Tuesday, July 29, 2014

tawharanui (nz)

A wedding. A visa. A birth.

Barby and I are back in New Zealand for three purposes. My niece's wedding was last Saturday in Matakana and I had the privilege of taking the service. Then on the next day we sneaked a visit to one of the celebrated beaches in New Zealand which I had yet to visit. Tawharanui.

After living in the squallor of Bangalore (a city that has doubled in size in the last decade - and now sits at almost 10 million) and being seduced by the beauty of England on a couple of recent visits, it was lovely to experience New Zealand at its finest.

It is July. Mid-winter in the southern hemisphere. In the midst of a bitterly cold southerly weather pattern. But still the kids stripped off and jumped in and swam to shore.

Just a shame about the motel in which we stayed with its ridiculous sign on the wall.

That rules out most of the world. Good work. Back to Tourism 101 methinks.
Now the attention turns to a visa and a birth.

nice chatting


Sunday, July 20, 2014

the revenge of geography

There are eight boarding passes in this book. That is how many flights it took me to finish it. But don't let that put you off. It is well worth the effort: Robert D. Kaplan, The Revenge of Geography (Random House, 2012). One easily missable sentence captures his thesis neatly.
 I believe that while geography does not necessarily determine the future, it does set contours on what is achievable and what isn't (339).
Geography is more significant than I realised. It morphs into geopolitics: 'to know a nation's geography is to know its foreign policy' (Napoleon, 60). Kaplan calls on a host of scholar-witnesses - or, 'visionaries' - to prove his point. Mackinder, Spykman, McNeill, Hodgson, Mahan, Haushofer, Braudel. I knew none of these names before I took up this book. But someone else's blog can be bogged down by those guys. Let's keep it a bit lighter here. What does Kaplan include within 'geography'?
... everything from persistent national characteristics to the location of trade routes to the life-or-death requirement for natural resources - oil, water, strategic metals and minerals ... The global elite want to escape from geography ... to engineer reality based on the beauty of ideas and the power of new technology and financial mechanisms (347-348).
Uh-uh. Not so fast.
Geography will have its revenge in the twenty-first century.

Here is a taste. Let's accumulate some of Kaplan's observations about different countries/regions.

On Russia:
[After the Golden Horde of Mongols swept through in the 13th century]. The ultimate land-based empire, with no natural barriers against invasion..., Russia would know forevermore what it was like to be brutally conquered, and as a result would become perennially obsessed with expanding and holding territory, or at least dominating its contiguous zones (65) ... For Russians, geography means simply that without expansion there is the danger of being overrun (79) ... Insecurity is the quintessential Russian national emotion (159).
On China:
China, as Eurasia's largest continental nation with a coastline in both the tropics and the temperate zone, occupies the globe's most advantageous position (189) ... Unlike Russia (China extends) its territorial influence much more through commerce than coercion (196) ... China has built advantageous power relationships both in contiguous territories and in distant locales rich in the very resources it requires to fuel its growth ... It seeks to develop an eerie, colonial-like presence throughout the parts of sub-Saharan Africa that are well-endowed with oil and minerals (199) ... [In contrast with the USA] Military deployments are ephemeral: roads, rail links, and pipelines can be virtually forever (205) ... A new Silk Road, built on natural resource exploitation, is quietly coming into being in Central Asia that could make China the pivotal Eurasia power of the twenty-first century (351).
On Mongolia:
[In Russia and Mongolia] it is not a question of an invading army or of formal annexation, but of creeping Chinese demographic and corporate control over a region (202).
On Tibet:
Tibet, with the headwaters of the Yellow, Yangzi, Mekong, Salween, Brahmaputra, Indus, and Sutlej rivers, may constitute the world's most enormous storehouse of freshwater, even as China by 2030 is expected to fall short of its water demands by 25 per cent (204).
On Europe:
It is the delicious complexity of Europe's geography, with its multiplicity of seas, peninsulas, river valleys, and mountain masses that have assisted in the formation of separate language groups and nation-states, which will contribute to political and economic disunity in the years to come, despite pan-European institutions ... Europe has a deviating and shattered coastline, indented with many good natural harbors ... This very elaborate interface between land and water, and the fact that Europe is protected from - and yet accessible to - a vast ocean, has led to maritime dynamism and a mobility among Europe's peoples (136-137).
On Africa, answering the question, 'Why is Africa so poor?'
Though Africa is the second largest continent, with an area five times that of Europe, its coastline south of the Sahara is little more than a quarter as long. Moreover, this coastline lacks many good natural harbors ... Few of Africa's rivers are navigable from the sea, dropping as they do from interior tableland to coastal plains by a series of falls and rapids, so that inland Africa is particularly isolated from the coast. Moreover the Sahara Desert hindered human contact from the north for too many centuries... (31).

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

skelton (uk)

After nine months in my new role with Langham, it was great to gather the global team together for a week - at last. We stayed at Salutation Yard in Skelton, on the edge of the Lake District in the UK.

Salutation Yard (I stayed behind the upstairs windows on the left)
The primary purpose was to invest in building the team by listening to each other, praying for each other and having fun together ... with a little bit of strategising and planning on the side.

The team at Aira Force (a waterfall)
From left to right: Jorge (Latin America); Mark (Europe); Claire (Carlisle); Paul (Asia); Jennifer (Canada);                          Mike (Francophone Africa); Ruth (Carlisle); Emmanuel (Anglophone Africa)
The team at Lake Ullswater
It was a fabulous time, exceeding even my lofty expectations.
There was even time for Mark to practice his skills with a packed congregation.

By week's end we managed to sift through all that had been discussed and fill a whiteboard with priorities to be addressed in the coming months.

As ever, we are grateful for the Carlisle duo, Ruth & Claire, who keep us all on track administratively.

nice chatting


Tuesday, July 08, 2014

le grand depart

My first twenty-four hours in Yorkshire - ever. Who could have imagined that it would be twenty-four hours after the departure of one of the great French institutions - the Tour de France?!

Signs for Le Grand Depart were everywhere in Leeds. Buntings and gold-coloured bikes adorned homes. Even the Black Prince, on horseback in the central city square, was wearing a yellow jersey.

While I was late for one Le Grand Depart, I was so pleased that I made it in time for another. Fifteen years ago, as a young principal making a crucial early appointment to the faculty of the college I served, I travelled from Auckland (NZ) to Edinburgh (Scotland) for a twenty-four hour visit (and interview) with one George Wieland. I still remember George explaining the Synoptic Problem to me on the couch in his living room. George & Jo - together with Lindsey, Joanne and Jonathan - crossed the world in obedience. With my own Mum's words ringing in my ears - 'the hardest thing about taking you kids to live in India was taking you away from your grandparents' - I've had a heart for George's parents (George's children, too) and their counting of the cost. Joseph and Mary. ('When your parents are Joseph and Mary, there is some burden of expectation' - George).

Would you believe it? On the day I was just happening to be travelling from London to Penrith (and remember - I do live in Bangalore), the funeral for Joseph Wieland just happened to be taking place in Leeds. I had to take a detour.

The funerals of the godly stir me into life. After a few tears, I emerge with heart softened and resolve refreshed to give my life to Jesus. A means of grace. A sacrament. This one was no exception - even though I was (probably) the only one who never knew Joe. We met in the church with which Joseph and Mary were associated for 45 years, 21 as pastor. Hunslet Baptist Church, formerly 'Tabernacle' - and still resembling a glorious tabernacle, although in quaintly miniature form.

A Yorkshireman called Higginbottam, on that call committee 45 years ago, stood up and gave a five minute eloquence-charged tribute. We sang one of those hymns I wish would never end - Teach Me Thy Way, O Lord - and then George climbed the steps to the elevated pulpit to give a tribute to his Dad. In the church where he was baptised. In the church where he was married. In the church where he was commissioned for mission service. George was at his compelling best as we wandered over hill and dale, stopping at humorous rest areas to savour the view, on a journey through his father's life. Joseph was no scholar. Getting educated was hard work. Learning Greek was almost one step too far, until Mary learned Greek just so that she could be Joseph's personal tutor. Joseph could be one of those irritants who hold up the class with an ever-present question. A little ditty emerged from the region of the principal's pen: 'I'd gladly pay the fare to New Zealand to get rid of Joseph Wieland'.

Thanks to the Carswell Clan I had some time for other Yorkshire exploits. There was a visit to Headingley to which I will return one day to watch a cricket game.

And what about the visit to the birthplace of Samuel Marsden, who was the first person to preach the gospel in New Zealand 199 years and 6 months ago? On my 50th birthday me and my mates took a pilgrimage to Marsden's Cross in the Bay of Islands (read about it here). On that day, guess who I had asked to 'bring a word' as we gathered around the cross? Ben Carswell - not knowing that he was from the same little area of Yorkshire as Marsden.

It was Ben's dad (Roger) who showed me around Leeds and then drove me across to Penrith for my meetings, skirting those Yorkshire dales looking like waves of the Great Southern Ocean painted lush green in some of God's finest work. Roger is a well-known evangelist in the UK (http://www.theevangelist.org.uk/). Kinda like a winsome whirlwind. Our tour of Leeds was unique. We saw the places were open air meetings and tent crusades had been held and tracts delivered. We passed old Anglican churches that have become nightclubs, with the coal mixed into the stone now adding a bleakness of function to the blackness of form. He spoke of a local high school with 2000 students for whom there is not one single Christian teacher. You are more likely to find an evangelical on the streets of Japan than on many of the streets of north-east Yorkshire. There are entire communities, with tens of thousands of people, for whom there is no evangelical witness at all. It was sobering stuff.

As a teenager I had a teacher from Yorkshire (F. Sharp) who taught me both piano and cricket. With that name, you'd think the piano would win. It lost. I learned more about Boycott than Tchaikovsky, and played more with statistics than with scales. My heart will return to Yorkshire again and again, but now with new names. Pastor Joseph and Mary laboured there for decades. Evangelist Roger and Dot continue to do so. And now there will be a prevailing prayer that a generation of Samuel Marsdens will return the favour and flow this way for Le Grand Arrive.

nice chatting