Blessed to be back

By God’s grace we went to India and we saw, we worked, we read, we questioned, we listened, we wrote, we ate, we smelled, we laughed, we walked, and we learned.   It is my hope that each of us will continue to better understand how God calls us to be Christians in Business.

Remember, listen to these students tell what they learned.

Thanks for following this blog.


Bangor for fuel

We had stronger than expected headwinds and ran low on fuel, so we just touched down on Bangor, Maine to get fuel. Then we will continue on to Newark and hopefully catch our connecting flight to Grand Rapids.

What is Business as Mission in India and does it work?

That is the question we have been asking ourselves the past weeks?  In recent days each student has been working on a short reflective essay on this question. Be sure to ask them this question when you see them back in the USA.  I can tell you now that the weather was perfect, the food delicious and plentiful, the hotels good, etc.   So no need to ask about these tertiary things.  Ask about the course learning objectives and what the students learned.

This is a great group of travelers and learners!  I have been privileged to help them learn over the past three weeks.  We engaged with so many people who were willing to invest time into these young people.  I am sure these students will continue to reflect on all they saw, heard and did in India.  

We catch a flight back later today from Delhi to Newark and then on to Grand Rapids, arriving Thursday morning.

Agra and the Taj

Monday morning we are ready to check out of our hotel in Jaipur and travel to Agra in our bright orange tourist bus.  The road to Agra takes us through a more agricultural part of India. From the road we can see fields of mustard, a plant grown to be processed into cooking oil. There are also some brickyards, where clay bricks are formed and baked hard in kilns, and stone carving shops- all of which are industries of this area. After about four hours we arrive at Fatehpur Sikri, an abandoned city built out of red sandstone by Akbar the Great, one of the Mughal emperors.  After he spent a lot of time and money building a whole palace complex including a large mosque, there wasn’t enough water to support it so the whole place was abandoned. We explored the ruins on our own and tried to fend off the vendors as we entered and exited- not very successfully in most cases.  Then on to Agra to check into our last hotel.

Tuesday morning we get up early because this group wants to see the Taj Mahal at sunrise- one of the best times for great photos.  We manage to be one of the first groups in line when it opens and it’s beauty does not disappoint. We have perfect clear blue skies and the white marble glows in the early morning sunlight.  The Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan another of the Mughal emperors in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz.  The intricacy of the stone carving and inlaid semi precious stones in floral and geometric designs is beautiful.

After a breakfast brunch at our hotel we continue our Agra tour at the Agra Fort–a huge castle-like complex built by the Mughals complete with a moat that used to have alligators in it and a second moat which our guide tells us used to have lions and tigers in it.  At any rate the fort was a good way to finish our tour of the sights of Agra.

Below is our group exploring Fatehpur Sikri


Just after sunrise at the Taj Mahal


Kari, Stephanie, and Anne at the Agra Fort


Henna hands and arms on Kari, Stephanie and Anne.


Jeff and Bret making some last day purchases



Jaipur Sunday

We went to St Andrews church this morning to worship only to find that the service was is Hindi.  So we decide to worship at our hotel in the evening instead.  This evening the women led us in some praise songs and we had a prayer time where we took turns praying for many things including our internship companies, our Christian friends in Hyderabad, for the people in poverty in India, for the upcoming elections in India and for our health and safety.

During the day the guys took a big hike up to Nahargahr Fort, an old fort and palace on a ridge in Jaipur, while the women went to the bazaars.  Later this afternoon we relaxed in hotel courtyard over a late lunch in the beautiful and warm sunshine.  We have been blessed in India with pretty much perfect weather.  About 70 or 80 degrees with full sunshine during the day and cooler evenings.  No rain.  Today was lovely sitting in the sun in the peaceful hotel garden enjoying pleasant conversation.

Here we are enjoying Sunday afternoon sunshine, food and fellowship.


Group pic in the hotel lounge, which is a grand old room in this 100 yea old building.  Our singing sound good, hopefully it was also pleasing to God.


Some kids on the way up to the fort and palace.  There are a lot of kids in India.


A lot of kid goats too.  Here an adult goat is eating a paper kite which it found laying around.  Four goats followed us most of the way up the ridge.


When we got to the top we found a large group of motorcyclist who were out for a club ride since today is Republic Day in India (think 4th of July).  All the bikers were riding Royal Enfield motorcycles, which are like the Harley Davidson of India. They were a very friendly bunch.  Below Seth, Bret and Jeff pose with two of them.


They did a group photo with us. I could not fit them all in my camera frame.  There were about 75 of them all with matching white shirts.  John is not the picture because he was too busy checking out the motorbikes.


Some of the bikes and bikers.


My favorite, a retro Indian army bike.


History and animals

We spent the day learning some history from this part of India and riding animals.

Jaipur is the capital of Rajistan and was the home of the Maharajas that ruled this part of India for many years.  The Maharajas were Hindus.  For part of the time they ruled under the the Mughals, the Muslim rulers that ruled most of India.  The Mughals built Taj Mahal and other famous sites around northern India that we will also be visiting in a few days.  The Maharajas first built a fort and palace on a mountain ridge in the ancient city of Amber, and then in the 1700’s built a new town and palace a few miles away on the plain.  The new city is Jaipur and it is a planned city and sometimes called the Pink City since the building are all a shade of pink.

We started at the Amber Fort, which is actually a very large old palace up on the mountain ridge.  One of the Maharajas had 12 wives and had to build 12 little mini palaces in the palace to keep them from quarreling.  So we learned that 12 wives can be quarrelsome.  I am pleased to have just one.

We rode elephants up to the palace.  Below you can see Stephanie and Kari about to get off at the end of the ride.


Jeff “Samson” Pohler.  Don’t worry the rest of the story didn’t play out.


Anne with some nice school girls on a class trip.


Seth, Bret, Jeff, Stephanie and John under the arches.


Next we stopped at a handicraft place, which I personally was not much interested in, but I did like this quote from Gandhi.


I also like this orange guy standing by our orange bus.


The Maharaja that moved the capital from Amber to Jaipur was a big astronomer and astrologer.  He built a whole complex of super-sized astrological instruments, which is called Jantar Mantar.  Here our guide is explaining how they work to Seth.


Next we visited Hawa Mahal, which was a party place for the royal women where they could not be seen by the public but could peek out and see what the public was doing.  Here we are posing for a fun picture in one of the little archways,


Next we took some camel rides.  There are lots of camels around town, so this was a great opportunity to try them out.  Fun stuff, but let me just say “thank you Mr Ford!”

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Finally we walked around the central Jaipur market area.  The cities in India are a real treat for the senses: smells of all types good and bad, sounds (mostly voices and honking) and sites totally unlike Grand Rapids.

Here is a young man selling flowers


One has to dodge cows and cow pies in Jaipur.


Some men playing cards on the street.


Overall the crush of humanity is huge in India.  So many people!  Like I said in my earlier blog, the population density is roughly 12 times the USA.  So if you see 10 people on the bus in the USA, you will see 120 in India (no joking).  If you see 1,000 people at the shopping mall in the USA you will see 12,000 people here.

Also one sees a lot of poverty in Jaipur and unsanitary conditions.  I am hoping for more economic growth in Jaipur like in Hyderabad to provide good jobs and lift more people out of poverty.

To Jaipur

We said good bye to our friends and hosts in Hyderabad and took a Friday evening flight to Jaipur.  The interns finished their internships and delivered their deliverables to their host managers.  I am sure the students learned a lot and perhaps also added some value.  This is a group of great young people!  I am delighted to spend three weeks with them learning in India.

Some of us prayed for the managers and business we have gotten to know.  Three of us prayed with a manager for her business even though she is not Christian.  Our underlying premise is that God is sovereign over all and that Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross was not only for our souls but for all of creation, including that part of creation where humans exchange goods and services (which we usually call business).

Now for five days we will explore some other parts of India which are rich in history.

Still learning.


Our Last Night in Hyderabad

Hello all,

We’ve had a really interesting two weeks here in Hyderabad, and tonight we are wrapping up here. Some things have been good, some haven’t been so good, but overall it’s been a fun and interesting experience of learning. Tonight we had dinner with our main point of contact in Hyderabad, Michael Brian, and a few others to say goodbye and thank you for all the help they gave in making this trip a possibility. We dined at a social club of our host and his family, which was located in a former Nizam family palace. Very cool.


All of us here can agree that the culture change coming from the United States to India is great, and today at dinner we spoke about our first thoughts when arriving in India and how those have changed after spending over two weeks here. Some came in with open minds and others had previous thoughts about India through their own research of from others. When I first thought about taking this class, I told my father and his response to me, after having already traveled to India before, was something along the lines of me being a lunatic. So yeah, I had that going for me. But after the first few days of absolute chaos of the traffic and immense amounts of visible poverty, I realized that the people of India are all nice, their business ambitions are great, and the collaboration of Business Seva makes me think that despite the political, religious, economic, and physical obstacles that the country is currently and will continue to face for decades to come, I think that India has a very bright future ahead.

Dance, Saris and Wedding

It has been another busy action filled week. Just a quick blog to give you a glimpse at some things today.

Anne is doing a dance and fitness internship at two studios.  Here she is with one of the classes she taught… she taught both Zumba and HipHop, and learned some Bollywood.  She also learned a lot about customers, staffing, finances and space from both studio owners.


This evening we had a nice dinner at Chiraan Fort and the women wore their new Indian saris and kurthis.  Below we see Kari, Anne, Stephanie, Janet, Archana and Karen.


Biryani is a famous and delicious local rice dish.  Hyderabad is a cosmopolitan metropolitan area, but still biryani is normally eaten with fingers.  Here Stephanie is demonstrating her newly acquired technique.




Another fashion shot of three Calvin students and one future Calvin student.


Our hotel is a popular wedding venue, and Indian weddings are pretty much over the top in mostly every way (size, siights, sounds, rupees…).  It reminds us that India is a land of stark extremes; very rich and very poor, beautiful scenery and ugly scenery, lovely smells and horrible smells, amazing efficiency and gross inefficiency… you name it.   When we got back to the hotel a large wedding was in full swing in the big outdoor wedding venue.  Perhaps 500 or more guests.  Some  of the group went to check it out and were promptly invited up on the stage with the wedding couple for a photo shoot.  We would call this wedding crashing in the US!  I guess here it is just the more the merrier!  Below you can see them up on stage after the photos chatting with the groom as part of the audience looks one wondering if these foreigners are friends of the bride or of the groom.  I’m guessing the bride and groom were thinking the same thing!