Monday, April 23, 2012

Jesus Worldwide: Nepal

From Katie: Over spring break my friends Beth and Jennifer went where no American has ever gone before. Literally. This week they're taking us to the hill country of Nepal. These are their stories and photos as told to me.

We went to Nepal to support missionaries Brandon and Tammy already living there and to encourage Anmol, another missionary contact. We stayed in Ti-se where Brandon and Tammy rent the top floor. It's kind of like a mini hotel.

Our first full day was spent preparing for the week-long trip to the hill country. We set out everything we intended to take and narrowed it down further and further until it could fit in a backpack. The last things we removed from our packs were shampoo and soap. We took our flutes, one change of clothes, pajamas, and basic toiletries.

We left at 6am with two people in the front of our left-side-driven jeep, three people in the middle, and three in the back. The road was rough with steep hills. We had to drive slowly to plot our route around the rocks and bumps. Sometimes it was barely wide enough for one vehicle with mountain and drop-off on either side. If another car wanted to pass, we'd look for a wide point in the road even if that involved backing up or waiting until the road cleared. We saw a lot of school children who would run up and chase the land rover or grab on to the back and ride along. The land rover had no air conditioning so we had to keep the windows rolled down until we passed another vehicle and we'd roll them up quickly because it was so dusty. The vegetation all looks dead because it's covered in dust. The ride was long but it was a great opportunity to chat with our team (all adult men) and see the beautiful countryside of Nepal.
We spent 16 hours on this road.
We took the one on the right.
Look at all of those switchbacks!
Yes, this is the road. Plot your course.
It took two days there and two days back to get to the village but it was worth it because it's an unreached people group. The motivation to go was increased by the difficulty of traveling. Who would go if we didn't?

Palden is a missionary originally from India and he goes to remove villages to share the gospel. He helped us with translating, directions, and such. (Directions: drive 16 hours until the road ends in Potale then hike for five more hours). Sometimes he gets sick when he's hiking and no one knows or can do anything about it. Pray that Palden can travel with ease and no problems.
This is the hotel we stayed at the first night on the road.
Our hotel room.
The drive took longer than we were expecting because we had to go slowly. Thankfully no one got carsick. That's the hotel we stopped at the first night. We brushed out teeth out the window. There was a plywood table for our bed. The photo above was taken from the men's room. There was no door, so we took turns holding up blankets to change. 
A town we drove by.
Isn't Nepal such a gorgeous country?

Potale (where the road ends)

The third day of our trip we ate eggs, potatoes, and beans for breakfast before driving for five more hours. The Himalayan Mountains were beautiful and gigantic! They call this the hill country but they’re bigger than any hills I’ve ever seen. After a lunch break at the hotel where we had been planning to stay, we hiked all afternoon, up and down four mountains. It was weird places to hike because of the terraced landscapes, and it was mostly steep down. It hurt! Our hands were swollen, our legs were shaking. One of our team members was 67, and he was an inspiration!
Salyan, the village we finally made it to, was tiny with approximately 80 houses up and down the side of the mountain. We were the first Americans to ever enter this village. There is one house of believers in this area. The next house of believers is two or three hours down the mountain. The two-story house is completely made of clay and wood. The bottom floor was the church room (where the men from our team stayed) and the top floor is where the family lives. Right behind the house is the Buddhist monastery, so it’s like they’re in the shadow of the monastery. The family faces heavy verbal persecution and there are areas of the mountain where they are not allowed to travel. The people hold to very strict Tibetan Buddhist traditions because it’s the only thing they’ve ever know. When we were sharing the Gospel, we were often were met with the resistance of, “I’m Sherpa, so I’m Buddhist.” Pray for the believers there to be a light and for the unbelievers to have a yearning for Christ.
The house where we stayed.
“Namaste” is the traditional greeting between people but between believers it is “Jamasi!” When we got to Salyan, everyone was joyfully shouting “Jamasi!” It was so exciting. The family of several generations (total of 10ish people) invited us in for black tea (like hot sweet tea). It’s custom to take off your shoes when you go in, so we took ours off but it was so cold that we eventually put our socks back on. We had been expecting to sleep on the ground, but the sister offered us her room. We were hesitant to take it but it was an honor for her. It meant we got to sleep in a bed with a tiny cushion, and we were warmer since we were off of the floor, and we got privacy from the rest of the team (all adult men). The walls were made of dirt, but the sister had covered the walls with newspaper. All of the doors were short. Our first night there we asked for a small meal, so they brought us a huge bowl of boiled potatoes. We peeled them and ate them (kind of like an orange). It thunder snowed that night with lightning and everything but it was mostly gone the next day.
View from the house.
Our first full day in the village we did a devotion about what to expect in visiting house to house (based on the model of Luke 10). We split up into two groups. One went down the mountain and the other stayed near the believers’ house. We prayerfully walked through the village looking for a house of peace. We made small talk before sharing our story about why we were there and sharing the gospel. It was difficult because we were working through translators (who are Christian). Sometimes the translator and the people would talk and talk and talk but sum it up in one English sentence. It was also neat because we traded off who was going to share our story. It was hard and awkward because we didn’t know what to say or how to say it. They have a completely different worldview and don’t understand the way we do, so it’s kind of like talking to a 5th grader using short sentences to be translated. At the last house I [Jennifer] was praying because I wanted a connection and to know how to build to conversation. I started talking to a boy and asked him how old he was. He was 20, so we had an instant connection and talked about school. He appreciated our coming to share God’s love. We invited him to church but he had an exam.
It’s strange to go into a complete stranger’s house and sit down with the intention of sharing the gospel with them. But it was so much fun! One older lady whose husband was out working said she wanted to follow Jesus but her husband wouldn’t allow it. This was a common response. Family is so important to them but it also hinders them from believing the gospel. If someone does believe, it would probably lead to others believing. Pray for this woman and others in her situation. Sometimes they would walk away and give us a verbal closed door. It’s hard to love them and want them to know the Savior even though they’re closed to the idea. What was encouraging was that it’s less about us bringing God to them but rather us joining God where He already is. Even though these people are in spiritual darkness, God’s still there, still working. There are believers there. Just because we’re gone doesn’t mean God’s gone. That’s the only way to have peace in leaving a house that was not receptive to the Gospel.
Pastor Norbu
Pastor Norbu had fallen off of the second story the day before we arrived and messed up his face and leg and couldn’t talk well or move but he wanted to see us before he went to the doctor for pain medication. To get him to the doctor, four people at a time had to carry the stretcher over the same path we’d just walked. We prayed for him a lot because it was already a difficult situation. We prayed that his healing would be quick and miraculous and it would show God’s power and be used as a testimony. He need stitches but thankfully his hip was not broken. He did lose a lot of blood but by the time we left Nepal he was able to talk though still weak. Please continue to pray for Pastor Norbu and his recovery and that he will continue to be a light in the darkness. His brother is a Buddhist witch doctor, and people would come to him and want to be healed, but he couldn’t heal them. Pastor Norbu would pray for them, and they’d be healed. His brother loves him but doesn’t agree with his faith.
Nepali church
In Nepal, as soon as you become a believer, you’re a leader. Brandon taught them how to make disciples, how to teach other believers, etc., and believers traveled from four hours away for this training. We took the kids out to play and take photos. Their faces were all scabbed and blistered due to the climate, and they had runny noses. I [Beth] just wanted to cover them in lotion. Some of them didn’t have pants and just sat in the dirt naked. In Nepal church is on Saturday. Women sit on one side and men on the other. They all prayed out loud at the same time, and the only instruments they had were a drum and a tambourine. They did their part then we introduced ourselves and played our flutes. One of our team members brought the message. There were kids poking their heads in the doors and the room was full of kids. They were curious about the white people, but we hope and pray they heard something.

We left on Sunday, and it was super sad but our leaving didn’t mean God was leaving. We hiked five and a half hours back up the mountain for a total climb of 3,400 feet (7 miles). We literally hiked in the clouds. We walked slowly so we didn’t have to stop as often but we still had to take frequent breaks. The flat land was monumental. That night Jennifer was feeling sick, and Beth was feeling worried and uneasy. We weren’t ourselves. We hadn’t showered in days and were just cranky; the gnats attacking our ears and eyes as we tried to journal weren’t helping either. So we said the fruits of the spirit out loud, said we’d pray for each other, and we went to sleep. In the morning we woke up in a good mood, feeling refreshed, and laughing. On Monday we drove twelve hours the rest of the way back, washing our face in a lake along the way. We finally got showers too! It was glorious! We met up with another member of our team who had been doing something different. We all ate dinner together and it included meat.
"Standing on this mountain top looking just how far we've come
knowing that with every step You are with us."
- Matt Redman, "Never Once"
On Tuesday morning we walked around the Bhouda, an area of Kathmandu with one of the world’s largest stupas and people come from all over the world to see it. There were Nepali people, Chinese people, Europeans, foreigners, storekeepers, school children in their navy uniforms, Buddhist monks in their burgundy robes. It’s a circle with shops all around it. One of their rituals is to walk around the stupa with it on their right side improves karma. There are prayer wheels to spin and offerings and all sorts of things. Since it’s a touristy area, the storekeepers spoke English, so we started conversations with them and gave out tracts of the Gospel of Mark. 
Tuesday afternoon was chill and recuperation time. That night we worshiped together with Brandon and Tammy’s team of journeymen and other supporters. We played our flutes and took hymn requests. They tended to know the first verse and the chorus and would sing really strongly but once we got to the second verse they’d fade out until we got to the chorus again. It was all good, and they really appreciate it because they don’t get to have corporate worship very often.
These flags have Buddhist scripture on them. They're everywhere. Supposedly when you walk past the you breathe in the scripture. The more you have, the more scripture you're breathing in.
On Wednesday we flew to Pokhara. Everyone says to sit on the right side so you can see the Himalayas, but it was cloudy when we landed. Pokhara is a really touristy area where there’s a heavy western influence even though there are cows everywhere. We got to meet Anmol and his wife Neta. Anmol’s grandfather was the first pastor in Nepal. They lived on the border in India and for 17 years they prayed for the doors to open for the Gospel in Nepal. In 1950 the doors opened, and in 1952 they came and started the first church in Nepal.  His grandmother is still alive and she’s 101. We got to meet her. She’d recently fallen and broken her hip, so she’s dying. [Update: She is home with the Lord as of 4-22-12]. She’s beautiful. She’s one of those people you wish you could communicate with her and hear her stories because she’s got so much wisdom. She was the first pastor’s wife in Nepal. She was so frail. Anmol would translate for us, and he’d lean right down next to her ear and yell. She’d bedridden, so she gets lonely. Anmol told us she would love it if we came and touched her, so we held her hand and touched her shoulders. It was a very spiritually filling, precious time.
The first pastor's wife in Nepal, age 101.
Anmol shared his testimony. His parents got divorced and he got on the wrong track and began using drugs, and he got Hep B and his kidneys were failing. He was dying. He had a humongous faith that God could heal him, and He did. It was a miracle! God also cured him of Hep B. Now Anmol’s ministry is to reach out to the street boys who are addicted to drugs and have that way of life. They have a daycare that meets in a garage (the size of my [Beth’s] dorm room), and there are 35-40 boys ranging in age from 7 to 17 who go there every day from 11 to 2 except Friday and Saturday. They share Bible stories, teach them other educational things, and provide them with a simple meal. A lot of the boys have blisters on their face from huffing. 
Approximately 35-40 boys meet in there for three hours daily.
We took articles of clothing, a juice box, and tooth brush and tooth paste and gave them to the boys. One of our team members has a similar testimony involving drugs, so he shared his while we were there, and we sang “Jesus Loves Me.”
Street boys learning about Jesus.
Anmol and Neta also have a home where if the boys want to change their way of life, they can live in the home and Anmol will disciple them. There are four boys living there right now, one of whom has been clean for 1.5 years which is really exciting. Anmol and Neta are renting the house, but they can’t guarantee that they’re going to have it for any amount of time, so they’re trying to raise money to get a lot. It’s going to be $50,000 just for the small area of land, and $45,000 for a three-story building that will include area for the church, a house for the boys, and living space for Anmol and his family. Anmol tries to teach them a trade and practical things, too. The boys make and sell candles, so they can make money.
Teaching some of the boys how to play flute.
We also got to encourage Anmol and Neta. Anmol’s a musician, and he’d written some songs. He’d envisioned a melody for them, so I [Beth] got my flute out. He sang and played it and I figured out the melody. Then I [Jennifer] got my flute out and he had a harmony part too. It was a special music bonding time.
God is good. All the time. (On the wall in the daycare)
Pashupati is the Hindu cremation site. There’s a river that flows through the middle of it and on either side they build up a table where they burn the bodies and when they’re done they just push the ashes into the river. The river’s really holy to them. If someone’s near death and really sick, they lay them on a tablet and set their toes into the water so their spirits will go out into the river and it helps them in their passing. We saw one man who was loitering, and we think he was sick and waiting to go lay on the board. They lay there until they die so all of the spirits will come out of them. It was really smoky. It’s supposedly such a holy place but then there are men there dressed up and painted who are smoking pot, and they take advantage of tourists. This was an emotional hard time because those people being burned didn’t know Jesus as their Savior. 
Hindus build up a pyre to burn bodies then sweep the ashes into the river.
People lay on these planks until they die.
Our very last day we did some touristy shopping and flew over Everest on our way home. Really it's just a little taller than the rest of the mountains.
Mount Everest is that higher peak.

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