Women of Destiny Conference 2018

When was it?

Saturday 3rd February 2018 from 9:30am to 5pm. At 9:30am there were less than 10 people at the conference. Nobody arrives on time here, not even for God it seems!

Where was it?

The First Assembly of God Church, Bangalore. Right next to the highway flyover so difficult to see from the road. Lovely building with an underground car park.

Address:

How much was it?

INR 150 which included tea and biscuits and a hot lunch. We also received a beautiful blue scarf at the end of the day.

Some pictures from the day

The ladies receiving the blue scarves (or mantles) at the end of the day.

The dance troop interpreting a hymn.

The start of the conference at 9:30am.

A coat stand put to alternative use.

Who were the speakers?

As we were not given a conference agenda or timetable or speaker notes, this was a bit tricky. There were several ladies speaking and leading the worship and one man, Pastor Gavin Cunningham of the First AG Church, at the end of the day. The main speaker of the day was Pastor Peggy Kennedy from Canada who talked on 1 Kings 19 and who was followed by Pastor Sharon talking on the book of Ruth. Both were extremely good speakers.

Jack & Peggy Kennedy have been serving the Lord and His Church in many capacities over 35 years. Their journey of obedience has taken them from the west coast ministry among First Nations (Jack is a member of the Tsimpshian First Nation of northern B.C.) to ministry at large among the Body of Christ across Canada and to the nations. Their “assignments” have been varied: pastoring in British Columbia and Saskatchewan, coordinating Aboriginal Ministries for the PAOC British Columbia & Yukon District, leadership of the Canadian Native Bible College, Vancouver, B.C. and more!

http://www.twosilvertrumpets.ca/

Thoughts on the day

It was my first time at a women only conference in India so I didn’t quite know what to expect. Registration and payment took place outside at the front of the church. We were welcomed in by several ladies before I had rewatched the top of the steps for the church itself. It was lovely be greeted by so many happy ladies.

The worship was great and the speakers, and subjects, both interesting and inspiring. I learnt a lot.

There were no morning breaks at all and tea and coffee were brought to everyone at their seats as they listened to the speakers. Lunch was served downstairs in the underground car park and there was plenty of food; I avoided the spicy stuff!

The prayer time at the end with the distribution of the scarves was new and unusual for me, so I watched and waited until near the end so I could take in the process.

Tea and biscuits was also served outside at the end of the conference.

In some ways it was very similar to christian conferences in the UK but some of the practicalities were completely different. I thoroughly enjoyed my day and despite it being a long day I came out refreshed.

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A Bandh in Bangalore

What is a Bandh?

A Bandh is a general strike.

When is it?

The Karnataka state (which includes Bangalore) shut down on Thursday 25th January. Bangalore will also shut down again on Sunday 4th February.

Why is there a Bandh?

Pro Kannada groups and farmers call Bandhs to pressurise parties and the centre to resolve the Mahadayi river dispute.

The Bandh on 4th Feb is to coincide with Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Bangalore to attend the BJP’s Parivarthana rally. Thousands of farmers plan to gherao* PM Modi in Bangalore. It’s a tactic used by labour activists and union leaders in India and is similar to picketing. Usually a group of people surround a politician or government building until their demands are met or answers given.

What is the Mahadayi River dispute?

The 77 km long Mahadayi or Mandovi river originates in the Western Ghats in the Belagavi district of North Karnataka and flows into the neighbouring Goa where it eventually joins the Arabian Sea.

Karnataka plans to build two canals to divert the river water to supply four drought prone districts. This is being opposed by Goa as they state that there is already a water deficit. PM Modi’s visit to Karnataka has led to escalating tensions. The pro Kannada groups have asked PM Modi to intervene. Farmers leaders have argued that the dispute should have been resolved much earlier as the BJP is in power at the centre.

The issue is pending before the Mahadayi Water Dispute Tribunal in Dehli and is expected to be held between 6th – 22nd February.

What happens during a Bandh?

Generally speaking everything is shut between 6am to 6pm. Schools and Universities close as staff may not be able to reach work and also for the safety and security of children. It is exam time in Bangalore so this means revised exam schedules are being hastily arranged.

Buses will only run if it is safe to do so and there is no threat to safety. (During the last Bandh over 30 buses were destroyed by fire.)

The civil service here will be shut for the day so anything that involves a government employee will be closed. They are all also donating their day’s wage to the cause.

Zahra’s School is closed and operate on the virtual learning platform on Bandh days so disruption is kept to a minimum.

Basically it’s a stay at home day and enjoy the time with your family and neighbours in the winter sun. It also creates a long weekend as Friday is a National Holiday for Republic Day.

Let’s hope the day passes off peacefully.

Update at 12 Noon

Peaceful protests are occurring across the city and some at Manyatta Tech Park. The police have deployed additional forces in two major hubs for protesters. Helicopters fly overhead regularly (but we are in the north near the airfields). 170 battalions of state reserve police, 220 platoons of armed reserves and 63,000 law and order personnel have been deployed. In addition the Deccan Herald has reported that “120 habitual trouble makers have been taken into preventative custody across the state”.

*gherao is derived from Hindi and means encirclement.

Manifesting the Gifts of the Spirit – Christian Leaders Conference 2018

What is it?

Manifesting the Gifts of the Spirit (‘GOTS’) was the title for the 2018 Christian Leaders Conference held by All People’s Church (‘ APC’) in Bangalore. It ran from Wednesday 17th to Friday 19th January from 9:30am to 5:30pm, with a morning coffee break, lunch and afternoon tea break ( food and beverages provided). The cost was INR 500 (£6) for all three days.

Pre Conference

I am at the APC Bible College in Bangalore studying for a Theology Diploma. All students were required to attend the conference and there would be no classes at Bible College for the duration of the Conference. Boarding students were required to serve and assist at the conference.

Bible college is usually from 9:30am to 1pm and in Hennur, around 30 minutes journey in the morning traffic. The conference was being held centrally at the United Theological College in Benson Town. That’s a 45 min to an hour journey in the morning. Logistically its a nightmare as we have one car. Thankfully we have carpooling arrangements with our friends and neighbours for the School run (drop off and pick up for those of you not from the UK!). The easy part was arranging for Zahra (and the other children) to be collected and looked after whilst I was at the Conference.Rez goes to work at 7am but our driver could not take him and get back for me to get me to the conference on time (the usual crappy Bangalore traffic prohibits this). Thankfully a neighbour lent me her car and driver to get me there on time. (We have super expat neighbours in this complex – they’re all fabulous and kind.)

The initial logistical nightmare dealt with, I could think about the Conference. The first thing that struck me was how incredibly cheap it was. INR 500 is roughly a days wage here for the upper working or lower middle class. So actually quite expensive for local wage earners. The accountant in me still can’t get me head around how the church can hold such a huge conference, fully catered, for such a small fee. Obviously it is heavily subsidised by the church, but even so, APC has about 470 adults in 5 congregations spread over all of Bangalore. It’s a huge amount of money coming in from the congregation to subsidise this and make it accessible.

As the conference approached I wondered what it would be like. I have never been to a conference here. How big would it be? What would the facilities be like? (They are very basic a Bible College). Are the toilets useable (it’s like playing Russian roulette using toilets in Bangalore! Always have tissues and hand sanitiser with me.)

Conference Day 1

After arranging for Zahra’s forgotten locker keys to be delivered to school by our helpful neighbour, I set off with her car and driver to find the conference. It’s at the United Theological College in Benson Town in the city. Google maps was rubbish. It took us 30 mins of driving around the area to find it. We stopped several times and asked for directions- the final time we were actually outside the college. It was across the road from where we had stopped. Both me and the driver looked around to see the smallest sign ever for a large college which could only be viewed if you are driving in the right direction. Useful. (And that’s British sarcasm in case you don’t recognise it!)

I was dropped off outside the hall at 9:15am and was pleased we had left plenty of time for the journey as I was able to register, find the wash room (more on that later) and settle in before the conference started at 9:30am.

9:30am and the conference is a quarter full. The band played and we sang worship songs as the rest of the delegates drifted in on Indian time (ie always late).

The conference is on the UTC grounds in a building which is truly an old style church hall. The entrance has the washrooms and where the registration desk and (free) book stall was. The hall itself sloped down to the front of the stage. The floor is tiled in beige with a strip of maroon carpet running down the centre. Each side has plastic garden chairs for seats. (These are used widely in India as chairs- they are lightweight and easy to clean and transport).

I sat with my college colleagues. After some very short announcements Pastor Ashish took to the lecture to deliver the first session on Supernatural Ministry. At 11am we had a tea break and at 11:30 Pastor Ashish continued with Introducing the person of the Holy Spirit and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. 1pm was a lunch break with rice, roti, chicken curry and curd served. At 2pm we reconvened for a short time of praise in Hindi and English. Then Pastor Jeyakumar jumped from the stage from playing guitar to talk to us about Concerning Spiritual Gifts. Pastor Ashish continued with The Love of God our Motivation and How the Holy Spirit Initiates the release of the gifts. 3pm was afternoon coffee and the final session at 3:30pm was a practical session. This is were the pastors of APC gave a practical demonstration of listening to the Holy Spirit and delivering what they heard to the congregation. People were also immediately healed of ailments. It is amazing to see God at work. Seeing really is believing.

Washrooms

There are a few hundred people at this conference and the Building has two toilets for women, one western and one Indian. They were basic and dated but usable, (unless the previous occupant decided to shower with the toilet hose and wet the floor, walls and toilet seat – I’ll never understand this behaviour). The western toilet had a tree growing through the open window and was constantly wet, due to the dripping tap at calf height. The church provided toilet roll and hand wash. There was a filthy dirty mop (no bucket) and a sink that was dirty and falling apart but useable. A dirty curtain covered the entrance to the washrooms which also had a filthy cloth mat. At least they didn’t smell but the church had also provided a can of air freshener just in case. (I provided a towel and some soap the next day.) Now this is a conference facility which is paid for – why are the toilets so basic and dirty? I just don’t get it. Why did the church have to provide toilet roll and hand wash? Another #IncredibleIndia moment.

Day 2

This was a bit of a blur as the speakers were great, good practical sessions and really demystifying the gifts and work of the Holy Spirit. Pastors Nancy, Ashish and Brian spoke today. The lectures were on words of wisdom, words of knowledge, discerning of spirits, kinds of tongues, the interpretation of tongues, prophecy, gifts of healing and working of miracles.

The practical practice session at the end of the day was working miracles and the gift of healing. We prayed for several individuals, all of whom had physical ailments needing treatment. All were healed. Now I know the majority of readers will scoff at that statement and ask for evidence. Seeing really is believing. I won’t be able to convince anyone who wasn’t there that physical healing actually took place, but it did. It was miraculous and it was unbelievable but it happened.

Lunch

Lunch was provided for the delegates each day, outside. Lunch was chicken, rice, roti and curds with biryani served on Friday. Everyone who had registered and paid for the conference was given a meal voucher each day to collect our meal. There was an orderly queue (surprising for India) and people sat and chatted whilst eating.

This is when I was cornered each day by a couple of elderly gentlemen preachers telling me about their ministry and asking me to pray for them. They did this at the tea and coffee breaks to and never left my side. It was quite unnerving. On the last day I was given a business card and a medical report. Both wanted contributions. I was an easy target being white. The assumption being that every white person is loaded. I was saddened and disheartened that this happened at a Christian Conference when there was ample opportunity to seek assistance from the many other delegates in attendance.

Day 3

I arrive early and sit in the gardens drinking my flask of tea (how British!) listening to the variety of birds singing and chirping and squawking whilst the band practice “Come now is the time for worship”, one of my favourite songs.

As usual, the conference started with a period of worship promptly at 9:30am and allowed those adhering to Indian Standard Time to drift in. Expectations were high after yesterday’s miracles; God was really moving in this place.

Pastor Ashish and Pastor Brian lectured today on the gift of faith (rather than ‘normal’ faith), developing the gifts of the Spirit, proper foundation for releasing the gifts, being a channel for the spirit’s power, flowing with the anointing (and what ‘anointing’ actually means) and unusual manifestations and how to respond. All the lectures were super useful, plain speaking and again demystifying the terminology.

The last practice session today was letting the spirit flow through us to hear from God. Pastor Ashish requested that those who heard from God to go to the front and validate it i.e. tell everyone what you heard and see if anyone could relate to it or if it was about them. This is a very scary and risky thing if you have never done it before, but that was the point – getting us all to practice in a safe non judgmental environment where mistakes could be made. As it happened all those who spoke had their words and pictures confirmed by someone else in the room. It was fascinating to watch.

Then it happened. I was sat quietly concentrating and praying, when words flashed into my mind clear and strong. I picked up my notebook and pen and wrote them down, closed my eyes and it happened again. Then again and again and again. I had a poem. I showed my college colleagues who insisted I go up to the front with it. With a pounding heart and shaking hands I picked up the mike and sat down on the chair (so no one could see me) and read the poem. I delivered it and scurried back to my seat.

Others continued with words and pictures. At the end of the session Pastor Ashish asked us to explain how it happened and what we saw so others could benefit. How do you explain that these words just popped into your head? So that’s what I said – I can’t explain it, the words came and I wrote them down.

Conclusion

This was the end of the conference. There was a final tea break and those requiring prayer from the pastoral team queued and queued. There was a lot of delegates requesting prayer.

I was asked to record ‘my testimony’ for the conference. This means a different thing from the UK – they were asking me to give feedback on the conference and what I enjoyed about it. I was filmed telling the audience about my first Indian Conference and my experience. They then asked me to read the poem to the camera too, which I did. I have no idea what it is going to be used for.

It was such a good conference and I learnt so much about the Gifts of the Spirit and practising using them. It really did demystify things. Now I need to practice, and keep practising.

The Poem

My heart is leaping

Bowing down to you

You made me new

You made me new.

You are God

You are Lord overall

You shine anew

You shine anew.

Your gifts are free

Free gifts for me

Accept and see

What I can do, in you.

You are God

You are Lord overall

You make me new

Anew in you.

Some of my Bible College colleagues

Note:

The APC website has loads of free resources – books, sermons, videos, tv programs – take a look: http://www.apcwo.org

Makar Sankranti, Lohri or Pongal

Makar Sankranti, Lohri or Pongal is the harvest festival celebration. It is one of the most auspicious days for Hindus and is celebrated in almost all parts of India on 13th, 14th and 15th January this year.

What is it?

Makar means Capricorn and Sankranti means movement. It traditionally coincides with the beginning of the sun’s northward journey when it enters the zodiac sign of Capricorn. Makar Sankranti is a festival dedicated to the sun, which coincides with the completion of the harvest season and is celebrated with much joy – usually.

Pongal

Pongal is the three day long harvest festival celebrated in Tamil Nadu. It is celebrated in honour of the rain god Indra as well as the sun god and the holy cow. ‘Bhogi Pongal’ is the first day of Pongal and the lord Indra is worshipped. Sisters also pray for the welfare of their brothers. On the second day the sun god is worshipped for imparting heat and energy to the fields. The third day is Mattul Pongal and cattle is worshipped. A portion of pudding is kept aside in the open to feed birds and insects. A special dish called Pongal is prepared by ladies to commemorate the festival.

Jallikatu

Jallikatu is a bullfight organised by every town and village on the third and last day of Pongal. This ‘game’ is traditionally ‘played’ by young men who try to grab the money tied to the horns of the bull. It is a centuries old tradition. It is a bull taming event which is supposed to preserve the indigenous breeds of cattle such as the Jellicut. The untamed bull is used for breeding. The event can be traced as far back as 400-100BC.

Lohri

Lohri is the North Indian harvest festival on 13th January each year, usually observed in Punjab and Haryana. It is celebrated to bring good luck to celebrate to obtain a better harvest and to prepare for the next sowing season. During the day children fly kites. Mainly though it is an evening festival with bonfires upon which sugar cane and parched rice goods are thrown. Both men and women wear bright clothes and dance around the bonfire. The men perform Bhangra and the ladies perform Gidda. Everyone exchanges gifts of peanuts, popcorn, prodded rice and other sweets.

Hong Kong

As the Christmas holidays approached the thought of three weeks off altogether was welcome relief. We flew out as soon as we could after Rez arrived back from his work trip to the UK, laden with Christmas presents (and Birthday presents for me).

We arrived in Hong Kong after an overnight flight from Bangalore with Cathay Dragon, which was delayed a few hours. Whilst leaving us exhausted it did have the benefit that we were able to check into the hotel as soon as we arrived.

Day 1 in Hong Kong involved a long hot bath whilst watching a film; lots of food and some shopping. It was soooo good to have a little bit of ‘normality’ back.

Rez’s Review: “Crowne Plaza Hotel: The stay at the hotel was good though we could not get the room temperature high enough for us to remain warm in the room, as the AC thermostat didn’t seem to respond. We also ended up missing out on the breakfasts as the prices were high and the room booking inexplicably only covered one person!”

Day 2: The City

People, everywhere; Lots of people.

We saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi at the first viewing of the day.

These really rather expensive souvenirs are clearly for those with more money than sense.

A shopping trip to buy warm clothes resulted in a queue that took Zahra nearly a minute to walk the length of it.

The metro was like the Tube in rush hour, constantly.

A quiet moment in the Metro

The markets were overcrowded with lots of bumps and knocks from the shoving.

Ladies Market

A Street were every shop seems to be selling live fish, like this.

The contrast between the smart shops at ground level, and the miserable looking apartments above, is stark.

Another very crowded market.

The Harbour Lights were pretty.

We walked at total of 6 miles in a mad , bustling, crowded shopping frenzy. We were all very tired. Try not to visit these areas at the weekend or on the last Sunday before Christmas – it was just unpleasant.

Day 3 A day at Disneyland.

Arrived 10:15am. Departed 9:15pm. It is thankfully a relatively small Disneyland so walking the length and breadth of the park wasn’t too much of a trek. We managed to go on all the rides Zahra wanted to, and some several times. The Disney characters eluded us but Zahra wasn’t bothered by that, I think she has become too cool for that sort of thing at the age of 11! It was a good day and thankfully the food and snacks were much better ( and healthier) than Paris or California Disneylands. (We appear to be becoming Disney aficionados by mistake rather than intent.)

Family photo on the taxi to the castle.

The closest we got to any characters and the only ones we saw all day!

The Christmas decorations at dusk were beautiful.

Main Street at night with Christmas decorations.

Day 4: After a tiring and long day we decided on a lie in and a leisurely stroll to the water followed by a late lunch at a Korean barbecue. A relaxing and enjoyable day.

Day 5: A tour of Hong Kong Island with Big Bus Tours

Rez’s Review:

“As with many of our city visits we chose to take the open top bus tour of Hong Kong offered by Big Bus Tours.

This offers an excellent way to get around the city quickly taking in lots of different things which you can then go back to look at in greater detail should you wish.

Our first bus was the Green route which went to the south of Hong Kong Island, Aberdeen, Deepwater Bay, Repulse Bay, and Stanley.

Our next bus was the Red route through downtown Hong Kong island and included a trip up the peak tram to the then ended back at the Star Ferry terminal. A ride across Victoria Harbour on the Star Ferry is included in the day ticket price as is the blue route around downtown Kowloon.

Definitely recommend the Big Bus Tours.”

A view across the South China Sea.

A Sampan with the floating Restaurant behind.

A Sampan drying fish

A Sampan in the harbour contrasts the Old with the new.

The City of Hong Kong

A view across the city from The Peak

A view of the South China Sea from The Peak

The Harbour Mall busy with Christmas shoppers.

Zahra’s facts and figures from the tour:

  • Largest civil marine force in the world to combat South China Seas piracy. Editor’s note: The Marine Region with about 3,000 officers, and a fleet of 142 in total, made up of 70 launches and 72 craft is the largest of any civil police force.
  • The Hong Kong Jockey Club is a non profit making organisation and also the largest tax payer in HK and donates over 1billion a year to charity. Editor’s note: The organisation is also the largest community benefactor. The HK Jockey Charities Trust donated a record HK$3.6 billion in 2014 to support the different needs of the society and contribute to the betterment of Hong Kong.
  • 26 June 1843 HK was established. HK means ‘fragrant harbour’ and where they exported incense.
  • Kowloon alone has 2.1m people.
  • Massacre of 1M residents in 1941-45 by the Japanese Governor. 25th December 1941 is known as Black Christmas as surrendered to Japanese after 2 weeks of occupation from 6th December 1941. Editor’s note: The Battle/Defence/Fall of Hong Kong from 6th -25th Dec 1941 was one of the first battles in the Pacific in WWII. During the 3.5 years of occupation the Japanese executed 10,000 HK residents and many others were tortured, raped or mutilated.
  • Traditional boats are called Tam Pan boats
  • Uni of Hong Kong has 28000 students and are taught in English.
  • It was a Crown colony from 1842 to 1997.
  • It is one of two special admin regimes in China. Editor’s note: The other is Macau.
  • The number 4 shares the same pronunciation with the word for Death therefore there are no 4th or 14th floors in hotels.
  • Time square market is a popular place for locals to go, as is the SOLO store.
  • Traffic lights change every 58 seconds to let many taxis, buses and pedestrians cross.
  • Hong Kong is a very crowded city with many major attractions, like Disneyland and Ocean Park. There are many malls in residential areas. Almost all residents live in small apartments, sometimes the size of a hotel room. This means that they mostly depend on the malls for shopping and lunch.
  • Whenever there is a typhoon warning issued all the boats go into a designated area to shield them from typhoons.
  • Gloucester Road is one of the busiest roads in Hong Kong.
  • The Ladies Market and the Night Market on Temple Street are popular shopping markets for tourists, with lots of souvenirs and gadgets.
  • Southorn Playground is a popular playground in the heart of Wan Chai . Some business men waited for their interviews in the park but now it’s mostly used for sports and for the elderly to meet.
  • There are many high rises in Hong Kong and some are used in movies, like Batman flew from a building to another in The Dark Knight.
  • There are many malls in the centre of Hong Kong filled with many well known brands
  • Hong Kong park has a flagstar house which once belonged to a British general . Now it is a museum which promotes tea and ceramic pots.
  • The Peak Tram – the scrum would embarrass London commuters. Editor’s note: Zahra really did write that!
  • Human activity in Hong Kong dates back 5000 years even though there is not much evidence.
  • Hong Kong’s 5 clans used to live in walled villages to protect themselves from bandits and wild animals.
  • Cheap bus services all day long.
  • When waiter pours tea to say thank you , you tap the table twice with your index and middle finger. This is considered as a bow and comes from Japanese culture. Also if you want your tea pot refilling you take the pot top off , this also comes from Japanese culture.
  • Old Market is surrounded by modern buildings ‘brings you back to the old days’ and gives you a break from all the modern Hong Kong.
  • Hong Kong in the old days was addicted to opium which spread like wild fire. Editor’s note: By 1838 the number of Chinese Opium addicts had grown to between 4-12 million.
  • Lin Zexu was sent to stop opium trade. He burnt the opium. Editor’s note: A total of 1016 tons was destroyed. A process which took 23 days. The First Opium War with Britain resulted. The Treaty of Nanking in 1848 – in exchange for British withdrawal from northern China, Britain would own Hong Kong.
  • Possession street records the arrival of the British. The British came and planted a flag and stayed there for more than 100 yrs
  • Very thin tall apartments buildings.
  • The Man Mo Temple has a traditional Chinese festival feel to it and is filled with bright colours.
  • Soho is famous for art galleries and bars also restaurants. Soho is called Soho because it means South of Hollywood Road . SOuth HOllywood.
  • There is a bridge that stretches all over Hong Kong with many escalators. There is one escalator which runs all the way up a hill in the morning and down in the afternoon. This is famous for its length and is in the Guinness Book of World Records.
  • The climate of Hong Kong is influenced by Monsoon and winter. You can get many typhoons near or in Hong Kong.
  • The former Hong Kong police Station was used very often due to bandits and robbers. This meant that Hong Kong was a very dangerous place before the police force came around.
  • The Fringe Club was formerly a coal warehouse in 1890. Now used by and for young artists .
  • Dudley Street has gas lamps Hong Kong China Gas Company 1840. First permanently lit city.
  • Club lucagano gathering Portuguese community many designer shops locals like this.
  • Harbour Light Show is on buildings each evening and is in the Guinness Book of World Records.
  • we went on the famous Star ferry.

Day 6 Ocean Park

Rez’s Review:

“Get to the park early as there is a lot to see and do!

The park offers fast pass tickets at around £25 per head which is a little steep. They do offer to let you buy it once in the park if the queues for the rides are indeed long. We didn’t bother and apart from one ride didn’t really need them.

Started the day at the Grand Aquarium (very impressive) and then made our way up the hill to the Summit theme park on the Ocean Express funicular railway.

First ride was the Flying Swing (fast but tame) then onto The Dragon, an old roller coaster with a few thrills but an exceptionally bumpy ride. Next up was The Crazy Galleon (a basic swing ride) and then onto The Abyss. This is a vertical drop ride which is short but good fun, specially the first drop.

We then went down the hill to Adventure Land via the veterinary centre where we got to see dolphins being cared for. This was lovely to watch and they seem to  be well cared for.

In Adventure Land we tried the Raging River (not too wet, but good fun!) then took the escalator system to get back up the hill to Thrill Mountain were we queued for about an hour for The Hair Raiser. This is by far the best roller coaster at Ocean park (and newest it seems) and has an excellent combination of rolls, loops and negative G manoeuvres which really throw your stomach out. A great ride but we just didn’t fancy another hour of queuing.

We took the cable car down the hill to Aqua City with a view to seeing the Giant Pandas. Sadly we were too late as the lazy beggars had gone to bed! 😉

There are plenty of other rides and activities to take part in but one day just isn’t enough!”

Day 7 Clearwater Bay Beach

We took a local bus (using the Octopus card) to the beach, from the bus station at the base of the hotel. It is a small but well serviced beach. Three lifeguards in towers were on duty. Recorded messages advised of flag changes, rules and regulations when someone was blatantly flouting them and when life guard were going off duty. There was a large building containing changing rooms, toilets and first aid facilities. As it was out of season the beach shops were closed. There were hardly any people there so it was delightfully quiet and peaceful. Zahra played in the sand and paddled in the cold sea whilst we sat and relaxed on the rocks.

It was a lovely end to a lovely holiday.

Bible college

Wow! I am exhausted. I have just finished the first semester of Bible College. Ending with 8 two hour exams in one week. (That’s been a test of endurance I can tell you!). It has been a blast. It is also why my blog has been a bit quiet of late. Study and assignments has taken up most of my time. Trying to fit all that into the daily challenges of life in Bangalore has not been easy. It has meant my time for reading and writing has been squeezed out. However, I am now on holiday until January. Time to catch up on all things.

Daily Life at College

For now, I’d like to give you a glimpse into life at Bible College in Bangalore. Obviously I have nothing to compare it to so I have no idea how it contrasts to other Bible Colleges. I am also a Day student and not a boarder. The boarders have a set daily schedule they have to adhere to from 5am (yes that’s right, 5am!) until 10pm. Their lives are literally mapped out for them whilst they are at Bible College. By comparison the handful of Day students have it easy.

This has been an amazing journey. I still can’t believe I am at Bible College. It is great and I am really enjoying it. I am learning so much and despite being there from 9:30am to 1pm Monday to Friday I feel as though I don’t have enough time to study. It’s amazing what you learn when you start studying again.

Facilities

Finding the college at first was difficult. It is in a residential area on the ground floor of a three storey multipurpose building. It is unmarked. There are no signs directing you to the college and no signs outside the college to alert people what the building is used for. I have no idea why this is as I have not asked but I do wonder if it is for safety and security reasons. This is a very nationalistic Hindu country and attacks on Christians are not rare.

The college itself is very basic. The desks are old and falling apart and our chairs are a variety of plastic garden chairs. The space is one large L shaped room, two classrooms and a book warehouse with a sink and kitchen table. The one toilet is outside around the corner. (More on that later.)

The L shaped room is used as a music area and the main area is used for daily morning meetings. The meetings are held from 8:30am and consist of praise and worship followed by one of the students delivering a sermon, in English, on a portion of the Bible. A safe place to practice for those going into the ministry.

After the morning meeting the chairs are moved into the classrooms and tables arranged in rows. We share desks, two to each desk. There’s not a lot of space. There is a white board on the wall. The windows at the rear of the classrooms have bars on them (usual in Bangalore). The classroom door has a lock on each side. (Can you see where I am going with this?) I was quite alarmed when every teacher entering the classroom locked the door behind them. Nobody else seemed alarmed. I was at the back of the classroom near the windows. My exit route was locked. I requested the door be kept open at all times. It took a few days before everyone got used to having the door open.

I open the windows and switch on the fan every morning to circulate the air. We keep the window open throughout class and whilst it is noisy (even in a residential area the noise is incredible), it is worth it to circulate the air and avoid a stuffy classroom. One of the teachers once closed the door and asked for the windows to be shut because of the noise.The small classroom quickly became hot and stuffy and we were all falling asleep in the heat. A quick break and reopening windows for the entire session afterwards solved that problem.

There were no fire exit signs, no first aid box or signs and no fire extinguishers. Considering one of the rooms was a storage area and full of books, I found this to be an incredible oversight. The safety of the students just didn’t appear to have been considered (although I am sure it had). I ordered and placed all the above in college. No one said anything directly to me but I could see that they were bemused. That’s not quite true, one lady student laughed at me thinking I was ridiculous. I ignored it.

The next thing I did was buy a welcome mat, washing up liquid and hand soap. They were drinking out of cups that were being rinsed under a cold tap before being reused. I also started supplying biscuits to go with chai (tea) at the morning break. This was a very welcome addition.

Toilets

Right, toilet facilities. When I first arrived (late in the term due to holidaying in the UK), I was directed to the ladies boarding house for the toilet. It was about 100 yards away from the college, we needed a key and one of the boarding ladies to accompany us there. Now it doesn’t take a genius to work out that with Bangalore Belly being a feature of my life that this was a very dangerous arrangement for me. The risk of having “an accident” was high and very unwelcome. The risk of total humiliation in front of my fellow students was not appealing. Nevertheless, I complied with this arrangement for weeks. I also supplied the ladies boarding house with hand soap and a towel as there wasn’t any. I was also told not to use toilet tissue as it wouldn’t flush. The crux came when I needed the loo and I had to wait for one of the boarding ladies to exit the wet room as she was having a shower (I use that word in its widest sense). As she stepped out into the bedroom, wrapped in a towel, I thought enough was enough.

I asked the class ‘Captain’ (elected student representative) where the men went to the toilet and was told that there wasn’t a toilet available for ladies on site and I had to use the boarding house. After pressing her, I was told there was a toilet on site for the men but it wasn’t suitable for the ladies. I asked why and wasn’t given an answer. The class Captain said she would have to as the college director whether I could use the men’s toilet. The incredibility of the situation was lost on her.

I asked one of my male classmates to direct me to the loo they use. It was outside around the corner at the back of the college. It had a functioning toilet and a tap, bucket, a hose / douche but no sink. The floor was a lake but it was perfectly usable. I was dumbfounded as to why I wasn’t allowed to use it.

Now, those who know me will know that I would see that as a challenge, and indeed I did. I started using the toilet. The men were bemused at first but got used to me queuing for the loo with them. I also upgraded the facilities with some easy and obvious additions. I bought a plastic three tiered veg tray stand and placed it in the toilet with hand soap, soap dish and antibacterial gel. I placed a towel on the hook and bought (a much needed) air freshener. (I wash and change the towel weekly). I also supplied mosquito spray and toilet roll. I placed a loo block in the cistern. The toilet was transformed. I now use it all the time. The other ladies still will not use it.

The Syllabus

So, enough about the facilities, what have I been studying for the last few months? The syllabus has been interesting and varied. The subjects covered in the first semester were as follows:

Minister’s Foundation – we studied a book called ‘Code of Honour’ which contained some basic guidelines about what to do and what not to do in ministry. It covered personal life, family, people, conduct, preaching, anointing, results, fellowship, money, women and fame. Yes, fame. Apparently in India this is a thing. Who knew!

Old Testament Survey – literally a gallop overview of the whole of the Old Testament in one semester. Learning about history, authors, themes, purpose etc of each book. It was a good grounding in the background to each book of the Old Testament. I did feel it was rushed though and the sheer volume of information was daunting in an exam scenario.

Praise and Worship – and the difference between the two. I found this to be the most difficult topic. I am not musically talented or gifted in any way and whilst I enjoy singing, the right note or key is an aspirational thing for me. Thankfully there was no ‘practical’ side to this. We did learn about what the worship team does mid week, about auditions and the probation period. They really have no idea how fortunate they are to have so many gifted and talented musicians and singers within the church. It’s normal to them. Rather unlike the small churches in the UK who scramble around to find anybody with the slightest musical talent to beg them to play. (Don’t take that personally, it’s not about you!).

The Holy Spirit – The person of the Holy Spirit, work of the Holy Spirit throughout the Bible, baptism of the Holy Spirit, gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Trinity etc. This was a real education and fascinating.

Who we are in Christ – understanding our union with Christ. This class was taught by Pastor Kenny who is a gifted speaker and frequently went off topic to tell us about events to illustrate points. It was very interesting.

Faith – literally everything to do with our faith and what helps and hinders faith. Very useful.

Prayer and Intercession – I found this the most enjoyable subject and was taught by Kala who is also a gifted teacher as well as an amazing prayer warrior. It really has transformed the way I pray and my prayer life. Don’t know how to pray? Start with the Lord’s Prayer folks. It’s a great way to start praying if you never have.

Soul Winning – pretty much lessons on how not to be a dick! Nobody likes a Bible Basher after all. That’s not the way to do it. There were some interesting insights into the biblical foundations of evangelism as well as some basic principles.

We had exams in all of these subjects which completed the first semester. January sees the start of a whole new bunch of subjects which, I am sure, will prove equally fascinating.

EXAM WEEK

This is the diary I kept when I took my first set of mid term exams in September:

Day One I’ve just sat the first exam in literally decades.  It was weird going into the classroom, with the desks laid out in rows and our names on the desks. First year students were sat next to second year students so that there was no temptation to copy. At the start of the exam the teacher handed out the double sided question papers and people immediately started to look at them and write on them before some of us had even received a copy of the paper. The teacher then waited a few minutes before giving out blank pieces of paper and telling everyone NOT to write on the question paper and write all the answer on the plain sheet, and no one was to start yet. A little late for that announcement!

When he said we could start there was frantic writing all around me, whilst I read through section A of the paper and turned over to section B, where I found some questions I thought I could answer. Section C was memory verses (I knew one of the eight listed – oh dear) and section D was a true or false section; so a 50/50 chance of getting them right. We were half way through the exam before I realised the time. As we were only given one piece of paper to write on I had to keep asking for more. Some students had finished 45 mins into the exam and stood up, walked to the front and handed in their paper before walking out. That was a distraction for me as in the UK people generally sit till the end of the exam and they certainly don’t get up and walk to the front – you have to raise your hand and wait for the invigilator to collect your paper.

Time up and people kept on writing. We were asked to hand in our papers at the front. As we did so some were still writing. Eventually the last lady handed in her paper. I was disorientated. This would never have happened in the U.K. In exam halls everyone has to put their pens down and wait for all papers to be collected by the invigilators and wait to be dismissed by them. It was really strange.

Final exam week

Exam week two, just completed, was pretty similar but with the exam being two hours long a lot more people got up and left early when they had finished their papers. For some exams there were only one or two individuals sat writing exams at the end whilst the rest of us enjoyed a cup of tea and biscuits. One exam, the second years finished early whilst the first years were still writing away, so they brought us all tea and biscuits to our desks. It was very welcome. Can you imagine that in a UK exam hall?!

Christmas Break

The final exam saw the end of term. We are now on a break until January. Students have returned to their villages across India, back to their families for Christmas. I have given each of the first year students an Advent Calendar (imported from the UK) together with an explanation of what it is and how to use it. They had never heard of them. I hope they all enjoy the countdown to Christmas, Our Saviour’s birth, as much as we do.

Now, time to start preparing for Christmas.

Guy Fawkes Night

Our Guy Fawkes effigy

“Remember, Remember the 5th of November 

Gunpowder, Treason and plot”

What is Guy Fawkes Night?

The Gunpowder Plot of 1605 was a failed assassination attempt against King James I of England and VI of Scotland by blowing up the House of Lords during the State Opening of England’s Parliament on 5th November 1605 by a group of provincial English Catholics.
During a search of the House of Lords at about midnight on 5th November 1605, Fawkes was discovered guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder—enough to reduce the House of Lords to rubble—and arrested.
The King’s Council allowed the public to celebrate the King’s survival with bonfires and Parliament passed the Observance of 5th November Act.

How is it celebrated?

Today it is celebrated with the burning of an effigy of Guy Fawkes on a Bonfire, setting off fireworks and families gathering at parties. Traditional food includes jacket potatoes and pea soup (to warm up people in the cold English climate) and sweets such as treacle toffee, toffee apples and Parkin cake.

Children play games such as Apple bobbing which requires the child to remove an apple from a bowl of water using only their mouth and teeth. It is great fun watching children trying to retrieve an apple whilst not getting too wet whilst others quite happily push their head to the bottom of the bowl to retrieve an apple.