Dr. LeMasters’ Blog

July 24th, 2013

Dr. Philip LeMasters spent two weeks with us in India. Upon returning to the states he wrote a marvelous blog reflecting on his experience here. I hope you’ll read it:

Thoughts on Christianity in India

           At the risk of drawing overly broad conclusions, I would like to share a few thoughts about what American Christians may learn from their brothers and sisters in India.  A small religious minority in a country with a vast population and a wide mix of cultures, the Indian Christians I met over the last two weeks are under no illusions of being a dominant force in their society, let alone the brokers of political power.  Their faith is not associated with a particular party or interest group; instead, it gives every impression of focusing on bearing witness to the love of Christ and maintaining the practices and attitudes of discipleship.
 One such practice is ministry to the poor, needy, and outcast.  For example, Light Life Ministries in Aurangabad runs a home for orphans and other children whose parents cannot properly care for them, as well as a school and a ministry to lepers.  St. John’s English School serves children from families of very modest means who want a private education superior to that of the public system.  When it comes to lepers, literally no one else in the city has anything to do with them.  The lepers we met included people of different religious backgrounds, but they all experienced the presence of the Lord Jesus in the hospitality shown by Light Life Ministries.
Outside the city of Nagpur, India’s Orthodox Church (which traces its heritage back to St. Thomas the Apostle) sponsors a theological seminary where the students begin their day with prayers at 5 am, share a disciplined communal life, and have permission to go into town once a week for a few hours on Sunday afternoon.   By our society’s hedonistic standards, that kind of spiritual commitment by young men is hard to understand.   But to prepare pastors who seek God’s kingdom above all else, at least a bit of asceticism is in order.  Adjacent to St. Thomas Orthodox Theological Seminary is a home for mentally retarded children called the Prerana Special School, which provides a residential education for vulnerable kids who are easily neglected and abused in any society.
By running schools, seminaries, and ministries to the weak and marginalized, Indian Christians manifest the love and mercy of Jesus Christ both by what they say and what they do.  In a society where religious conversion is complicated and it is often a real accomplishment for different groups simply to live in peace, the Christians seek to treat everyone as the Lord treats us all.  Their practices count for little by worldly standards and certainly will not make them rich, famous, or powerful.  Nothing wrong with that, of course, because our Lord’s  kingdom is not of this world.  Yes, we American Christians have a lot to learn from our brothers and sisters in India, for they remind us to live out what we proclaim with a generous and humble spirit.

http://easternchristianinsights.blogspot.in/2013/07/thoughts-on-christianity-in-india.html

Additional blogs from the India team

July 16th, 2013

We will update this blog soon. In the meantime, here are personal blogs from several members of our India team:

http://chelseagriffithinindia.blogspot.in/ (Chelsea Griffith’s blog)

http://caitieisgoingtoindia.wordpress.com/ (Caitie Wood’s blog)

http://hartnessdakota.wordpress.com/ (Dakota Hartness’s blog)

http://terezagoestoindia.blogspot.com/ (Tereza Sliter’s blog)

http://lsm02e.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/day-4/ (Le’Ann Ardyono’s blog)

 

We made it to India!!

July 11th, 2013

While in the airport in Germany awaiting our plane to Mumbai, I saw a stunning woman. She was an older woman, but every time I looked at her I had to smile! She reminded me of the beautiful willow tree in “Pocahontas.” Her wisdom shown through her face and she had a calm serenity about her… She was beautiful!

We have all made it safely to our hotel in Mumbai! The plane rides were interesting as well as a bit frightening in some instances, but all and all it was good!
I have been picking up things as I go along to remember for any future traveling I may have!
When you ride a German Airline, expect to hear a LOT of German!
The VERY warm towelettes the flight attendants pass out are for you to wipe your hands!
DO NOT hit your head on the rail in the very small airplane bathroom… It hurts
Euros are a rip off! McDonald’s chicken nuggets shouldn’t cost 9,99 euros (making them $20)
Airplane food is very good, until you hit foreign countries… (Germany was good though!)
If you are not looking for the good, YOU WILL find the bad in EVERY situation!
Indian charter buses are pretty neat!
A lot of honking goes on in India, and I am glad I don’t have to drive because they drive strange!
Tomorrow we are basically taking a day to rest! More pictures to come soon! God Has BIG Plans!

Day One in India

July 11th, 2013

Well I woke up this morning at 2:30 Indifit time, due to the sleepiness I acquired during our plane ride! When I woke up (well actually Rachael had to wake me up or I would have slept more) my view was of a beautiful tree! I LOVE THE TREES HERE!
So we went to lunch, and I do have to admit most everything is pretty spicy! Haha! Lots and lots of chicken, but it was all very good.
After lunch the group went to a Hare Krishna temple. The people who worship in this temple belong to a sect, or denomination, of the Hindu faith. It was very interesting to walk with out my shoes on in a place it could still rain… While touring we had a tour guide who talked about the founder. In doing so he told us the religion started in the 1960′s in New York and the founder started with the Hippies! He told us the founder, “Turned Hippies into Happies!” Haha!
We are blessed to have the sweetest tour guide, his name is Ameed. When he told us about his religion, which is a type of Hindu, he told us, “My way of worship is to serve you!” He is very sweet and VERY helpful!
Tomorrow we will go to a Buddhist Temple and to a Resort where we will eat lunch.
As I look around I amazed at some of the things I see. There are SO MANY people here! I know we all think America is crowded, but it is a very different kind of crowded here. I am glad I don’t have to drive here either because it looks TERRIFYING!
And yet it is beautiful here! I LOVE THE TREES!
Keep Praying!

Haiti, Here We Come!! By Kee Kee Williams

June 20th, 2013
We recieved this message from Kee Kee Williams, McMurry class of ’12, yesterday afternoon.  We sure love it when alumni decide to join one of our McMurry in Motion teams!!
 
 
Hello!!!!!! Sitting at the airport waiting on this plane, so I decide, well not really me, but Jessica decides that its time for blog post!!!
So here is the 411…… last night was awesome, we ate like Thanksgiving!!
 
S/O (shoutout) to Holly, Allison and Karen for the great food!!!!! Last night I got to share a bed with world’s greatest bed fighter!!! She was tossing and turning, right hook, then left hook and then at some point in the middle of the night the bed gave up and she won!!!! The most amazing feeling in the world when the bed stops  moving!!!!
Then 5 AM rolled around and I got an awesome wake up snuggle from Bethany!!!!!! Wow what a wonderful face to wake up to!!!  Well the airplane leaves in about an hour and I am SUPER EXCITED about what God has in store for us in Haiti!!!!  
 
Keep us in your prayers and look forward to reading the rest of the blogs this next week!!!

 
Kee’Twana “Kee Kee” Williams
 
ps. The next coming posts may not be as awesome as this one, but they will be worth the read. :)

Living in Tension, Mark Waters

May 22nd, 2013

“If you want to be nice and warm and comfortable in the Christian life, don’t get serious about being a real Christian and don’t get serious about doing anything about the world in which you live…. If you get serious about these things, you’ll live in constant tension” (T.B. Maston, Christian Ethicist).

Our team is doing well, but we are experiencing a bundle of emotions combined with the tension described above. The past two days in the West Bank stand in stark contrast to our time in Zimbabwe. Though we witnessed real pain and suffering in Zimbabwe, we found much joy combined with what I can only call Spirit-filled celebration. In Palestine/Israel, on the other hand, religion is much more a point of division than celebration or joy. Before I explain what I mean, I want to express that my deepest conviction is that ALL people are created in the image and likeness of God. ALL people are of immeasurable value and are worthy of love. In other words, the tension that I’m about to express is absolutely NOT intended to reject or demonize anyone. I simply want to express what I’ve seen, what I have witnessed. We have to see inhumanity and injustice for what it is in order to be find ways to serve those who are hurting and/or seek to change systems that cause the pain.

So, back to my point that religion in the West Bank seems to be much more a point of contention than celebration or joy: Many Israelis, especially ultra-Orthodox Jewish settlers, treat Palestinians (Christians and Muslims) as if they were sub-human. Think of Native Americans relegated to reservations via a trail of tears, oppressed and segregated African Americans without equal civil rights, or Black South Africans during Apartheid, and you’ll have an image of how Palestinians are treated here.  We have had extensive conversation with Palestinian Christians in the West Bank and with a Palestinian Muslim family in Hebron. Members of this family have been beaten and mistreated by Israeli soldiers and by Orthodox Jewish settlers for a period of years. Unfortunately, their story is all too common. Frankly, our U. S. news sources do not portray what we have found here.

Of course, there is another side to the story. We met with Messianic Jews in Jerusalem who expressed this other side. They are dedicated, peaceful, faithful Jewish people who are followers of  Jesus as their Messiah. They oppose and resist the mistreatment of Palestinians, yet they believe the wall in the West Bank is necessary for security. They have a point,  but I still find it impossible–in my conscience at least–to justify the apartheid-like segregation of nearly seven million Palestinians in the name of security and for the sake of claiming land already owned by others for generations.

We also learned that a clear majority of Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel truly mistrust, even hate (?), Christians. They tend to associate all of us with the Inquisition and the Holocaust.

Anne Lamott’s words ring true, “You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” I recognize that I need to hear these words as as do those whom I would critique.

I almost feel guilty painting such a bleak picture because this has been a fantastic exploratory mission trip. But what I’ve described in Palestine/Israel is truly what we have learned, seen, and witnessed here. Having said this, I also want to say that blame only increases enmity, violence results in escalating violence, and demonizing others violates the image of God within everyone.

This is why I began this blog with the Maston quote. Our group, corporately and individually, is experiencing tension. One of the first sermons I ever preached, well over 30 years ago, was entitled, “The Security of Tension” and was inspired by Maston’s words. When we feel the tension of seeking to live the love of God in our world while witnessing ongoing violations of that love in others and in ourselves, perhaps…maybe…this tension is a sign that we are seeking a way through. Given the world in which we live, when we become too comfortable, when the tension ceases, is the time we should become more concerned. The tension is necessary.

We return to McMurry in two days. We not only return with our experiences; we return with dreams of collaborating with Africa University in Zimbabwe and with Bethlehem Bible College and Holy Land Trust in the West Bank. We return with dreams of living God’s Dream, globally and locally. The tension between the pain/enmity/oppression we have witnessed and God’s Dream is real. Perhaps we live in tension or we do not live faithfully at all.

Peace, Salaam, Shalom to all,

Mark Waters

 

 

The Orchards and Full and the Branches are Heavy, or a Hummus Kind of Day…

May 21st, 2013

More poignant blog post to come, but I’m operating on a few short hours of airplane sleep… which is basically no sleep at all.  So, a few disjointed thoughts will have to satiate you until one of my other, more lucid teammates can fill in all the details…

For those of you who don’t know, the first four years of my life were spent treading this rocky soil peppered with olive trees and grape groves.  I grew up in a house on a street on a hill in the small town of Beit Jala, right on the outskirts of Bethlehem… the town I’m sitting in right now.

Today, our tour guide happened to drive down a street in Beit Jala on our way to Hebron, the most poignant and violent example of ramifications of the ongoing occupation of the West Bank.  As I looked at the buildings we were passing, my eyes caught the words “the local Baptist church” beneath the beautiful Arabic script on one of the buildings.  Almost out of instinct, I looked to my left, grabbed the arm of our driver, and exclaimed, “that’s the house I grew up in.”

He turned around…

I stepped out of the car…

Carly followed and took a picture of me in front of the house that is a mosaleum of some of my earliest memories.

I walked to the driveway were I stuck a pebble into my nostril when I was Eli’s age (almost 3), observed the back porch upon which beggars would sit and eat the food my mother prepared for them, saw the frosted glass behind which my father would sit in quiet prayer and study each morning, and came undone.

This is the house in which I learned that being a Christian necessitates welcoming the stranger, where I learned that being a friend requires silence and work, not words, in the face of tragedy.  It’s where I learned that prayers should be shared in circles with kids weaving in and out of tree-trunk legs and that laundry is best dried from the roof.

Anis Mojani writes that “the orchards and full, and the branches are heavy,” and these words encapsulate the condition of my heart tonight.

Water keeps lapping at my eye lids as it swooshes back and forth in this bucket heart or mine.  I can’t construct a simple sentence without the lump in my throat, and I’m not even speaking. Some many memories are being relived.  So many heartaches are being discovered. I’m all kinds of messed up, you might say…

In Abilene, when I wake up feeling displaced and confused like this, I’ll mope around and Erin will simply ask, “Is today a Hummus kind of day.”  ”Yeah,” I’ll reply with the same sloshy-heart-bucket-tears… Today is a Hummus Kind of Day for sure.

Tim Palmer in front of his childhood home in Beit Jala, West Bank

Tim Palmer in front of his childhood home in Beit Jala, West Bank

 

It's a Hummus kind of day...

It’s a Hummus kind of day…

These words are still just as poignant and prophetic as they were over 40 years ago...

These words are still just as poignant and prophetic as they were over 40 years ago…

Come, Holy Spirit, Come

May 19th, 2013
The youth of Sarupinda UMC sing in the Sunday School room after the worship service on Sunday, May 19, 2013.

The youth of Sarupinda UMC sing in the Sunday School room after the worship service on Sunday, May 19, 2013.

As I sat beside the translator and began to speak to the congregation, the story of the Acts of the Apostles hit me with full force.

“All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them the ability.” (Acts 2:4)

Here I was, speaking words in English and finding them rolling off the tongue of my friend in Shona, the rhythm and fullness of their sounds giving them new life and creating music to my ears.

What a holy place to be on the day of Pentecost, worshiping with the people of Sarupinda United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe.

The entire experience was completely humbling. Upon hearing of our intention to worship at Sarupinda UMC, members of our team were invited to participate in the facilitation of worship.

Picture it, now, here we were: six lily white people, walking into a village church in Zimbabwe, with hearts open to what the people had to share with us, and we found ourselves up at the front, leading the people. This act of hospitality on the part of our new friends is consistent with our experience throughout our time at Africa University and the surrounding area.

After the Bible Study concluded, Tanner prayed, and I returned to my seat.  As the worship service began, Tim P. and Tanner joined the men’s choir, and after a few hymns in English and in Shona, Tim was invited lead the congregation in a song.  He leapt out of the choir loft and picked up the drum to take it to the front.

“This white boy is going to play the drum,” one of our friends from Africa University said to Bethany. “Is he serious?”

Of course, we all knew that Tim did intend to play and sing, and he did just that, very well, as he always does. It was beautiful to hear American and African voices singing together, “Oh . . . How He loves us so . . . Oh, how He loves us . . .”

Later in the service, Mark shared from Isaiah 40, verses 26-31, reminding us that in the crucifixion of Christ, God is saying, “I cry with you in your brokenness,” and in the resurrection, God says, “I am here to pick up the pieces with you and put you back together.”

Thanks be to God.

Just before Mark had begun preaching, I was invited to join the children, and some of them were complaining that our Sunday School room had no roof or anywhere to sit.

I told them the story of Jesus’ telling his disciples, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such as these belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:14).  They knew the story, and they smiled.

“God loves you,” I told them. “God loves the little children! Even if there’s no roof!” We all laughed together and praised God.

The celebration of God’s love continued as another friend from Africa University, invited us to his home for a delicious meal. We ate and talked and laughed and played with the children. I thought Carly’s young friend was going to try to come back to Texas with us.

It was a beautiful, Spirit-filled day, as we were reminded once again, as the pastor of Sarupinda said: “God knows no languages.”

May the Holy Spirit be upon us all.

Grace and Peace,

Amy Wilson Feltz

Ubuntu University

May 19th, 2013

Unlike most great things, the relationship between Africa University in Zimbabwe, Africa and McMurry University will not be coming to an end!

Sorry for our lack of communication via blog throughout the week! Our team members have been exhausting themselves at the expense of the future of McMurry in Motion, particularly with Africa University, and have been left physically, mentally, emotionally, but never spiritually, drained at the end of each day!

After 52 hours worth of flights, layovers, and road trips, our team finally arrived at Africa University at approximately 7:45 Tuesday night. Immediately we found ourselves overwhelmed by the hospitality, kind hearts, and love of our fellow brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe, Africa. After meeting with the Vice Chancellor, Chaplain, Faculty of Theology, Student Representative Council, and several other student organizations and faculty/staff members of Africa University, the idea of a potential partnership between McMurry University and Africa University began to flourish!

Conversations of establishing international study-abroad, student-exchange, and internship programs in the near future were brought to the surface throughout the week, and seemed to continually drive members of both institutions to believe that this dream could indeed become a reality! The dream is alive!

More importantly, the relationships the members of our team established throughout the week with students of Africa University, which collectively represent 29 countries from all around the continent of Africa, led to the creation of a brand new institution, Ubuntu University. Ubuntu, which means “I am because we are”, or “togetherness”, serves as the foundation of the relationship between McMurry and Africa University, similar to that of the Body of Christ. After several “cultural nights” we spent in community with one another mutually learning specifics of the diversity of cultures being represented, the Facebook page “Ubuntu University” was created! (check it out!)

As we are ending our last night together in celebration of the short, yet beneficial and meaningful, time together with the last of our “cultural nights”, the Holy Spirit began to reveal His work in each of our hearts throughout the duration of this trip. As our team began to reflect on the condition of our hearts and souls, many hearts became softened, and many lives became changed.

Throughout our time in Zimbabwe, Africa this week, our team has been witness to severe poverty, an overwhelmingly understaffed hospital in Old Mutare, an unemployment rate of 98%, an orphanage that fails to have its needs met, and several other issues that have simply broken our hearts.

Personally, with this being my first overseas mission trip (first time out of the United States for that matter), each of these previously listed things hit me extremely hard. I couldn’t seem to wrap my mind around the fact that while there are thousands among thousands of individuals starving in Zimbabwe, there also several, just around the corner, who are dining at 5-star restaurants. Today during our visit to Mutare, Zimbabwe, we were among the select few enjoying the delicacies of a very classy and formal restaurant. The moment we walked through the doors I became overwhelmed with conviction and my heart began to break even more for those, literally just around the corner, who are in desperate need of relief. I battled with this conviction throughout the entire day. The conviction did nothing but strengthen as we made our way into the beautiful African mountains to Leopard Rock Resort. I eventually got to the point to which this conviction was too heavy to carry, and poured out my heart and soul to my team members. On the verge of tears, the Holy Spirit revealed something to me that I had been desperately searching for.

Before this trip, and up until this point, I was struggling in the discernment process of just what exactly my purpose was on this trip. It seemed as if everyone (Tim, Dr. Waters, Amy, Carley, and Bethany ) had a specific calling and/or reason to be here, while I on the other hand, was left wondering. However, after tonight’s revelation brought to me through the Holy Spirit, I quickly realized why it is I am here. My purpose in joining this Exploratory Mission Team was for no reason other than to soften a heart of mine that had been hardened, corrupted, and simply blinded by the materialistic things of this world in which we live. Tonight God softened a heart that was once hard and opened eyes that were once blind to the horrific conditions our brothers and sisters of not only Africa, but all across the world and sometimes just right around the corner, live in on a daily basis that can never be accurately portrayed by any picture in a magazine or commercial on television, and for that, I am thankful.

For those of you searching for ways in which you can be the hands and feet of Christ, remember that traveling to the other side of the world may or may not be the answer, because more times than not, the most desperate needs are just right around the corner! I pray that this radical change of heart that  I have experienced will provide testimony and a sense of encouragement/awareness to the students, faculty, and staff members of McMurry University, and in the same way in which my heart has  been radically changed, the face, heart, and identity of McMurry University will also be changed!

With a softened heart, opened eyes, and much love,

Tanner Swinford/Exploratory Mission Team

From the Heathrow Airport

May 13th, 2013

Have you ever had that feeling in the pit of your stomach that feels like you’ve just been punched? That feeling where you’re not sure if you want to throw up or cry, but you can’t seem to do either one? I remember standing in the Religious Life Office over a year ago when I heard Martha Chace say that McMurry would be travelling to Africa the next summer. It was one of those feelings you can’t explain, but I remember something welling up inside of me as soon as I heard those words. I wasn’t sure why I knew it, but I knew that’s where I was going to go.

It’s a year later and I’m sitting in the Heathrow airport with the same disposition. I’m still not exactly sure why God has called me here, but I know this is where I’m supposed to be.  The feeling in the pit of my stomach hasn’t completely gone, and I still can’t articulate what exactly it is, but whatever it is keeps me moving forward.

As far as travelling goes, we’ve arrived in London this morning and have been keeping ourselves entertained for the past few hours. Fish and chips, a few poop stories, card games, and lots of different accents. Tim was right when he said the most beautiful are found in the airport. We’ll leave in a little bit for our next flight to Ethiopia.

Bethany says “FISH AND CHIPS!” (That’s a shout out to Ricky!)

Mark says “Hello everyone!”

God is at work. I know it. And other with being slightly frustrated because I can’t quite articulate what that looks like, I’m okay with it. Thanks for your continued prayers.

Peace,

Carly Payne and the Zimbabwe/West Bank Team

Leaving from DFW with NO CHECKED BAGS!

Leaving from DFW with NO CHECKED BAGS!