Monday, 30 April 2012

Faith Is Not for the Faint of Heart

Today I went to the hospital to be poked and prodded and have tubes pushed down my nose, all in an effort to determine if I could surgically correct my deviated septum. What I did not know was that there would be a total of six medical students in the exam with me, peering up my nostrils and taking notes to determine the problem. There was plenty of time to wait--I was shuffled in and out of exam rooms, and at one point in time I found myself in an empty corridor with a man in a leather jacket. Tattoos peeked over the top of his collar, a skull inked on his right hand, "Believer, Bought by Blood" emblazoned across the back of his jacket.
I was impressed. "So, when did you become a Christian?"
"Well..." he dragged his words. "That's a difficult question. I mean, what does it even mean to be a Christian?"
I was a little confused. "To believe in Jesus. To know that God has to redeem us because we can't do it on our own. I'm a Christian," I added, hoping to help him out. "Always been one. Well, actually my parents are Christians, but when I was fourteen I made the personal decision to follow Christ because I realized that following God would always be better than anything life could give me."
The man stared at the wall, avoiding my gaze. "When did I become a Christian? It's hard to say..." He paused again. "Always and never."


If you're going to be one of those bearded, tattooed Christians that wears biker jackets with crosses and statements of faith scrawled across the entirety of your back--if you've necessarily decided to make public your private faith--then you had better be ready to answer the curious mind with more than a faltering, half-hearted, no-answer, so watered down it trembles with the paroxysms of the incurable people-pleaser and bears little resemblance to the original creed. I must admit I was a bit disappointed to see that the outward trappings of faith had seemingly nothing to do with actual conviction. 

Sunday, 29 April 2012


I had every intention of writing to you all, but it is currently eight o'clock in the evening and I am too tired to do much at all. It seems that recovering from forty-eight hours spent in transit cannot be cured by one night's rest. Tomorrow I will have the strength. Tomorrow. 

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Glimpses of Jharsuguda

Ambassador, the most popular car in India

Everyone needs a push in the right direction, now and then.

"You've taken my picture," this woman told me. "Will I still go to heaven?"
We had to assure her that her salvation had nothing to do with picture-taking.

Howrah Station

We took a taxi to Howrah Station, crossing the massive metal Howrah Bridge, criss-crossing the path of everyone who was out-and-about pushing carts and carrying trays and begging for rupees in the cooler night air. We would be boarding a night train, leaving Calcutta for the purple-painted Jharsuguda station, from which we would take a car to rural  Sundergarh to participate at the pastors' conference hosted by Pastor Pratap and his team. But before any of that, my father knotted his handkerchief around his neck and gazed out over the roiling masses at the train station.
"This," he said, "is my kind of life."
And after thirty-some years in the mission field, traversing the hot stretches of India and Myanmar and Nepal, he is more accustomed to the crowd and clamor of another culture than the perpetually quiet and well-tended streets of Sweden.

Our names on the billboard validating our existence

Taken from my top-bunk roost. Note my happy cow socks.

I have noticed that early morning chai always tastes better on trains.

Thursday, 26 April 2012


 I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.                                                                   - Mother Teresa

Victorian Memorial, a colossus left over from the colonial days 

A Hijra begs for money through the taxi window

Wednesday, 25 April 2012


In Singapore, my father was very often mistaken for the iconic blond Russian spy Ilya Kuryakin of Man from U.N.C.L.E. fame, embodied by David McCallum, now more widely-known for his role as Donald "Ducky" Mallard on NCIS. It happened so often that he stopped denying it altogether and let the taxi drivers take us to the nearest condominium because they simply could not believe we lived in such humble HDB abodes.

I can't deny that there is a certain international flair about my father; over the years he has come to possess many a personal identification travel card, which claim enough to be vague--an 'independent contractor' or 'tourist guide' or the ever ambiguous 'businessman.' Might we have an actual spy in our ranks?

I suppose it was only a matter of time before his acting talents were discovered. Since our acquaintance with Resh Marhatta, my father, Gunnar, Viktor, and Jari were all given small roles to play in Resh's upcoming action movie Challenge. Father even had a line or two. As for myself?  I've been made honorary on-set photographer and promotional agent to the West.

Jari knots his tie in silent contemplation

The negotiations begin

All in a day's work for an international man of mystery.

Kathmandu Football

Jari Kinnunen is a coach, and with his contacts in the sporting industry, he was allowed to coach the Kathmandu's Army football team during our stay in Nepal. His visit and methods proved so popular with the team that he was issued a standing invitation to come back whenever he wanted. He was, of course, also asked to come to the football game between the Army team and Bhaktapur on April 19--the day before my birthday--and given tickets for anyone who might like to join him.

So we did. I recommend seeing a football game in Kathmandu, not because of amazing footwork or quick turns (it was a rather slow game), but rather because of all the other goings-on in the arena. The birds, the peanut sellers, the water-lady, the spectators that saunter in half-time. Jari asked me to take pictures especially of the goalie, as he had coached him personally, and I didn't mind at all. I'd recommend clicking on some photos for a better look.

Man down, man down

The moment before the catch

Selling homemade rice to the spectators

Or perhaps you'd care for snacks?

"What do you think you'd have to pay for a cup of that water?" asked father.
"A night in the bathroom," said Gunnar.


I felt like a lot of the game was spent in this fashion.

Did I mention he is also the goalie for Nepal's national team?

And a nice guy.

After the game is done,
the field stands empty.
They turn the sprinklers on.