Wednesday, July 26, 2006

It's Been a While and It's Official

So it has been a while since I last posted. Sorry for the delay, but life got busy! So let me share some of what I have been doing here in Kolkata. During my first week here I got to visit a number of the smaller satellite clinics that are spread around the edges of the city. We are trying to ensure all of these clinics work together with the hospital to ensure that the poor in each area are receiving the very best in free-treatment. This will be an ongoing process throughout my time here.

The bulk of my time has been spent working with children and youth who suffer from thalassemia (a group of debilitating blood disorders) and leukemia. The hospital is in-process of profiling each of these patients in an attempt to raise funds to make this treatment free. Most children require a blood transfusion monthly or bi-weekly. These treatments often cost families almost half of their monthly income per treatment. Clearly, there is a great need.

I cannot tell you how much these kids have impacted me. They are the highlight of my day and I often feel very humbled as I leave the ward. Most are Hindu or Muslim and have never known life without this disease. Though they would have every reason to be angry or depressed, I have found that these people are some of the most positive, forward-thinking, and refreshingly honest people I have ever met. They often thank me for my help and I feel embarrassed as they do. Every single blessing, no matter how small, is an everyday miracle to them. I have been blessed by these kids and have even had the opportunity to pray with a few and their parents.

In the area just north of Kolkata there is a strong Muslim concentration. The region is known for being resistant, and even hostile, towards Christians. I had the opportunity to visit a pastor who has started to work in this area. He and his wife have assumed Muslim names and have begun a small clinic and church in the largest village in that area. There is literally no medical facility (hospital or clinic) in this area to serve the nearly one-million villagers. The pastor has bought land in several villages throughout this area and is hoping to build clinics with churches attached. Presently, he has converts in most villages and is equipping those leaders to run small house churches. Their ministry is remarkably contextualized to the Muslim setting, but God is undeniably at work.

I have also had a chance to visit a number of interesting ministries around the city. I was able to attend the dedication of brand new Assemblies of God school for bustee children. A bustee is a term used for a shanty village of squatters. This particular school serves a bustee where families live in a landfill. Also, through a chance encounter I met some missionaries fromAlaska and they took me to visit their mission. It is a home run by Project Rescue that houses young girls whose mothers work in Kolkata’s thriving red-light district. My time there was great fun and I even acquired a new nickname: “Uncle Coconut” – since I am tall enough to reach the coconuts hanging from the trees!

Missions of Charity is the work pioneered by Mother Teresa. It is literally a ten-minute walk from where I am staying. Calcutta Mercy Ministries works closely with this organization and I was able to attend a meeting with the lead sister at the mission. Walking through the compound was a remarkable experience. I visited the memorial to Mother Teresa and her burial site. It is proof that one person really can make a difference. Individually we cannot save the world, but we can impact those around us in a way that they are forever changed. We can live out the Gospel.

On a completely separate note, I have officially been approved by the World Missions Department of the PAOC. It is remarkable to see how God has walked me through the journey from saying “Missions – I am going to give you a heart for missions” to actually being established as a missionary with the PAOC. Five years ago, if someone would have told me what I would be doing today I would have laughed, and yet God knew and He brought me through. I cannot even begin to understand what the future will bring, but I have every confidence in the One who goes before me.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Attacks in Mumbai

As I am sure many of you are aware, on Tuesday eight bombs exploded on trains and in stations in Mumbai’s western rail line. These explosions came during rush hour (between 6:00-7:00p.m.) and have killed nearly 200 people and injured over 700 more. No one has yet to come forward to accept responsibility for these attacks. Undoubtedly the death toll will continue to rise in the coming weeks. The true extent of the loss of lie will never fully be known. Many families have lost their only income-earning member. Also, with the long distance commute now crippled, many day-labourers will be unable to support their families.

Today, only one day after the attacks, people in Mumbai returned to work and used all forms of public transit. Please pray that this spirit of bravery would continue through the coming days. Pray for those families who have lost loved ones. It is my sincere hope that in their time of grief that God would bring someone into their life who would share His love with them. Also, pray for the continued safety of those in Mumbai who were battling the effects of the monsoon season before these attacks took place. We must remember that even when we are taken by surprise and shocked by tragedy, God is still in control.

Friday, July 7, 2006

Initial Thoughts

My first week in Kolkata is coming to a close. In many ways it has raced past. The city and the people are still full of wonders to me. Kolkata does not seem to ever stop. The sounds of bustling traffic, determined vendors, ceaseless car horns, and people in motion can be heard at almost any hour of the day or night. This city is alive.

It is the humidity, not so much the heat, that I am finding a challenge. In fact, rather than iron my clothing, I simply hang my clothes near an open window while I am out and they are perfectly steamed by the time I return! The monsoon season has also begun here. The heavy rains have begun in the south and the city of Mumbai has sustained significant damage and several fatalities. Kolkata will not feel the full force of the monsoon season for another week or two when the weather system travels up the coastline.

The people here are incredibly helpful, kind and servant-hearted. The church in Kolkata is strong and I was humbled on Sunday morning as the congregation sang of their blessings in Christ though living in a city well-known for it's poverty.

The work undertaken by Calcutta Mercy Ministries is almost indescribable in its breadth. There are literally hundreds of churches and pastors that have been launched from Kolkata. Within the central complex there is a six story hospital, a school, a feeding program (which feeds thousands of people daily), the central church, an accredited Bible College, and a number of ministry offices and hospital related medical branches. In addition to this, there are seven free-treatment clinics and additional schools in and around the city.

I have had the opportunity to assist with the free-treatment services, in the main hospital and three of the satellite clinics. I have met so many people with such genuine, and often very basic, needs. Each person that I have met who is connected to these ministries has exemplified what it means to LIVE the Gospel message.

Thank you for remembering me in your times of prayer. Please continue to pray for my well-being (I am feeling great). Also, pray that God would give me insight and creative vision in how to make valid contributions and worthwhile investments in the ministries I participate in and in the people I meet. Pray for those people who have suffered in the arrival of the monsoon season and for the safety of those who have not yet been affected.