UPDATE FROM INDIA
This is the first time I have been able to access the Internet since we came to Kolkata (Calcutta) earlier in the week. I will try to be brief now and add more later (including photos).
DUAL MISSION. While this is primarily a teaching and church administrative mission, Bishop Joe James and I are also gathering information and taking in as much cultural and local input as we can in preparation for the 2,000-mile bike ride to raise funds to rebuild Umri Christian Hospital next year.
CONFERENCES AND TRAININGS. Thus far, we have participated in the Agape Conference Annual Conference, visited churches, and been in meetings. Bishop James has been meeting with the three Indian Bishops -- Nerendra John, John Gillalopoli, and Joab Lohara (you may recall that Joab Lohara preached at WEMO last January). Yesterday it was my privilege to bring devotions to these four men of God. I have been preparing to teach in pastor's training sessions that begin on Saturday. In all, we will have six days of pastoral training. I will teach on Leadership, Stewardship, the the distinctive characteristics of the Free Methodist Church. The Immanuel Conference alone will have over 200 pastors in attendance at these trainings. Thank you for your prayers for us.
INCREDIBLE GROWTH. By the way, last year there were only 100 churches in the Immanuel Conference. They challenged each church to plant one church during the year. Today, there are 200 churches, though some are quite fledgling. These are mostly in rural, woodland areas of northern and northeastern India.
SIGHTS, SOUNDS, SMELLS. One does not need to go sightseeing in Kolkata to be overwhelmed by the sights, smells, people, and the spirit of the place. Already one of the largest cities in the world, it is growing rapidly as villagers move to the urban area. Many live literally in tents along the highways or on the streets. A walk down six blocks and I see: numerous fruit stands and vendor shops, people bathing on the street corner, cows roaming wherever they want, goats tied up, monkeys on leashes, people begging, people busy trying to make a living any way they can, lots of humanity on the sidewalks (sometimes I am stepping over them). All this is beside busy streets jammed with trucks, cars, auto-rickshaws, rickshaws (Kolkata is the only city in the world were men pull rickshaws), bicycles, carts, pedestrians...and no street signs, no lane markings, no signals. Lots of honking...but no one gets upset. They just yield when they have to and honk and take advantage of another driver when they can. No one gets hurt. It's rather amazing.
LOOKING FORWARD. We plan to be in Kolkata through Tuesday then travel inland to ride for two days before conducting more conferences and trainings in Mumbai (Bombay). So far, I am good and healthy. The food is great. But I don't drink the water. Cheers!