Jan 4 2011 Agra Fort

January 5, 2011
posted by admin

entrance gate

After a nice breakfast buffet of American, Asian and Indian breakfast foods at our hotel in Agra, we boarded our tour bus with our knowledgeable tour guide and historian and headed to Agra Fort about 1.2 miles from the Taj Mahal on the banks of the Yamuna River.    During the 1600’s,  Agra was the capital of India. This red, sandstone fort doubled as a palace and residence for three generations of the Mughal Dynasty who had their residence and courts within this impressive structure.  Akbar the Great, designed and built the Fort to house the government offices along with his 300 wives.  The massive 120 foot battlements are still in place today.  There are two exterior walls which provided redundant layers of protection: one wall sectioned off the jungle area which contained ferocious tigers, and the outermost wall sectioned off the moat stocked with huge crocodiles. 

Akbar’s son was Jahangir, who was a great scholar of Hindi, Arabic, Turkish, and Farsi (Persian).  In his later days, he was addicted to wine and woman.   His son, Shah Jahan, was fond of building palaces and huge monuments – the Taj Mahal being his most well-known structure.  He is credited with demolishing several sections of the Fort and replacing them with sumptuous marble pavilions.  He also began construction of a new Mughal capital in Delhi, but was never able to see his plans through to reality.  His reign ended in disgrace and conflict when his son, Aurangzeb destroyed many of the temples he had built, tried to impose Islam on the people of India and imprisoned his father inside of Agra Fort while taking up his reign in Delhi.

The contrast between the rough, red sandstone and the smooth white marble architectural elements is striking.  The photos speak for themselves.

After Agra Fort, we were taken by our guide to the handmade rug artisans.  This is a huge cottage industry in Agra as different artisans design, dye, weave, tie knots, and shave rugs in their homes.  These skills are also passed down from generation to generation in families.  We watched weavers on their looms, singing back and forth to each other songs that communicated the color and placement of the tread for a complex floral and geometric designs.   All the looms, scissors, and other implements are also handmade.   We got a thorough education on rugs and how to tell the quality of a rug by looking at the back and counting the knots. 

After this, we boarded our van and traveled the six hours back to Delhi.  We were all tired as we arrived at our hotel about 11 p.m.  We will leave for the airport tomorrow morning at 7 a.m. to fly to Nagpur.

These two days in Agra have been extremely beneficial to the team in providing a good base of understanding of Indian and Hindu history and culture.  I want to personally thank our team leader Dr. Lewis for organizing the trip so that we could have this experience. It shows respect for the people of India to learn about the things that are important to them.  We will build on this knowledge as we strive to serve and love them through the coming week of medical outreach.

Please pray  that God will  help us love the people of India in a way that is  pure and glorifies Him.

Psalm 46:10-11

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.  The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.  Amen

Jan 3, 2011 The Taj Mahal

January 4, 2011
posted by admin

  

I'll never complain about Abingdon traffic again!

 

This was a special day!  We traveled to Agra, India to see the Taj Mahal, or “The Taj”, as they call it in India.   As Dr. David Lewis, our team leader always says, “You can’t go to India and not see the Taj Mahal!” Our plans were to go to Agra and spend one night.  We checked out of our hotel around 10:00 a.m. and boarded our 22 passenger tourist bus.   

The drive to Agra ended up taking us six hours, but it took us 2.5 hours just to make it out of Delhi!   The traffic was snarled as drivers don’t recognize lanes, speed limits or traffic signals.  Cars, buses, trucks, delivery vehicles, bicycles,  motorized rickshaws mixed with carts pulled by donkeys, oxen and even  camels.  We were all amazing to see how many farm tractors pulling flatbeds of calliflower or rice also used the same roads.  The soundtrack of India contains the sound of a car and motorcyle horn, which they use liberally as they weave in and out and pass with no more than an inch to spare.  Believe it or not, in the six hours down and six hours back, we did not witness any accidents.  Indians must be pretty good drivers!  Of course, your prayers back home aren’t hurting either. 

busy side street

 

The six hour drive gave us a chance to see some of the Indian city and country-scapes: sides streets clogged with trade; dirty, barefoot children selling wares at the intersections; sacred brahman cows wondering anywhere they please; a family of four riding a motorcyle; monkeys  playing in the bushes; large pigs rooting in trashpiles; mongrel dogs; men urinating along the road; street vendors with fruit on display in wooden carts; having stations set up by a wall; uniformed school boys; shephards herding goats; Hindu shrines; fields of beautiful yellow-flowering mustard and symmetrical rice patties; and brick kilns rising up beside cell phone towers.  I learned from what I saw that the Indian people are industrious, persevering and inventive, never idol.  The common man doesn’t have the resources or tools at their disposal, but they use what they have to cut metal, transport produce, barter services, make a rupee.  Some people, just sweep the streets with a  straw broom, just to do something.   

go goats go!

 

rickshaws and ox carts

 

street barbor

 

Upon arriving in Agra, we stopped on a busy street and our thin, fast talking Indian tour guide jumped on.  He was a wealth of knowledge and proved to be worth his weight in gold when it came to navigating the sea of hawkers at the entrance to the Taj Mahal.   

We arrived at the Taj Mahal late in the day and hurridly purchased our tickets which came with a red pair of paper surgical slip-on shoes we had to put over top of our shoes to enter the Taj.   We walked down a long street about a half mile full of street vendors selling everything from Taj Mahal snow globes to wooden cobras.   Finally, we arrived at the East gate of the Taj an entered into a very large square courtyard.  There are four large ornate red sandstone gates.   As we turned right and passed through the dark north gate, we could see the opalescent dome of the Taj shining ahead of us and we stepped out into the famous view:  a long rectangular center pool flanked by manicured gardens reflecting the luminous, white marbel mausoleum.   Nothing prepared me for that moment.  It was breathtaking.    We shot a million photos as the last light of the day cast a pink hue on the sky and seemed to make the Taj glow iridescent.  

view through the north gate

 

people from all nations

 

red and yellow black and white

 

rear view of Taj Mahal

 

 

The Taj Mahal is considered one of the SevenWonders of the World and in 1993 was desigated as a UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  It was built by Mongul  emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife. It is widely considered as one of the most beautiful buildings in the world and stands as a symbol of eternal love.  Our guide explained to us that it took 20,000 craftsmam and artisans 22 years to build the shrine starting in 1632 and ending in 1654.  From far away, the Taj looks smooth and solid white, but up-close it has ornate marble carvings and inlays of stones to make intricate designs.  I was not expecting the thousands of international visitors that were there or the cold weather we encountered.  It was probably 47 degrees! 

marble carvings

 

marble inlays

 

After we closed the Taj Mahal down, we were taken by our guide to another part of the city to see the marble artisans at work.   The marble artisans sit on the floor and grind semi-precious stones using very primative sanding tools.  Jasper, lapis lazuli, onyx, cornilian, malachite, turquoise, coral, and paua shell are inlaid into Indian marble to create beautiful table tops, hot plates, coasters and boxes.   Artisans learn their craft within families as these skills are passed down from generation to generation.  Some of the table tops that we saw contained thousands of inlays and took artisans over two years to complete.
By this time, it was  very late and we checked into our hotel in Agra.  There was no internet service, so I was not able to blog that night.  We all went sleep to the sounds of traffic, beeping horns and Hindu chanting.  (or maybe that was the malarone!)

 

I want to thank all of you for praying Lane O’Daniel is feeling much better from his cold or alergies, and Jan Lewis’ mouth ulcers are also healing up and not so painful.  Tomorrow, we will see the Red Fort/Palace in Agra that was an early capital of India and visit some rug artisans before we head back to Delhi.  

Jan 2, 2011 Counting Meds

January 2, 2011
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Hindu God outside our hotel

Our first night in India we spent at Dee Marks Hotel in New Delhi.  The rooms are clean and simple with two twin beds.  My roommate is Laura Egbretson, an OBGYN from Memphis.  Her husband John, also a doctor, is watching her two children back home.  We slept in until about 10 and got up to join the group for breakfast of naan (Indian bread) over-easy eggs, and chai (Indian tea).  When I opened the curtains in my room, I saw the 60- foot statue of a Shiva, the Hindu god of snakes.  The Hindu religion has over 330 million gods.

Since 11 a.m. this morning, we’ve been counting meds into small bags.  It’s now 7 p.m. and we are still not finished.  Everyone is tired and a little punchy :-)    We have a pharmacist, Bob Muchlevicz, on the team who is overseeing the project.  When we finish we will have 3,336 me d bag.  We also brough over 26,000 children’s vitamins. These meds will be  dispensed on the orphanage medical treatment days and also at the free village clinics.  The medical capabilities based on the medicine and medical equipment we brought will allow the team to treat malnutrition, iron deficiencies, deabetes, infection, high blood pressure, pain, wound care, and minor surgeries.  There will be an emphasis on female reproductive health and prenatal care. 

Please pray over  these medications and for the doors to be open for our village clinics.  Village leaders have to give authorization for us to come in and that can dissolve at the last minute.   We also have heard that village midwives can be very territorial.  So please be covering this prayer.

Also, two team members have sickness.  Lane O’Daniel, retired technical school instructor and EMT, has come down with a cold and was very worn down today.  Also,  Jan Lewis,  nutritionalist and wife of team leader Dr. David Lewis, has some painful mouth ulcers on her tongue.  We have prayed over these individuals, but just ask that you pray for wholeness and healing for them too, so we can accomplish God’s purposes while we are here.

Team counting meds

Laura and Christy count children's vitamins

Jan 1, 2011 New Delhi, India

January 1, 2011
posted by admin

New Delhi Airport built in 2009

Well, Happy 1/1/11 everybody!  We arrived in India safely with no delays at customs and not one bag missing, praise God!  Thank you for the specific prayers for that.  We had a brief layover in Amsterdam and enjoyed the KLM airlines sky lounge coffee bar and snacks.  On the flight from Amsterdam to New Delhi I sat next to an Indian man of the Sihk religion from the Punjap region.  Sihks are recognized by their distinctly wrapped turbans, uncut hair and beards and steel braclets. They believe in one supreme being who gave divine revelation through 10 gurus.  Very devout Sihks are life-long vegitarians.  I engaged him in about a two hour conversation India’s history and economy, about his family, growning up, customs and beliefs of Sihkism.  It is a facinating ancient religion which incorporates reincarnation, devotion and good works to come back as different creature and finally as a human.  When the opportunity was right, I explained about God’s laws given to us in the Old Testament and how we are not able to keep them, because we all sin, if not in action, in thoughts of our hearts.  That God made a way for our sin to be covered by coming to earth as a man, Jesus, and dying for our sin.   When God looks at us, he sees the blood of Jesus which allows us to be righteous before God.  We can’t add anything to this sacrifice to make us any more “worthy” of heaven.  Our desire to do good, to serve God or worship Him comes from our love for him, from relationship not religion.   I was alittle nervous, but I figured, Lord you put this man next to me, and you opened the door, so I’m going to walk through it.  I spoke to him with love and respect and did likewise.   It was a God moment.    After the conversation ended, I just kept praying for him.  As we were getting ready to deboard the plane, I asked him his name.  He said it was Paul. 

That encounter with Paul embodied the misson verse for Seeds Ministries, Inc: 

1 Cor 3:6 “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow!”  Please pray for Paul tonight and for many others like him who need to hear about the way, the truth and the life we have through Jesus.

Arriving in India was a delight!  Too bad it was dark and we couldn’t see anything out the window, but their new international airport here was modern and beautiful, with sculptures and marble walkways.   It was about 40 degrees outside as we waited for our guide and the van.  Our hotel is nice and clean.  It’s about 1:30 a.m here so I’ll turn in.  Tomorrow, we will rest at our hotel and count meds out for our medical work  in the coming week.

Dec 31, 2010 Atlanta Airport

December 31, 2010
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After a quick 40 minute flight, I arrived in Atlanta and met the team in the  Sky Lounge.  We just hit is off immediately!  Most of the team has been to India before, but my roommate Dr. Laura Engbretson, OBGYN, is also a rookie, so I already feel a kindred spirit with her.  We are all enjoying the snack buffet, coffee bar and time to get to know each other better.  Dr. David Lewis and I are both trying to blog and use new technology.  We’ll board our flight to Amerstam at 5:15 p.m.  We’ll arrive in Amsterdam 8:15 a.m January 1, 2011.  It’s New Year’s Eve and I’m excited to be on this international adventure with such a great group.  I want to wish everyone a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Dec 31, 2010 Tri-Cities TN/VA Airport

December 31, 2010
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At Tri-Cities TN/VA Airport getting ready to depart for Atlanta.  Can’t wait to meet the team!  Ready for a break from the cold weather in Virginia.   One of my bags was over weight, but the nice lady at the Delta counter said, no extra charge, thank you God!

Hello world!

December 29, 2010
posted by admin

 

On Friday, December 31, 2010, I’ll be traveling to India for a two-week medical mission trip with Seeds Ministries, Inc.  (12/31/20 – 1/14/11)  I’ll be serving alongside a team of some of the finest (and funniest!)   physicans from the Memphis, Tennessee area.  The purpose of the trip will be to provide annual check-ups and medical treatment for about 75 orphans and staff, plus providing four, free medical clinics in a rural area of India.  I have been supporting this orphanage for about a year and I’m really looking forward to meeting the children in person!

India has such a rich history, fascinating culture and amazing food.  I have several special Indian friends who also have planted a seed in my heart to one day visit this beautiful country.  Can’t wait to have some authentic chicken tikka masala!

A special thanks to all of you who have contributed to help provide the medicine that we are taking on this trip and also to those who have committed to pray for us each day.  I am also grateful for my special friends who helped me prepare for this trip and who are helping look after my pets and business while I’m out of town. Thank you!

God has shaped my heart for missions and I’m so thankful to Him for opening this door to go.  I’m looking forward to watching him work in and through our team to stretch our faith and to reveal His character.  He has a plan and divine appointments for us on this journey.  Our desire is to reflect and represent Jesus Christ wherever we go.

Christy