My feet hurt. OK, I know, it’s kind of whining, but the fact is, my feet hurt. It’s become perfectly clear that I’ve gotten soft in my old age. Just way too much sitting in front of a computer! It’s been great walking over to the apartment every morning, and then walking to the subway, then walking through the immense cultural icons of Beijing, then walking to lunch, then walking to the hotel, then walking to the apartment, then walking back to the hotel for the night. I haven’t done this much walking in years, and my feet think I have morphed into some cruel shadow of my former self. OK, the shadow part is a bit melodramatic, since the way I have been eating, my shadow hasn’t grown any less. That aside, I’m going to have to make this walking thing a more regular part of my routine at home. I like the pace. I like the ability to see what’s around me. I like sounds of birds. I like the sense that the world is whirling around me while I have “found” the secret to moving steadily and surely through it. I like catching glimpses of life as it unfolds in others, and becoming wiser for the lessons learned from experiences and voices outside of myself. I like being able to talk to God about these things as I amble along. And, I like the thought that if I keep this up, my shadow might actually grow less! It’s been good for my feet to remember what they were created for – so they can just quit the whining.

The Last Leg Begins

Posted in Uncategorized by lenpine on May 8, 2008

After an all night flight to Beijing, I was pretty blitzed, and headed directly to my hotel – a brand new Super 8 about a ten-minute walk from my friend’s apartment. The place is so new that you can still smell the paint – great place, and very reasonable. I think I must be the first foreigner they’ve had (they just got their license to accommodate foreigners), and they have gone all out to make me feel comfortable. No complaints here!

 

Anyway, I was delighted to find out that I can get online here again, right in my room. Can’t blog, however (the site is blocked), so I’m going to try to circumvent the system if I can. Anyway, I’ll have to put the pictures up later for Cambodia, but I think I can at least get text up. We’ll see. Yesterday I could get on Google to get my mail, but today I can’t (even though I can get my gmail on my Blackberry!) – it can be like that here.

 

The first day I was here, Tuesday, I wasn’t worth a whole lot, having not slept much at all on the plane. Rested most of the day, and then had dinner over at my friend’s apartment. She and her roommate have been working here about 8 years, and they are doing a great job for the Father. I’m here to supervise and evaluate, and hopefully be an encouragement as well. So, at dinner a couple joined us to talk about establishing fellowships here. They’ve been here almost as long as my friend has. They are really a great young couple – turns out that I know the wife’s parents quite well, and we all graduated from the same university. It was a nice time of fellowship on a lot of different levels. Got a lot of good ideas for future work here.

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On Wednesday, our friend played tour guide and we spent the morning going through the Forbidden City, which is huge. Incredible how so much of a country’s wealth can be spent on so few. It was an overcast day, so the sun wasn’t too bad. Even for a weekday, it was pretty crowded with lots of large groups all wearing colored baseball caps identifying them to each other. Lots of vendors were trying to sell us stuff, and offer to be guides. After awhile, that got annoying, and when one of them asked me if I wanted an English guide, I answered in Spanish, which made them confused, and then they pretty much left us alone! We finished about lunch time and headed off for a nice little place close to the hotel. Got a nice sampling of veggies, chicken and beef dishes, and bread, and then headed back for a rest. I was wiped again, and slept the afternoon away. In the evening I headed back over to the apartment, and my friend and her roommate treated me to some Vietnamese pho, a nice soup kind of like laksa. It was good. We then went over the seminar that I’m going to do on Sunday with some friends in the faith on music in church history. We had a lot of fun going over the material. My friend’s roommate plays the violin, and we had a nice time of playing hymns together, me on the piano, and all of us singing. With the windows open, I hope it was a blessing to those walking in the courtyard down below! It was pretty late when I headed back to the hotel. The weather is beautiful, not too hot or cool, and the evening walk is really nice.

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Today, we had a similar schedule, only this time went to the Temple of Heaven, which is by far my favorite spot in China so far, including the places I visited the last time I came a few years ago. The gardens around it are gorgeous, a refreshing relief from the concrete of the city, the smell of the grass, flowers, and trees a wonderful aroma. Walking into the park surrounding the temple you are met with sound – thousands of people gathering in groups of various sizes, coming and going at will as they sing, play instruments, play games together, and just generally are at ease. It was delightful. Choirs singing folk and national songs, dance groups of older folks who have organized themselves for exercise and fun performing for whoever will slow down and watch, people of all ages playing a hackysack-like game with a feathered cock or using paddles to swat a beribboned ball back and forth with great skill. Some even invited us to play with them. For the sake of international relations, we deferred – they would have thought Westerners to be even more inept than usual had I tried!

Once through that area of the park, we were able to enter the temple complex itself. It is amazing, much different than any other temple complex that I have seen on this or any trip. Unlike most other sites in China, where red is the predominant color, blue reigns supreme here. And, though the new explanatory signs take pains to avoid pointing out that this site (the oldest temple complex in China) was the site of monotheistic worship, which they now insist is a recent Western import, they couldn’t get away from it altogether, and the similarities of the worship here with Mosaic religion is unmistakable, including the colors, the sacrificial system, the layout, the rituals, the altars. After the dispersion, Jews came here in large numbers, and this system of worship seems to be a perversion of the true religion of the God of Israel. The god worshipped here was called the “God of Heaven,” and the emperor more or less served as the high priest once a year. Fascinating.

 

Anyway, after another delicious lunch of sweet and sour pork, stir-fried broccoli, and spring rolls, we did a little shopping at the Pearl Market before heading back to rest for the afternoon. Tonight we’re having dinner at the apartment again, this time with a gentleman from here who is interested in training for leading a fellowship here among his own people. I am greatly looking forward to that time of fellowship. Now, though, I’m going to try to get this posted, and then stretch out for a little bit. This trip is starting to wear on me, and I go in spurts of energy. Thanks for your prayers, and I’ll look forward to keeping you posted as the last few days unfold what they have in store.

A Weekend in Phnom Penh (or, The Fly meets Cyclops)

Posted in Cambodia,Uncategorized by lenpine on May 4, 2008

Well, I thought I was going to be able to post all my blogs for the past several days today (Saturday). As it was, I had computer issues that kept me from connecting at the hotel where we went to hop on the network. If Mark hadn’t been here, I would never have gotten on. But by the time he figured out what the problem was (Microsoft, as usual), the network was so crowded with users that the speed was so slow that I couldn’t do anything much. Fortunately, I had used a café hot spot earlier in the day to IM my wife for awhile, which was a tremendous blessing. There, too, after a couple of hours got so slow that we couldn’t work anymore, which is why we headed to the hotel. All in all, a pretty frustrating morning technologically speaking! So, not sure when this will get posted. I did one posted, the final one from Singapore, which tells you how far behind I had fallen. There just hasn’t been connectivity here. Hope it’s better in China.

Getting around Phnom Penh on a motorcycle gives one a fresh perspective on the providence of God. Now, that’s not to alarm you, because you never really get going that fast, it’s just that the confusion of the traffic and the way it moves (or doesn’t) is a wonderful picture of the wisdom of man at work, and as I wind my way through it, openings appearing at just the right time, a car or truck setting a pick for me just when I need it to get across a road, and just generally not getting lost are all vivid evidences to me of the reality of God’s providence even in the small things of life.

 

As you can see from the picture, I am fitted out with the latest in moto fashion and safety gear. With the visor down, I look like a character out of the tragic sci-fi classic “The Fly,” only instead of being merged with a human, the fly flew into an experiment with a Cyclops. Oh well, I’m satisfied knowing that I am providing cheap entertainment for the local populace.

 

After a nice lunch out, Mark and I were preparing to head out for some grocery shopping when the skies opened up again. This time, we were right next to a little indoor mall, and we waited it out in there. Much better than walking or riding through it. Took a couple of hours, though, for it to calm down enough to ride again, long enough to flood some of the streets, but nothing that was a problem. People just take it in stride. The rain, however, meant that our planned excursion to the demon’s mouth temple that has just been completed didn’t happen, so we headed back to Mark’s place to rest up a bit before dinner. The skies stayed a bit cloudy the remainder of the day, which was great, because the temps stayed down to only the upper 80s or low 90s. With a bit of a breeze, it was quite bearable for this time of year. We rode out for dinner and our grocery shopping later, and enjoyed another really nice meal (duck flambé and Mekong lobster) on the banks of the river at the Titanic restaurant again. Great place.

 

It’s been a blessing to treat Mark to some places that he hasn’t been able to go to, and wouldn’t usually go to because he tends to bring new meaning to the word “frugal.” It’s also been a blessing to really take all these opportunities to really get caught up on his life and work here, and live it with him to some degree. It’s not an easy life, but Mark wants me to be sure to let everyone know that he isn’t suffering, either. He’s really learned his way around, and how to get things done. It’s clear that he is at home here, and very content with the sovereign choice of God for his life.

 

It’s Sunday morning as I write. The services at Glory Bible Presbyterian Church aren’t held until the afternoon, so we are enjoying a quiet morning of devotions and fellowship. Glory BPC is pastored by Rev. Stephen Choi, an IBPFM missionary from Korea. Mark helps out there doing some teaching and preaching from time to time. Their services are held on the covered roof-top of a building. When it rains it can be deafening up there, Mark tells me. The way the rains have been coming in every day so far, and the way the skies look today, we may be in for it again. Hope we don’t get caught out in the rain on the bikes in our church clothes, but we’ll get what we get. I get to just sit and soak up the Word today, which will be a blessing. I’ll write more when we get back this afternoon.

 

We made it back well before the rains came, though we could see the clouds on the horizon. They’re right over us now, and I expect a deluge at any time. Glad to be back under cover. The service on the rooftop was pleasant, since the approaching storm generated some breeze. By pleasant I mean that the sweat felt cool when the breeze blew! Anyway, Pastor Choi preaches in Korean, which gets translated into Khmer, which was in turn translated into English for us by a young man from the congregation. We sang a couple of songs that I knew, which was nice, though of course it sounded strange when I sang them in English while everyone else was singing in Khmer. The congregation is nearly all young people, under the age of 20 or 25 I would say, many coming because they also take English classes at the church during the week. All were very friendly, and I had the opportunity to bring greetings to them, which I did.

 

The ride home was uneventful, and Mark is preparing dinner for us tonight – traditional Cambodian fare. He is a very good cook, and it will be nice to just chill out (relatively speaking) here for the evening. I head for China tomorrow afternoon, and will just have time in the morning to get to the hotel and try getting online again. Hope it works this time!

Angkor, and An Adventure

Posted in Cambodia,Uncategorized by lenpine on May 4, 2008

It’s now Friday night, since I haven’t had an opportunity for blogging since Thursday morning. Actually, I haven’t had any chance to get on the Internet, either. The hotel’s connection was down, which was disappointing. So by the time you read this, it will have been some time since I was on, and you’ll be getting a whole bunch of updates at once. Planning on getting to a café tomorrow and doing all my internetting.

The tourist guide for Angkor and Siem Reap recommended a one day tour of the temples in the area if all we wanted to see were the highlights. It was enough, for sure, since many of the temples look much alike. But we were able to choose a few that had some unique features, along with Angkor Wat itself, of course, and we got a good overview of the architecture, the history, and the scope of the ruins.

We were met by our guide, Rith, about 9 am at the hotel. He was a really nice young guy, and a good guide. We kept trying to get things around to spiritual things (working on the comparative religions theme to try to open the door), but he wasn’t biting, I’m sorry to say. This area is now a national “park” of sorts, and the jungle has been allowed to reclaim much of it, so the woods are green and beautiful and dense around the temples. We were able to see the famous faces of the Bayon temple complex, and climb into its interior to explore it from the inside out. There are symmetrical towers throughout the temple, and each one has four faces on it, each facing the points of the compass. From there we stopped at another temple close by the name of which I don’t remember, which had a long causeway leading up to it, symbolizing the journey from earth to heaven. Many of these temples are “mountain” temples, meaning they represent sacred mountains of the ancient Brahman mythology. They take a lot of climbing to get up into them. There was another one nearby that we could have climbed, the so-called “Temple of Heaven,” but we’d had enough climbing by then.  We passed through the ruins of the ancient palace, and wound up on the Elephant Terrace, which bordered a kind of parade ground where the king would be entertained, returning armies would be reviewed, and the general populace addressed. Quite impressive.

Our final stop of the morning was Pa Thom, the temple where the famous strangler fig trees are reclaiming the temple by slowing crushing it to bits. Even though we were extremely hot and tired by then, it was worth the effort. The trees are magnificent. Mark and I commented to one another that we found it particularly satisfying that God’s creation was overcoming man’s perverse creation. Sure, the temples were amazing and must have really been beautiful in their prime, but they are attempts to imitate divine truth according to man’s imagination, which never works.

After lunch, we returned to Angkor Wat itself for a tour. This place is immense! If you want a detailed history of the temple complex, you can check out the internet on it, but the accomplishment here, particularly in carvings, mostly bas relief, is incredible. What really is something to consider is that from the 1100s to the about the time of the beginnings of the Reformation in Europe, major kingdoms vied for supremacy in this area, many of which we had never heard. The population is estimated to have been over 1 million around the temple and palace complexes! Yet Westerners never hear much about anything else in the world outside of Europe going on at that time. Very interesting stuff, mostly about battles, and quite a bit of mythology.

Came home really wiped and rested for a bit – it was a really hot day, and it sapped us. After awhile, though, we got pretty hungry, and set off in search of dinner. This is more dangerous than it sounds, since this part of Cambodia was at one time infested with crocodiles. In ancient times, they actually used to fill the motes around the temples and palaces with them as a pretty reliable line of defense. You really have to be careful as they tend to lurk in the ditches beside roads, and we were walking down to the Old Market. Once in the vicinity we came face to face with a crocodile! Not just a crocodile, but a python, too. We, however, were not afraid. We cooked them over an open flame. They were delicious. So were the chicken, pork, and fish portions that the restaurant gave us. Mark had spotted this place on Wednesday evening, and we just had to try it. After that, a short walk around in the cooling evening air, and then back to the hotel for the night.

Friday it was back to the bus station to catch our bus, and a long 6 hours back to Phnom Penh. Once back in Mark’s place we rested up and then set out to rent me a motorcycle for the remainder of our time here, since it will be quite a bit cheaper than paying taxis or tuk-tuks to take us everywhere. More fun, too. That’s when our adventure started. The moto rental place is at the other end of town, so I climbed on the back of Mark’s 100cc and we took off. Clouds were threatening on the horizon, so we wanted to make sure we picked up my bike and did some errands before they unloaded on us. About halfway there, the back tire blew, a slow leak apparently aggravated by putting two people on it whose total weight is about 3 times the weight of the whole bike! Meanwhile, the rain had moved in more quickly that we anticipated, and the skies opened up. There was nowhere to get out of the rain, so Mark pushed his moto while I walked along the sidewalk, both of us getting drenched. Even now, hours later, my clothes are still wet. Anyway, we finally found a guy who fixes flats on the sidewalk. He uses a unique method for putting a patch on tubes. He takes some petroleum based goop and smears it on the back of a piece of rubber, puts it over the hole, lays a piece of flattened aluminum can over that, and then a puts the whole thing in a clamp with a little steel cylinder in which he pours some fuel and lights on fire! It melts the goop and softens the rubber, which fuses itself to the inner tube permanently. Seventy-five cents and an hour later (he had several to fix before ours), we were on our way again. We rented my bike finally, and then set off to find our restaurant in the dark. Took a while, but it was worth it. It was a place named after William Tell, and featured Swiss and German food. We started off with cheese fondue, and then had some traditional German dishes. Good stuff. A long ride home, and now we’re enjoying unwinding a bit. Talk to you again tomorrow. Thanks for your prayers!

Siem Reap

Posted in Cambodia,Uncategorized by lenpine on May 4, 2008

Mark and I decided to go cheap and we took a luxury bus up to Siem Reap for only $22 each round trip. It really was a nice bus, but after 5 hours of being sardined next to each other we were beginning to wish that we had flown up here! Especially since we get to do it again on Friday morning when we head back to Phnom Penh. Anyway, we used the time to get caught up and talked through Mark’s ministry plans for the years to come.

The countryside between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap doesn’t vary much. It’s mostly a flood plain that stretches away flat as far as you can see in all directions, dotted with palm trees and laid out with a checkerboard of small farms. Occasionally a small hill appears, usually capped with a temple. Sometimes, far off in the distance to the south a line of hills appears. It struck me that it is no wonder that during the time of the genocide here people tried very hard to get south and west into the mountains toward Thailand, where it would be much easier to hide. The country is so flat and open that moving from one point to another without detection would be next to impossible, especially if you had a group of people. It is also a main reason why so many did not escape. If you’ve never watched the movie, “The Killing Fields,” you should.

This time of year is usually very dry and hot, but it has been significantly cooler this year, and quite rainy, so everything is beautifully green instead of the usual brown. Most of the villages that we go through simply line the road on either side. Different villages seem to specialize in different trades, whether farming, or stone carving, or lumber, or concrete (making posts, water pipes, etc.). One village was famous for carving Buddhas out of stone, and they lined the road by the thousands in various stages of completion. I was reminded of the biblical statement of the sad irony that must be true of every idolater: “…every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols, for his images are false, and there is no breath in them. They are worthless, a work of delusion…” (Jeremiah 10:14, 15).

Cambodia started off as a Hindu nation due to Indian incursion into the area during the Angkor period in the 8th-13th centuries. The temples we’ll see today are actually Hindu places of worship, and we’ll see more idols there relating to Shiva and the asparas (kind of the Hindu substitute for biblical angels). We’re not going for the religious experience though, of course, but rather to appreciate the cultural significance of the place and the wonder and beauty that is there. Upon arriving, we unloaded at our hotel – an awesome place that we got at half price because we’re here in the off season – and walked down to the “Old Market” where most of the tourist craft shops are. We pretty much explored the area in entirety, had some good Khmer food, and saved our money for another day. After an evening meal on a balcony overlooking Pub Street (a street lined with restaurants and shops), we headed back to crash for the night. We hired a guide and a car for our tour of some of the temples tomorrow, and it should be a great day. More on that later! One more thing that I have to mention. Mark and I now know from experience the significance of the phrase, “The elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top.” For some weird reason, our hotel’s elevator only went to floor 4, and our rooms were on floor 5! No idea why, but we had to take stairs to finish our trip to the top floor. Still, very nice rooms, and a great breakfast every morning.

Final Day in the Island Nation

Posted in Singapore,Uncategorized by lenpine on May 3, 2008

My final day in Singapore was a good opportunity to get to know this vibrant city-state a little better. Jack and Angie are excellent guides, and after a leisurely morning we caught the MRT train towards downtown. There, we took a leisurely walk past historic colonial era buildings and monuments as we headed for our objective, Fort Canning and the Battle Box. Our path took us along the Singapore River, past the spot where the founder of modern Singapore, Mr. Raffles, first stepped ashore nearly 200 years ago. We watched river taxis begin their day quietly puttering up and down.  Though only mid-morning, the temperature was already in the mid-30s with high humidity. Every breeze was a blessing! Most of the shops and restaurants along the waterfront were closed at that time of day, but the colors and views were nevertheless delightful.

We eventually reached Fort Canning, which is situated at the top of a hill. A short, steep climb up the staircase took us to a gorgeous walk through the tropical forest that now surround the old British fort.

 The entire grounds are now a national park. It was here that the British established the entire Malaya strategic command during WWII. Underground at the top of the hill is the “Battle Box” – a bunker best known as the place where the decision to surrender Singapore to the Japanese was made on February 15, 1942. As a result of that surrender, British and Australian POWs were moved into the mainland jungles to build roads, bridges, railways (remember “Bridge Over the River Kwai”?) to aid the Japanese advance. Many never returned. It was an interesting and sobering reminder of realties of war in a fallen world so often motivated by greed, lust for power, and cruelty, as well as the nobility that often is never seen unless such circumstances exist.

We were joined for lunch at the fort by Mr. John Chin, chairman of Life BP Church’s Missions Committee, and had a great time of fellowship and preparation for a meeting later in the evening with the Committee as a whole. Afterwards, he dropped us at Sim Lim Electronics Centre, which is nothing short of techie heaven. The entire building id dedicated to electronics shops. If you can plug it in, you can find it here at wholesale prices that you can often get even lower by bargaining. I needed a few odds and ends, and came away with good stuff at great prices thanks to Jack and Angie, who know how to negotiate in Chinese!

We returned home in time for a brief meal and then I was off to my meeting with the Missions Committee. Life Church has a long history of missions outreach; indeed, every BP church in Singapore (all 40 or 50 of them) can trace its lineage back to Life either directly or indirectly. So I was a little curious as to what wisdom I could possibly bring to their discussion about the future of their works in the region. Bu leadership changes at Life have been used of the Lord to raise up a fresh and earnest group of men and women who are seeking to reevaluate their policies so that the legacy of faithful outreach and missions will continue even more strongly. It was a great nohor to converse with them, answer questions, and enjoy the knitting together of hearts in the common love of the work of the gospel. The three hours went by quickly!

The day wasn’t over yet, as I still had to pack, and sleep didn’t happen until after midnight. It was a short night, as I had an early flight out in the morning. I had a lengthy layover in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, a first for me. It is one of the most beautiful settings for an airport that I’ve seen. The morning mist clings to the terraced hills and jungle all around, stubbornly fighting the morning sun’s attempts to clear it away. Infinite shades of green stretch out into the mist. I wished that I had just a little more time to just take off and do some exploring before the next leg of the journey on to Phnom Penh. Perhaps another time….

Arrived in Phnom Penh safely, and was greeted by Rev. Mark Baldwin at the airport. We had a great day today, touring the city, getting a feel for potential church planting sites, and just getting caught up. We finished it off with a wonderful traditional Khmer meal at a restaurant on the Tonle Sap River called the Titanic…why, I don’t know, as the décor is about as traditional Khmer as you could wish for. As we waited for our meal to arrive, we watched a rare storm come in upon us (this is supposed to be the dry season, but it has been cooler and wetter than it has been for many years), loving the feel of the breeze after the heat of the day. We had to retreat from the patio due to the rain, and the skies just opened up, complete with lightning. It was great. We caught a ride home in a tuk-tuk, a cart pulled by a small motorcycle, and enjoyed the cool air some more.

Tomorrow, we head for the spiritual and historical center of Cambodia – Siem Reap, and the Angkor Wat temple complex. I’ll be writing you again from there. In the meantime, please pray for our time together this week; safety in travels about the country, and guidance for our decisions regarding expanding the work of Christ in Cambodia.

On the Lord’s Day

Posted in Singapore,Uncategorized by lenpine on April 27, 2008

Today was a busy and blessed day. I spent it with Jack Sin and the congregation at Maranatha Bible Presbyterian Church here in Singapore. I preached and sang in the morning service, enjoyed lunch on the church grounds with the congregation, and then presented a seminar in the afternoon on the Call and Cost of Discipleship. After a brief rest, I had the privilege of a wonderful meal (prawns, lots of pepper crab, fish, and loads of delectable goodies to accompany them all) and fellowship with three couples from the church for a long, relaxed, and satisfying end to a precious day of fellowship and worship.

Worship at Maranatha is quite similar to the style that we are used to in the States. The Singapore BP churches all began when Dr. Timothy Tow returned to the island after being trained at Faith Theological Seminary and started Life BP Church in 1950.  The brethren here still cherish the relationships that have developed over the years with their US BP brethren. It is a blessing to be among such brethren, who hold fast to the truths of the Protestant Reformation, and whose hearts burn with passion for souls who do not know the blessings of a relationship with the Lord Jesus.

It was a hot day here, even the local folks said it was more so than usual, and I’ve about run out of juice. It was the kind of day where you look for shade, and I found some under a coconut palm next to the church, so I thought I’d take a picture of it for the blog. More to come tomorrow after a day on the town!

The Beauty of Singapore

Posted in Singapore,Uncategorized by lenpine on April 26, 2008

Arrived in Singapore more or less on schedule last evening, greeted as I landed by lush green gardens dotted with flowers, palms, and manicured lawns lining the runway. It’s a little cooler here than in India (about 30c when I landed at 5 pm, compared to 42c in Delhi), but much more humid, so it feels almost the same to me.

Singapore is an amazing city, noted for its cleanliness, no chewing gum ordinance (see prior item), strict laws against drug smuggling (mandatory death penalty with no extradition), and cosmopolitan mixture of Chinese, English, Malaysian, Indonesian, and Indian cultures. Huge highrises downtown, and apartment buildings everywhere help house everyone nicely, and the traffic flows along with less (apparent) chaos than in India. A friend in India told me with a smile several times, “India has everything, it just is not in order!” Here, it’s in order.

The first “order” of the day was to meet my dear friends, Jack and Angie Sin. They are keeping me at their flat in what I now consider to be my room, since this is my fourth visit here. Let me tell you, there’s not a B&B anywhere that can do any better at making someone comfortable and welcome. I’m going to have to avoid telling about all the great stuff they are feeding me, or you’ll think that all I do here is eat! Well, OK, we went out for steak last night, and Angie prepared homemade laksa, which is a spicy soup that is a great favorite of mine, for lunch today. Oh man, was that good. The Lord just keeps the culinary blessings that he started in India coming my way.

After an easy morning of getting oriented for the weekend, we headed off this afternoon to the mother church of the Singapore BP world, Life BP Church. We held the afternoon conference there because of the size of the anticipated gathering. The conference was called “Father God or Mother Earth? A Christian Response to the Ecological Crisis.” One of the pics, above, is of the large flyer they designed and printed up for distribution. I had the privilege of the pulpit as I spoke, and the 250+ people had the opportunity to ask questions of a panel after my lecture and tea time. Anyway, the questions were good, and I was joined on the panel by the Rev. Dr. Jack Sin and the Rev. Charles Seet. Dr. Sin pastors Maranatha BP church and Rev. Seet is pastoring Life Church. Rev. Isaac Ong chaired the panel discussion. It was a blessing to join with the congregation in singing hymns at various times trough the afternoon. The Singaporean believers love to sing praises, and they do it with great zeal.

The seminar was just about three hours long, and afterwards I had the privilege of — you guessed it — eating again! We went to a little Chinese restaurant not far from the church and enjoyed a wonderful dinner there with a number of the pastors and a gentleman who is preparing to study for the ministry. It was a blessed time. I also had the privilege of providing some light entertainment for the brethren as they enjoyed my exasperating attempts to devour a large prawn still in its shell with chopsticks and a spoon. It took a bit to dismantle it, but I did it eventually. Seemed to work off some of the calories, so all in all it was a success.

Tomorrow is going to be a busy day at Maranatha, preaching, teaching, and singing. (Probably will eat again, too.) I put in a picture of the congregation as it was last summer, since I probably won’t get one of everyone tomorrow. Hope to get more pictures from the services, fellowship times, and afternoon seminar on discipleship. If I can scrounge a couple from someone who took some at today’s meeting, I add them later to this post.

As always, thanks for your prayers. God is so good to me.

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