Monday, April 28, 2008

Impressed by Velemegna

There are few activities in which the church engages, which cause as much suspicion today as supporting "missionaries." The word itself is a problem - in that it conjours up all manner of unhelpful anachronisms, ranging from jungle-scything pith-helmet wearing adventurers; to the power-hungry Imperialist, riding the wave of empire to first commit, and then impose inappropriate cultural faux pas on unsuspecting peoples. Indeed some of the first wave of the missionary movement, alongside some outlandish acts of self-sacrifice, did sometimes appear to want to make the world rather more, er.. English. This is rather an odd thing to want to do in the name of the Jewish messiah, whose own mission was not one which involved demolition of his culture, but his spectacular complete incarnation within it. However......

This lesson of incarnation is one which western mission societies grasped long ago, and no mission today speaks in the arrogant terms of yesteryear, when every discussion progressed on the assumed superiority of the westerner. For a generation now, the missionary movement has continued to send westerners to serve in the church in various parts of the developing word - with a stated desire to be the servants of those they meet, not the masters. The stereotypical 'missionary' has long since faded into the archives.

Last night however, we were reminded that this 'second phase' (the post-Christendom western missionary) is now being eclipsed. While the popular image of a Christian is a white, old, rich, rural-dwelling English person - the truth of the matter is that the church today is massively and overwhelmingly poor, non-white, young, urban and in the developing world. So too, mission has changed in the light of these new realities.

Thoma and Sybil from the Velemegna Society Hospital in Bidar, South India, spoke at church last night. They are Indians, whose mission is to India, who live and work in the hospital that their father founded, which has won awards and accolades for its amazing work in eye surgery and in caring for families affected by Leprosy. They didn't come on a tour from a western mission agency with a big office in Milton Keynes, they came as friends, as a trustee and surgeon of the hospital, to share their prayer requests and practical needs with us. The hospital is a model of the kind of mission work which is both practical and spiritual. In India the Christian community is a minority (in some places a beleaguered minority), and this hospital is absolutely up-front about the Christian motivation for their work. In fact they speak openly to the patients and families about the love of Christ which motivates them to suffer abuse for medically treating Dalits and Lepers, who are not deemed worthy of medical care - according to some local customs. They are completely non-discriminatory in both their spiritual and practical care; they offer both the love of Christ and medical help to all without any discrimination, for race, background, caste or gender. They do so as locals, freed from any connotations of Imperialism, but as servants whose love and concern for their people is palpable, and the costs they have paid for their service to them in Christs name, considerable. They asked for our help and our prayer. It's a privilege to be able to do so.

One thing Thoma pointed out to me was that in the UK we have a unique advantage in being able to help at the moment. The UK Pound has been outrageously strong for a long time, especially in comparison with the Rupee. "You have no idea of the purchasing power of your loose-change, your copper-coins, when converted to the Rupee" Thoma told me. He added - that I also had no idea of the enormous good that they could accomplish with it either. They are now refurbishing homes for the families of Leprosy sufferers, who though they treat, are still ousted from their communities and have nowhere else to live - a project in conjunction with the Leprosy Mission. They are also purchasing equipment for eye-operations in conjunction with the Christian Blind Mission. They have pastors who care for the spiritual needs of the patients and their families. They have countless stories to tell us, of people and projects to pray for. All of these are ways in which they invite us to join them in their mission to their people!

Of course, the next wave of the missionary movement will be that countries in the two-thirds world, who were once the recipients of missionaries, will increasingly be sending them to us! Already, many denominations have pastors from the developing world in churches here in the west, and as the church here continues to limp along rather er ....limply, and the church in places like India can teach us so much about love, self-sacrifice, commitment, servanthood, faith, vision, prayer, passion and Christlikeness - then perhaps this is exactly what we need!

In the meantime I was inspired by the example of the eye surgeon Dr. Sybil Meshramker, who at huge personal cost is the hospital's eye-specialist. She performs as many eye-operations a year as Ninewells hospital in Dundee (2000!!), often working inhuman hours in order to manage the overwhelming demand for procedures such as cataract removal and insertion of artificial replacement lenses. Apparently she takes her holidays on board the Mercy Ships... so she can do more operating! In addition to this she is the hospital's director, a job she finds hugely draining as her authority to manage is constantly questioned because of the patriarchal assumptions of her society. However, she - along with others, presides over the legacy of spiritual and practical service of her people in Christ's name which her parents passed on to her.


This is dedicated to all those who were giving me grief for being a sad and sorry trainspotter last night. A little film I took in Perth last week. Poetry in motion... enjoy!

PS - yes I know I have been tagged multiple-times. Not sure when I will get a chance to respond though - maybe when I have my essay for college finished!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Every sunset sky

This morning, church began with the song that features the words, "Over all the earth, you reign on high, every moutain stream every sunset sky". No moutain stream photo, I'm afraid - but last night's sunset was particularly wonderful.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Boris and the T-shirt

Young Boris announced the other day that he had to draw a picture, "about the environment" for the school Eco-committee to put on a T-shirt. Mrs Hideous wasn't here, and Boris and I stared blankly at the paper confronted with the full horror of our mutual complete inability to draw. Our inept scratching at the paper with pens was pretty embarassing, and without the aid of anyone competent, we turned instead to scratching our heads!

Inspiration struck when it occured to me that some of his ideas were pretty good. So instead of trying to draw them, we looked for images online and then slotted them together on the computer. He needed a hand with some of the detailed cropping of images, and some tidying up at the end, but he worked hard, moving the trees, map and bird around the screen, trying different colours and so forth - until it was good enough. Even though he wasn't happy with what we had done, it was to late to do more, so he went to bed. Above is the corrected version that we sorted out - it's even better than the one he took to school.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Dunkeld Again..

Like Endlessly Restless and Lins, we are frequent visitors to Dunkeld. We had a lovely afternoon there with Boris, Norris, Doris and their Grandmother (London variety) this week, enjoying the spring sunshine and the ice cream.

Back to the Books

I've been hitting the books again this week, a major college essay to complete. Sometimes the book-list can feel like a mountain to climb. Still, it's an interesting subject - a historical study on how the church has understood its mission - especially in terms of the relationship between evangelism and social concern.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Things What We Saw in London (10)

A delightful photo, by the delightful Mrs Hideous. Kew Gardens, "Temperate House"

Things What We Saw in London (9)

Kew Gardens

Things What We Saw in London (8)

At Key Gardens - where Grandma used to take us

Things What We Saw in London (7)

Inside Tower Bridge - the original engines which raised the bridge for tall ships

Things What We Saw in London (6)

Tower Bridge

Things What We Saw in London (5)

The House of Liars, and Westminster Bridge

Things What We Saw in London (4)

A lovely photo, taken by the lovely Mrs Hideous

Things What We Saw in London (3)

Things What We Saw in London (2)

The London Eye

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Friday, April 04, 2008

Here it is!

It seems my convoluted English left at least one reader bemused. Hopefully a map will be clearer, a picture/thousand words etc.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Craig a Barns

It was eight years ago that sometime blog-commenter here 'Vlad', told me of a great local walk. He recommended taking the track up a hill called Craig a Barns, which begins near the large sawmill just behind Dunkeld. I know it was that long ago, because I carried a very tiny Boris up there along with a thermos of warmed baby-milk! Yesterday I spent much of the day regretting that I had left it eight years without paying the place a well-deserved return visit.

If you have ever sped up the A9 on your way from Perth, perhaps looking forward to a day amongst the shapely hills of the far North-West, or turning left at Dalwhinnie for the West Coast, or disregarding the speed limit in your haste to ascend the Cairngorm plateau, you may have missed Craig a Barns. Next time you are braving the main road, look across to the North - as the A9 bears right at Dunkeld and curves around to cross the Tay. There in the corner with a view Northwards towards Pitlochry and Eastward back across the village is the steep sided, tree-covered Craig a Barns. It's an ancient hill-fort site, and it's easy to see why an iron age general would want to sit on top of its domineering slopes, and utilise its commanding view of the strath below.

We were not there for military reasons, however (having said that, my sons' predilection for pine-cone bombardment does make gaining the higher ground a very sensible option). I was going to have all three kids for the day, my wife was working, and the weather was fantastic - and then I remembered Vlad's recommendation from so long ago. We managed a circular walk, up from the sawmill, under the caves and cliffs, round the the smaller summit and back past the beautiful lochan directly underneath it. This is a place with almost magical qualities, perfectly still, fish jumping, frogs leaping, and ducks following humans around the paths. We could have stopped here for hours, but time was pressing and we had to get back down the road as swimming lessons were awaiting!

A day with the kids, in lovely weather and gorgeous surroundings. Aren't school holidays great!?

Scotland U-19s

Young Boris was the happy recipient of a pair of free tickets to see the U-19 football international between Scotland and Denmark. It was a surprisingly good game, which we enjoyed. Lins and his Dad were there too and Lins has given the game the full punditry it deserves here!

As for the photo above - we wondered if the Danes has requested that their names be removed from the scoreboard, once it became embarrassing. Scotland scored again after I took this photo too!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Along the Fife Coast

Boris, Norris, Doris and I had a great day out along the Fife Coastal Path. Despite being buffeted by freezing cold, driving winds, we enjoyed the celebrated Anstruther Fish and Chip shop, and had a good walk on the section of the path North of Crail. More pix below!