I am on my way home after a 'listening' visit with Langham, as distinct from the usual 'training' trip, to East Africa and North India. The idea is to absorb the conversations of key people and then to participate in decisions which can progress the work the next stage.
In East Africa, the Langham Preaching coordinators from Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania gather amidst the occasional burst of gunfire as the second day of riots heat up. We evacuate our little hotel situated at the heart of the troubled area and gather at a (brother's) niece's place, overlooking the 15th green of the Kampala Golf Course. Not too shabby - and safe. Listening to Mercy (Kenya), Frank (Tanzania), Julius and Barbara (Uganda) for a day is a privilege.
But throughout my time in Kampala my heart keeps moving DOWN a generation... My son Stephen is working there. Within weeks of completing his BA/LLB(Hons) he is off on a plane to work as a volunteer in a Refugee Law Project for a year. His work revolves around gathering the stories of refugee-children in a way that builds his ability to advocate for them. My heart is full of admiration for what he is doing. After a full Mon-Fri in the office with refugees and people, he heads off on Saturdays to walk through the slum-y areas of Kampala to chat though a questionnaire he has devised for the children. I saw the pages and pages of handwritten notes from conversations with child after child, each one valued and respected. While his focus remains on the children, his Dad can't help notice the inadequate funding, the inadequate housing, and the inadequate social networks with which he lives - yes, it is hard to say good-bye.
In North India, fifteen leaders gather, amidst the incessant sound of car-horns, for two days of consultation about how to have Langham Preaching commence in the region. There are pastors and theological educators, student workers and doctors. We gather in a massive suburb called Noida (across the Jumuna River) which didn't exist when I lived in Delhi. Crossing the Jumuna, I am reminded again why the Commonwealth Games in 2010 will not include the triathalon. There is no large body of water in Delhi safe enough!
But throughout my time in Delhi my heart keeps moving UP a generation... My parents and my parents-in-law gave a combined total of 65 years to the church in North India. My in-laws finished up as Senior Pastor of Delhi Bible Fellowship (DBF). [NB - it was within that church community that I took early and decisive steps in my walk with God]. Thirty years later, on that first night, I find myself sitting across from Devendra and Robin, two of the pastors of DBF today. I hear them talk of Internship programmes and a School of Biblical Teaching which has an influence extending well beyond DBF. Dream come true stuff for the in-laws! I wish they could have been sitting where I sat.
My parents founded one of the earliest and most effective indigenous mission organisations that there is today anywhere: the Emmanuel Hospital Association (EHA). Forty years later I find myself sharing a room with Raju (on the far right above). Raju was an Indian neurologist in London doing very well for himself, thank-you very much. Then he heard God's call to an EHA hospital that was about to close. It had become so dysfunctional. He made his offer and laid down his conditions... Just six years later the impact of that hospital as the beach-head for work in community health, education, micro-enterprise, evangelism in a manner which is transforming an entire district is breathtaking. Dream come true stuff for my parents. I wish they could have been sitting where I sat.
I was left to enjoy it all vicariously...