Thursday, October 30, 2008

Video IV - To Nepal

We'll get to the good stuff in the next video - the trek. This one is about 5 minutes of the extremely long journey from Delhi, India to Kathmandu, Nepal. We took some short cuts and it still took about 20 hours (otherwise would have been more than 30, perhaps).

As always, if you get the email, go to the blog to view the video (click on the title of the post... should be in large blue. Or, visit


Sunday, October 26, 2008

World Religion

Yesterday I had some good thoughts about religion. I remembered that it isn’t religion that we should follow or serve, it’s Jesus. This is part of what allows Buddhist, Hindu and Christian alike to follow Jesus. I also came to a conclusion I’ve been waiting to make. It might have been a little premature but I’ve been waiting a long time to state something in my mind on this topic. I don’t believe Hinduism or Buddhism to be on-track. I can’t say about Islam or Judaism yet but I am clear right now about these two major eastern religions. They seem to be more focused on self than I expect Jesus desires. There are endless phallic symbols, sacrifices and lots of attempts to appease/please gods. Jesus was all about love of other and life. Buddhism and Hinduism are both in the end about escape (much like many western Christians are about getting to heaven which is also a focus on escape). Christ is about the here and now, particularly for the “least of these”, Buddha is about transcendence out of the here and now. So, there is my brief, relatively uneducated bias on eastern religion and it’s misalignment with Jesus. Again, let me say that I am very uneducated on what the faithful Buddhists and Hindus do and how that impacts their life. As for the doctrines, they aren't making sense to me.

A Beacon of Light

I was very nervous to come back to India after enjoying Nepal so much. The beauty, the friendliness, the comfort all seemed in stark contrast to our first experience in New Delhi, India. And Kolkata has more people in less space. In my mind I could not see how the return to India could be more comfortable than our first stay. But after spending close to 24 hours here in Kolkata, India is redeeming herself. Maybe I was more prepared for the trash, the smell, the heckling, the beggars and the homeless, maybe springing for the midrange hotel vs the budget added to my comfort level, maybe sharing a cab and dinner with 2 guys from Belgium who also did not enjoy their experience in Delhi (especially the "Delhi Belly") was helpful in the adjstment back to India, but I think the most helpful in the adjustment back to India was visiting the Sisters of Charity, founded by Mother Theresa. We passed quite a few Christian Churches. Bible verses were displayed outside the churches, "I am the way the truth and the life" and the life of giving and caring displayed inside the mission. God is here, hard to find, but here. Looking forward to spending a day at the mother house in a few days...

Saturday, October 25, 2008


Nepal has never been colonized. And it’s obvious! As one of the poorest countries in the world, they’re doing great. Sure, everything is dirty and dusty and very few have enough to have adequate living space or extra food but, almost everyone has food and almost everyone has a living space. They don’t think of themselves as extremely poor, they are happy as a nation and relatively successful. Most people, including mountain villages, have running water (they channel it from running streams near their house and run it with black flexible piping to just near their doorstep). Some of the upper castes and nearly all hotels have hot water. They use solar power to heat the water and put the black tank on the top of the building so that they don’t need a pump to get the water to the shower. The food is outstanding, the people very friendly and kind and they don’t seem to hate tourists like some nations do. I have a sense that almost all of this ingenuity, sense of pride and openness has something to do with the fact that no other people group ever came in to tell them how to live and to give them a set of expectations that they couldn’t own. Wow, how wonderful when we let each other become us!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Pictures - Himilayan Trek

OK, so, we began our time in Nepal almost two weeks ago. Tomorrow we head for Kolkatta, India where we hope to connect with The Mother House and volunteer for a day or two. An employee of Word Made Flesh we met here in Kathmandu claims that day or two of volunteering will change our lives.

For now, you can see some of our trek. Video to come soon. We drove 12 hours by bus on the most rediculous roads you can imagine (the bus had 85 people in and on top of it) to get a whopping 60 miles into the hills. After spending the night at Syabrubesi we started hiking toward a hill village called Langtang. From there, we went on to Kygingompa and from there, up a 5000 meter peak called Chaccorie. We got sick from the altitude, came back down and made our way back to Syabrubesi to catch the rediculous bus back to Kathmandu.

From Trekking in the Himilaya

From Trekking in the Himilaya

More pictures to come as we find internet time.

Video 3 - Tuna and Cheeks in Delhi, India

OK, here we are with our third video post. Cruising around Delhi.

Back from the Hills!

We're BACK to civilization - sort of!

Trekking - my favorite part of the trip so far, challenging, relaxing, peaceful, awe inspiring and just really good to be away from everything in outstanding, unbelievable creations, the Himalayas are something else, a couple of times we just looked at each other and couldn't believe we were spending a week in the highest mountains of the world...there is much more to write, give me some more time to wrap my head around it - we will have so much to share when we get back. It's almost like there is too much to take in...

Oh and the day before we left, we met a christian missions group from Arizona who are serving in Nepal for two weeks, got invited into a Nepali Hindu's house for tea and dinner and met a Christian worker for "Word Made Flesh" working here in Kathmandu - God is working in all corners of the world and we are getting a taste of it...

Then, while trekking we teamed up with another newlywed couple from Germany...looking back it is a little sad that we didn't use more of our trekking time for just the two of us, but we did make two new friends in Germany and it was comforting for me to face the unknown with two other foreigners!! We also had some interesting conversations about faith, life in US vs Europe and lots and lots of laughs...We also made quite a few connections with local people along the way - it really was a wonderful time - thanks for all your prayers, we're flying to Calcutta tomorrow afternoon, I'm nervous. Kathmandu, Nepal is so fun and I'm nervous to go back to India...but I think I'm a bit more prepared this time....Keep the prayers coming, Asia is much, much more than I bargained for...but I like it:)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Video - Into India

Footage of our journey from NYC to Delhi.

If you're getting this by email and the video doesn't show... go to the blog - to watch.
One week since we left the states and I find myself overwhelmed! So much to take in, so many emotions, so many fears, so many sights and smells. From driving by cows, trash and people on the streets our first night in Delhi, to connecting with the Stolzfus's, a wonderful Mennonite family from Lancaster, and getting their perspective of life in India, to worshiping in a Christian church in the language of Hindi, to an overnight train ride with 2 Indian men snoring above us, to cramming 15 people in a jeep for a 2 hour ride to the border to cross into Nepal...and I'm not left with a feeling of, after this we can handle anything, I'm left with the feeling, Oh dear, what adventure will come next!

I'm left assured that there will be continued adventures. I'm sure I will feel many more emotions in the days to come including stomach issues and fear but also a complete sense of wonder at this great big world God has created, a sense of wonder at how people live so much differently than me, with much less, yet they survive from day to day...And a continued desire for the comfort I am accustomed to. We leave for a 7 day trek tomorrow where comfort will be limited and people will be different. And I'm excited for this next adventure, scared and nervous, but confident God will continue to move....

I could write more and I will at some point, but for now I ask for continued prayers as we explore this side of the world.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

New Delhi - shocking

Well, here we are in Delhi, India. Coming in from the plane was quite an adventure. Here's something I wrote in an email to my parents:


Hey guys, you're welcome. It's been fun and a bit shocking. Our first night was something that we won't forget. We'll tell you about it in person. Not particularly dangerous, just discomforting. Got in late, drove past a bunch of cows, walked past a bunch of homeless people, had a misunderstanding with our cab driver and then tried to sleep in a jail cell-type room at 5am. Again, I don't sense we were in any real danger, it's just that it was a great contrast from the nice 747 that we came from.

It has been an adventure thus far. Tomorrow evening we'll head to Kathmandu, Nepal by land which I think will be a 30 hour trip if all goes well. After we get there, we'll start trekking and so will be out of contact for as much as a week.

Thoughts of late:
Ghandi - amazing. Born and raised high caste but rejected that and spent lots of time among the low caste poor. Exceptional. I continue to be reminded that it's through rejection of self-service that and love of others that we bring good.

From Ghandi

I've also been thinking about Hinduism. There are many gods. And there is great divinity among the people to their gods (far more discipline that western religious folks). Somehow I'm reminded of a human system though. I'm reminded of the stories of the old testament. And the way of Jesus brings freedom! That continues to strike me.

Another thought: travel (difference) is bringing out the things in me and Cheeks that we need to deal with. You know, those things in each of us that are underdeveloped or are unhelpful. Well, nothing like a lot of difference (which seems to act like a mirror) to surface those things.

Time for bed here, but another thought from Ghandi first:

From Ghandi

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Sleeping but restless

Wow, here we are. Hong Kong International Airport. We’re hanging out and I’m waking up for the 9th time in 30 hours. I still haven’t slept much but I’ve been sleeping frequently. Hopefully this whack sleep schedule will turn out to be a good thing by the time we wake up in Delhi tomorrow late morning.

From Hong Kong Airport

I’ve had some interesting feelings and thoughts thus far. One thing I’ve been noticing is that I’m not all that excited to be uncomfortable. I remember my uncle Will questioning why we would want to go to India. Suddenly that is becoming more real… his concern of discomfort. I’m reminded of this issue of wealth and how Jesus talks about it. Brian McLaren follows up on that topic in his recent book Everything Must Change. His idea is that as folks accumulate wealth there becomes a need to protect that wealth. And it’s not just wealth but the lifestyle that we live. The hot shower every morning, the ability to purchase anything we want at any time from anywhere in the world and even the comfortable, warm bed we sleep in every night. Starting this journey off on our friend Renee’s floor seemed fitting. And the anxiety started to build – I’m going to be uncomfortable! I’m becoming OK with that but am surprised how strongly I don’t want to be uncomfortable.

And then I was talking to the guy beside me on the plane. We talked about the recent debate and his analysis of what is happening in America rung true to me. He talked about the various ways people are manipulated, particularly religious groups and politicians. He talked about really wanting Obama as president and being scared that it would not be so because of hidden racism. I admit I am fearful that something like what happened four years ago will come again. I remember hearing that the George W. Bush administration was going to serve another 4 years and feeling crushed. Crushed because of what our global neighbors would think. At that time, I didn’t see that administrations failing economic policy that has no doubt not helped our current crisis. Generally upset with legislation like No Child Left Behind and a war that seemed primarily about economic stimulus and oil, I just can’t bear to have more of the same. What impact will it have on our brothers and sisters around the world?

What struck me about my conversation with this guy on the plane was his analysis and wisdom. I found myself wondering what he was doing with his knowledge and wisdom. He reminded me of Solomon – in fact, my plane buddy said, in different words, there is nothing new under the sun. Clearly God’s spirit was alive in this man, but it wasn’t clear to me that he was moving along with the spirit.

Lord, help us move with your spirit. Forgive our doubts.

And if you're getting this by email and didn't see the video in the most recent past post, go to the blog itself to view it.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Travel to JFK

Well, the time has come. From packing up the office and house to a long car ride to NYC including a presidential debate (seriously, we have got to talk about how our candidates debate... it seems to be a game show of sorts in which the winner is the one who avoids the most questions), we're off. We're in transit.

Some of our time packing and getting to NYC:

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Why Asia?

I recently wrote to a friend in an email...

As for Asia – we’re going to spend a week trekking in the Himilayas, about two and a half weeks connecting with various Christians in India (northeast primarily) and three weeks with Mennonites in Indonesia. The time in Indonesia is primarily to catch up with Amber’s brother. If I were to sum up the trip I would state three purposes:
1) To kick this recent marriage to Amber off with a big celebration
2) To get a break from camp, hoping to come at a capital campaign renewed and with focus
3) To see how God is moving in the East


Click here for all sorts of pictures from parts of our lives