We have been back from Nepal for a couple of weeks now and the stories behind the faces on my pictures are starting to fade. But there is one story that I think will stick with me for the rest of my life, the story of the two grandmas I met working on their farm.
As I walked up with my interpreter, they were bent over grinding up pumpkin seeds for pickles. We chatted a bit and a younger woman brought over some stools for us to sit on before wandering off to finish some work. We sat chatting with the women, learning about their lives. Soon they asked:
The Sisters: “Why have you come?”
Me: “I have come to tell you about a man who has changed my life. His name is Jesus. Have you heard of Him?”
“We have some family who are Christians but we do not know much.”
“Would you mind if I told you His story?”
“That would be okay.”
“In order to give the full story, I have to start in the beginning when God created the world. In it He placed a man and a woman. He walked with them in the earth and talked with them every day. They were friends. One day they disobeyed God’s instructions not to eat of the tree in the center of the garden. Because of this God told them that they must be separated from Him forever.”
“When you think of God, do you think of Him as a friend? Or does He seem far away?”
“Our lives are hell and when we die we are going to hell but if there is another way, we would love to hear it.”
Their response blew my mind. They were starving for a relationship with God and had lived over eighty years without knowing how much He loves them.
Over the next few minutes, I was able to tell them how God loved them so much that He sent His own Son Jesus as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world. They understood this well since animal sacrifice is still practiced in Nepal. I explained how God wants to have a close relationship with them and that through Jesus they could know God.
They spent some time thinking on this new information before responding. Then quietly one sister answered for them both.
“This is great news and we would like to accept what you are saying. But we are very old and if we become Christians our family will reject us. Who will take care of us?”
They were not exaggerating. Many Christians face rejection from their families and friends when they start following Jesus. Here in America that means emotional pain. In Nepal, it can mean being cut off from your water supply, the community bank and work force, medicine, and in the case of the vulnerable members of society, food, shelter and care.
With the help of my Nepali brother, I explained to them that Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd and He would not call them into His fold just to abandon them. I further explained that Jesus commanded His followers to take care of those who are not able to care for Himself so we would ensure that the members of the local church would come and check on them.
We talked through a few more concerns together and then they finally said that they too wanted to follow Jesus. We prayed together, thanking God for His love, sacrifice and His promise of eternity with Him. Afterward they each gave me a hug with huge smiles on their faces.
I walked away, still working through my roller-coaster of emotions. Saddened that they had each experienced over eighty years of life and hardship without knowing the God of love. Humbled that I had the privilege of being a messenger of love to them. Concerned that they might be abandoned by their family.
And happy. Happy because their happiness was contagious, so clearly evident in their eyes. Eyes that had just been clouded with heaviness.
I used one of my Nepali phrases to express this to them before I left: “Khushi lagyo”, which means, I am happy.
Me: “How far do we have to hike today?”
My Nepali friend/guide: “Not too far.”
“The car has broken down. We must wait here.”
“How long do you think it will take?”
“Who knows? We will just relax.”
“Sister you take a rest here and then we will go.”
“Not so long.”
Life in Nepal is slower–power, running water, maps and tow trucks were all luxuries I did not often encounter outside the city. Add a culture and language barrier and it became clear to me that I would have to do away with the notion of controlling my time in Nepal. Instead of using my skills (or smart phone) to find solutions to problems, I was forced to slow down and trust the friends guiding me.
While this lack of control frustrated me at first, I grew to like it. I found that the lack of information forced me back into the moment and deepened my friendships. News, media and social media were all set aside and I was free to enjoy the sights and people around me.
Me: “Hi, do you have a minute to talk?”
Nepali family working around their farm: “Please sit down! Can we get you some tea?
I have learned to appreciate our information society and the gifts it brings. But I hope I do not forget to put away the smart phone and appreciate the people in front of me.
As I waited for our flight in the sweaty Kathmandu airport, everything inside of me wondered why I was there. This was the plan, our 15 day visas had expired and we had likely warn out our sweet friends’ hospitality but I so wished we could run out of that airport and spend just one more week in this magical land. I had fallen in love with these people and had seen God work in amazing ways. Knowing that Andy felt the same way only made the torture worse. We put on our big-kid pants, thanked the Lord for the opportunity He had given us and stepped back into (our) reality.
The next month or so held its own magic: as we caught up with the friends and family that had supported us during our trip we realized just how much their prayers had mattered. As we shared the stories of miracles, healing and forgiveness, we saw the two worlds come together: God sent direct answers to the American prayers for the Nepali people and now our American family was able to share the joy of our Nepali family. It was an awesome reminder that in God’s great family there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galations 3:28).
Our plans for another trip to Nepal began immediately. I cannot speak for Andrew but it became a huge motivation for me to push myself in life. Sure, I was excited about the mountaineering season ahead but when I didn’t feel like hitting the gym, I reminded myself that if I ever went back to Nepal I would need to keep up with my friends there. When work got tough I would use Nepal as a motivation to keep working hard and save money for another trip.
Then the earthquake hit. It took everything inside of us to keep from jumping on the next flight to Kathmandu and help where we could. We reasoned that we would be of no use in a culture so different from our own when resources were already stretched thin and neither of us were in a position at work where we could do that anyway. The trip that had been planned for the fall got pushed back indefinitely.
I’m ashamed to say that my reaction was to become angry at God and disillusioned with life. Did He know that this was my motivation? What was I doing here in Oregon when people needed help in Nepal? Have you ever experienced anything like this? Like your dreams were being ripped away from you? How did you feel? Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” and that’s exactly how I felt, like my whole world had been rocked. Angry, confused and guilty for feeling this way.
From here on out, I cannot speak for Andrew because it seemed that even though his initial reaction was similar to mine, more patient and mature. Almost steady, calm and paced. I on the other hand, started looking for something else to put my hope in: things like my job, fitness, adventuring and our marriage. Without going into details, I discovered through some dark days that even though all those things are good they are also unsteady. While I was able to find happiness in each one of these things, eventually they always disappointed. I had my dream job yet there were still bad days at work; when it comes to fitness, there is no rest, no lasting achievement. Besides, I’m really not that great of an athlete. The rain can ruin adventures, friends have their own lives they get caught up in and no matter how awesome my husband is (and he is!), he can never meet all my needs. Over the past few months I have gone on a journey of disappointment because the things I placed my hope in were never meant to hold true hope.
Hebrews 6 speaks of a hope that acts as an anchor for our souls, an anchor that is sure and steadfast. I don’t know about you, but that is what I need, something that doesn’t change with the winds of this world. I finally found this hope when I returned to the Maker of my soul who sees all my flaws and insecurities and tells me He loves me anyway. He gives us His unfailing promises in His word, promises like, Cast your cares upon Him for He cares for you, I will never leave you or forsake you, and that in His presence there is fullness of joy. The God who created the universe, who is infinitely wise, good and just, that God has not forgotten me. Even though His ways are often not what I would choose, they are always the best for me. I can place my hope in that.
God has given us the opportunity to return to Nepal but it took Him taking it away for me to really see the point. I am not going to Nepal for adventure, friendship, or a cultural experience; I am going to Nepal to tell people who have never before heard the name of Jesus that they can enter into a relationship with God like nothing they have ever known. I cannot fix their lives–I can’t even fix my own life!–but I can introduce them to the One who has transformed my life and given me a hope that goes deeper than words can express.
We need your prayers!
- That God would remove any selfish motives from our hearts and would give us His heart of love toward the people we are going to meet.
- That He would open our eyes to the spiritual needs of the individuals we meet and that we would take our eyes off ourselves.
Have you ever experienced crushing disappointment, depression, even despair? I would love to hear your story. Leave me a comment if this has struck a nerve or shoot me an email if you need someone to chat with.