A Historic Conference

Trip Start Nov 02, 2009
Trip End Nov 23, 2009

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Where I stayed
Pastoral Centre, E-6, Arera Colony

Flag of India  , Madhya Pradesh,
Tuesday, November 10, 2009

We had an organizational and sightseeing day in Bhopal on Monday, the Hindu day off. Jim spent the morning in a committee meeting with the new Emmaus Ministries India Board setting the agenda for the conference. In the afternoon 5 of us squeezed into a Renault Logan taxi (along with the driver) to do some sightseeing and shopping.

Bhopal is a city built around two lakes and we went to the lake shore of one where there were many families enjoying an outing, some taking paddle boat rides or buying popcorn to feed the geese or just going for a walk along the shoreline walkway. We took a walk down to a park that seemed to be lovers point. Jim and I were surprised by this because there is such  limited contact between the sexes and no public displays of affection even the holding of hands. When we run across busy streets, I sometimes grab Jim's elbow, but otherwise we don't touch in public. (And if you know Jim and I, that's very difficult for us!) But this park was rather secluded with benches and a young couple sat on each bench very close, talking and some even (oh scandal of scandals) holding hands!

From there we went to a bazaar (pronounce it BAH-zaar) where they sold saris, salwaar kameez and many other things. The color, sounds and smells in a bazaar are fascinating and I always love visiting a market in any country. Then you really feel like you are in another land! The men we were with bought some salwaar kameez and sweet treats for their daughters and wives back home "So they will encourage us to travel again" they said.

Finally we visited a Hindu temple. The first cultural experience there is being accosted by little children with marigold "leis" for sale to offer to the gods. When you get by there, you have to take your sandals off and walk around the temple grounds barefoot as a sign of respect. Inside the temple grounds we saw a "holy" man, clad only in a dhoti (loin cloth) with his long shaggy white hair and beard, walking around and around the shrine to his monkey god as a means of having his prayers answered. He was supposed to hold his  hands in front of him as in prayer, but this one carried a shopping bag. Others were bowing their foreheads to the ground in front of their god or offering him coconut. We did not go inside the building but the Hindus who did rang a bell first to get the attention of their god before they prayed.

In the evening Jim gave the opening session of his five talks on Haggai which is being translated into Hindi, the other national language (along with English).

This morning after his second message, there was a special ceremony to honor Victor Sundaraj, the man who took on the coordination of Emmaus in India in 1968 until last year. He worked hard traveling around the country, finding men to become Regional Directors, introducing them to the courses, training them in their use and then following up (prodding, encouraging, and exhorting) through thousands of letters pecked on his old manual typewriter, sending carbon copies to the Emmaus office in Dubuque. He was moved by the words of thanks and honor from several of the men and the plaque they gave him. 

An interesting sidelight is his wife of 53 years, Daisy Victor. They met one time before their marriage was arranged. She thought he should be the first to speak, but he was very shy so he said nothing. After half an hour she had to get back to her job so she left and it was decided that they would marry. Daisy had asked the Lord for a Christian husband, but Victor did not know the Lord yet. On their wedding night she asked him to pray. He said he didn't know how. So she prayed and in her prayer she included the whole gospel. She did this each night until he understood and  was saved! After her children were grown, at the age of 50, she decided to start training for field and track events. Her specialty is the long jump, the discus throw and the 400 meter run (I believe). Since then she has been competing in local, national and international (when she can afford the fare) events for people over 50 winning over 350 medals, 200 of them gold. She uses this as a means of witnessing both when she is interviewed for magazine and newspaper articles as well as on the train to the other team members. Daisy is 78 and still competing and still winning!

This conference is the first all India conference of RDs (Regional Directors) and LCs (Language Coordinators) of the Emmaus work. Jim and I have made two previous trips here encouraging the Indian brothers to use the courses and to form their own board and take ownership of the Emmaus work, so it is encouraging to see this beginning to happen. Over and over the newly formed board is emphasizing the need to understand that the courses are not just for evangelism, but for believers and that they are by and for the assemblies specially. The 40 men here seem to be in the process of capturing that vision. Pray that during the next day and a half they would catch it wholly and and go home with a burning desire to see people studying the Word of God.
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