Learning about London

June 12, 2014 - Leave a Response

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Lots of daylight here. Sunrise at 4:44 AM, sunset at 9:16 PM.

Weather: mostly sunny, cool wind, no rain!

We and the Paul Kiss family spent some time in East London. At the Liverpool Street Underground Station we saw this.

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This is the Children of the Kindertransport Statue. The plaque has this inscription: In gratitude to the people of Britain for saving the lives of 10,000 unaccompanied mainly Jewish children who fled the Nazi persecution in 1938 and 1939.

After this we met, by previous plan, our friend “Mr. Wikipedia,” so that he could lead us on a walking tour of Whitechapel and Tower Hamlets, two boroughs in East London.

Some of the highlights of the tour were:

This is the area where the serial killer Jack the Ripper murdered five women in 1888 and then disappeared.

The hospital where the “elephant man” was a patient.

The changing demographics of these areas from mainly local British people to Jews to Asians, primarily immigrants from Bangladesh. This is the largest population of Bengali people outside Bangladesh. Tower Hamlets is affectionately called Bangla Town.

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The large East London Mosque.

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A poster promoting the Qur’an.

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The Whitechapel Bell Foundry, where Big Ben, and the Liberty Bell, and the bell for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II were cast. The Foundry was established in 1570.

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Christ Church in Spitalfields, an evangelical Anglican Church that is reaching out to the people of the community. Spitalfields is a former parish in what is now Tower Hamlets.

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A building that was once a Methodist Chapel in the days of John Wesley and is now a Muslim mosque.

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Creative art on the street.

We had a buffet lunch at a restaurant that serves Bangladeshi and Indian food.

Then JoLene and I went to the home of the Kisses to review their five years of service here in London and to project what might be done in the future after the Kisses return to Canada this month.

 

Back in London

June 9, 2014 - Leave a Response

Monday, June 9

We arrived in London this morning. We are here on assignment for Brethren in Christ World Missions, to meet with our personnel and the two groups that cooperate with us in ministry here.

On the plane ride here, for recreational reading I started Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott – a novel of chivalry, prejudice, conflict between ethnic groups, history and romance. Robin Hood is one of the characters. Have any of my blog readers ever read this novel? If so what are your comments?

As we did last year, we are staying at Sir Alfred Hitchcock Hotel in the Leytonstone section of London, that is, in the northeast.

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The room is small and on the third floor, but we have a small table and wicker bench, which is more that some small rooms have.

After naps to adjust for jet lag we walked for about 15 minutes to the High Road (main street) and had dinner at a typical restaurant (pub) called The Walnut Tree.

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Across the street is a large McDonald’s, but we chose British over American!

The amazing street “carpets”

April 23, 2014 - Leave a Response

We are still in Antigua, Guatemala, for this report the processions of Holy Week. One of the beautiful and creative elements in the celebrations is the street art, the creation of designs on the streets where a procession will pass through. These “carpets” (alfombras in Spanish) are designed and created by anyone who wishes. Here is a sampling of what we saw – and the work as it was being done.

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The elements in the carpets are typically colored sawdust, flowers, flower petals, pine needles, leaves and pieces of fruit or vegetables.

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The above two views feature the Quetzal (ket-zal), the national bird of Guatemala. I talked with students from The University of Texas at Austin as they worked on two alfombras. The Quetzal may have been one of their projcts, but I can’t trust my memory on that point.

As you see, many of the carpets present themes from nature or geometric designs. But some show a religious theme.

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Do you see, in the distance, Jesus on the cross? And in the middle left, is Jesus in Gethsemane, with an angel appearing to him, as one of the Gospels says.

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The most elaborate  alfombra I saw was the following.

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Take a second look at the roses. They are made of turnips, with some of the root tips still showing. You might try making this at home.

The beauty of the carpets is short-lived because of the processions. The first walkers in a procession, including the banner carriers, early trumpeters (if there area any) and rows of robed escorts, all walk on the sides of the streets, carefully avoiding stepping on the carpets. Then the float carriers walk right through the carpet, destroying it. Similarly, the band members walk over the carpet remains, then the general pilgrims, then the carriers of the Mary float, and finally the second band.

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Last of all comes the cleanup crew with their front loaders and dump trucks, shoveling and sweeping the street clean.

For me, the symbolism of the alfombras is profound. All of earth’s beauty and much of our creative efforts are temporary and short-lived. But we should not  lament this fact, for we know from the Scriptures that only the kingdom of God is forever. And God invites everyone to enter this kingdom through repentance and faith. Though our bodies, through death, return to dust, they will be raised in a new and glorious body like our  Savior has.

To God be praise and glory for ever and ever.

Good Friday in Antigua, Guatemala

April 22, 2014 - Leave a Response

Here are some further insights into our time in Antigua during Holy Week 2014.

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St. Joseph Cathedral at night. It faces the small park in the center of the city.

The first church was built about 1541 but suffered several earthquakes throughout its history, so it was demolished.

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La Merced Church, located three blocks north of the square (park).

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A floral and fruit tribute to Jesus, in Merced.

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As you walk to La Merced, you pass under this arch, an iconic symbol of Antigua.

Now we come to our experiences on Good Friday. In the morning all the men in the procession wore distinctive headdresses, different from those worn earlier in the week.

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I saw four processions. As on the other days, each procession is sponsored by a different church or school.

FIRST PROCESSION. By La Merced Church.

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You see many local Mayan women wearing their typical elaborately embroidered blouses.

Carrying the float is hard work, so you rest when and where you can.

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Later, I learned that this procession involved 7.000 volunteers as carriers, replacing each other at intervals. Can you imagine the work of coordinating this?!

SECOND PROCESSION. By St. Joseph Cathedral.

This one began at 3:00. As usual the processions began inside the church, and the float was carried out into the street.

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For this procession the purple robes are gone, and the carriers wear black, for mourning obviously. We are standing on the cathedral patio, looking out on the huge crowd in central park.

Later Genesis and I went for a walk and, by coincidence, were on hand when the float was carried backwards into the cathedral.

THIRD PROCESSION. By Christ School. Earlier in the day a bystander told me that this would be the most elaborate procession of the day. It started at 3:50 PM on the outskirts of town and is to end at 1:50 AM tomorrow. We saw it after dark.

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I was speechless. A very long float – ornate gold and silver work , giant candelabra, and four seated figures that I guessed represented the four gospel writers, but I can’t be sure.

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And in the center Jesus, as if buried, in a gold and glass coffin.

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And giant silver angels guarding the rear.

Not far behind this float and its band was another elaborate float devoted to Mary. All in silver, glittering brightly, with candelabra and other candles. The candles all had electric lights, not actual flames.

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I would have to agree with the bystander who told me that this would be the most elaborate procession of all.

 

I joined the pilgrims, behind the Jesus float. But in about an hour I returned to the square in order not to miss the…

FOURTH PROCESSION

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The photos are not ideal, but the spiritual impact was profound.

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The body of Jesus in a shroud, in a glass case, is carried by statues of mourners dressed in dark gray. In front of this are several broken-down columns and capitals and weeping angels. I took this to be a sign that heaven and earth were mourning the death of Christ, as if the end of the world had come.

Behind the body of Christ was a striking figure, of which I could not get a clear photo because of the night and the massive crowd. I had to ask a bystander to be sure what this figure was. It represented God the Father, reclining, stretching his hand toward the dead Son.

Always, following the floats and bands, night or day, are the street vendors. Most of them are not selling religious items, but food and toys.

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Foam geckos are a favorite item. I bought one for the girls.

For me, the spiritual impact of the processions  was profound.

Here is my observation: You can miss the real Jesus in the Holy Week processionals. You can find the real Jesus in the Holy Week processionals.

 

 

Holy Week in Antigua, Guatemala

April 18, 2014 - Leave a Response

We arrived in Guatemala on April 15 to spend ten days with our daughter Melanie and family. We are all spending the first three days in the town of Antigua, a famous tourist spot, to see Roman Catholic processions that celebrate Holy Week.

First, here is a photo of Melanie’s family.

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Then, about the processions, from Palm Sunday through Easter there are one or more of them each day. They start anywhere from 4:00 to 11:00 AM and continue from eight to twelve hours, following a path through various streets and around the central park and past the cathedral.

The processions  are a beautiful spectacle. Usually, a small brass group leads the way, playing occasionally. Then one or two statues of biblical characters  on small platforms, carried on the shoulders of a few volunteers. Then there are men dressed in purple robes and headdresses.

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They line the sides of the streets. Note the one using his cell phone!

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And some of them carry censers. The aroma is very strong.

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Some of the censor carriers are quite young.

Some processions feature Roman soldiers.

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From Wednesday through Friday the large decorated floats all have to do with the suffering, death and burial of Christ.

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From this float I noticed a detail that I got in a close-up shot.

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Do you see two butterflies? Symbols of hope, I presume.

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The large floats are carried by men and boys, with 40 or more carriers per float.  The floats move forward very slowly, with many pauses along the way. After several blocks a new row of carriers steps in and trades places with the previous carriers. The carriers keep in perfect step and sway from side to side both while walking and while standing still.  As you see, the photo above is a night scene.

Behind the float and the band is a generator, pushed by hand, that powers the lights on the float and also powers floodlights so that the musicians can see their music.

On Wednesday and Thursday the men wore the robes you see in the above photo.

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Sometimes “Roman soldiers” carried the floats. Other soldiers marched as an escort. On Good Friday several soldiers rode horses,and there was one chariot.

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Here is a partial view of the band. Typically, the band had 30 or 40 instruments – brass, woodwind and percussion. The music as slow and a bit mournful, fitting the somber mood of our reflecting on the suffering of Christ. The booming drums and strong tubas gave an emphatic cadence. The band played a song, then walked in silence for awhile, and then played again.

After the band that followed the main float, anyone who wished could walk in the procession, so I did a few times on Friday, reflecting on the Scripture: “For Christ also has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but made alive by the Spirit.” 1 Peter 3:18

The next thing in the processions was always a float with the Virgin Mary.

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These floats were always carried by women. Another music band (of men) followed the Mary float.

Smaller floats of individual Bible characters or saints appeared at various places in the processions.

The entire pace of the procession was slow. All the participants were silent an respectful. Most of the bystanders were silent also.

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The last element in the processions is a practical one – two front loaders, two dump trucks, and a crew of workers to clean up street litter and the destroyed alfombras (decorative “carpets”) that people created.

There is more to be said about the processions, but that will have to wait for my next blogs.

 

 

 

About Air Travel

March 30, 2014 - Leave a Response

On a US Airways flight last week I learned a few facts about air travel.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of commercial air travel. The first commercial airplane flight took place on January 14, 1914, from St. Petersburg, FL, to Tampa. There was one paying customer!

Now there are 8 million air travelers every day all over the world.

Enjoy your flight!

More about Nappanee

March 9, 2014 - Leave a Response

Sunday, March 9, 2014

I am still in Nappanee, IN. This morning I spoke at Nappanee Brethren in Christ Church on the theme “Seeing the Peoples of the World through Jesus-glasses.” The pastor here is Jeff Williams.

Nappanee has half-apples all over the city, decorated with various themes. The one below sits, appropriately, outside a bank.

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Tomorrow I will have lunch in Fort Wayne with our long-time friend, Martha Rickman, and then fly home.

Trip to Indiana

March 8, 2014 - Leave a Response

On Friday, March 7, 2014, I flew to Fort Wayne, IN, and then got a rental car to drive to Nappanee for two meetings relating to my work for Brethren in Christ (BIC) World Missions.

On the drive through the country I saw many small flocks of Horned larks. They flit low above the ground in open fields. The Horned lark is our only native  lark. It “horns” are little tufts of feathers, visible only at close range, so as I drove along, I was not able to see the horns. I see a few Horned larks occasionally in my part of PA in the winter, but I saw many here in IN.

On the internet you can see many beautiful photos of this bird, but I couldn’t find any that were not  copyrighted, so I cannot  post any here for you.

At Kendallville I saw signs advertising the Mid-America Windmill Museum, but it is closed for the winter. I think I would have enjoyed the museum, recalling the functioning windmill that we had on the farm where I grew up at Chambersburg, PA.  The windmill still stands there but is no longer operating. Here is a photo of a typical small-farm windmill, not far from Nappanee.

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I am staying at The Inn at Amish Acres in Nappanee.

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Quilts are for sale in the lobby. And the rooms have a quilt-like touch.

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Amish Acres is closed for the winter, but in other seasons you can visit buildings with Amish furnishings and a theater in a  round barn.

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On Friday evening and Saturday I attended the annual meeting of the Great Lakes Conference of the Brethren in Christ Church. John Zuck is the bishop. We met at Union Grove Church, which is a former grade school building (think modern, not old-fashioned). The pastor is Darin Simms. I also met several pastors whom I had not met before.

I set up a display of books and literature about BIC World Missions. I had many meaningful conversations with individuals about missions. On Saturday I gave devotional thoughts and an update about the work of our missions department.

On Saturday evening I drove to nearby Bremen to have dinner in the home of David and Sabina Rosentrater. I first learned to know Sabina years ago at Manor BIC Church in Lancaster County, PA, when I was pastor there and she was a teenager.

Shaker Village

February 23, 2014 - One Response

While we were in Wilmore, KY, for the renewal conference described in a previous blog, we drove to Shaker Village, about 2o miles south of Lexington, for dinner.

The Shakers were a religious sect founded on the teachings of Ann Lee. They practiced a celibate and communal lifestyle and practiced equality of sexes. Today they are remembered most for their style of music and furniture. Shaker Village is maintained as a reminder of the Shakers and their way of life.

In winter meals are served in the winter kitchen, located in the cellar of this building, known as the West Family House.

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The evening we went to  the kitchen we were the only customers!

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On the Village grounds sugar maple sap is dripping into buckets.

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Shaker Village is most interesting, and the food is top quality. Be sure to include the Village in your next trip to Kentucky.

Here in Kentucky

February 23, 2014 - 2 Responses

We came to Wilmore, Kentucky, on February 19, 2014, to attend a renewal conference – more about that later – and to visit some students and a friend from years ago. We lived in Wilmore from 1965-1968 while I was a student at Asbury Theological Seminary.

Wilmore is in central Kentucky, south of Lexington, and the area is full of horse farms.

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I was unable to get any good photos of horses. But we saw a lot of stone walls or fences in various stages of maintenance or disrepair. Here are two scenes of good repair – walls with no mortar at all.

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Here are some  scenes of Asbury Theological Seminary, including a statue of John Wesley.

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And inside the Beeson International Center forBiblical Preaching and Church Leadership you find this art piece of Francis Asbury, circuit riding preacher and one of the first two bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States.

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At the seminary we met with the two Brethren in Christ persons who are students here: Luke Embree from Chambersburg, PA: and Megan Byers from Mechanicsburg, PA.

And in order to explore possible connections between Brethren in Christ World Missions and the Seminary, I met with Dr. Gregg Okesson, Dean of the E.  Stanley Jones Center for  World Mission and Evangelism; and with Dr. Thomas Tumblin, Dean of the Beeson Center, which serves as a link between the Seminary and the global church.

Now, for the renewal conference that brought us to Wilmore at this time. This conference was sponsored by the Francis Asbury Society (FAS), an organization founded by Dennis Kinlaw and dedicated to proclaiming the message of biblical  holiness through evangelistic meetings, conferences, retreats and publishing. You may learn more about the Society by visiting its web site.

Here are some views of the building that serves as the center for the Society. The society’s emphasis on the Holy Trinity is shown in a window and the unusual table in the board room.

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Speakers for the conference included Jerry  Coleman, Director of International Ministries for FAS; Stan Key,
Director of Operation for FAS; and guest, Sam Kamaleson, seen in this photo.

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Kamaleson, originally from India, studied at Asbury Seminary. He has founded and directed two foundations in India, published books and spoken around the world in pastors conferences for World Vision.

This renewal conference was held from Friday evening through Sunday noon, February 21-23. The theme was “Living Lavishly,” taken from Ephesians 7:1-8: “…according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished on us…”

Through times of worship, prayer and teaching we drew near to God and pondered the mystery, beauty and power of the fact that God wants not only to be with us, but in us. JoLene and I had the privilege of meeting many church leaders and missionaries who have served in many nations of the world.

We plan to return home on Monday, February 24.

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