College Hack #7: Plan for your Student Debt NOW

This one is simple; students rack up too much student debt. Total student debt in this country has rapidly passed the $1 trillion mark and is approaching $1.3 trillion. The average student has about $30,000 in debt by the time they graduate. As an educator I worry that this is not a sustainable system. A lot could be said for starting financial responsibility while still in college (maybe I’ll write more in the future) but for now be inspired by my friends who paid off their debts quickly. Check out  My take-home point; start planning NOW for how you will deal with student loans. Many students live in blissful ignorance, not even knowing how much they owe. Start figuring it out during college so it won’t be a shock and burden when you graduate.


College Hack #6: You’re not a bad test-taker

On A Prairie Home Companion Garrison Keillor reminds us that in Lake Wobegon “all the children are above average.” Apparently the opposite is true in college, where all the students are bad test takers. At least it seems that way from my frequent encounters with students who try to explain their poor exam scores or low aptitude scores with the familiar refrain “I’m a bad standardized test taker” which is often followed by “but I do well on all my homework.” Like the above average intelligence of the children of Lake Wobegon, it is a statistical impossibility that so many college students are bad at taking tests. Even for most individual cases, the person in question is not a bad test-taker. What does that phrase even mean? It’s an argument that the exam cannot reflect their true knowledge, skills, or aptitude because something interferes during the test that makes their score inaccurate. This is not true in most cases. What is really going on?

The Red White and Blue, the Black, and the Grey


Religious Tension

An Iranian pastor arrested in 2009 was convicted of “apostasy” for turning from Islam to Christianity. He was sentenced to death because he would not recant his faith. In Afghanistan, NATO forces burned some library books from a detention center that contained hand written extremist notes. They were trying to prevent Taliban extremists from communicating to incite violence during their detention, but unfortunately some of the burned books were copies of the Quran. This mistake so offended the Afghan people that 4 Americans were killed, despite an official apology by the president of the United States. Recently, 21 Coptic Christians were killed by ISIS.

Meeting Sheela

In January 2015 I went to India with India Gospel League as part of a team to teach some “young pastors” conferences. I was able to meet my sponsored child, and was able to get the story onto the IGL website here. However, word limites necessitated cutting a couple details for brevity. I’m reposting the full story here in case you’re interested.

Sheela KaruppaiyaIMG_2738

Solar Power for India


I had not intended to bring a portable solar charger to India. But my friend Rich introduced me to “Doc” Giltner who is a philathropist. He had provided low costs computers to Rich when Rich went to Uganda, so I was hoping to get some free/cheap computers for India. When we met he said he was no longer in the computer donation business, as his supply had dried up. The new thing was solar chargers. Apparently he has spent the last 10 years trying to find affordable and practical solar power for developing countries, and this is the first thing that has worked. It will charge a cell phone or tablet, or can run LED lighting adequate for a small home. After meeting with Doc Giltner I took a chance and bought one to bring on my India trip. He donated more batteries and light bulbs. I verified with India Gospel League that they would find a use for it in a remote village and left it there. I wrote a guest blog for SunJack. I won’t repeat it here; read it on their site. This was one of my unexpected adventures in India.

India Blog days 7 & 8

01-23-2015 Friday Day 7

Last day of the second conference. Adam, Joel, Benny, Adam, Joel, Benny. Divided by tea breaks and lunch. At one break we captured a 15 minute interview with Pastor Rao, our IGL partner in Sariki. When asked about current needs, he said that he needs a motorcycle because there is no transportation in his area. To walk to each of the villages he serves is about a 15 kilometer journey, and a motorcycle would make this much more practical. He also said that getting a bored well is an emergency, as there is no drinking water in Sariki so women have long distances to walk for daily water. Finally, he is hoping for electricity in the church. We told him that we had raised the funds for that project a few months back and would check the project plan to find out when some progress will be made. He also told us his testimony—stay tuned for that video.

After the conference we headed out to the beach, by which I mean a huge Vizag arts festival with performances, bright lights, vendors, traffic, and about 100 million people along the beach. I exaggerate, but wait till you see the pictures! Why did we think it would be a leisurely stroll along the shore? So after awhile we went to dinner at a very nice hotel restaurant. Dinner for 9 was about $90. At dinner we were introduced to Ajay’s wife of two months and took turns swapping stories on how each of us “met” (or were arranged to marry) our wives. I’ll leave these out for now.

Now that the conference is concluded, my blog feels somehow disingenuous because I’m intentionally leaving out so many of the stories, people, lessons learned, and other content of a more spiritual  nature. I just can’t do it justice right now. It has to filter through my mind and reappear later; there’s far too many anecdotes, observations, themes, insights, and questions to process all at once. I think that everyone else who’s been on an IGL trip understands what I am saying. Anyone around me in the next 6 weeks will probably hear a lot of “that reminds me of something in India…”  I hope you don’t get sick of it.

Back to the hotel to sleep before our 6:30 departure for the flight to Bangalore. We decided to get some pictures from the roof. There was a sign that said “Roof: Starlight” and a door to a roof patio. So we went out and clowned around for awhile, taking really long exposure shots of Vizag. Unfortunately, someone dead bolted the only door back in from the roof while we were out there. Adam was able to get the attention of last night’s chef from the 4th floor patio restaurant below, who send a security guard to let us back in. Panic averted.

01-25-2015 Friday Day 8

Last day in India! Flight to Bangalore. On the way to the hotel, our driver decided to stop so Kyle and I could take a picture of the Parliament building. I wasn’t in the mood for a stroll while our car drove away, but he said he would wait 200 feet away so I trusted him. He was still there when we got back. At the hotel by 11:30. We leave in 13 hours (at midnight) for the airport. We encountered working internet and had a final buffet lunch at the hotel, then headed out shopping on the streets of Bangalore. An auto rickshaw driver saw us leaving the hotel and offered us a ride for 50 rupees to the shopping area. Less than a dollar for a 2 mile ride for four people! He dropped us off at a store where they whipped out a dozen amazing sari’s and scarves in 90 seconds. After that high-pressure sales session we were introduced to a thousand sandal wood elephants and other things I did not want. Then jewelry. Then perfume. I escaped with only minor damage, but I realize that they round off pretty liberally with rupees. The exchange rate today is 57-58 rupees to the dollar but in their fertile minds 3000 rupees is “only about $30 for this!” They stopped talking rupees and just said “dollars” after that. However, “only 10 dollars for this and 30 dollars for that” when added up across a few items becomes 6000 rupees, which is about $100. Ouch. Oh well. It’s only filthy lucre.

While they were ringing up my credit card the woman at the jewelry counter asked about our trip, just making polite conversation. I said we were teaching pastors in Salem and Vizag. She said “sometimes I think it’s important to put the money in the right hand.” By this she meant that a lot of people come to India to make a difference, and she worries about whether their efforts have lasting effects. A simple hand-out won’t change anything. I told her that we were with a reputable organization which practices holistic community development and she looked somewhat reassured.

Then we were taken to the real bazaar, which was overpowering. A woman with an infant was begging and followed us for about 5 minutes with outstretched hand, begging each of us in turn. We tried to be firm. We tried to pretend she was invisible. Eventually she moved on. We wandered around but I didn’t want to even begin to try to talk to a merchant or get any money out-the press of the crowd was constant and I wondered if dropping a 500 rupee note would evoke a swarm. Probably paranoid. We saw a few other white people (European? English?) wandering around, so clearly this was an attraction, but 1 hour was enough of hustle-bustle bazaar for me. On the way back we again crammed into one auto rickshaw. That was a sweaty ride. Kyle was able to touch the passing busses, they were so close. Now chillin’ in the room.

India Blog Days 1-6

Wifi mysteriously works after a week of no connection; I’ll quickly get my blog up here. NO pics because the sketchy connection would surely collapse…

01-17-2015 Day 1; First Impressions of India

I feel tall! 5’7” is a very respectable height for a man in India. Also, Bangalore basically smells like dust and diesel fuel. I predict allergies.

India Trip: Part 2

We leave tomorrow for India, and will be teaching two 2-day young pastor conferences. I will try to post something here while I am gone depending on internet access.


Will Christian Colleges Survive? Or Thrive?

Prognosticators predict the decline of the modern university as we know it. Tuition rises faster than inflation (and even healthcare costs!) as state subsidies fall. By 2030 state support of higher education will reach 0% as our aging population drives healthcare costs to 100% of state and federal budgets. OK, I exaggerate, but healthcare costs will asymptote out at the maximum level possible and conversely state support for education will bottom out. Meanwhile, students owe $1.3 trillion in federal and private education loans. Concurrently, the rise of distance learning and contingent faculty are transforming the economics of “credit delivery,” as colleges go to great lengths to promote retention and degree completion. Will the secular university survive? That’s a topic for another day. Here I want to consider whether the additional pressures faced by the sectarian institutions place them at greater risk. Specifically, will restrictions on freedom of religion harm Christian colleges?

I’m Going to India this January

I’m traveling to India this month to teach a pastor’s conference with three of my friends from church. I may not blog a lot in January, so here is a book review I originally wrote for Church Planter Magazine.Sponsor-Kids2