Jan 13

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

This morning I awake to a weather forecast that said “smoky”. That isn’t a mistake or another way of saying “foggy”. Chennai was actually enshrouded in smoke.

This smoke was from early morning bhogi (bonfires) for Pongal, which is tomorrow, January 14. Pongal is a big festival in Tamil Nadu celebrating the harvest and giving thanks the sun god for providing the harvest. It is also the name of the sweet (but can also savory) porridge of the same name.

Today is Bhogi, bonfire day, where people get rid of old, worn-out things by burning them in a bonfire (out with the old and in with the new). This morning as I was traveling I saw first hand the smoke from these fires the weather forecast had promised. You can also see a video from the trip is here.

I just read a news story about how several flights were diverted because of all the smoke.

Jan 09

Christmas is now a holiday in Nepal

On Christmas Eve, the Nepali government declared Christmas as a national holiday. Up to this point it was one Christians could take off, but wasn’t a holiday for everyone.

This year I was invited to spend Christmas and New Years in Nepal. On Christmas Eve, we went to the Thamel area of Kathmandu. It is a popular shopping area for tourists and Nepalis alike. There were many people there out celebrated. We wondered how many of them knew the true meaning of Christmas. Raju and Rajan thought that most Christians were home, busy preparing for Christmas day church celebrations, so most of the revelers were out just to have fun, not celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who, being God, humbled Himself and came in the likeness of sinful man and was born in Bethlehem.

We had a Christmas buffet with (mostly) traditional American food: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, banana bread, cranberry sauce, vegetables, and “sweet candied potatoes”. The cranberry sauce was spicy, which was unexpected, and the gravy had a slightly different taste. Everything else was very good (and like home) except for the “sweet candied potatoes”. The placing of the adjective “sweet” was either a mistake or very deliberate, as the interpretation was very literal: they were not “candied sweet potatoes” but normal  potatoes cubed and made sweet with sugar and other stuff (it was just WRONG). Oh what difference the placement of an adjective makes! At first I though Nepal didn’t have yams or sweet potatoes, but I’m told they do, but they are not orange like ours (I don’t know if they taste the same, but they couldn’t be worse than russets sprinkled with sugar!).

As Christmas Eve was Saturday, the normal day everyone has off and that Christians have church services, I joined the Raju, Sanju and Bishal at the satellite home church in Kathmandu. On Christmas Day we had a big celebration at the main church with a meal following.  You can see pictures starting here.

On Tuesday we went to Siddhi and hiked up a “hill” to a village at the top and celebrated Christmas at the church there. It was a good cardio workout – I think I hit 163 bpm.  It took us about 40 minutes to reach the first part of the village (I slowed them down), but then we had a more gentle climb to church.

It was a great experience! This summer a number of people will be going to Nepal to help spread the message of the Savior born in Bethlehem. Pray for the work that they will be doing and the work of the HCLCN does every day to spread the Good News that Jesus was not only born to us in Bethlehem, but lived a perfect life and died for us to save us from the condemnation our sins deserve and reconcile us to God.