Prayer and Fasting

Wow. These last two days were intense. The entire India office of eMi put aside work and such to come together as one body devoted to time of prayer and worship. We fasted those two days also. We started and ended this fast with communion (beginning and end). I think I am still processing, but how amazing it is to be led in an hour and a half of worship and scripture reading and prayer by our director. We all took off our shoes/sandals and stood in a pretty tight ring all standing on a rug in the center of the room. We ended that time in a unique way that I think is spectacular. We all held up our left neighbor's right arm as we worshipped - signifying the fact that we are unified in purpose of bringing glory to God and we will be responsible to enable and support each other in this as well (think Exodus 17 when Moses' arms had to be held up so that the Israelites could be victorious). Amazing two days. It was a good experience for me in a couple of respects, one being that one of the staff and I facilitated the entire time, organizing the theme, schedules, people's responsibilities, and the opening and closing times.

This level of community I think I am going to miss when I go back to the States. If we could only introduce this kind of intentionality in the work place, in the home ... or even in the church. What amazing things God could do through us!


picture posting

We arrived in Rishikesh and began searching for a hotel. This is what we came across. There is a huge Shiva temple right off the Ganga (Ganges River) and they were doing an evening prayer/puja (worship). The people seated at the back of the image were taking turns doing a mantra and throwing small bits of stuff into the fire.

That night, we decided to hang out by the bank of the Ganga. We ended up laying on one of the ghats (landing or steps) and star gazing. This is a shot of the business side of Rishikesh across the river from the main tourist/yoga side.

This bridge is absolutely beautiful. Meet Laxman Jhula. Jhula means bridge in Hindi, and Laxman is a god. And naturally there is a story to explain the bridge and its significance. (If you want to know it, ask me later.) Am I in India? Gorgeous suspension bridge!

This is one reason why Rishikesh is a pretty cool hang out place. White water rafting in the Ganges (especially up river enough not to be utterly disgusting). The crowd of people on the rock ledge or cliff jumping into the river before getting back into their rafts. I really wish our insurance policy did not expressly restrict us from white water rafting. Shame to miss this opportunity.

On our way out of town, all these people in this temple kept circling and going up and circling and going up. Every time they passed a bell and it corresponding idol, they rang it. All of them ringing non-simultaneously and sporadically. The purpose of the bell is to wake up the idol so that it will be able to receive you. Wake up an inanimate little stone statue ...hmmm...

Meet a sadhu. There are many of these guys at all major Hindu religious places. He is a holy man. I am not sure why. To be a higher ranking sadhu: have a larger following than the next guy.

Thus marks the end of this sessions cultural education. Enjoy.

So ... this is the Ganga (Ganges River). These guys are doing a ritual washing.

Of course, any destination is not complete without vendors. You can buy anything you need to do a sufficient sacrifice to any god/goddess of your choosing. It is actually pretty sad because many people offer food offerings of chapati (like a tortilla or pita) and rice, and then put it in the river ... will many families have difficulty feeding themselves that same meal.

This is Haridwar (the first city on our excursion). We climbed to the top of that hill to the temple at the very top. And it was not cool/cold like it is in Mussoorie; it was hot! And that was a lot of steps. But I am glad we did it.

This is the view from partially up that hill on our unintentional climb. You can see the Ganga canal and the Ganga proper. They actually re-routed the river to go around the city and made the canal at a specified depth with flood gates so that they can control the current and water depth - keeping the pilgrims safer. Beautiful view.


cultural wandering

This weekend has been such an experience. Us four interns were sent of the mountain by ourselves for a cultural scavenger hunt. My friend and roommate put it this way: letting the chicks learn to fly. So flew we did.

We went down to Dehradun to catch a bus for Haridwar for the day and then to catch a bus from there to get to Rishikesh by evening. There we spent the night (after discovering where to stay and eat and such) and hung around the whole day exploring the city and people and heading back to Dehradun to get back to Mussoorie by night on Saturday. Crazy packed days.

Both Haridwar and Rishikesh are major Hindu pilgrimage spots because this is where the Ganga (Ganges River) leaves the mountains and enters the plains - and the Ganga is supposed to be sacred, life giving, cleansing, and where to die to get out of the reincarnation cycle. Needless to say, many people come to Haridwar for this: to purify their souls and give prasad (offerings of food or flowers and such) to a god (and do laundry if you live here). After sitting by the Ganga, observing people and praying over the city, we went looking for the way up to this temple on top of the hill directly behind the civic center. There was a chair lift (think ski slopes, kind of), but we could not find where to get on ... so we ended up walking up the entire distance. I am glad we didn't know where to go because it enabled us to walk the path that so many devoted Hindus walk and walk with them. The point of working to get to the temple and for traveling distances to even get to the city, is because they think this will make the gods/goddesses hear them and grant their prayers. There are so many who are caught in this thinking - that they have to work for freedom and eternal life of peace (also including Christians in this). We were determined to find the chair lift to get down, and so after multiple hand gestures and broken Hindi, we boarded the lift. To get back to the bus stand, we rode a tonga (horse pulled cart). Then off to Rishikesh.

Some may know the name Rishikesh, but where? The Beatles came here for meditation and to get away. This is hippie central. It is crazy to feel out of place not for being white - there are many Europeans here - but for not being hippied-out. I can see why it is the place to go for yoga and meditation though; it is beautiful, right at the juncture of the plains and the hills of the Himalayas. It has been difficult for me to see yoga through the Indian Christian's eyes. Here it is a spiritual stronghold even up here in Mussoorie. Meditating on inner centeredness or whatever (along with increasing your flexibility) does not seem so bad or dangerous to me, but what do I know. As far as I have gathered, there is something about making yourself god or at least the lack of need of god in your life because you can do it yourself and give yourself peace and life and goodness.

Anyway, we hung around Rishikesh, played in the Ganga, went in search of an elusive waterfall, wandered about a lot, shopped a bit, made new friends with locals, Indian tourists, and foreigners, and caught the bus back to Dehradun.

Church today was wonderful. We were all anxious to worship the one true God in fellowship with others. There are so many people who are so lost and are seeking truth, and people who are steering them in the wrong direction. I think I will be praying for these people for a long time.

I am still processing what I saw and experienced. And please correct me if the little I know about Hinduism and others is off; I am still learning. I will try to do a picture post tomorrow of these places ... and us in the Ganga (Ganges River).


heater expiration

This morning I received terrible news. We are no longer allowed to use our little space heaters anymore. Because it is now April, the office will not be paying for our heat. We were told by our wonderful India office director that if he allowed heater usage year 'round ... we would use it year 'round. Sad, sad day. I guess I will need to add a fifth blanket on my bed.