We (Pastor Don & Teri) had a wonderful time visiting Sally Seefried and Phil and Alan Carmichel in Welkom, working on projects, attending the 70th birthday of a ministry friend, interacting with the children still there over the holidays, and celebrating Christmas at The Pines. It was a very different experience, since we are used to cold and snow for the Christmas season, but it is a great memory, and the real meaning remains unchanged.
We had smooth travel to Knysna, where we enjoyed renewing fellowship and talking ministry and missions philosophy and practice with Dave and Julie Rudolph, reconnecting with Phil and Kristen Golson, meeting new team members, spending time with , and visiting with other friends in Knysna. We also got to see ocean-side areas of the Knysna Heads that we had never seen before.
We had an uneventful trip to Stellenbosch, where we stayed in a clean, cozy room-especially cozy, since it was outfitted with bunk beds. I think the desk clerk found that particularly amusing, but we managed just fine. Teri's flight out of Cape Town was delayed, so she missed her connection in Johannesburg and had to stay overnight (the second time this trip, for her). She just made her connection in D.C. and arrived to around 10 inches of snow in Denver-quite a change from Africa! That did result in cancellation of Wednesday and Thursday classes at BEBS, however, so she did not miss any teaching responsibilities. She is back teaching and trying to get over jet lag.
I just barely made my boarding deadline in Johannesburg, but there was a 45 delay for some reason, so I really didn't need to run halfway across the airport to get my Etihad boarding pass, annoy scores of people by being escorted to the front of the very long, very slow security line, and sprint to the end of the terminal (I don't know about your flights, but my gate always seems to be one of the last ones), spurred on by my "official" escort crying, "Hurry, sir, or you must miss your flight!"
The flight to Abu Dhabi went well, but we arrived in a dense fog (both me and the plane), and with visibility of 25 yards, I couldn't see any of the city. The transition to Air India went smoothly, and I arrived on time in Hyderabad, with luggage showing up soon thereafter. Customs went without a hitch, and Solomon Raju picked me up and whisked me to my lodgings. While in Hyderabad I preached 6 times, visited 8 churches, traveled about 1,200 km, ate a lot of curry (no stomach issues yet, praise the Lord!), and saw lots of animals (like water buffalo, pigs, dogs, cows--most of them on the roads), tens of thousands of motor cycles, only slightly fewer auto rickshaws, etc. It's been an incredible blessing to see church plants thriving, national leaders being trained, and buildings being funded and built largely by their congregations. I am very humbled by the generosity of so many believers, many of whom have so little compared to me. There are so many needs . . .
I have much to share about my first visit in India, but I will save that for another email. It's midnight here in Vellore (about 120 km from Chennai), where I am now staying in the home of Christopher and Mini Jothiratnam. That makes it about 11:30 am in Denver, so the update should make it in time for church tonight.