Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas with Gateway Church AND an Update on my work with VR

I’m sorry – two serious blogs in a row, I've incorporated two into one to ease the pain! I’ll have to come up with something humorous soon. I hope the videos work, you might want to start loading them and read the rest of the post before you try to watch them.

What a fantastic day Christmas is! Being able to celebrate the birth of our Saviour – Jesus Christ.

I was able to celebrate it in English and Hindi, even though I know very little (zero) Hindi! Gateway Church (which meets 3 floors below my room) put on an outreach event and it was an enormous event. The Gospel Fusion Band put on a fantastic show, then Pastor Biju challenged the whole group that was there. When he asked who at the meeting (or Aagaman as it was called) was a first timer, about ¾ of the room stuck their hands up – what an amazing turnout, Praise God!!! Dinner was served well into the night as many fruitful conversations were had. Even when I was talking with people who know very little English, it was clear that they were experiencing the love of Jesus throughout the night, what a privileged way to spend Jesus’ Birthday.

Here are some snippets from the night, hopefully they are easy enough to watch. The guy on the bongo-like instruments is incredible, between every song he spoke for 1-2 minutes [it was in Hindi, but he sounded really passionate about it and I heard a few ‘Prabhu’ s in there which means God – I reckon he was saying some good stuff!

Video 1 - Even Rudi and Spider, the bongo brothers don't compare to these guys. Just have a look how quickly their fingers work their drums. The audio on my camera doesn't do it justice, because as each finger hits the skin, a slightly different sound is made. I'm no music person, but it sounded incredible.

Video 2 - It turns out that flute/pipe players do more than charm cobras in India. They play inspired solos too! Once again, my camera only allows the aural sense to be indulged slightly – let your imagination run wild as to the incredibility of the music played and then double it to get near the true effect of this guy’s genius.

Video 3 - This one is a little hard to hear. It is the band pianist's story about his near death in the Mumbai terrorist attacks of November 26, 2008. I've uploaded it so that you can hear it for yourself, however the story in brief is below if you struggle to understand him  in the video (the one telling the story in English - on the left as you look at the screen - is the man who owns the story).

He was in South Mumbai when the terrorists struck. There were 14 people in the room he was in, 5 died and another 2 were badly wounded. He says that he saw his son in his mind and said goodbye to him, as he was sure he was going to die. As one of the gunmen had the gun to his head, he prayed to God for protection, as soon as he prayed that (silently to God), the gunman pointed the gun in a different direction. It was incredibly powerful to all who were in the room and I hope that it makes you think about how blessed we are to live in a country where this sort of thing doesn't happen.

Update on my work with VR

After having the wonderful experience to help out on the buses which I shared with you last time, I now have a clear idea of how, God willing, I can help this wonderful organisation.

Vision Rescue have recently made plans to create a branch of their organisation where they can empower the teenagers and young adults who they minister to by giving them sporting equipment and the coaching required to make it to the top level. Pastor Biju’s vision is to have one of these kids represent India in the next 5-10 years in Cricket, Football, Basketball etc, etc.
If you haven’t worked it out yet, Cricket is the biggest sport in India, they love it. You walk down the street and you are bound to see a game being played somewhere (when walking home from the mall today, there were a bunch of teens playing under a highway overpass!) so I figured that the sport which Vision Rescue needs to focus on first is Cricket.

The plan which God has given me is to approach the Mumbai Indians who play in the IPL (the IPL is India’s equivalent to the AFL or NRL but for cricket. We’re talking the world’s best players being paid bucketloads, full stadiums, all the glitz and glamour of any sporting competition in the world) and get them to sponsor the VR teams with equipment and coaching.

This is a huge task and I wouldn’t have been able to even contemplate doing this by myself, so it is clearly God at work. Please partner with me in prayer for this with the applicable prayer points below. 

So many of you have told me that you are praying for me, you have no idea how humbling  that is to hear that it is not only me in Mumbai, but the prayers of a whole Church, the wider Christian community in Sydney and other associated parts of the world. Thank you, and please keep praying! If there is anything that you need prayer for right now, please give me the joy of praying for you because it is an enormous privilege that God has given us to have him on a direct line!

Prayer Points
Praise God for being a provider to so many in India

Thank God for the musical gifts he has given the Gospel Fusion Band

Thank God that they are using those gifts to glorify God

Thank God for the powerful work he did and continues to do through their 

Thank God for the success that was Aagaman

Ask God that those who gave their life to him at the service will grow in their new faith

Ask God that I will get the chance to meet with someone from the Mumbai Indians

Ask God that he will give me courage to boldly represent a Christian organisation in front of an Indian Sporting Club

Ask God that he will give me the words to say to them

Ask God that they might be generous in their response

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ode to a Mumbai Train

First of all, I must apologise to a few people. I did actually quite enjoy my train ride, so please don’t think I’m having a go. Anything mildly offensive to the city loyalists should not be deemed derogatory, but rather ‘poetic licence’.

I must also apologise to the numerous English teachers who attempted to instil poetic principles into my educational experience. All I remembered was that rhyme is important and that the syllables should be somewhat consistent (I’m sure there is a more correct use of terminology for this). I also remember the word ‘pentameter’ though I am unsure if this is related or what it actually means.

Last of all, I should apologise to you, the reader. When I promised to deliver an ‘ode’ I didn’t consider

         (a)    what an ode is (I still don’t know – I doubt if this is an ode); and
         (b)   how bad I am at following poetic formats

Considering the lengthy apologies I have needed to write, its probably a good idea to avoid the ramblings below in their entirety. Should you choose to continue, you do so at your own peril and no subsequent action on your behalf can be considered to be the fault of the author.

Ode to a Mumbai Train

O Mumbai train, O Mumbai train,
how our trip disturbs me.
The crowd around, that does surround,
is very tight and sticky.
Though to be fair, my wallets there,
I shouldn’t be so picky.
And I navigate, (I can’t be late),
despite it being tricky.

The group behind, burst into song,
seemingly without cause.
Yet when they stop, it does feel like,
they’re worthy of applause.
I must ponder, very briefly,
if they follow any laws.
As many men, at reckless stance,
Are hanging out all doors.

A window gaze, lets my eye see,
folk walking on the tracks.
I try to think, of anything,
that this train journey lacks.
Perhaps it might, be more bizarre,
with a busker playing Sax?
Or could it be, that I might see,
a madman wielding an axe?

But no I won’t, I’ve now reached my-
final destination
And as I think, it was not a-
total aberration
Though carriages, cry out for a-
source of purification
I’ve decided, there are worse forms-
of city transportation

My trip was not, something that could,
be described as too long
So to say that, it wastes ones time,
would be exactly wrong
There is I guess, the small fact that,
you must deal with the pong
And the teenage, entrepreneurs,
who sell books­ among the throng­­­

You saved me though, from city streets,
where all cars only beep
And got me to, downtown Bombay,
very much ‘on the cheap
I will say that, its not a place,
where I’d feel safe to sleep
The memory though, without a doubt,
I’ll surely want to keep

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Vision Rescue

I know I promised you an ‘ode to a Mumbai train’ but until that is finished, I thought I would give an update on the serious side of my time in Mumbai, and that is helping with Vision Rescue.

This is an organisation who help the members of the community who have been given a raw deal in life. They work with Drug Addicts and Sex Slaves among others, but the area in which I am helping them is the aid that they 
offer to street kids. These little guys are aged anywhere between 1 and 12 and without Vision Rescue, their lives would be considerably meeker.VR owns 5 vehicles – 3 buses (which have been converted into makeshift classrooms) and 2 medical vans (one dental, one general medical aid). These are driven around to designated areas in Mumbai and when that destination is reached, the kids are taught a lesson and fed a nutritious meal.

Yesterday I got the opportunity to go on the buses for the first time, and it was a truly fantastic experience. Because of a big day today when all the kids from each site (300+) were invited for a Christmas program, there were no lessons yesterday - meaning that there was a bit of spare time for us to do what we wanted and we decided to make the most of the opportunity. There is currently a team from Durban, South Africa here and together with them, I was able to tell these kids the good news of Jesus. Some of the South African girls taught the kids a Zulu worship song and then with the help of my translator JP, God was able to use me to teach these kids about what Jesus has done for all of us.

It was just a simple message, but it was an enormous privilege and you never know what seeds it may plant in these kids’ lives. God is truly great!

Prayer Points

·         Praise God for being AMAZING!
·         Thank God for the work of Vision Rescue
·         Thank God for giving me the opportunity to work with them
·         Thank God for the growth in local Mumbai Churches
·         Thank God that the Christmas program will be a success
·         Thank God that I have been able to find consistent internet
·         Ask God that I might be able to help VR in their sport ministry
·         Ask God that everyone worldwide will remember the true meaning of Christmas

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Bumper Blog for a Bombay Birthday

There aren’t too many people who have experienced a birthday without being wished ‘happy birthday’ face to face, so I am proud to join the exclusive club. I’m not sure how common parties are in that club and considering the entry requirements, it would be hard to imagine that those in it are an incredibly social bunch so perhaps I will have to be a member by badge only.

Its an exclusive club

After arriving in Mumbai last night, I was unsure if there were any plans for my day from Vision Rescue (the organisation I am helping with in Mumbai) and after waiting until 10.00am and seeing no gestures for my involvement in activities, I decided that my day was free to do with what I wanted. The tip from the Goregaon East locals at dinner last night was that the best shopping experience in the suburb was to be found at Oberoi Mall, so armed with that name and 15 Rupees for an auto rickshaw, my day began.

What a Mall it turned out to be. First time I have had to pass through security to pick up groceries in my life! I was frisked and scanned upon entry and despite the wand beeping about 5 times as it swiped across various metallic objects within my possession, the guard nonchalantly allowed me to enter.

The first sight that greeted the eye as I passed the entrance was the giant Christmas house decorated with images and signs advocating a ‘Mr Bean Christmas’ my thoughts flashed through to episode where Rowan Atkinson is stuffing a turkey into a microwave and my mind was left to ponder if having a ‘Mr Bean Christmas’ was indeed something to be desired or not. I decided to move on in order to avoid confusing myself with the contrast of BBC humour and an Indian shopping experience.

Scary isn’t it

A quick sit down in the Gloria Jeans lounge allowed me to check my emails and facebook for the first time in a while (my internet connectivity is proving to be like a Bollywood film plot. Most of the time it doesn’t exist and when it does, its very bad). I was greeted by a gmail inbox of 13 emails and a facebook list of 46 notifications. I guessed what most of those were about, and briefly scanned them (forgive me for not replying individually – but I was only permitted 30 minutes of free wifi and I had several internet reliant errands to run which are considerably more time consuming on a mobile phone). Thank you to all those who did wish me a happy birthday, and I did have an enjoyable day so I appreciate all the wishing that went on, just don’t tell all the other members of my new club lest they be jealous and that would be causing a brother to stumble.

After my internet time ran out, I moved onwards to find a restaurant suitable for my birthday lunch. Today was some form of public holiday in Mumbai, which from what I could work out meant little more than the fact that stores had to wait until 11am to open. These timings meant my dismay at seeing the food court closed at 10.30 had now swept over and passed me by as it was 11.30 and Subway was open for business.

If your wondering, the man’s shirt reads, it says ‘Did I suggest you a COKE?’ and for the record, no – he didn’t

If you’re not like me, you would have been frustrated by the lack of vegetarian options at Australian Subway restaurants where you’ve either got ‘vegie delight’ which is a glorified salad roll or a ‘vegie patty’ which is the same thing, just with something horribly brown and rectangular (its related to a ‘patty’ by name only) on top. Well, welcome to Subway Indian style. If you’re a vegan who likes your vegie delight then there is that for you, however you now have 3 other vegetarian options to choose from as well. Does Paneer Tikka tickle your fancy? Or would you like to say ‘Allo’ to an Aloo Patty on your sub? Perhaps you would look at a Veg Shammi with glee? Despite these vego favourites, I skipped that section of the menu boards. I briefly pondered ordering a Chicken Tikka, a Chicken Seekh or a Chicken Achari but the scrawny featherless animals (the Mumbai market men claimed these to be chickens – I have my doubts) being sold in the street put me off that particular flightless bird.

I decided instead on a Subway Club – in Australia that is turkey, roast beef & ham, and that’s what my friend on the other side of the counter was trying to make my sandwich appear to be containing, however I doubt very highly if there was in fact beef involved, so I’m unsure what the brown circles of processed meat were. Despite this, the lunch was stomachable which is more than can be said of some other dishes that I have tried whilst over here, so I was cheering.

A footlong sub with all salads (except for jalapeños, onion and pickles) and Honey Mustard dressing partnered by a coke and 3 cookies set me back 365 Rupees, approximately $8, very expensive by local standards, but a birthday treat for the day.

Throughout my facebook and email session that morn, I had become aware of some positive news from Perth regarding the plight of the Australian cricket team, hence my post lunch operation was to avail myself of a TV showing the game. I went to the mall’s ‘Café Coffee day’ which is a western style coffee house found all over India but they refused to change the TV from the Bollywood channel that nobody was watching, so I continued on…ground floor – nothing…first floor – nothing…second floor – nothing…third and final floor – SUCCESS!! A high end restaurant entitled ‘Cream Centre’ was showing Australia v England on both their wall TV and via a projected screen. I mean no sarcasm when I call it a high end restaurant, despite the name and the fact that they were showing cricket, it was very plush. I sat on a leather armchair and ordered a side of French fries, to which the waiter asked ‘that’s it?’ My response of a point to the screen and a wink seemed to make him realise why I was there. Perhaps my earlier request of a ‘seat where I can see the TV’ could have also eluded him to the fact that I was more interested in the visual offering than the edible.
An hour and a half into my viewing, the number of empty tables around me amounted to the number of wickets England had left (none) and I realised that it wouldn’t be too long before I was asked to vacate my seat. To this point I had consumed my side of fries and a bottle of water, needless to say my meagre contribution to the workload of the restaurant’s accountants would have seen me be the first patron requested to leave. In light of this, there was only one option available to me and I cried out ‘Waiter, dessert menu please’.

A look of victory crossed the waiter’s face as he handed me the dessert menu and when my eyes got a chance to gaze at it between overs, I began to see why. The cheapest dessert option was a ‘Double choc nut brownie Sundae’ for 179 Rupees (The fries were only 95!) hmmm, after a few minutes of thought (which doubled as another delaying tactic) I decided that it was a small price to pay if I was to see Australia give themselves a chance to regain the Ashes, so I reluctantly agreed to proceed with the order. The sundae was delicious and Watson’s decision to blast 14 runs off a Stephen Finn over further vindicated my purchase. The loss of Hughes soured my meal a little bit and when Ponting got out, the Maitre De decided that it was also time for my innings to come to a close. In summary, a handy innings from T Scoular left him with the following career statistics for RCW (Restaurant Cricket Watching).

Restaurants Attempted: 2
Succesful Viewings:1
Average: 0.5
Longest stay in chair: 2 hours and 13 minutes
Total expenditure: 368 Rupees
Viewing to Cost ratio: 22 Seconds/rupee

Prayer Points
Praise God for being so generous
Thank God for my safety during travel
Thank God for the comfort that he is when I have no idea whats going on
Thank God for the opportunity I have with Vision Rescue
Ask God that my work with Vision Rescue might be helpful to them
Ask God that I will rely on him through all times – especially when things are going according to my plans

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Just letting everyone know, my internet troubles are continuing, when I avail myself of a decent connection, I will update again.

Stay tuned for 'A Bombay Birthday' and 'Ode to a Mumbai train'.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Can’t Bat, Can’t Bowl, Can’t Throw

Well, it turns out that no matter where I play cricket, I struggle to contribute – please see below for brief match report from the staff-student cricket game from this afternoon.

Staff 2/70 (9.4 overs) def Students 9/69 (12 overs)

The afternoon haze had lifted from the Hebron School and the mat which constituted the pitch upon which the intra school battle would commence was 
primed and ready for some quality cricket.

The staff team had a new mystery man known as ‘Mr Tim’ and there was a lot of anticipation surrounding the chances which the staff team had in beating the students. The dominance of the students team in these fixtures is somewhat resemblant of QLD’s State of Origin success in recent years, and so there was much hope in the big footed recruit that he could deliver.

The students won the toss and elected to bat, the staff’s South African captain Patrick threw Mr Tim the ball and his instructions were “I’ve been teaching these kids for too long, let it rip”. As the students opening bats took 6 off his first over and also survived his second, there were calls from the crowd for a refund on their money. I don’t know how you can refund nothing, however they were certainly justified in their disappointment.

A steady flow of wickets ensured that the students never got out of control and when they finished their 12 overs on 69, they knew they needed early wickets to put the staff under pressure.

Keen to make amends for his poor showing with the ball, Mr Tim was sent in to open the batting and facing up to the student’s opening bowler (Alex Mohandsann), was clean bowled first ball.

Mr Sam from the Travel Office played the Michael Bevan role, consolidating the disastrous start and hitting 3 slog sweeps over the shed on his way to 30* as he guided the staff home with plenty of time to spare.

Mr Sam’s total was only beaten by extras, leg side wide rules ensured that only 35 of the 70 runs were off the bat.

Despite the staff being victorious, Mr Tim’s position in the side looks as certain as Marcus North’s spot in Australia’s middle order.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010



So, first day and I want to get stuck into what I’ll be doing for the time I’m at the school. However when I get there, I find out that ‘IG day off’ falls on a Monday (I am an ‘International Guest’, hence IG). So instead of doing anything useful, the other IGs and myself hired some motorbikes and drove up to a lookout at the top of the second highest mountain in Southern India.

View from top of the mountain, Ooty is closer to the shot, towards the right but is blocked by the shrubbery

Today I found out what I will actually be doing at the school while I’m over here. I had a brief understanding that I would be helping them out with whatever they need, but that seems as vague to me as it does to you.
So, I might as well pass on to you what I will be doing…
  • PE Department – lending a helping hand, to help teach classes and run sporting activities for the different teams at the school.
  • Bible Study groups – There are a whole host of different prayer groups and bible studies floating round the school, and some are run by the school in the other parts of Ooty. I had the amazing experience of witnessing a Christmas concert by some of the kids from one of the local bible study groups (see video)
  • Anything else that needs to be done, I’m the man for it apparently.

Thank God for the time I was able to spend with the kids over the last couple of days and the bonds which we started to create

Thank God for the provision of internet and mobile phone access

Outdated Blog 1 (6th December)

In Short - I arrived - what follows below are the ramblings of a bored man at different Airport Terminals across the globe...


Well, I made it. 4 Flights and an 8 hour car trip over 53 hours can be quite tiring, (especially when a bit of extra cash could have halved the total travel time) but this is definitely the fun way to do things.

I got to escape the transfer lounge at Singapore and explore the city for a few hours, what an incredible place, more Christmas lights in one street than all of Sydney combined! A big thanks to Lucy and Josephine from work who served as my travel guides, telling me everything I needed to know before I got there.

Also when you are used to cityrail, the MRT makes you feel like you are in a futuristic society. Services every two minutes, carriages stopping to the exact centimetre that they are supposed to, and to think I pay more for a student return trip from Pennant Hills to Central than I did from Changi Airport to the city and back.

From there, I ventured on to Chennai. Indian customs is an interesting place, you’re never quite sure if you are going to be greeted by the friendliest smile you have ever come across or the snarl of a 48 year old bloke who hates his job and is just finishing a 10 hour shift. I was closer to the second experience as my kind concierge was incredibly frustrated at my lack of understanding of the Indian immigration process.

From then, I had to find my luggage and get to the domestic terminal so I didn’t miss my flight to Bangalore, sound rushed? Well no, I had a good 8 hours to complete those two tasks, so I thought, then just as I was observing the plans for the upgrade of Chennai Airport, I was whisked away by an airline official who gave me a personal escort through security in order to get me on an earlier flight, I hadn’t asked for it, however it wasn’t a bad thing to happen at all, somehow though, the rush to get it all done seemed to just accentuate the monotonous nature of the elongated trip.

At the end of the day though, I made it to Bangalore and found my taxi Driver Shankar and we drove and slept through the night in order to arrive at the Hebron School. 

Thank God for my safe travel, and that I have all my baggage still (the travel review sites for Air India seem to suggest that God was working very hard for that to happen)

Thank God that despite the ordinary travel itinerary I planned that I’m not too tired

Ask God that the kids at the School will be welcoming