Wednesday, January 21, 2015

End of a Journey

What an incredible journey this has been. 3 countries, 5 ministries, hundreds of individuals. It is the kind of experience that words cannot begin to describe. Each stop has been a roller-coaster of emotions, with my heart unsure of how to feel.

On one hand, you see the worst of humanity. People trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty, girls who were ripped away from innocence. These are the places where the veil is thin between he'll and earth, where we've given Satan power over us.

Yet there are ministries and individuals standing in the gaps. Some are on the front lines, swords held high and voices raised in battle. Angels and people interspersed amidst the battlefield engaged against the forces of darkness. Though the black tide threatens to overwhelm, the light will not be conquered.

While some are on the front lines, others have infiltrated the enemy territory. Small pockets of lanterns lighting wild fires to spread the light and push back the darkness. Rural villages reached for Christ, women taking ownership of their future and caring for their children. Remote tribe hearing the gospel for the first time. Young people risking everything for the cause of Christ, leaving their families and security behind.

And it's working. Slowly, but surely we pave the way for Christ. Our current world is doomed from the corruption that is slowly squeezing the life from her. Yet we are salt and light, proclaimers of the current and coming Kingdom. Where there will be no tears, poverty, hunger or suffering. There will only be freedom.

The harvest is plenty but the workers are few. We talk about this in Canada as if we understand it, yet elsewhere in the world God has prepared the church for immense growth and they only need us to bless them to do the work. As one of our leaders put it, "The world knows more Indian Christians than it does Canadians."

Now for the long journey home. We leave tomorrow at 9 AM, fly to Delhi, and then I fly through China and onward to Canada alone. Can't wait to be home and tell these stories in person! Thank you for your prayers, they have been felt and mean more than I can express.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Meaningful Missions

Why do we believe in missions? A simple question with a complex answer. Hidden beneath those few words are decades of assumptions and personal experiences that colour our answer. Subtracting ourselves from the equation is the hardest part of making it balance.

We can put complex theories on the minutia of missional theology that require graduate degrees to understand. We often hide our missions behind complex layers of bureaucracy so we can absolve ourselves of guilt for doing nothing. We spend more time talking amongst ourselves about how we should do missions than about the one who died for us.

It is a luxury most of the world does not have. They suffer because of our passionless inaction. Why we tie up meaningful decisions in committees and politics, people are still suffering, waiting to hear the news of a caring God.

In the past 15 days I have been blessed to visit 5 of our partners. These are individuals who helm organizations who are on the front lines of the war for this earth. The darkness pushes in against them constantly and their response is not to hide in their trenches, but to defiantly raise their torches higher and fervidly charge into that dark night.

They stand at the gates of hell and do fierce battle for each and every soul. The hollow meetings mean little when people are begging you for help. The finances mean little when there are entire people groups who have not heard the name of Christ. These are organizations who are deeply in tune with what their Heavenly General is doing across the globe and responding in their own communities.

Jesus did not die for us to argue over the floral arrangement when there are people dying in the streets. He didn't travel through Samaria to protect his property value. He died on a cross because of love. Fulfilling the plan of redemption, the moment of defeat became our battle cry. It transformed our shame into His glory.

This is meaningful missions. Local churches planted. Lives transformed. Christ proclaimed.

You don't need to travel across the world to be involved. Step out your door and do something

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Beautiful People

We have natural inclinations that mislead us when we are looking at people outside of our own culture. Our discomfort with change overwhelms our better senses, and we are quick to judge. In our own self righteousness we believe our own culture is the best culture.

Overcoming this bias is the most important part of really digging into foreign cultures. I have so much to learn from cultures that are not our own. Not only about different ways to do things, but also about ourselves. Throw everything you know and appreciate into the air, and you quickly discover things that are important to you.

The world is a beautiful place. God designed us to be all different colours, shapes and sizes. We speak an unfathomable amount of languages, each with their own cadence, town and rhythm. We are a beautiful Symphony, each section with its own important role to play. Take one out, and the music is hollow, robbed of its beauty.

There is universal beauty. Children singing, dancing, laughing. Hospitality overflowing from people who have so little to give, but give nonetheless. Parents beaming with pride as their children read, write and dance. People who are alive with the Holy Spirit, their eyes dancing with the joy contained within.

Every culture has its own beauty. From the outside it looks ugly, nonsensical and useless. But to a well trained, open eye, there is beauty in the nuances. Moments of intentional happenstance which tell a deeper story flowing through the depths of society.

Yet we get in the way. We speak when we should ask questions. We judge when we should love. We long for home instead of being present in the moment. Ultimately, we're too busy looking for the mundane when there is a masterpiece before us.

I have been blessed to have met so many wonderful, beautiful people here in Kolkata. Young women who have been given a second chance on life after sex trafficking. Young missionaries who have given up everything to follow God's calling. Children who are enrolled in school and reading for the first time. Lives changed.

It's beautiful.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Leave Everything

I have a confession. There are times when one of my bad habits really starts to show its unseemly face. It is one of those things that seems really innocent, and is even easy to hide, but has some bad consequences.

Sometimes when I read scripture I like to pick the things that I like. I highlight the easy things, or the things I'm good at, but downplay the things that make me uncomfortable. What can I say? I'm human.

As we sat in the Touch the Lives office today, we met worker after worker who have heart breaking stories. A father dead from electrocution, and a mother carrying on the work with the encouragement of her two children but mockery of family. A young man who has been kicked out of his family because of Jesus. Others who gave up everything because of a God who revealed Himself through a passing stranger or a tract.

These are the people who will be first into the Kingdom of heaven while us 'Christians' take up the back of the line. They don't need to understand concepts of persecution or being adopted into the family of God, because they live it everyday. When your entire village has turned their back on you, when you are physically and emotionally abused for your faith, you begin to understand the importance of the teaching on the family of God. Suddenly the idea of being adopted makes sense when your natural family wants nothing to do with you. They've abandoned you.

In a country full of shrines to trees, metal and stone these workers have discovered a living, active and loving God. They know a family that surrounds them and what it means to walk in the steps of Jesus everyday. They don't have the luxury of deciding if they will use their faith to share with friends, they are preaching to everyone because they must.

They have left everything to follow Jesus. Their family, friends, homes and jobs. We have so much to learn from these brave, courageous children of God.

Do you know how He has rewarded them?

New children to share their faith with. Inroads into villages that have never heard the name of Jesus. Children learning how to read and write. Singing songs of God's goodness and faithfulness.

Jesus called us to leave everything because he never intended to die for part of your heart. He died for all of me, and deserves nothing less.

If you want to support one of these incredible workers, I'd love to share more with you!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Farewells For Now

Final days of trips are strange things. There are so many emotions wrapped up into a period of time. So many experiences have been shared, and preparing to leave those behind is a grieving process in itself.

The past two weeks have been filled with incredible moments of God's presence. Through rural villages, ministry campuses, training facilities and many, many traffic jams there have been plenty of tears and laughs. We have seen God's faithfulness working in the lives of our partners, changing the world in tangible, sustainable ways.

Today Renee and I said goodbye to the team from C4 church, and our friend Anita. They are flying home to be with their families while we carry on to visit a few more partners. Breakfast was the usual curries potatoes and roti, but filled with meaningful reflection on God's goodness and encouragement for fellow team members. None of us will be the same after the ways God has used us and revealed Himself.

That is what I love about these trips... It changes us. We cannot be the same after what God has shown us.

The final day was spent running errands with Smita, but first visiting Mother's house, where Mother Theresa was based and is buried. An incredible testimony to an incredible woman who responded to God's calling on her life. There was a peace that rested over the place, which is remarkable in the midst of a city filled with darkness.

Soon after, we dropped the C4 team off at the airport for their long journey home. We met as near strangers, but we send them home as brother and sister. Even more, as friends. Ambassadors for our partners here who continue God's work in areas that have not heard the name of Jesus Christ. Advocates for pastors who have been rejected by everyone because of the name of Christ.

Though I have been with Partners for only 5 months, this is the heart of what we do. Laying down our own assumptions, we come alongside our brothers and sisters around the world and work together for God's Kingdom. We go deep in our own neighborhoods, and help our family go deep in their own. Together, we change the world one person at a time.

So it was a day of farewells... For now. Never a goodbye forever, because we have gained friends, and braved the streets of Bangladesh and India together!

God is good, and my stories will continue on. Tomorrow Renee and I visit Touch the Lives here in Kolkata. On Monday we fly to North Bengal to visit my good friends the Narjinary's. Follow me on the journey, because there are many more stories to tell!

Thursday, January 15, 2015


Coming from this building was the most angelic sound. You'll never believe the stories of the men we met inside. It is hard to communicate with words the gravity of the people we have met nearly everyday with traveling through Bangladesh and India. People who do not have a choice to live their faith out loud, but must.

JKPS is a ministry with roots deep in church planting, but that has expanded hugely into the areas of social justice in Kolkata. From recovery homes, they are looking at the whole problem and working to solve each nuance. Many children of prostitutes live inside of the brothels and are quickly scarred from the sites and sounds. They in turn grow to perpetuate the problem their parents have fallen into. On this particular campus, a boys house is being built to pull these young men out, give them an education and mentorship and a future.

Inside were around 12 young men training to become pastors around Kolkata. Their stories blow me away. One man comes from a Hindu village, and has come to know Christ. Out of his entire family, he is the only one who is a believer - including his wife.

Imagine that pressure for a moment. Your entire support structure stands against your new faith in the cross of Christ. Added to that stress is the recently developed mental illness of his son. The people in the village are blaming his faith, yet that is not the God we serve.

As we gathered around him and prayed, it struck me what an inspiration this man was to us. As we blessed him, he was in turn blessing us by his incredible faith. This is the family of God, encouraging, blessing and challenging one another. We journey together across oceans towards the Kingdom of God, furthering it in our own ways.

I was able to share with these men the story of the fiery furnace, a message that the Lord gave me as I spoke. A message of hope in a foreign land, of God's faithfulness when all others have turned their backs. A story of three young men with convictions strong enough to go to their deaths.

It had never been more relevant to me than in that moment. There is a real possibility that some of these men may become martyrs for their faith. Is that a reason to turn away in fear? Is it a reason to back down and fit in? Of course not!

Let these men be an inspiration to you and I. Don't forget that while we in North America struggle with not offending people around us, believers the world around are locked in battle with the evil one. They are going to places that have never heard the name of Christ while we choose to actively deny him. They are persecuted on every side, but not defeated. Crushed, but not abandoned.

Let it drive you to prayer, drive you to action. Let it humble you, and draw you to your knees. May God speak to you as you listen and reveal to you what He has in store for you for His Kingdom.

Because even if he doesn't save us, we will not bow our knee. Let our Holy defiance be a testimony to the one we worship.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Sound of Joy

There are sounds you associate with terrible atrocities. Whales and screams that chills the bones and breaks the heart. Darkness that looms over the area suffocating any signs of hope. These are the sounds and signs of people resigned to evil dominating their souls.

For the part few days, we have been journeying through the frenetic, hectic streets of Kolkata. A city where there are still ritualistic animal sacrifices to the goddess Kali. Worshipping death and destruction by blood running freely to appease her lust for death.

We have seen the worst sides of humanity. Neighbours, friends, uncles and aunts selling girls into slavery all for money. They abuse natural trust from simple people for their own temporary gain, and in turn sell these girls, and their souls. Stories that many of us are familiar with, but only speak of once the children have gone to bed. Stories easier left ignored, because they disturb us deeply if we take them as truth.

That darkness is what makes these images so beautiful. The stories are all true, but there are bastions of light shining in the darkness. Communities standing up to fight trafficking, churches planted to stop the erosion, education offered to provide new opportunities and training to combat the root cause of poverty. It's families reporting their missing daughters so they can be rescued and those responsible brought to justice. It's the same girls testifying in a court where their every word is scrutinized, and speaking flawlessly to bring these monsters to justice. It is angels in heaven doing fierce battle on behalf of those taken advantage of, storming the fortresses of the evil one.

It is the sound of new beginnings. New opportunities for people the world has cast aside. How do you help someone who has been stuck in slavery for years? Girls who stopped developing mentally the moment of first trauma, with little or no schooling and unable to read or write.

These things are happening today. Girls finding new family in Aunties who love them and sisters who have suffered the same trauma. Salvation and healing in Jesus Christ who holds them tight and watches over them. It is the sound of healing.

Today we had two great experiences of visiting the Destiny Foundation, who employs some of these women, teaching them job skills and selling their sewing at fair trade prices. It is a first line for these girls to learn how to work, and produce goods that are worthy to be sold. A safe place for them to learn and grow, and prepare for the rest of their lives.

The second experience was visiting the recovery home to show them the movie they participated in making. As we entered the home, the air was electric with anticipation. Throughout the 8 minutes of video, heaven and earth collided as young women who should be decimated from the trauma in their lives sung a beautiful song through their laughter. It was the sound of pure, unadulterated joy.

There is no better proof of healing than 25 young women taking pure joy in the story they created. Laughing at the silliness of the acting, the hilarity of the dancing and the innocence of girls being girls, as they should have been all along. It is a gift that we were able to give them, but they will never know what a gift they have given us.

Tonight, I heard heaven. It is going to be a great party, and it sounds like freedom.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Conquering Goliath

"Who dares face me? Who is strong enough to kill me?" Goliath shouted while the Israelites, God's supposed people, cowered in fear. Overcome with a debilitating case of tunnel vision, they had forgotten to look up and were instead focused on the problem at hand.

It took a young teenage boy to come along with his sling and stone to set things right. Even then, Saul wanted to give David his own armor, but it wouldn't fit properly. How can you spin a sling when your arm is weighed down with bracers?

Goliath met David that day with sword, spear and shield. David met him with a sling and the Almighty God. I'll let you figure out who came out on top.

There are some gargantuan Goliaths in our world. Issues that seem insurmountable like our own personal Everest. The slopes slick with fresh snowfall, the cliffs sheer with ice. Issues that taunt us with their intricacies and flaunt their devastation. They practically preen as they dare us to come against them.

Do we cower in fear? Allowing by our complacency the atrocities to continue? Do we stare slack jawed at the monster that threatens our homes and families day and night, paralyzed by overwhelming power. Or do we stop to remove ourselves from the equation and remember that we serve the Lord of the Heavenly armies, the Alpha and Omega who goes before us.

He leads us into battle, slaying foes and bringing glory to his own name. He guides our feet through the deepest snow and gives us sure footing on the loosest shale. With his angels surrounding us, no principality or force can stand against us. He knows no defeat, has not met a foe that can resist his immeasurable power.

But we put him in a box.

Today we had the privilege to visit the Sundarban Islands, just outside of Kolkata. This is a remote place that is surprisingly accessible, where the people are simple and trusting and where great evils are committed. It's close proximity to Kolkata and the unique makeup of a lack of education and poverty make it ripe for sex trafficking.

It is a place, like so many other places, that needs Jesus.

JKPS is aware that we need not only to take care of girls after they have been trafficked, but that we need to prevent the root of the issue as well. Through church planting, community development, education and preventative teaching we can stop the flow of girls from these villages.

Make no mistake about it, sex trafficking is a powerful Goliath. It does not hide in the shadows, but flaunts it's devastation in the streets openly. Yet we do not serve a timid God, but rather a fierce warrior who enters willingly into battle for those He loves.

The size of the problem should not intimidate us. Rather, the broken lives of young women should drive us towards that stream to pick five smooth stones and let Goliath know we're coming for him. There will be no safe place on this planet, no shadow where he can hide. We will hunt him to the last breath until he is eradicated from our earth.

It takes time. It takes money. It takes communities investing over the long term.

Yet step by step we can be like David standing defiantly before Goliath, refusing to give an inch. You may come at us by questioning our God-given worth, exploiting the weak, and establishing your strong G holds, but we come in the name of God Almighty, commander of heavens armies and declare that your reign will end. We will proclaim freedom for the slaves, healing for the broken and justice over the evil.

One day at a time we will push back the darkness and conquer Goliath.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Beauty from Ashes

Watch a video on the Mahima home here:

God loves and underdog. When the world has written off someone as used up, worthless and ready to be discarded, God's eyes of mercy are upon them. When others cast their judgment of worthlessness, the Lord unveils true worth. Noah, Abraham, David, Ruth, Peter, the woman at the well and many others are all people the world has written off, and God was using to write His story.

Today we had the privilege of visiting the Mahima home, an aftercare home for girls rescued from sex trafficking. Stolen or deceived from their homes and sold into a world of slavery with no hope of redemption, these young women are regarded as things, not people. Through the work of IJM and others, there is a glimmer of hope for some girls.

Yet rescuing is just the beginning. At the moment of first trauma, many people stop developing. There are deep wounds in these young women's hearts, and their image of God has been deeply marred.

Ministries like IJM can only expand as far as there are proper places to put the women after they are rescued. Otherwise they end up in a government warehouse, 150 where the suicide rate is over 50%. Given no education, no training and left to stew until they are 18, many girls go back into the sex trade and become part of the problem.

Yet the love of Christ is greater than the powers of this world.

Mahima home is a place where girls are brought and through counseling, skills training, education and a great deal of love are restored. They are invited into a family that loves them and gives them hope for the future.

Today we were a part of that story. Through pastor Angela's devotional about no matter how the people in the world value you, God's value in us never changes we conveyed purpose. Through the hours spent planning, filming and laughing about a faux Bollywood movie with acted out with the girls, we conveyed love and acceptance. Through training that Pamela and Merry undertook with the therapists of the Mahima we equipped the home for the future. This is partnership.

Many of the girls have been in the home for a few years now. Outside of our knowledge of their past, you would not suspect anything was amiss. They smile, and laugh with meaning and true joy. They are studying grade school to learn and have a future. They have hope and dreams and purpose in their lives. They blessed us with their joy.

Yet there is great need. One of the young women had only been at the home for 2 months, and there was a marked difference. She kept her eyes downcast, and stayed back from the group more. She didn't engage on the same level as the other girls and her guard was always up.

This is the beauty of the Mahima home. The other girls were clearly around her, pouring into her life with an empathy that no one else could express. She was now home, with family. Even with her being fairly new, there were times today she was laughing, smiling and being the young girl that she is.

There is hope.

Through the ministries of Mahima home and IJM, many of these girls are pursuing justice against their traffickers, entering into a court system that is not kind to victims and speaking boldly and clearly against the evils of this world.

This is the gospel lived out on earth. This is the Kingdom of God redeeming our fallen planet.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Today we participated with the Spirit of God and found freedom not only with these young women, but we were blessed to find freedom ourselves. There are many terrible things happening in the world, but Partners like the Mahima home give hope to the hopeless and proclaim the gospel amidst the darkest principalities on the planet. Because the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness shall not overcome it.


Sunday, January 11, 2015


In Canada we like to talk about what it really means to be missionally minded. We wax poetic about reaching out and making a difference, yet we struggle with the little things. We want to change the world, but we are afraid to cross the street to talk to our neighbour. We speak about reaching the nations, but clear out of local communities to save our housing values when 'those' people move in.

Imagine what it would be like to move into a village that is not your home to minister. A place where people are born, are raised, get married, have children, have grandchildren and die all within the village borders. Add into that complicated equation some fundamentalist faith that has lead to Christian martyrs before, and you have a glimpse into the lives of the couple we met today.

Faith is not an option, it is a requirement. When you have given up everything to follow, put all your hopes into an unknown you begin to deeply comprehend what faith looks like. Yet these couples do it willingly because they understand that whether you are a Christian or a Hindu, an animist or a Muslim, God loves you.

Walking away from family and friends into a village where people will resent you for your leadership is never easy. When they will come to lean on you for their very real problems and confide in you deeply complex relational issues, it becomes like quicksand. There will be times these couples will want to run and hide, and yet they live where they minister.

This is the heart of the gospel. We lay down our hopes, dreams and lives at the feet of Jesus to do with what He will. Whether it means life or death on this earth, riches or poverty to serve others, whether we live in comfort or under constant threat of our lives - God is with us.

As you read this, eight couples worthy of your prayer are on trains to head to villages that desperately need Jesus. They go not only to proclaim the gospel, but to break the chains of poverty that bind these people and to declare freedom on this earth and in the next. These are couples that are worthy of your prayer and desperately need it.

Next time you walk out your door, remember that your neighbour is not that far away, and a conversation is not that hard. It only requires love.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Helping Hand

When the first astronauts launched into orbit, they talked about the total shift in perspective. We were no longer a set of borders and countries, but one small blue globe amidst a huge black tableau. It no longer mattered what colour your skin was, your education or your background. We were all together on a small spaceship hurtling through a vast emptiness.

Here we are, decades later still struggling with wars, disease and other preventable things. Some cause by racism, some by fear and others are allowed to thrive simply because we are too selfish to reach out a hand to help.

International travel gives us a small glimpse into what those astronauts understood with a glimpse. No matter your geographic location we are all human, struggling in this journey of life.

What a blessing it is when we are able to give back and come alongside brothers and sisters who are making a real, tangible difference in this world. Today we were given such an opportunity. The Church planting couples from the adopt a village program gathered together for their monthly meeting and training, and the incredible people from the c4 church were able to share from their vast wealth of experience.

Simple struggles like wanting to take a break over Christmas but struggling with the expectations on pastors to be present and ministering. Complex problems like a young woman deeply struggling in her marriage and attempting suicide. It doesn't matter where you live -- we share a common bond in being human.

At some point you have to stop and wonder why we haven't come alongside these incredible individuals earlier. Young couples giving of their lives to spread the gospel and also teach basic life skills to completely transform the lives of rural individuals. While we cannot do the work directly, teaching them basic counselling techniques and how to guard themselves against burnout are valuable ways we can share from lessons and research from our modern life that have real impact on their way of life.

Without these individuals, we would never have the opportunity to meet little guys with more personality than a picture can fully express.

More than anything you learn from reading these posts, I hope it is this. God loves all people everywhere, and He has called you to make this world a better place. It does not require eloquent speech, deep wisdom or endless wealth. It only requires you to be willing to offer a helping hand and respond.

Try it once and you'll never be the same. Even better, you'll be a part of God's story to renew this world and heal it of the deep brokenness sin has ripped in the fabric of the world.

Friday, January 9, 2015


When things are broken, we throw them away. We've determined, from our own, personal expertise that this item is no longer worth or time or effort to keep around, and so we remove it from our lives. There is nothing wrong with this in and of itself, but when we start to apply it to human beings, we leave a wake of carnage.

In Bangladesh, the weekend happens over Friday and Saturday, and so the strike was off today and we were able to get out to the villages. As we jostled around the vans, weaving in and out of traffic we roles through giant swaths of agricultural land used to grow rice and bake bricks. This was a far cry from the crowded, urban streets of Dhaka.

No matter the wealth or development of a village, there is beauty in authenticity. We were greeted with great cries of joy, supplemented with flowers and handshakes. I hope it never ceases to amaze me that we can travel halfway across the world and feel at home because of Christ.

I had the honor of preaching about how God calls each of us into mission with Him. He doesn't need education or money, only our willingness. It is a message that is simple and needed for all of us. There are no deep intrigues to its meaning, but it requires daily practice to fulfill.

Part of Partners International's Adopt a Village program involves a socio-economic aspect. Many people are familiar with micro loans, but not everyone is aware of how they work in the long run. Bangladesh is the birth place of micro-finance, and the best place to look for its long term viability. Unfortunately, the outlook is not good.

Like many other places in the world, the rich get richer and the poor are further enslaved. Interest rates are now capped at 36%, but many homes have been repossessed by companies that started with the best of intentions but now are infected with greed.

In these villages, the community is forging a new way forward. There is power in community, where a little from each member adds up to a lot. These women have pooled their resources together into a common savings group, and they are each free to request a loan once they have explained what they want to do with that money.

Sewing machines, animals and agriculture are all investments that have been made and already repaid. In same cases they are more than tripling their investment in return. The beauty of the local model is that peers given them the reason to repay, and the whole community benefits when someone is successful. The money stays local, and helps to grow the whole village.

Underneath the business is something even more remarkable. These people who once were hopeless and stuck in a vicious cycle have been given something much more valuable than money. They have been given dignity. They now have ownership of their future. The women are active participants in their communities and often making bigger decisions than the men.

In the case of Mikshimil, the women were concerned for the children of the village with winter coming. The cold weather would bring sickness, and so they were pooling their money to purchase cloth to make clothes. When someone had a surplus, they would share with those in need.

This is what development is about. People taking ownership of their own futures. We are not here to give handouts and further damage the image of God within them. We are here to build them up and reinforce the ingenuity that God has given them.

This is giving with meaning.

Thursday, January 8, 2015


When you are in a third world country, your plans have to be flexible. When that country is in political turmoil, uncertainty becomes the plan. Originally we had planned to get out to some of the villages and see what God has been doing through the lives of some missionaries to transform the lives of rural Bangladesh people, but God had other plans.

I have remarked a few times on traffic on social media, and it is really something that needs to be experienced to understand. Like a well rehearsed ballet, it is clear that there are rules to the road and to using your horn, and that I understand very little of what is really happening. We alternated between open road and Highway speeds to absolutely gridlock numerous times. Interspersed with the vehicles, regardless of their speed are pedestrians wandering through traffic like a game of frogger.

One such incident stands out in my mind as a teenage girl was crossing at a particularly unfortunate portion of road where traffic had sped up to nearly 60 kms/hour. The first BBCF van races past her like any other pedestrian, but a car was close behind. He honked and moved slightly, but had she not quickly scooted forward and moved her hips out of the way, we would have witnessed as very serious accident. It was close enough that her sari clearly moved as it brushed the side of the vehicle. Suddenly cross walks make infinitely more sense.

Once we landed in Jessore, we hopped onto Auto Rickshaws to get to the hotel. I shimmied onto the front with a driver, half my body hanging off as I balanced on the seat, hanging onto a grip and pointing my camera for pictures. What fun is life if you aren't living it on the edge?

The afternoon was spent wanting through the streets as we meandered our way towards the Anglican Trades School in the town. It was on this journey that the beauty of the Bangladesh people really shone. As westerners, we can quickly judge a book by its cover. Poor health care and hygiene, dirty streets and loose garbage are all things that categorize Bangladesh. But underneath the surface is something worth so much more.

In the middle of a residential area was a dirt clearing, ringed with pieces of garbage. In spite of the dirtiness, there were shouts of joy coming from this field as boys engaged in a rowdy game of cricket. Their personalities shine through as they laughed at one another and communicated.

Even as we shuffled through the bustling streets, a character began to appear. We stared and took in the people in their natural environment, but even more importantly for us... They took us in. Westerners, wanting the streets.

I had the privilege of photographing some beautiful people, and without fail their faces lit up as I showed them what they looked like through my lens.

God taught me something today. I have garbage in my life, things that are repulsive, smelly, downright repugnant. Yet under that surface that most would write off and reject, He sees the beauty. The personality that He designed and loves.

Even more importantly, I often fail to see that potential in myself. I'm stuck in my routines and shortcomings. It takes God's touch. Coming along and showing me what I look like through his lens to really draw me out of my shell and shine.

Tomorrow we head into the villages, and I have the privilege of sharing God's Word. Your prayers are appreciated as I am so inadequate, but God is more than enough. As I listen, I pray that He will speak.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Indigenous Vision

Sometimes when we think about local leadership, we have to be honest about our own prejudices. We want to play god in the lives of people around the world and so perpetuate the problem of poverty by destroying the image of God in people rather than budding it up.

Today we had a chance to meet the office staff of Bangladesh Baptist Church Fellowship. They are a denomination nearly a century old planted by the New Zealand and Australian denominations. They currently have over 500 churches, 800 staff and are involved in transformation all across Bangladesh. Schooling, church planting, orphans, holistic transformation are all projects run by Leor and team.

These are individuals who deeply understand their own cultures and the brokenness within. Whether it be corruption in the government, or unique nuances to other faiths; successful missions in a foreign context is a complicated thing.

It is amazing to hear of their vision for the next 5 years. For each of their ministries, be it children's, women's, church planting, evangelism, they have unique, ambitious goals. Currently they reach 2500 people for Christ each year, and they hope to reach 30000 by 2020. That's doubling their current evangelism goals. In addition, they want to plant 200 churches all throughout Bangladesh. It's ambitious, no matter how you spin it, and the lay people in the denomination are all behind it.

They've seen and experienced what God can do.

As I write this there is a Muslim call for prayer over the city. The Bengal are one of the least reached people groups in the world. Trapped in abject poverty, they carry a history of animism mixed with modern faiths that cripple their ability to move forward. It is in this context that the gospel can truly transform a people through the freedom of the cross.

The team also spent some time out in the city today. We guys walked around the streets for a time, taking in the sights and smells. One portion that really stands out to me is meeting a few very young girls who were begging for their parents.

The first little girl had a beautiful little smile and a practiced routine. She brought along her toddler sister to tug on the heart strings of people walking by. It's a strange dichotomy of poverty that beauty and brokenness exist together. They followed us for a time and I had a fun time taking their photos and showing then what they looked like.

God is moving in this city. I'm not sure what that looks like yet, but it is so encouraging to know that groups like BBFC are here for the long term.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Preparing Your Heart

After 18 hours on planes, and some 2000+ miles travelled I landed safely in Dhaka earlier today. Traveling over oceans via plane is like a reverse marathon. Crammed into rows like an oversized family in an undersized van, there is little room to move around. Your legs begin to ache from under use and no matter the squirming you can't sit just right. The flight gives you one thing you wouldn't otherwise have, however: time to think.

I'm reading through Bryant Myers seminal work, Walking with the Poor after it being recommended to me. No matter your heart for the international world, I would recommend it highly. He brings to light some very foundational thoughts about what it means to really journey with the poor and help bring holistic change.

More importantly though, he challenges those who seek to help the poor to look inward first. Those prejudices that we hide underneath a slick coat of make up need to come out into the open. Myers unpacks he messiah complex we have that feed our ego are damaging not just to us, but to the poor as well. Like a parent who has already determined guilt before entering the room of screaming children, we do more damage than good when we are unaware of our own assumptions.

It is on these things that I've been meditating. What aspects of Bangladesh and India will frustrate me? How will my western mindset think it knows better? How can I approach each individual with love and respect? What will God have to teach me about my own assumptions?

Whether it is halfway across the world or through the doors of our own church, we come with assumptions. What damage do they cause and why do we allow them to become routine? Jesus broke the assumptions of his day by treating each individual for who they were: created in the image of God.

He chose respect before contempt, silence before words, questions before statements. He gave up the powers of the heavens to die naked on a cross because of love.
Makes our prejudices seem pretty small.
Bangladesh is a foreign land. The traffic lanes are suggested. Cars have their own language in honking. They use it often. There are stories high skylines neighboring tin roofed markets. New cars zip past banged up buses. A land of dichotomies, and one I admittedly know nothing of. I come as a student and servant.
God, here I am, use me.