I took this photo at the Republic Day parade last week. Incredible regalia and pride of India on display. About 500,000 citizens watched quietly as the parade processed. See more photos from India at http://bicycleindia2007.blogspot.com
KOLKATA AT NIGHT. It is Monday night. Kolkata is smokey at night. It must come from the vehicles (no anti-pollution standards), small cooking fires beside the roads, incense being offered to Hindu gods, and lanterns that are used in the small shack shops along the roads. It's a heavy haze that smells like, well, all of the above (and a little bit more, given the lack of sewers in the makeshift dwellings).
ANCIENT CHARM. As I see school children, I miss my own children and the children at WEMO. All the school children here wear uniforms. They are so cute. I saw two little boys rolling bicycle tires down the street, pushing them with sticks (something I have seen in photos from much earlier days in America). Things seem ancient here. I had a man weigh my purchase with a hand-held scale with weights and measures. Also, I saw a man take up his sleeping mat and walk away.
ANNUAL CONFERENCE COMPLETE. We just finished three days of teaching and preaching at the Immanuel Annual Conference that was held at a Catholic retreat center here in Kolkata. Some of the 200 pastors present will board trains this evening and travel between 12 and 18 hours to get back to their homes across India. I preached this morning (Monday) and taught four sessions over the previous two days. I spoke through a translator, sometimes two---one for Hindi and one for Oriya. Very interesting.
GOD MUST SMILE. You should here these pastors sing. No accompaniment other than a drum and tamborine. Imagine 200 pastors singing Indian-sounding Christian songs they love and know well in their own languages--clapping, some dancing. It is inspiring. Bishop James and I sang to them on Sunday, a duet of "Grace That Is Greater Than All Our Sin" with the pastors joining us for "Amazing Grace" in their respective languages. All I can say is, when these pastors sing, God must be smiling.
TEN ORDAINED. This afternoon was the ordination service. Ten pastors in white robes were ordained by Bishop James and Bishop Lohara. In addition, 40 pastors became Conference Ministerial Candidates. What a sight! I took some pictures that I hope to place on the bicycleindia2007 blog soon. In addition to the men, one woman became a CMC.
KOLKATA RISING? Kolkata is at least 14 million people. There's no way we will see it all before we leave for Nagpur early on Wednesday morning. We plan to visit Mother Teresa's mother house of the Missionaries of Charity on Tuesday. There are two Kolkatas. One is an up and coming, middle class, high-tech Kolkata. New buildings and office developments are rising on the city's edge. But this Kolkata exists side by side with people who have nothing but bikes, carts, and baskets. They literally live underneath the billboards announcing new condominium developments. A man pulls a cart laden with cabbage next to a sign advertizing Ford automobiles.
CHURCH HOPES. Currently, there is not a Free Methodist Church in Kolkata. But Bishop Lohara tells me he is praying for a breakthrough and that he hopes to have an established church here within two years. Cities are always the hardest to break into. But knowing Joab Lohara, he will find a way if a door can be opened.