India – October 20

Today is my second-last day in India. I’m eager to see my family again, of course, but it will be with some regret that I bid goodbye to my friends here. Just when the weather is cooling off a bit, and just when I’m beginning to feel like I could adjust to this life, it’s time to leave. Oh well. I’ve certainly gained a mountain of respect for both of our able missionaries, Ed and Matt, and (especially) their intrepid wives, Janice and Vanessa. What wonderful, courageous and dedicated people!

Also, after all this train travel and just in time for me to leave, the missionaries’ new vehicle arrived. It’s a Chevy Travera, a diesel van with high clearance appropriate to the rotten roads out in the country. They had expected it to be delivered at the end of August, but it didn’t show up till today. It’s nice, though. Below (l-r) is the watchman for the apartment block, Ed, Matt, Vanessa, and the driver, Kumar.


One thing I’ve noticed is that, although many of the same makes of vehicles are available in India as in the U.S., none of the same models are. That is, there are Fords, Chevys, Toyotas, Hyundais, Hondas and Suzukis, but they are all models I’ve never heard of before. Also, every other vehicle (car or truck) on the road in India is made by Tata, a company I’d never heard of before.


The maiden voyage for the new vehicle was this morning, when it carried Ed, Matt and I out to Martin Luther Bible School. This is the training center for our BELC pastors. Here I taught a 3-hr class on Law and Gospel.

The building, which they recently purchased, isn’t much to look at, though now that it actually belongs to them there are some renovations planned. They are planning to put a second story on the building so that they can move classes from the cramped quarters downstairs to a more open space above.


I went up on the roof to check out the view and take some pictures. A woman passing in the street below saw me and didn’t seem terribly impressed.


Here’s the family next door. I didn’t care for their manners:


There are plenty of pigs roaming around, but the majority of animals wandering the streets are dogs and cows. The cows are everywhere, even on the main highways. I should mention that these highways are exactly like our interstate freeways, with one or two minor exceptions. They have left-hand driving, of course, but that’s the least alarming aspect. There are large trucks passing two abreast in the oncoming lanes of traffic. They have cows wandering around on their four-lane highways. Also goats, dogs, pigs, monkeys and the occasional chicken. There are pedestrians walking right on the roadway.  Once I saw three young men who had parked their motorcycles right in the right-of-way, and were sitting in a triangle on the road playing cards.

I still can’t get over rich smorgasbord of life on display every day here. I think that if I spent all my time walking around Tacoma with my camera, I might find one or two truly interesting images each day. Here in India you can stand on any street corner and get several interesting pictures each minute. While we were waiting for the MLBS students to arrive, I stood on the porch of the sem building and (as unobtrusively as possible) started snapping photos of passersby. It was a  varied and colorful crowd! Here’s a boy toting water for his family’s breakfast.


This mother was evidently waiting anxiously for someone. Her daughter? (“Now where could that girl have got to?”)


Five minutes later the daughter arrived from Auntie’s house, carrying breakfast for the family (that’s my theory, anyway).


Here comes the woman in red from next door, out for a stroll:


Here’s a smiling young woman just next door to the Bible school, glimpsed through a doorway. I think she’s smiling because the pigs have moved on:


Many school children wear uniforms here:


I’m told that the saree is usually reserved for adult and married women. Younger girls often wear the churidaar (above), a kind of long tunic with pants underneath and a scarf (I asked Janice, “What’s that scarf called again?” She said, “A scarf.”) The girls will usually braid their hair and tie it in loops with flowers. I got a churidaar for Janie – I can’t wait to see her in it.

In Tacoma we live near a gravel pit and often see dump trucks full of sand and gravel. Same thing here, only different:


Here are the assembled students of the MLBS. There were around thirty of them present for the class and, as you can see, the lecture hall is a bit cramped. There were people sitting in the hallway as well. All endured patiently, however, and seemed to be taking in the presentation with great interest, though I suspect that Rev. D. Paul’s translation was quite a bit more eloquent and cohesive than my actual lecture.


Having had several of these classes in the last three weeks, I must say there’s something awesome and inspiring to me in the fact that these large groups of (primarily young) men are so committed to improving their knowledge of God’s Word and preparing themselves to carry the Gospel of life to as many as they can.

Here is one young man who is preparing himself for the public ministry. As at the CLCI seminary, we wanted to get updated photos of all the men in order to share these with their stateside sponsors. We were successful in getting new photos of nearly all of the orphans and sem students.


Later we made our way back to Chennai. The driver, Kumar, is adept at keeping the ride smooth and avoiding obstacles when possible. Chennai has had hard rain off and on for four days, so there is widespread flooding in many of the streets (note, of course, the obligatory sidesaddle motorcycle rider, sans helmet.)


Janice baked a delicious apple pie while we were gone, though where she found all the ingredients I couldn’t begin to guess.


I wanted to hold my end up, so I made teriyaki kabobs for the entree.


Janice asked me, “Do you know what a lungi is?” “Is it something you hawk?” I said. “No,” she said, “it’s what Indian men traditionally wear on their lower body.” Apparently it is a large tube of fabric. You step into it, tighten it around yourself and tuck the ends into your waist. You can wear it long, so the bottom is down near your ankles, or you can grab the bottom hem and double it up to your waist and tucked in again to allow for freer movement. This is perhaps the most common garment I saw men wearing in India. They reportedly wear a kind of gym shorts underneath.

Ed and Janice, with their inimitable sense of humor, thought it incumbent upon them to buy me a couple of lungis as a going-away present. Very droll.

I doubt I’ll be wearing this in public any time soon:



India – October 18

The last two days were spent in doing workshops for district pastors of the BELC. Ed, Matt, Vanessa and I traveled about a two-hour train journey west of Chennai. I was drowsy on the train but didn’t dare sleep for fear I’d miss something fascinating. But everything here is fascinating.

Here are a couple of boys who were playing on the platform as we waited for our train. I’m guessing brothers.


Seriously, the homes (and even businesses) in India look like they come from a Dr. Suess book. I keep expecting Cindy Lou Who to pop her head out of a window.


Sorry, another sidesaddle motorcycle passenger. It never gets old.


This little girl is one of thirteen children being cared for by a BELC pastor and his wife. Some of them are true orphans, but most of them have neglected or abandoned by one or both parents. Their support must be a heavy burden for the pastor, but he never asked for anything from us when we visited his home.


These three girls lost their mother through illness. Soon thereafter their father, a BELC pastor, also died. They are being cared for by their grandparents.


Matt and Vanessa Ude taking a break from the second day of the pastor’s workshop.


You can’t really tell from this photo, but this is a BIG monkey. The kind you wouldn’t want to arm-wrestle.


There were two of these big guys hanging around the rooftop of the hotel where we were holding our conference. Ed happened to be sitting just outside the conference room on a plastic chair, listening to me teach a class. Next thing we knew, Matt looked toward Ed and shouted “Hey!” We all looked to see what was going on, and here was this monkey skittering away over the rooftop with Ed’s 20-oz bottle of Pepsi. Snuck up and snatched it right from underneath his chair, the rotten pop thief! I hope it gets diabetes.

Here’s the hotel room where we met for a seminar with about a dozen pastors from this area. They are interested in the BELC but not yet members. They seemed enthusiastic. They certainly paid rapt attention to our discussion of the proper distinction between Law and Gospel.


Having lunch back at our hotel. The menu was all Greek to me (or rather Tamil – if it were Greek I might have been able to decipher it). Matt and Vanessa are old pros, however – they guided me to the menu items that were unique and interesting on the one hand, and unlikely to lead to a hospital stay on the other. They were great traveling companions, and did everything they could to help a newbie from the States navigate a completely alien culture.


It seems like everyone in India is friendly. This woman was just entering the hotel and returned a big smile for Ed’s greeting:


I thought I’d seen a pretty broad selection of animals in India, but this was my first donkey. They say you always remember your first.


A Hindu holy man in the train station, who kindly allowed me to photograph him. In fact, no one said “no” to me the whole trip. I can’t figure out whether the Indian people like to have their picture taken, or have simply developed a high tolerance for goofy westerners with cameras.


Mother and daughter waiting patiently for their train. Good thing you’ve got that stocking cap – it’s a nippy 89 degrees out.


Ed keeps a wary eye on the policeman on the platform. Police in India are allowed to beat their prisoners during interrogation. Coincidentally, no one seems to disrespect the police here. Go figure.


Chennai Central train station by moonlight. Looks like Hogwarts.


Returned home to a birthday cake that Janice had made for Ed, plus cards and presents. He got all the candles in one go.


India – Oct 17

Today was a day to catch up on sleep and get some shopping done. 

Across from Ed and Janet’s apt is a tiny business that presses clothing. That’s all they do, and they’re good at it. The irons weigh 15 pounds.


Here’s Janice sharing pictures of her new grandson with the ironing guy’s mother.


Green coconuts are different than the brown coconuts that we’re used to. The green ones are only good for their milk (?) Some people, like this guy, dump a pile of them on a street corner, and when a passerby wants a drink he chops off the top with a machete, pokes a straw in it and sells it to him. I want to do this before I go (the drinking, not the chopping). Ed says it’s nothing to get excited about.


The Spencer Mall in Chennai. A happy hunting ground for souvenirs.


Ed haggling with a clerk. My thought: who needs thermals in Chennai?


Found Janie’s souvenir!


Weary shoppers, waiting for our Uber ride to show. Uber works really well in Chennai.


Statue of Ghandi at Elliott Beach.


Last leg home was short, so we took an auto rickshaw.


I scrounged for ingredients at the local food store (150 different kinds of curry, yes; oregano no), and made lime shrimp for the Starkeys.


October 16 Reprise – even more pictures

FINALLY, here are some of the nicer pictures off my real camera. One thing that immediately strikes the eye about India are the vivid colors – bright blue and pink houses, gorgeous clothing especially on women.

More sidesaddle scooter riding.As the traffic becomes more terrifying, the drivers become more nonchalant.

0001Here are a couple of pictures of the charming couple who shared our train compartment on the way to Nellore. Blundering westerners that we are, we had the right seats only in the wrong car. Nevertheless this couple and their son cheerfully made room for us.



A woman looking wistfully into the night from her sleeper compartment.


Driving to a church we stopped for fuel at a truck stop. Out in back there were some long-haul truckers indulging in the refreshing Indian custom of the “bucket bath” (look it up).


A night service at Chagollu. Receiving honors from the pastor.

Janice teaching the Sunday school children to sing “This Little Light of Mine.” Beside having a good voice and lots of enthusiasm, Janice has the advantage of still looking neat when it’s 95 degrees and muggy (unlike Ed and me).

On the way to a noon service in Oguru. Even working women in India wear beautiful sarees.

Janice attracts a little boy with candy. His friend ran away.

Beautiful church interior in Oguru. People sit gracefully crosslegged on the floor and wait for the service to start. Usually there are hymns (in Indian style music) broadcast over a loudspeaker to attract visitors. The church is nearly always full by the time worship begins.
Preaching in Oguru.
007d  oguru oct 10 noon

Individual prayer time after worship. Praying for a child with fever.

Ed offers prayer for an elderly Christian.

Praying for a young man who wants God’s help to do well in school. There is a tremendous emphasis on education in India, and I received this prayer request time and again.

Night service outdoors in Mallavaram.
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We arrive at the CLCI compound in Nidubrolu.
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The compound borders a canal, handy for washing clothes and babies!
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The children greeted us with flower petals, handfulls of which seemed to find their way down my shirt and pants.
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Greeting the elderly Pastor V.S. Benjamin. It is the first time I have met him in 28 years serving on the Kinship Committee. A great honor.
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Pastor Benjamin speaks at the welcoming ceremony.
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Janice with the women of the mission, to her right and left are Nireekshana’s wife and Jyothi’s wife, respectively.

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A view from the second story of the Mission House.

New pictures were taken of all the children in our care at the orphanage.

The women helped round them up!

View from the courtyard of the compound.


Night service at Machavarram. Ed prays with the parents of two young children. The father was somewhat overcome. I was to get a taste of that myself a few moments later.
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I prayed with several children concerning their education and heath, and obeying their parents. No problem.

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Suddenly, however, a woman appeared with her young daughter. “Please pray for her, Pastor. She’s mentally disabled.” That of course made me think of our own dear daughter Jane, and I found I couldn’t get any words out. Some tough guy! Jyothi had to take that one for me!
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Sunday service at Pastor Isaiah’s church at Mannava. Praying for an elderly believer. The young man on my left was member who had good English; he would listen to their requests and translate for me.

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Receiving honors from Pastor Isaiah.
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Sister Janice being honored.
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The Sunday school children singing a very elaborate song about Jonah and the great fish – including many gestures!
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A young churchgoer. These kids have the hugest eyes.
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Jyothi in his Sunday best.
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Our Sunday afternoon jaunt to the Bay of Bengal. Cyclone Hudhud was just coming ashore to the north, far enough away not to threaten us, but close enough to cause high waves and close the beach to swimming. Ed insisted on wading, though, and promptly blew out a flipflop.
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Three young men lounge against a fishing boat. Omnipresent cows in background. That is, they’re present everywhere except on the restaurant menu.
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Greeting Pastor V.S. Benjamin on Monday morning.
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The seminary chapel / classroom.

Me lecturing on the differences between the Lutheran and Reformed doctrine.

Ed lecturing on the home life of Martin Luther.

On the way back to the hotel I was riding in the way back jumpseat of the jeep. I noticed some feathers sticking out on the floor, and Janice told me it was a dead chicken. Which was half true, for soon thereafter I heard some clucking from under my seat. It’s alive! But not for long. Alas, the next day Jyothi told us we were eating it for our noon meal!

Pastor Benjamin needs plenty of rest these days.

The view from the Mission House roof. Lush, flat country as far as the eye can see.

We made a visit to Guntur and met Nireekshana’s charming family.

More unexpected sights on the road. Here’s a pedal rickshaw loaded with propane tanks. I’ve watched enough episodes of McGyver to know where this is going.

Students, faculty and guests pose for a picture on the roof of the Mission House.

“Everybody’s got a water buffalo. Yours is fast but mine is slow.”

Luggage on the platform, waiting for our train back to Chennai.

Muslim men on the platform at Bapatla.

A family waiting patiently for their train.

After returning to Chennai, I finally met the faithful driver, Kumar!


India – Oct 16

Have been unable to upload photos from my good camera for a couple of days, so here are a few from my cell phone.


Many women ride sidesaddle on their husband’s motorcycles. Kids, too – sometimes wife and two kids. No helmets.


Mom and two kids on a pedal rickshaw.


Hitching a ride on the back of a truck. The truck, btw, is about the size of a Chevy Luv.


Janice helping out with lunch at the Bible institute in Nidubrolu. “Did we make enough rice?”


Lunch for the students.


View from our hotel in Bapatla.


Sometimes rice gets old.


Ed and Paul sampling the night life in Bapatla (it’s pop)


Two women at a roadside snack shop. Most main streets seem to be an unending series of tiny, open air shops,
one right next to the other.


Train station asset Bapatla. It was sad to say goodbye to Jyothi.


First class carriage on the train back to Chennai. Might not look like much, but it’s air conditioned and fairly comfortable – I’ll take it!


Chennai Central train station, built during British rule.


Marina Beach in Chennai.

India – Oct 9


Jyothi getting organized for the last day of conference.


Another sultry day in Nellore. High of 95°


A Hindu shrine next door to our hotel.


The conference concluded with a communion service and a group picture. Next year at Hyderabad.


…then plunge back into traffic and head north for Ongole.


The flat plains almost look like North Dakota, but the palm trees and rice paddies give it away.


Livestock looks a little different, too.


We held worship services that night in a village church near Ongole. This is when arrived – by a few minutes later the place was packed.


Janice has a way with the children.


On the dais, ready to preach. The sermon was on the prodigal son. Jyothi translated into Telugu. The people hung on every word, and afterward Ed and I each took one side of the chancel in order to handle the special prayer requests of individuals.

Tired,  but joyful, we got back to our hotel at midnight.


The local pastor welcomes the guest speakers.

India – Oct 8


Blogging from WordPress now on my android phone, so info will be brief. More detail when I get back a keyboard (thank goodness for Swype, anyway!)

Monday afternoon set out by train from Chennai to Nellore. My admiration for Ed & Janice increases tenfold with every passing day – they’re incredible!







Train travel is…interesting. there are many trains going by all the time, and they all seem packed. Big contrast between the trains themselves, which are kind of grimy and squalid, and the people, who are for the most part polite, very friendly, and neatly dressed.


My hotel room in Nellore was very pleasant. Ed says the accommodations can become more rustic you move back into ther areas.

Here are some pictures from the conference itself. I expected to be merely an observer at the conference. To my surprise, they received me with great honor and asked me to serve  chair.


Breakfast (French toast our hot curry – hmm, which should I choose?)




At break time on the hotel terrace, looking out over Nellore:



The conference itself is enlightening and edifying. So striking to hear the reports of pastors who courageously preach the gospel in the face of overt religious persecution, some who have had loved ones martyred for the faith.