Thursday, January 12, 2006

PREPARING FOR A SOJOURN IN INDIA

CAN ONE ADEQUATELY PREPARE? I’m hoping all the reading, video viewing, Internet searching, and personal interviews with folks who have visited or lived in India will be helpful to me as I travel to India for a three-week visit beginning January 21. But what my cranial cram seems to be indicating is that there’s really nothing that can quite prepare me for the experience of India. Twain’s poignant observations hint at the feast of diversity, paradox, mystery, and awe that is to be taken in. I am duly warned not to drink non-boiled or unsealed bottled water. I am clued in to a few simple customs. A former missionary tries to help me get a handle on the nature of Hinduism. My interest and curiosity in a wide range of areas is being piqued.

SCOUTING THE LAND. I am the invited travel guest of Free Methodist Bishop Joe James for this upcoming three-week visit to India. The visit is an annual responsibility for him as he presides at Annual Conferences, offers pastor training seminars, and meets with Boards of Administration for various conferences. However, as Bishop James is also a part of our 2007 bicycle tour team, the visit also provides opportunity for us to ride a bit, make contacts, and prepare for the 2,000-mile tour that will be underway this time next year. We plan to visit and tour Umri Christian Hospital, which we will be cycling in 2007 to rebuild. While much of the trip is church administrative business and teaching, there are a few days set aside for bike rides and sightseeing.

NOT EVEN TO IOWA. I have told friends and parishioners that my travels are so sparse I have not even been to Iowa! That is true; I’ve had no occasion even to travel through Iowa to this point in my life. I made it to New York City for the first time just two months ago. My only previous ventures outside the boundaries of the United States of America have been (1) attending a 10-day youth conference in Switzerland when I was 15 years old and (2) participating in a singing tour/mission trip in Nassau, Bahamas when I was 19. The thought of being transported from the familiarity of the Midwest to the unfamiliarity of South Asia in a day is rather mind-boggling. I look forward to the challenge.

BLOGS AND GRACE NOTES FROM SOUTH ASIA. I plan to take my Dell laptop to keep publishing Grace Notes and making daily blog entries. I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t write. I do not know how frequently I’ll have access to the Internet, but I invite you to check in on this blog for photos and briefs from January 21 to February 11. You’re also invited to follow the development and process of Bicycle India 2007 on the blog we’ve established for the purposes of raising awareness and funds to rebuild Umri Christian Hospital. Part of the fun for us as riders will be the participation with those who engage the journey with us via the Internet.

PREPARING THROUGH PRAYER. While I am working out on my bike indoors (thanks to a CycleOps trainer) and rowing machine, and trying to get “India facts” into my head, I’m also trying to prepare my heart through prayer. Perhaps this is the most important preparation of all. As I visited awhile with retired OMS missionary to India Wesley Duewel this week, I sensed the importance of prayer. Prayer cannot be merely perfunctory, rote, or repetition. It doesn’t even seem sufficient to pray merely for safety or to have an insightful experience. But this is what I pray: that I may be pushed out beyond my boundaries, opened to God’s fresh grace being conveyed in unusual ways, drawn forward by faith, and empowered to convey the likeness of Jesus Christ more and more in all I do and say. I welcome your prayers for me, also.

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