Aug 18

Hello, It’s Knee Again

Three weeks ago, when I was back in the US for furlough, I was going for one of my daily walks (as I have been prescribed to do) and felt a sharp pain in my knee when I took a step.  I hobbled back to the house and put ice on my now swelling knee. A couple days later I went in for an MRI. The following week I got the results and the report said I had (another) meniscal tear.

I decided to not see a surgeon in Minnesota but wait until I got back here to see the surgeon who had operated on my knee the end of last February. I saw him this past Monday. He didn’t think I had torn my meniscus again, but that the radiologist was seeing the original tear and repair; however, He wanted the radiologist here to look at the CD I had brought from Minnesota with the MRI images to be sure. 

Yesterday I went back in and the surgeon’s instinct was correct. There is no new tear, but now I have tendonitis in the back of the knee and some tissue damage in the front. This should heal over the next couple of weeks or so as I immobilize my knee, rest, and take some tablets to help the tissue heal. Thanks be to God that I do not need more surgery!

Unfortunately I will be laid up for a couple of weeks and will be unable to resume my training travels. I plan to keep myself busy, however, by working new lessons, editing translated materials, and continuing to study Telugu and Tamil. Pray for a speedy recover and that I will regain the use of my knee without pain so that I can freely travel 

Jun 08

Even more laborers sent out to the harvest!

On Tuesday, June 6th, 2017, I had the privilege of attending the graduation and ordination of 14 new pastors from Immanuel Bible School (IBS) in Nidubrolu, AP, which is the seminary of Church of the Lutheran Confession of India (CLCI). These men will now serve as pastors. Pray that God would bless their ministry.

Like the Immanuel Lutheran Seminary in the US, IBS is a 3-year program with pastors graduating each year.

While I was at the celebration love feast after the program, several men came to Principle Jyothi to ask for admission to the new junior class. Unfortunately there are already 17 new students, so these men had to go on the waiting list. Thank the Lord that He has given so many the desire to be shepherds under Christ!

You can see photos of the graduation here.

May 21

Health and Heat

I now can bend my knee 110º and no longer need to wear the brace, just a knee support. The surgeon said it would probably take a year before I’m fully healed; the meniscus does not have its own blood supply and takes a long time to recover. I occasionally have some pain if lie on my side and put stress on my knee, but otherwise I am recovering as expected. The doctor said I can swim now, but I haven’t had a chance to try it as I have been busy traveling. He said to try a lap and see how I do.

A heat wave is hitting southern India. Fortunately this past week I was traveling west where it was cooler and spent Friday and Saturday in Bengaluru, which is much cooler than Chennai. Coming back last night, however, was a shock. Walking into the entry way of my building was like walking into a blast furnace.

Andhra Pradesh, were most of our congregations are, has been particularly hard-hit. Jyothi said they have had record temperatures of 47º C (117.5º F). The CLCI graduation is scheduled for the 6th of June. It looks like it might cool down a bit before then, but pray for cooler weather.  Most, if not all, of our pastors and fellow believers here do not have AC, so they are particularly hard-hit by these temperatures.

Southern India has also been experiencing a drought and water shortages. This past week it did rain some and Saturday we went through some heavy rain on the way back to Chennai. Pray that the rain will continue and the water shortage will end.

They are putting a steam room into changing rooms at the gym. I have never understood the appeal of a steam room here. The recommended temperature is 40-45º C (88-113º F). It is usually that hot outside. It seems to me no steam room is needed, just step outside!

Mar 30

The Lord has sent out laborers into His harvest!

On Wednesday, March 29th, 2017 I had the privilege of attending the graduation and ordination of 21 students from the BELC Martin Luther Bible School (MLBS) in Nagalapurum, AP, India. These 21 men will now serve as overseers of congregations affiliated with us in the BELC. Thank the Lord that He has sent out more laborers into His harvest (Luke 10:2).

I reminded these man that even though their studies at MLBS have ended, this story of God’s word has not. They will need to continue to study God’s word first for themselves and their own benefit so that can faithfully preach and teach God’s word to those whom the Holy Spirit has made them overseers. Pray that God bless their work and through them bring the life-saving good news of salvation through Jesus to many.

On April 1st a new batch of 24 students will begin the 2-year program at MLBS in preparation to become pastors with the BELC. Pray that God will be with these in-coming students and help them diligently hear and study His word.

You can see photos of the graduation here.

Knee update: traveling the 2 hours to the graduation was a little uncomfortable as I strained my knee trying to find a comfortable position that allowed me to sit straight in the back seat with a seatbelt on. Even bending my knees 60º was unpleasant. I finally settled on putting my foot in between the front door and the front passenger seat, and that allowed me to keep my knee in a more comfortable position.

Mar 04

Out of commission

On Friday, Feb 24 I twisted my left knee and felt a sharp pain. It didn’t go away, so I went to the hospital to see an orthopedic surgeon. After poking and prodding, he said that I had probably torn my meniscus. As it was too late in the day to get an MRI, he told me to come back and have one in the morning. I came back in the morning for the MRI and returned in the afternoon for the results. I had torn my meniscus and would require surgery. The doctor said the sooner I could get my knee repaired, the better. I was scheduled to fly to Bengaluru the next day, Sunday. I was torn (both iterally and figuratively), but I decided it was best to cancel the trip and schedule the surgery for Monday morning. I spent the rest of Saturday afternoon have pre-op tests completed so I will be ready on Monday morning.

The surgery went well, but was involved. The meniscus was completely torn and was out of the joint so it had to be put back and secured with three sutures. Usually they only need two keyholes, but they needed a third to complete the fix.

I went home Monday evening with a full leg brace and have spent this week recovering. Today (Saturday) I went back to have for followup and now have a brace that allows me to bend my knee 45º. I also saw the physiotherapist and have more exercies to do. I will go back in a week to have the stitches removed.

Because of my limited mobility and to avoid straining my knee as it recoves, I have had to cancel my travels for the month of March. Lord willing I will be able to resume normal activities in a few weeks. Pray for a speedy recovery.

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.

Dec 17

Updated: Hurricane (Cyclone) Vardah

What a week! This past Monday Hurricane Vardah (called a cyclone in this hemisphere) made landfall just north of Chennai near Pulicat (I like the name). It caused heavy rains and winds Monday until late in the evening. See my picture feed for some videos of what I experienced.

The cyclone caused much damage in Chennai, with tens of thousand of trees being blown down, power being disrupted in most of the city, cell towers being knocked over, and much damage to buildings and homes. Still much of Chennai is without power even 5 days later. The death toll in Tamil Nadu stands at 18.

I was scheduled to go up to the CLCI to teach in the seminary and have a pre-Christmas program with the seminary students and pastors. I had planned to drive up this past Wednesday (Dec. 14), but my driver suggested I fly instead, as the national highway we would take is along the coast was partially blocked due to downed trees and fallen toll plazas.

Flights had been cancelled Monday and Tuesday. I flew up Wednesday noon, but my flight was delayed over 2 hours because of built up traffic in Chennai (I assume). When I arrived on Wednesday evening, the Guntur area also was getting some rain (I guess I brought it with me).

With the death of Jayalalitha (who was the current Chief Minister) last week, the cyclone this week, and the previous Chief Minister going into the hospital two days ago, Chennai has been rather disrupted. Yesterday, because of the previous CM’s hospitalization, may busses did not run.

I am blessed to be staying in a complex that has diesel generators, so I had power most of these days, although there was an issue with the generator for my set of towers, perhaps caused by sub-grade diesel.  I was without any power Tuesday until late evening. An attempt to share power from the other generators during the day caused a power surge that blew out my laptop charger and two multi-port phone chargers, but that is nothing compared to the hardship and damage experienced by many in the city whose thatched huts and make-shift homes were destroyed.

How our Brothers and Sisters here have been affected

More than 25 churches in the BELC have been badly damaged (in particular the sheet metal roofs), with some churches being completely destroyed. Many of the members have also had homes damaged or destroyed by the rains and winds. Pray for all those affected.

Dec 05

I request that you stay in your room, don’t go out

This morning I received a text from the president of the BELC that read “I request you to stay in your room, don’t go out, due to the C.M. being in serious and critical condition.”

Jayalalitha, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu (the state in which Chennai is located) suffered cardiac arrest last night (Sunday, Nov 4, which was Sunday morning in the US). Here is a good article with several news videos on the situation. She has been hospitalized since Sept 22 with health issues.

The WhatsApp group for the residents of the towers in which I reside had a message this morning about not going outside and recommending to stockpile extra food and water and to not travel. The person said that all school and colleges will be closed tomorrow. Another person posted recommendations based on what was sent to local police which also recommended getting extra food and avoiding going out after 9 am (did he really mean am or did he mean pm?) for 2-3 days.

I spent some time in the morning filling up water bottles and my reverse-osmosis filter tank (which holds 10 liters) so I will be sure to have water in case the complex runs out of water (the water is delivered by water trucks, which may not continue to run).

The state had elections several weeks ago. As we were driving back from a training along a road which we often take, Kumar said there had been vandalism along that road the night before because of the elections. All along a mile or two stretch there was shattered glass in the street and along the side of the road where vehicle windows had been bashed in. While we were going to the training I saw some of the glass on the road and though there had been an accident (but there seems to be a lot of glass).

Kumar, is currently at his native place (i.e. home town) with his family. He is scheduled to come back Wednesday. Pray that he and his family will make it back safelyThe one resident said that busses and trains will not be running. If not, he and his family may not be able to come back when planned.

As the pastors here are busy during this Christmas season, I do not have anything planned until next week when I go up to the CLCI for a training and pre-Christmas celebration. Where I am staying is outside the city, far away from the hospital, so I would assume any unrest would not be near here.

In any case, please pray for the situation here. Life is already difficult due to the withdrawal of 86% of the money from circulation and the scarcity of new bills. Political unrest will only compound the situation.

UPDATE: According to a press release Jayalitha passed away at 11:30pm (IST) Monday, Dec. 5). Tamil Nad has declared a state-wide 3-day school and college holiday (Dec. 6-8).

Nov 23

No tolls to decrease the toll

Since the demonetization of the 500 and 1000 rupee note, cash is scarce. The ATMs here usually say “24 Hours ATM”. They need to clarify that as most are closed 24 hours, not open.

You can tell if an ATM has money because it has a long line. No line means no cash. If a machine has cash, it would be only 100 rupee bills (worth $1.50), as the machines haven’t been adjusted to handle the new 500 and 2000 notes, which are smaller than the old 500 and 1000 notes. You are also limited to withdrawing only 2000 rupees ($30) per day, per card.

This cash crunch has taken a toll on most Indians, who conduct most transactions in cash. Because no one has any cash, the toll roads have stopped collecting any tolls.

A toll plaza (back when it was collecting tolls)

A toll plaza (back when it was collecting tolls)

Initially it was only until Nov. 20 that tolls would not be collected, but that has extended until tomorrow, Nov 24th, as the situation has not improved.

It has been nice being able to whiz through the toll plazas without having to wait in line and pay. It remains to be seen if the tolls will actually resume tomorrow or not. Tomorrow is also supposed to mark the raising of bank counter cash and ATM withdrawal limits. I don’t see how the limit can be raised as most people can’t even get to an ATM.

Nov 25 UPDATE: The tolls have been suspended through Dec. 2. From midnight on they will be collecting tolls and you will be able to pay with the old 500 notes and get change (but not the old 1000 notes).  Also India has suspended the ability to exchange notes at banks (so no more inking of fingers, see below), but one can still deposits old notes through Dec 30.

The paper last week had some good cartoons on the situation I thought I would share:
cartoon2

cartoon4

Those are all bank name acronyms

cartoon1cartoon5

The government started requiring the anyone exchanging money have their finger marked with permanent ink (like they do when you vote). This is to limit each person to one exchange of up to 4000 rupees ($60) and prevent someone from coming multiple times to slowly exchange a large hoard of cash. The thief prevented anyone in the family from exchanging any of their money.

The government started requiring that anyone exchanging money have their finger marked with permanent ink (like they do here when you vote so you cannot vote more than once). This  move is to limit each person to one exchange of up to 4000 rupees ($60) and prevent someone from slowly exchanging a large hoard of cash by going to multiple banks multiple times. By marking the families finger, the thief prevented anyone in the family from exchanging any of their money.

The above is a rather light-heard look at this situation, but the reality is that the demonetization has taken a heavy toll on many people here. For example, I just read an article (which led me to add this postscript) about an 18 year old who committed suicide yesterday because he could not get enough money to pay for his school exams.  That same article noted that over 50 people have lost their lives so far (not all from suicide). Please pray for the people in India that God would preserve them during this difficult time and bring them to the knowledge of Jesus their Savior who gives us hope for the future and for eternal life.

Aug 21

A Famine on the Land

This past week I taught for two days at the CLCI seminary. I gave an overview of the life of Paul and four of his letters: 1 & 2 Thessalonians and 1 & 2 Corinthians.

In addition to the 48 students, 32 pastors came on Tuesday and 42 on Wednesday. The news of our teaching had spread and these pastors came of their own accord. 5 of them were independent (i.e., not affiliated with the CLCI).

I am told that these independent were very impressed with our teaching and were even interested in joining the CLCI seminary for additional training. They had not received such in-depth teaching before. Pray that the Lord will provide the funds needed to allow these pastors to join as new students.

Last month we had a similar seminar in Ongole while the mission helpers were here. 13 of the 23 pastors were not affiliated with the CLCI. These too were impressed with the depth of our teaching, and the head of the CLCI has received several queries about becoming affiliated with the CLCI for additional training in God’s word. Pray that the Lord will provide the funds to allow the CLCI to conduct additional seminars like this one.

The Lord says through the prophet Amos:

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD,
“when I will send a famine on the land—
not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water,
but of hearing the words of the LORD.” – Amos 8:11 (ESV)

There truly is a famine in this land of hearing the words of the Lord. These pastors show how much solid, Biblical teaching is needed here.

That isn’t the end of the Lord’s message through Amos, however. He continues:

“They shall wander from sea to sea,
and from north to east;
they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the LORD,
but they shall not find it.” – Amos 8:12 (ESV)

We praise the Lord that this verse is not yet true; we still have the word of the Lord to share with people. It can still be found in our seminaries, schools and churches. Pray that the Lord will enable us by His grace to continue to faithfully teach and preach His word, especially the message that Jesus has taken away the sins of everyone in the world by His death and resurrection. To Him alone be the glory, amen.