Thursday, April 20, 2006

Reflection: Skip Dodge

The March 2006 India Construction Mission trip to the Village of Anumanthai Kappam, India (just north of Pondicherry) challenged me in all ways. I will never be the same again as there are new challenges ahead of me now. The love that has developed for the people of India has consumed my mind since I have returned and I wish I could do so much more for the people of India.

I have learned so much during the Mission Trip to India, but most importantly I learned that Love is the same in any culture, language, or country. To be in India to build houses for the handicapped who had lost their houses from the Tsunami was so awesome. The love and passion that has built up in my heart for the people of India will forever be with me.

I was challenged as I met one of the house owners who had polio in his right foot. He was up walking around and I thought about how he was so happy despite his condition. He kept us company as we dug holes the first day and through out the week he would come by to say hi. Seeing him made all my tiredness seem like nothing.

I learned to communicate with Indian people with and w
ithout a translator. It’s amazing what just a smile and actions can mean when you can’t speak to one another. I also got the opportunity get to know my team mates better even ones I didn’t know at all before going.

I learned the true meaning of team through-out the whole week, but especially while we were in Paris. Everyone stuck by my side during the moments of getting through the Paris Security. I was scared, but at the same time felt a sense of peace. It’s in the times of testing when you truly find out who is there for you and this team was there for me. We had a great leader, Jack Magruder who was in charge of the trip.

Sunday, March 26, 2006 celebrated my 10th year from becoming a Christ-Follower. It was so awesome to be able to share my testimony in the Church Planter’s Churches, India, the country I started out in. So many emotions flooded my mind as the day and trip went on. Again I felt so unworthy of the life Christ had called me to in America, but how I had recommitted myself to do whatever it is that Christ has called me to do.

What changed me the most was meeting Murali. Murali was a carefree little 8 year old boy whose smile and character melted my heart. When I think about Murali, I am always reminded that the Lord calls us to be child-like and not to worry about what will happen, but to serve Him unconditionally. Murali’s smile and character will be with me forever and I gave Murali my bandana as a part of me in hopes that he will realize that I came in the name of Jesus to help him and others of India.

Before heading home.......

On Thursday before heading home the team had the opportunity to visit St. Thomas - one of the twelve disciple's tomb.

Also had the opportunity to shop at Spencer Plaza.

And then went to the Meridian for supper before going to the airport to depart back to the U.S.

The Finished House

On Wednesday we finished House #1 and had the house dedication. We were presented with "lays" from the Indian people which had wonderful smelling flowers.

Here is the team receiving their "lays"

Villiage Culture Program

Tuesday evening the Villiage of Anumanthai, India put on a little cultural show for us. Here all the kids are on the stage dancing for us.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Here in India, the masons leave a one-brick wide hole in the walls in order to have "slots" into which to put the poles for the scaffolding when they construct it on the outside of the building in order to plaster and mortar over the brick.

Chad is playing "Peekaboo" here... mainly just because i asked him too for the picture.

Indian Geography 101...

Randy Haycock gets a lesson in Indian geography from the TBL guys! Click here to see this humorous but memorable 101 survey.

Point of Interest from The Shogun...

Just got an e-mail from Rob (we're both in India, but are about 8 hours apart from each other at the moment). He said that he has uploaded an on-line photo album of his pictures from this trip so far. Unlike our team (with predominately a construction focus), he has been visiting churches and training church planters, as well as conducting the graduation for the next "batch" of Purpose Driven Training pastors. Click here to go to his album.

Digital Postcards: Balloo

We can’t do “digital postcards” without at least having one TBL guy give you a shout out! Seen here is Balloo (like the Bear from Kipling’s Jungle Book), one of the TBL team leaders and certainly one of the most comical and fun people you will ever meet. Click here to see Balloo’s message to everyone back home!

Digital Postcards: Samuel Peter

Samuel Peter also had something to say, so we filmed it and am including it here. Click
here to see Samuel Peter’s “digital postcard” to you guys back home.

Digital Postcards: Tina Kiehn

Tina Kiehn is an official honorary team member! She works for Habitat as a Site Volunteer Coordinator, and is an amazing person. She has worked for Americor, and now lives in Pondicherry where she helps coordinate local Indian Habitat builds with outside partners (such as GCC/TBL). She has a great sense of humor, is an exceptionally hard worker, and has helped to keep the team’s morale and spirits flying high. When I asked her to take a crack at a “digital postcard”, this is what she said (click here).

Digital Postcards: Elaine Bader

Click here to see Elaine Bader's digital postcard.

Digital Postcards: Terry Akins

Click here to see Terry Akin's digital postcard.

Digital Postcards: Kevin Maggert

Click here to see Kevin Maggert's digital postcard.

Digital Postcards: Shelly Jackson

Click here to see Shelly Jackson's digital postcard.

Digital Postcards: Skip Dodge

Click here to see Skip Dodge's digital postcard.

Digital Postcards: Velma Rassi

Click here to see Velma Rassi's digital postcard.

Digital Postcards: Les Rassi

Click here to see Les Rassi's digital postcard.

Digital Postcards: Sue Haycock

Click here to see Sue Haycock's digital postcard.

Digital Postcards: Randy Haycock

Click here to see Randy Haycock's digital postcard.

Digital Postcards: Dan Blacketor

Click here to see Dan Blacketor's digital postcard.

Digital Postcards: Shannon Papp

Crew! I SUPER apologize for this, but i somehow lost Shannon's "postcard" in the transfer from my Cybershot to my laptop. I'll get it again tomorrow and re-upload it as soon as i can. Sorry... stay tuned! -samurai jack

Digital Postcards: Chad Anderson

To see Chad Anderson's digital postcard, click here.

A Good Word!

Many of the fishing vessels along the coast have the word PREPARE painted on their sides. I thought initially that this might be a reminder to be ready for the likelihood of another tsunami, but it turns out that PREPARE is actually an organization that has organized and provided fishing vessels for the families that lost theirs when the tsunami hit. A family without a livelihood is a family that has (or quickly will have) more problems than just lack of work, so PREPARE works to source corporate and individual donors to supply boats and some other materials (such as tackle and netting) back to those who lost them. Still, the irony of the word and the fact that they were plastered onto the side of the livelihoods of those who suffered most from the tsunami was striking. PREPARE indeed!

This Wasn’t a Prop From “Jaws”…

Want to see what happens when a 35 foot wave picks up a fishing vessel and smashes it into the village ½ mile inland? This boat was fractured cleanly into 3 segments, and is still sitting useless along the shore. One of the things that amazed us the most about these villages is that the debris from houses, boats and everything else has pretty much been “locked in time” and doesn’t look much different than it did 16 months ago. Some additional pictures here show how boat hulls have only rudimentarily been fashioned into shelters, and the skeleton shells of many houses wiped away still remain untouched.

Tsunami Wake...

After work today, we had the opportunity to tour 3 other tsunami-affected villages where Habitat is working. In each village, we were amazed at how much devastations still exists now that the tsunami is some 15 months past. In many instances, the same debris still lines the shoreline as it did 2 weeks after the disaster, and in many cases, “life as normal” still has not resumed for the people most affected by it. You can also see on most of the houses that actually survived just exactly how high up the water came. Pictured here is one of our friends from Habitat marking the high water stain on a house nearly ½ mile from shore! Most houses that were made of traditional Indian materials (such as thatch and wood) did not survive at all. Most that were made of sturdier materials such as mud and plaster had some minimal success in withstanding the waves. Even a good number of brick homes were completely decimated as well. In the three villages that we visited, a total of about 35 – 40 people lost their lives in the tsunami. Most of those people were children who lacked the ability to swim to shore, or were not strong enough to tread water until help arrived.

He's Good... But Not God!

Chad’s a pretty spiritual guy, but he’s not walking on water in this picture. Rather, he and some of the team went down to the beach behind the TWR facility for a morning stroll before heading to the work site.

The "Almost Perfect" Con...

A young man approached Terry yesterday and asked him for an American dollar bill. “Why?” Terry asked. The young man replied that he wanted to use it as a bookmark as he had always been a fan of American money. When Terry said that he hadn’t brought any American money with him that day, the young man thought for a moment and then said, “Well, I guess 50 rupees would do instead.” (Note: $1 = 50 Indian Rupees). Nice try! :- ):

Guinea Birds: The Ultimate"dog"

The Trans World Radio compound we are using as a residence and “base” is a delightful spot and is ideally suited for groups ranging in size from 6 to 2,500 (yes, can you believe that they actually have housing capacity for 2,500 people???). The grounds are carefully maintained, and some basic wildlife abounds within the walls. Among them are these Guinea Birds. They squawk at anything and everything, and sound somewhat like an Indian variation of a wild turkey. People say that they’re phenomenal watchdogs… except that they’re not dogs, of course.

Shovel Art!

Okay, so we just thought it would be fun to do some creative stacking with the shovels. Hey, if people can weld spoons and pop cans together and all it modern art, why can’t we stack shovels and call it the same? I call the top one, “Pixie Parade Under an Azure Twilight“, the middle one, “Swan Sonata in Blue“, and the bottom one, “Bob”. We’ll start the bidding at $10,000.00… any takers?

The Multipurpose Mumtee!

I have a quick MPEG of Shannon Papp mixing mortar with a Mumtee (and a vengeance!). A Mumtee is kind of like a “reverse shovel”, but is one of the massively multi-purpose tools used here in India for everything from digging, chopping, mixing and…well… anything else you can think of. Click here to see how you really use this unique Indian tool!

Feeling Crabby!

These little crabs abound along the coastal regions of India in the tsunami zone. They are about the size of a silver dollar and will fit comfortably in the palm of your hand. They sure are cute little guys, but they’re fast as lightning, so you have to be quick to catch them.


Oops! After gorging ourselves at Pizza Hut, we returned to the Trans World center to find that the staff had prepared supper for us. I turned to one of our TBL friends and said, “Hey, we’re all wasted and stuffed… will it offend him if we don’t eat?” “Oh yes, it will…” was the response. So, a few token members of the team loosened our belts and prepared to eat until we couldn’t swallow. Shown here is Chad Anderson’s perspective on how he felt afterward.

Never Thought You'd Be So Happy To See a Pizza Hut!

Recipe for Ecstacy:
100 gallons of hard work
6 gallons of sweat
2 quarts of Gatorade
9 quarts fatigue
8 pints of roller-coaster travel
30 gallons of cultural over-stimulation
3 Pizza Hut pizzas
3 Pitchers of Pepsi
19 Servings of Vanilla ice-cream with chocolate syrup

Combine in order listed above. Stir vigorously. Enjoy!

After our Sunday Market experience, we trekked to an actual Pizza Hut in Pondicherry, and let me tell you, Pizza Hut pizza never tasted so good! Of course, overseas, Pizza Hut is a delicacy, so the restaurant is immaculately maintained, staffed with waiters and waitresses who make you feel as though you have stepped into The Drake Hotel in Chicago, and they even serve your pizza for you when they bring it to your table. Despite the surreality of that experience, combine a few pizzas, some Pepsi and some ice cream for dessert, and you’d be surprised at how happy you can feel. Better than drugs! Humorously, for 19 people to eat until they were completely stuffed only cost about $40 (including tip). Maybe I’ll try to pay in Rupees the next time we order at home in the States.

The Team In Action... In Another Way!

On Sunday, the team split up to visit TBL church planters in their villages and areas of influence. Our two groups went in opposite directions and had fantastic experiences engaging the Indian worship experience. In addition, each team member had the opportunity to either “preach”, share their testimony, or pray for the church and ministry of the church planter, and each member of the team was profoundly impacted by the experience. Most TBL church planters organize house churches that range in size between 12 and 200, and many (if not most) meet in people’s homes, small rooms with dirt or concrete floors, or are small one-room church buildings with simple furnishings. One of the church planters leaned over to me at dinner the other day and with a measure of excitement in his voice said, “So, tell me… is your church air conditioned?” I smiled and affirmed that it was. He thought for a moment, and then leaned in again, “Yes, but the whole church?” “Yes, I replied… the entire church is air conditioned.” “Ah…” he smiled, “someday… yes… my vision is to have a church that is air conditioned as well… I think that will help people to want to come!” I smiled to myself and felt a tinge of conscience as well. If only my Indian friend had any clue about what we enjoy at GCC, he would probably have a seizure. We are truly blessed… and often, our Asian and African brothers and sisters far exceed us in how much they are able to accomplish with so little to use as tools.

Featured here are Elaine delivering a sermon at an Indian church, Skip and Les delivering their testimonies, and Shannon, Velma and Shelly praying for the church planters, as well as Shelly holding a small India baby who came to her quite willingly.

Fun Note: The day that Skip delivered her testimony was her 10th “anniversary” of deciding to follow Christ! How cool that she was back in India (her country of origin) on the day that she commemorated one decade of her journey with our Lord!