Searching For Pearls …loving God and the world.


Children’s Camp: Opening Night – by Amanda Yee – Day 5

>> Children's Camp: Day 1 of 3

Thursday night was the first day of our 3 day Children’s camp.  Each time we tried to work on our program, we felt completely unprepared and overwhelmed.  Wednesday night Dave and I made an executive decision to scrap the pre-packaged VBS program we brought and write our own.  It was a decision that was pretty much made out of desperation as the packaged lessons just didn’t make sense to us.  We decided on the theme The Miracles of Jesus.  It was a long night of brainstorming and we all went to bed feeling extremely uncertain of what the next day would bring.

Thursday morning during our team devotions, we all felt pretty defeated and worn out.  We prayed together and acknowledged we wouldn’t be able to get through this camp on our own strength, but were in desperate need of God’s help.  The rest of Thursday morning was spent cramming for that night.  We literally took this VBS one day at a time.

5:00pm approached a lot faster than we were ready for.  As we walked towards the building, you could hear the voices of the children singing praise songs.  That sound of them singing energized me and I suddenly felt ready to go.  Dave thought of doing our team introductions like they do for NBA teams, and the kids really got into it giving us high fives and cheering.  We started the night off with our theme song, “I’m keeping my eyes on Jesus” a song that we will never forget, even if we wanted to.  The kids loved it and did an awesome job even the first time around.

After the theme song was when the night got a bit shaky.  We started with an icebreaker that was a bit more challenging than we anticipated.  Each team had to race to line up in order – by height, age etc.  We later found out that the kids here don’t really play competitive games which is why our icebreaker pretty much failed.

The Bible lesson for the day was Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  We told the story using the kids as actors.  We then broke into small groups to discuss how we could apply the lesson to our lives.  The application time was the icing on the chaotic cake.  The language and cultural differences were a bit more of a barrier than we imagined.  The kids all understood the facts of the Bible story, but it was hard to help them make the connection to how it related in their own lives.  So application time turned into just talking with the kids.  They were very interested to know about our families, America, our hobbies.  Even though the day didn’t go like we would have wanted, seeing their smiles and their excitement despite all our mistakes was such a blessing.  These kids really radiate so much joy and love and you can’t help but smile when you see them.

by Amanda

>> Day 1 Video

>> Day 1 Video

Children's Camp 1 from Elton Lin on Vimeo.


The Day of Laughter and Sorrow – by Elton Lin – Day 4

It's been a long day... so let's begin.

Wednesday AM - Pastors' Training
I led a 4hr training session for the local Bible Faith Mission pastors [about 50 persons]. We did something similar last year on our first trip and made numerous cultural errors and did not present all too well. But God redeemed the time [thankfully]. And we learned a lot about the struggles of our new friends and what it means to be a Dalit Christian pastor. This year I felt like God was laying a simple message of encouragement to my brothers, to remind them that God has not forgotten them, that he won't leave and that he's doing a work through and in them. I took some time to encourage my brothers and was able to present some simple material on church-planting movements and discipleship. We'll leave the rest to God and see how He'll bear fruit from it.

Like last year, the pastors asked heartfelt questions. One pastor stood up and shared that there is a group in the US that is funding the construction of a large Hindu temple constructed here in Kerala; upon it's completion, it'll be shipped back to the US. He then asked, "How can we sustain when even the Christian countries are funding Hinduism here in India?" It was a very sobering moment and I was at a loss as to how to respond.

But the Holy Spirit was gracious to give me a simple response – that though the powers that oppress free movement of the Gospel seem insurmountable, the Gospel was meant to flourish in the margins, in places that seem least viable, in the midst of persecution, oppression and poverty. Maybe a reason we have not seen significant revivals in the United States?

In the end, it was another opportunity to learn more about the struggle of my brothers laboring to lead churches while working against government, extremists and caste. Please pray for these pastors and leaders – there is so much working against them and they teach us every time what it really means to take up our cross and follow.

Wednesday Afternoon – Children’s Camp Prep
We started looking at the VBS package that we purchased and realize that it was garbage. There’s not much more to say about it. So we began the process of writing our own stuff the night before. Yes, ambitious. We’ll see how it turns out tomorrow.

Wednesday Night – Dinner Debacle
So we decided that we’d cook for the Bishop and his family as an introduction to Chinese food, but primarily to give them a break. They’ve lovingly served us and it’s not easy to feed 7 people, breakfast, lunch and dinner.

It began with us taking stock of what we could cook. It came down to green beans, fried rice, stir fried chicken and green onion pancakes. Seemed doable. We started and things just took longer than we  expected. A few things that were working against us: foreign kitchen setup with stoves equivalent to camp burners, unfamiliar ingredients and not entirely understanding the preferences of the Indian tastebud.

When we were ready to eat, we were almost 45 minutes late [they normally eat at 8:15p], kitchen was a mess, food didn’t look quite right and we didn’t even have time to finish the fried rice. There was this feeling of impending doom.

When we finished praying, the Bishop’s wife scooped some green beans that we stir-fried with some Hoisin sauce. And as she put the bean in her mouth, she immediately spit it back out and quickly moved  [by hand] each bean to Bishop’s plate. I had to stop my mouth from dropping to the floor. I looked at Dave and he had this expression of pure dejection and later quipped, “Tonight, I’d rather have been a coward than a failure.” We were pretty embarrassed!

The chicken and the onion pancakes had a better reception. But it was hard to ignore the pain of green bean “FAIL”. Bishop’s daughter Keren said it well, “My mind says yes, but my mouth says no!” We were able to really laugh it off as we finally made it to the end of dinner. Keren even joked that they would take a picture of the dinner and put it on the fridge as “inspiration” to other foreigners who want to volunteer to cook! Bishop’s family were good sports and they appreciated the gesture even though they had to supplement that night’s dinner with some leftover Indian food from the night before.

Again we learned a lot and shared a very memorable moment with Bishop’s family. And hopefully our week doesn’t continue on that trajectory! God has still been good to us and we’ve been learning a lot. We look forward to sharing more soon.


Clinic Extravaganza – by Lauren Ng – Day 3

They call me “The Doctor.”  Every time I’m introduced to someone here in India, they make it a point to emphasize the fact that I’m a medical doctor from the United States.  It makes me feel quite uncomfortable since I don’t like having that extra attention and pressure.  Originally, when I was preparing for the trip I was told that I would only be seeing 60 adults, right before I left the number turned into 60 families and all 750 children at the school.  Thus, you can imagine how I must have felt the night before the big day-nervous and apprehensive not knowing what to expect and feeling completely overwhelmed and under-prepared.

The rest of the members of the team received a crash course in pharmacology,taking vitals and abbreviated medical histories the night before and set up shop in the adjoining room to help screen patients for me to ease my work load. It was a huge help and blessing and enabled me to be able to see 53 patients in 4 hours, which definitely goes down in the record books.  It was a grueling 4 hours in 85 degree heat and 95% humidity wearing scrubs and my white coat (needed some street cred with the locals as I’m a female and young looking) with the fan and power periodically going in and out.   Yet God was faithful and didn’t give us more than we could handle.  Interestingly enough the medical problems I saw here were pretty much the same as in the US-diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, heartburn, headaches and general aches and pains with the occasional bilateral perforated ear drums and unstable angina.   Through it all God reminded me that the pressure I feel is not on me but Him as He is the ultimate healer and physician.  All he requires of me is to show up and love His people and He will pour out His blessing.  Healing often does not revolve around the treatment of physical ailments but involves the outpouring of love.

In the afternoon, Amanda and Christine decided to ride the bus with the children to see what their homes and villages looked like and took the bus that went to the most rural location.  Crammed in with close to 100 children and teachers they endured the bumpy, winding ride to the village which was home to a rubber plantation and a few coconut leaf-roofed houses.  In addition, they experienced the hospitality of the teachers and students who not only acted as tour guides but invited them to their houses for tea and bought them snacks from a local store.  Meanwhile, Dave toured the main road in town, drew a lot of stares wherever he went, witnessed a large fireworks show and got to ride in a cycle rickshaw.

This evening the Bishop shared some stories of Dalit oppression which just broke my heart.  In one story, a higher caste man was plowing a field but since he only owned one ox, a Dalit man was hooked to the other side and treated as if he were just another animal.  Not only are Dalits treated as animals but they are often used as slave labor to plant rice for the upper caste Indians and in one instance a pregnant woman refused to plant rice and was beaten to death and buried in a nearby field.  In addition, once when it was time to plant rice, the Dalit workers placed a baby in a nearby forest and covered it with banana leaves.  The baby started crying but the owner of the field would not let the Dalit mother take a break to feed her newborn.  Later on that evening when the Dalits went back to the spot they had laid the baby, they could no longer find her and after much searching finally found her bones and discovered that an army of ants had come and eaten her.  The progress and change that we have seen here at the BFM is only a result of the transformative power of the Gospel and we must not forget that the level of oppression demonstrated in the above stories is still running rampant today.  It is a shame and a tragedy that most people in the World continue to remain ignorant and apathetic.

On a happier note, Elton received an email that the camera he left on the airplane from San Francisco to Singapore was recovered when the plane landed in Zurich and will be waiting for us in the Lost and Found in the Singapore Airport. Praise God!


Meeting Future Revolutionaries – By Sarah Lin – Day 2

Today we met the children. All 850 of them. They greeted us at their morning assembly with a reading of a Bible verse, their pledge of allegiance, a song, a prayer, and a current reading of the top news and then Elton gave a quick introduction of our team. We then got the chance to visit their classrooms. Some of the kids were extremely shy while a couple others sang “Bah-Bah Black Sheep” at the top of their lungs. We also visited the highest grade level (equivalent to 10thgrade). To get the conversation going by asking them who their favorite movie stars were. And of course..Brangelina was mentioned. What was even more striking however was when we asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up. We got the following 5 answers: doctor, engineer (software specifically!), lawyer, teacher and pastor. Through my own personal lens I was somewhat disappointed with the lack of originality, but what makes their answers significant is that they are children of the Dalit caste of India.

The Dalit caste are also called the untouchables or the no-caste. The other 4 castes of India don’t even acknowledge them as a caste because their “duties” in society are to be the sewer cleaners, garbage sweepers, and laborers. Many Dalits are uneducated and don’t have the money to attend a school and if they do, they are undermined by their teachers and classmates. Their plight is very much equivalent to the plight of the Black Slaves in our American history. The hope here in this school is that by giving them an education, they can move past the societal stigmas of uneducated Dalits and be major influencers in the world. We’ve celebrated the first African American doctor, lawyer, engineer and teacher in our own country. Martin Luther King himself was a pastor. The hope is that one day in India these Dalit children will also be celebrated for their achievements.

The other highlight of our day was seeing the children off. All 850 of them piled into 9 school buses (you do the math.) We were again greeted by big smiles and ‘hellos’. I had my camera in hand and that was an automatic hit with the little ones. They all crowded around to see photos of themselves on the preview finder.

The rest of the day consisted of prepping for our upcoming children’s camp and the medical clinic that we are going to host for the staff of the mission. Dr. Lauren (DL as I so aptly like to call her) gave us all a crash course on prostate and lice detection. I kid. But in all seriousness, we realized that we have a possibility of seeing at least 60 staff members and their families in one day. To give you a current idea, American doctors usually only see 40 patients at best in their practices per day. So we will see what is to come and we are praying that our Father will give us the divine intervention and the healing powers to heal the sick.

We finished off our supper with Bishop telling us his conversion of how he became a believer which is a medical miracle in itself. But the even bigger back story is the story of the founder of this mission. The founder of this mission was originally from the highest caste, Brahmin, (Hindu priest caste) but became a believer. His story is that one day he and a gang of people were ready to persecute a bunch of Dalit pastors in a church and he was appointed to murder the pastor of the church. As he was about to step foot into the church he was immediately hit by the Spirit of God and God said to him, “He is my servant, do not harm him.” He was stuck paralyzed on the ground for a whole hour and was not able to move. After that experience he came to know Christ and repented of his sin.

However because his family was Hindu they disowned him and took away his wife and he was left homeless until a missionary took him in to share God’s love for him. As he was being taken care of by these believers he realized the need to love and educate these Dalit people and so the beginning of this mission was planted.

What really amazes me about these stories is that Bishop Moses has reiterated again and again, God has a sovereign plan. Sometimes we may not know what he’s doing in the midst of serious pain and trial, but God knows what he’s doing.

I’ve been wrestling a lot with how do I reconcile with injustices like these in the world; enslaved people unable to get education, own land and have personal dignity just because of skin color and caste. I realize that I myself have been born into a privileged “caste” even though we may not call it that. I have the ability to get an education, I’ve been blessed by the financial stability to own my own property, and be a free person. I can choose to keep on living this way and not acknowledge the brothers and sisters around me that don’t have these privileges, or I can do something about it. We don’t live for ourselves in this world, our God has put us here for the world.


Our Journey – by Lauren Ng – Day 1

After a grueling 32 hour journey from San Francisco to India, complete with Elton losing both his camera and then his wallet in Singapore (which by the grace of God was returned by the taxi driver) and Heather discovering a metal nut in her rice on the flight to India, we arrived in Trivandrum at night completely exhausted but excited nonetheless.

We hurtled through the town past bikers and cars honking to warn oncoming traffic of our presence, narrowly missing other vehicles until we turned off in a more rural section of Kerala. We were received warmly by Promoth and Keren and their new 2.5mo baby girl and explored our new accommodations complete with mosquito nets and cold bucket showers. Amanda turned out to be an expert bug and spider killer tackling a large brown spider in Sarah and Elton's room that was zoo exhibit worthy, wielding only a gym shoe and toilet brush. With the spider successfully defeated we all turned in for the night and awoke the next morning to tunes blasting over a loud speaker from a building nearby. After breakfast we split up into two groups to visit the local churches where Dave and Elton each shared a brief message and Amanda and I were put on the spot to share a brief testimony of what God has been doing in our lives recently. Despite having hardly any time to prepare, it was wonderful to be able to share with the people there and it was amazing the kind of welcome that we received. All the children were lining up after the service wanting to shake our hands and would giggle and laugh everytime we spoke to them. What struck me the most was looking out at the church that morning during service and being filled with God's love and compassion for the people here. These Dalit Christians are constantly oppressed and persecuted and yet they are there packed into the small one room building with their bright and best clothing to worship God and hear from the Word with joyful and willing hearts. If only the Christians in America would have that same earnestness and passion for God, how much more powerful our testimony would be. I am excited to see how God is going to use us and bless us in the coming week so stay tuned for more updates!

By Lauren

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Bible Faith Mission

Here's an introductory video about the organization that we're working with in India. BFM is working tireless to serve the Dalit [untouchable] by providing quality education to children and planting churches among the people. Take a look:


India 2009

Hey Folks,

Just wanted to officially say that we're preparing again to for India in November. Some of the finer details are in the works as far as what we'll be doing and exactly what the dates will be. But it will be the around the first 2 weeks of November for around 10 days.

This year we're likely bringing some medical professionals for basic medical care and training. We'll definitely be doing a multi-day youth program for elementary aged students like last year. You don't need special skills, but a willingness to work on a team and give of yourself for 10 days. You may have some roadblocks you're thinking of right now... and in my experience, almost 99% of those are fairly easily worked out or God provides miraculously [faith?]. I already have had a donor give $1000 to support whoever goes to India... it's confirmation that God does want us to go.

I'd like to have a confirmed team by 2nd week of July and begin training/ticket purchase by the beginning of August. Let me ask all of you to pray... just ask God simply... "Do you want me to go?"... if no, then no problem. If yes, then fantastic. If maybe, give it a few more goes and then let me know that's where you're at.

More details to come - but check out Dave Shin's video montage from last year's journey to India for an overview of last year's trip.

Dave's Video India Recap

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Wednesday December 3, 2008

Another defining moment for me on this trip was spending about 20 minutes with Bishop Moses. I was sitting in the computer room needing a little time to myself and the Bishop walks in with a simple "How are you?"

So all along the way I've been listening to Bishop share his vision, passion, stories, his understanding of the Dalit plight, etc. But I can't say that I connected yet with the human side of Bishop. It's not that he didn't share his life, but I tend to have the "sales pitch" radar on. And hold on to a little skepticism about things.

So Bishop walks in and we have a little small talk - but Bishop is no good at small talk and we're hit with some silence. And what I like to do with older leaders is ask them for some free wisdom. It saves me money on buying their books and going to their seminars.

So I ask Bishop, "What advice would you give me as a young leader?" And he said that he didn't really know my context and that he never really ministered in the US. And I then responded that I didn't need ministry advice - what I was looking for was this, "How do you stay strong in the Lord?"

A little smile comes on and he lets out a long, slow, "ahhhhhhhh." And then he says, "You know how you stay strong in the Lord? It's through suffering." And right then I knew... I knew I was in for it.

The Bishop began to recount a lot of his struggles these past few years. He had open-heart surgery recently and has been experiencing a lot of physical setbacks from that. He shared how he has this really large vision for his people, but his people don't understand it. They see the money being brought in to build the school, but they would rather have new homes and more food and don't understand the long term vision of raising up the Dalit people. He shared how he bears the weight of the financial burden for funding his vision and he doesn't know how he's going to pay it back with the world in financial crisis.

And he shared how this journey is often a lonely one - no one understands it the way he does. But he shares how he doesn't have much choice - he's compelled by the Gospel. He driven to be about the kingdom. And that requires that he make some sacrifices.

He shared that there is no religion in the world that promises the same degree of freedom. A freedom that truly reaches the core of our being. But he also says that there is no call more costly then following Jesus. There is no religion in the world that asks for everything, calls for complete surrender, with no right of rebuttal.

Photo from Dave

You know those moments in life where truth really hits home? You hear something and maybe you've been ignoring it somehow. But it finds its way into the deepest parts of your soul. And it just sits there... knowing that you have no right to kick it out. And you can't help but to smile... it's the smile of resignation... when you give in to something that is good, but know will also hurt.

He continues and says, "I don't believe in the prosperity gospel." He shared how he would lie in bed in pain from his various ailments and would cry to God for relief. And rarely did God respond with physical relief. And he told me that Jesus cried out to God to take away the cup, but God didn't take it away. Didn't provide a miracle to make it all feel better. And then Bishop dropped another bomb on me... he said, "If God didn't give Jesus a miracle, why would he give you one?"

As a disclaimer, it's not that he doesn't believe in miracles and the statement shouldn't be over scrutinized theologically. Bishop was making a point... it's God desire to use life to help us understand the Cross. He said all our suffering is so that we would see God for who he really is - understand his work on the Cross - the price he had to pay so that we would have life and life with him. And understand his love in way that health and wealth would never reveal.

Bishop shared how he would pray for relief from the physical pain and God would remind him of the pain that Jesus endured for him. He said that his pain reminded him of Jesus pain; Jesus' pain would remind him of Jesus' love for him. The love needed to endure the pain of the Cross. And then Bishop would say, "Ahhh... Jesus' love... his love is better than my pain."

Photo from Dave

He continued by saying that his favorite theme in theology is expiation. The work that is accomplished on the Cross by Jesus on our behalf. He says that there is nothing more fascinating, nothing more intriguing and nothing more captivating.

And then he pauses... the smile on his face is still there... angles his head slightly up and diagonally and looks gazingly into nowhere and says slowly and deliberately, "I just love Jesus."

And right then I knew another thing... I knew he was for real. I had no doubts about his vision, his passion, his authenticity. Of course he's not perfect... but I saw his heart in the raw and it throbbed. It throbbed for Jesus. It wasn't driven by ambition or fame. It was compelled by the love of God.

Right then, it also confirmed much of what I was learning these past few years. Having endured [or continuing to endure] a season of confusion, frustration, struggle and dying and seeing God redeem it in ways that are unexplainable... all I could I do is give that smile of resignation again. It's not always things you want to hear... but things that you know are true. The kind of truth that brings both comfort and condemnation; sets you free and enslaves you to what is right.

This was all in 20 minutes. I left the room to go have dinner and I just had a glaze over my face. The tension of comfort and condemnation writhing in me... but sitting well balanced on the thin line that divides the two.

Photo from Dave

We would see the Bishop preach to his people... spend time admonishing a few of his pastors... call out some of the students on their uncombed hair... and Mike would say, "He [they] got BISHOPED!" Meaning Bishop would set them straight... drop the wisdom bomb... and you wouldn't know what hit you.

I got Bishoped.

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Sunday November 30, 2008

If you haven't been watching the news and maybe specifically CNN-type channels or keeping up on internet news sources, you probably have gotten only passive accounts of what's been going on in India. I started watching on Wednesday afternoon, had to drive somewhere and did not hear any of the radio outlets talking at all about what was happening in India [including NPR, KCBS, KGO].

I think it's safe to say that since we were just in India... and ate lunch at the Taj Mahal Hotel just last week, the events have been very surreal. We walked in the square right in front of the hotel where the Gateway of India is. Mike got fooled twice by street salesmen selling baloons alongside the bay in front of the hotel. We also had an opportunity to spend our 2 days after our time at BFM in Singapore. But instead we opted to take in more of India and spend it in Mumbai.

For a few years, I've felt like God has been wanting us to be in India. But I can't say that I knew why, in what capacity and even where exactly in India. So this trip was very much of a listening trip. We listened to pastors share about their struggles. We listened to the heart and passion of the Bishop. We listened to Dalits share their perspective of life from the bottom of the caste system.

But our bigger work might be listening to what God has for us after this time in India. I'm not much under the sway of superstition or overly active in stitching together events to say "Look at what God did!" But I sense that the recent attacks in India are confirmation that we need to continue our relationship/partnership with our friends in India.

Because of the rather light security in the airport, I joked that India wasn't going to get hit by terrorists. But it seems like there are a few signs that point to more activity in the future… mind you I’m just learning about the political environment in India…

  • More terrorist cells finding refuge in Pakistan;
  • Traditionally and historically tense relationship between India and Pakistan;
  • India’s strong relationship with the West including the US and Great Britain;
  • Increasing persecution by Muslim groups of anything connected to the West, including Christians and those outside playing a role to support work among Indian Christians; and
  • Increasing persecution of Dalit [low caste] Christians by Hindu Militants.

And as I ponder/pray/listen, I sense God has a reason for us to be there during this season in history. I won’t presume yet that Dave will be leading civil rights marches through New Delhi or that Kalam will be the forerunner in empowering low caste families to live healthily turning the tide of oppressive generational patterns. Or that we’ll bear some of the physical pain that our friends are enduring. But, hey, I wouldn’t put that by God either. Dave has the political passion/fortitude and Kalam has the heart and insight. And I have some spare limbs. And I know a few more who have limbs to spare – Billy.

But I do presume that God is showing us what is going on in this part of the world and it would be a travesty if we don’t continue down the rabbit hole, to see what God sees and to see what he’s doing. I think that much is safe to say.

I know this is kinda cheese… but writing the last sentence reminded me of this exchange between Neo and Morpheus [The Matrix]:

Morpheus: I imagine that right now, you're feeling a bit like Alice. Hmm? Tumbling down the rabbit hole?

Neo: You could say that.

Morpheus: I see it in your eyes. You have the look of a man who accepts what he sees because he is expecting to wake up. Ironically, that's not far from the truth. Do you believe in fate, Neo?

Neo: No.

Morpheus: Why not?

Neo: Because I don't like the idea that I'm not in control of my life.

Morpheus: I know *exactly* what you mean. Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I'm talking about?

More reflections to come… thanks for listening [reading].

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Wednesday November 26, 2008

Here are a few videos from our time there:

Dinner @ Promoth's House - We were invited by a family to share in a home cooked Indian meal. We learned to eat with our hands and enjoyed the good food.

Dinner @ Promoth's House from Elton Lin on Vimeo.

Prayer/Worship @ Promoth's House - Prior to dinner we had a worship and prayer time. It definitely wasn't what we were used to, but it was encouraging to be a part of their normal routine and be together as one family through Jesus.

Prayer and Worship @ Promoth's House from Elton Lin on Vimeo.

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