Friday, November 18, 2011


I'm writing this from a completely different world than my last post. I'm curled up on a couch, drinking peach tea, about to eat banana chocolate chip pancakes with Lyssa and her older sister, Emmy, who's teaching English here with her husband Steve. We've been relaxing at their apartment for the last few days, talking about Nepal, sharing stories, debriefing, and eating delicious Chinese food. And watching Seinfeld. It's a nice in-between place, not Nepal and not America, where we've been able to reflect but also just have fun (and maybe gain back some of the weight we lost in Nepal...).

When we first landed, I was shocked at the wide paved roads here, with traffic that flows fairly normally (I used to think China's driving was crazy until Kathmandu) and stoplights to control it and no cows wandering the sides of the roads. It was weird to look left instead of right (Nepalis drive on the "wrong" side of the road), to see less motorbikes, no saris, no tikka marks, no packed Nepali buses, no roadside markets - just skyscrapers and sidewalks and Western stores. I already miss Nepal. I miss the kids, the community of amazing people we met -- and the butter naan and shahi korma at Universal. I even miss dahl bat.

But I keep thinking of the phrase we used so much in Nepal, usually after seeing some crazy thing God is doing: "from glory to glory." This doesn't mean "from comfort to comfort" or "from easy experience to easy experience" -- but that we'll see more and more of him, better and better glimpses of his power and love. God promises to take us from glory to glory, from strength to strength, and from joy to joy if we ask him, if we press into his presence and into his heart. And that's not going to end just because Kathmandu is far away. The night we left, our friends prayed that we'd look back on Nepal someday and say, Yeah, Nepal was amazing, but it was just a stepping-stone to so many greater experiences with God. I have no idea what that will look like, but I'm excited to find out.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

gold dust and other things outside my comfort zone

I've seen some wild things on this trip, wild things that the Lord is doing. And I've heard stories of even wilder things from the people here. One of the wildest so far is about gold dust and glory clouds. I first heard about this at Soaking, during a podcast sermon we were listening to, and it blew my mind. Apparently, at a church called Bethel in Redding, California, and at other churches around the world that focus in on the more Pentecostal or supernatural, gold dust falls during worship and glory clouds rest on the people. Google Bethel - I think there are YouTube videos of it. But as the pastor was talking about the glory cloud that had appeared in worship that Friday night, I found myself feeling skeptical. Or maybe a better word is confused. We cannot and should not seek signs for entertainment or PR - only out of pure love for Jesus and an understanding of his love for those who don't know him. And this gold dust thing sounded like a PR campaign or something...whatever it was, it sounded weird, and where in the Bible does God reign gold dust on people? So I sat there and kind of fumed as I listened, frustrated and way out of my comfort zone.

But a word of wisdom from one of the YWAM girls kept coming back to me: she'd struggled with stuff like this during her training and eventually had to realize that if she didn't believe in prophecy, she didn't believe in half the Old Testament, and if she didn't believe in miracles, she didn't believe in the Gospels or Acts, and if she didn't believe in the unfathomable power of the Holy Spirit - well. Then she didn't believe Jesus!

And I realized - slowly, over three or four days, maybe a week - that our God is bigger than we can ever imagine. He does whatever he pleases (Psalm 115:3, Psalm 135:6, Daniel 4:35). And he's done some crazy stuff - why can't these crazy things happen now, too? Why not transportation, like Philip in Acts? Why not resurrection, like Lazarus? (And I've heard some pretty cool resurrection stories here...) Why not healings, like in all the New Testament?

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you" - Acts 8.

"He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it." - Mark 16:15-20

I'm still not exactly comfortable with gold dust. But I'm more and more comfortable with my God who doesn't fit inside a box, who robes himself in majesty and rules the world and really defies complete comprehension until we see him face to face - and yet still loves each of us passionately. Um, cool. And if he wants to reign gold dust on the people he adores, and rest his glory cloud upon them, then - well, I keep thinking of that line in the Chronicles of Narnia. "Aslan a tame lion? Oh no, he's not tame. But he's good."

thammel at night

If you come to Nepal to trek, you go to Thammel. It's a touristy district in Kathmandu that sells everything trekking or hiking that you can imagine - all of it fake name brand gear, super cheap, and actually really nice if you look hard. Lyssa and I went there last week (because Thammel also has a ton of Nepali and Tibetan crafts and clothes and gifty stuff) and had a blast doing some hard bargaining for our Christmas gifts. We also bought some fake hiking stuff - a Mammut fleece for about $9 is hard to resist when you love hiking and trekking like we do.

During the day, Thammel is a narrow maze of shops and restaurants, but at night when the shops close, it's a trekker's bar hopping paradise. All the stalls close and the bars and pubs and restaurants upstairs blast their music and flash their lights. We went down there last night to do ministry with Joel, Nelson, Dinesh, Gonga, the YWAM team, and a girl named
Katy who's visiting from England. The funny thing was that Thammel is a place I'd love to go for a drink, so it was strange at first to be there ministering. But Joel says that Thammel is a darker place, lined with prostitutes, during the less touristy season - and anyway, Jesus calls us to minister everywhere.

So we broke up into smaller groups and planned to meet back at midnight. I was with Dinesh, Gonga, and Lyssa. First we went to a reggae bar because Lyssa and I had met the owner at a restaurant when we were shopping, and he'd invited us to drop by. So we got up to the door and the bouncer said, "250 rupees each." But Lyssa said, "We know the owner and he invited us to come," and so the bouncer said okay. Maybe it was because business was slow, maybe it was God. I think it was God! We went in and sat on some couches and started to pray (and Lyssa and I laughed because we never ever thought we'd be in a dance bar with Dinesh and Gonga) and a couple minutes later Lyssa felt led to go talk to a girl who was taking a break from dancing. After chatting for a minute, she said, "I'm a Christian and Jesus told me to tell you that you're a beautiful dancer and he wants you to dance for him." And the girl said, "I have a friend who's a Christian and I really like her. Can we meet tomorrow to talk about Jesus?" So we're meeting her and her friends today at 12 in Thammel - pray for that!

Then we set off again. We didn't know exactly what to do next, but as we were crossing the street in a darker part of Thammel, I saw a woman huddled against the metal door of a closed shop and felt the Lord say, "Go ask to pray for her." I didn't take any pictures, but imagine a dark step in front of a metal door, a tray of cigarettes lit by a candle stub, an old woman wrapped in a red shawl. Toothless, no Tikka mark on her forehead, a gold stud in her nose. We went up and Dinesh started talking and translating: she has no family, her husband just died, and she's sick, trying to sell cigarettes to make some money. We decided to pray, then go buy her some food and tea. I knelt down to pray, put my hand on her knee - and as she put her wrinkled hand on top of mine, I started to cry. I felt a combination of her complete aloneness on the streets and Jesus's great love for people like her, and prayed for overwhelming peace and an encounter with the Lord. She held my hand and looked at me, nodding, the whole time, and I had no idea if she really knew what was going on but claimed that peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4) for her. What else can we ask for in grim moments like these? Then we brought her some crackers, almonds, and hot chia. As Dinesh translated, and told her we loved Jesus, she said no one had ever stopped to talk with her or ask her how she's doing - so she knew it must be God. But no one had ever told her about Jesus before. I got to tell her that when I saw her candle, Jesus told me to talk with her - and she said that when we prayed, she felt peace and warmth and light (her words!). Dinesh and Gonga shared the Gospel with her as she dipped her crackers in her tea and ate. And I was struck by this image of communion, Jesus' body and blood shed for her, though she doesn't understand it, only knows him as a peace in the dark and cold - and how crackers and tea don't last, don't keep the hunger back for too long, but Jesus' living bread satisfies forever.

I have no idea if she'll ever know or understand what Jesus did for her, but she knows Him as someone who stopped to talk among hundreds who dropped their cigarette wrappers around her feet without saying anything - as someone who brought her food and tea and gave her peace. Praise the Lord.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

some kathmandu

(fooling around with color - chickens and a blue house, Bhaisipati, near the YWAM team's flat)

(this red dirt glowed. also Tihar flowers above the door. Dhobigat, right near the Debortolis place)

(nepali houses, fields, near where we've been teaching English)

(khokana at night. I know it's not a great picture but I like the sliver moon)

(from the rice field at the children's home, looking at more rice fields)

Friday, November 4, 2011

watch furious love

I have a movie recommendation. For everyone. The other night, we had a 'family movie night' at the Debortolis with the YWAM team. Film: Furious Love (Darren Wilson). I was slightly concerned, slash skeptical, going into it, because it's about spiritual warfare (or at least that's what I was told - it's actually about a lot more), and, as I mentioned in an earlier post, that stuff used to creep me out. I thought it was going to be like Paranormal Activity or whatever that movie is called. And because I don't have much (barely any) experience talking about spiritual warfare.


You all have to see it. It's a beautiful movie - and God is a beautiful God. The narrator, a quirky and once-skeptical-about-the-unseen Believer, starts out by saying it's a journey into the darkness to discover how far love can go. He documents a "demon tent" at a revival in Africa, the persecuted church in India, sex trafficking in Thailand, a witch convention in Salem - and everywhere, the narrator discovers a God who is utterly moved by love, a Father who desperately wants to embrace his children. He weeps for them! Jesus's furious love extends into the darkest, saddest, most evil places, a light that cannot be defeated! He is, to quote a man who saw Jesus at a New Age convention in Mt. Shasta where the narrator and several pastors went to share God, a "man on a white horse with a sword in his hand." But also our Lover whose love is outlandish, unfathomable, magnificent, and beautiful!

Three things it got me thinking about:

- The world is waiting for this kind of love and they don't even know it.

- Jesus asks us, when we shrink back from ministering to the darkest or saddest people, "Why would you send away what I've sent in?" (Just think about his ministry in the Gospels, and the people he hung out with!)

- Where can I be Jesus?

language barriers

Recently, at a worship night, someone brought up the insufficiencies of language here. Or the insufficiencies of communicating without language, I guess. And everyone in the room, about 30 women who are ministering in Nepal, was cracking up at the impossibility of conversations here, the silliness of relying on eye contact or hand gestures to try to say things that matter.

It's funny, but it's also been making me sad - aware of my own inadequacy, maybe ineffectiveness here, because I don't know the language.

Really. How can we expect to share Jesus - or, on a simpler level, form relationships and friendships - when we don't know how to speak? We can use translators, sure, and there are some amazing ones here, but that's still a barrier. Even when Nepalis know English, accent barriers make things confusing. Language is one of those things that, no matter how much you tug and pull, won't quite fit, like a shirt that's too small.

Today, Lyssa and I got to teach English at a ministry called Tami Asia, run by Brian and Ruth Williams. We'd met them at church on Sunday, and Brian invited us to drop by. An intern from Pennsylvania, Jake, and a Nepali teenager named Roshan picked us up and brought us to Tami Asia's classrooms. After chatting with Jake and drinking tea (he's finishing his masters in international development and just got back from a trek to base camp!), we met two Nepali women in a tiny classroom to teach. Sabita and Tassi are in their 50s, learning English for the first time. There are usually more students in their class, but most are gone for Tihar, the current Hindu holiday. Anyway, Tami Asia seeks (among other things) to educate women and children at risk in English, Nepali, math, and computers to help them get jobs and support themselves. They also offer handicraft classes, so handmade jewelry and knit scarfs and tapestries fill the walls in the common room.

Jake and Roshan did most of the teaching today: Sabita and Tassi are beginners, so they need Roshan to translate. We worked on the letter A. Partway through a discussion on the different-sounding A's in "almond," "apple," and "phrase," Sabita asked - "Why does this letter make different sounds?"

And Jake and I couldn't figure out how to answer the question. Why do letters make different sounds?


I tried to come up with an analogy - like, it's the same letter but it wears different hats. An "aah" hat, an "ah" hat, an "a" hat. I kinda like that, but it still doesn't answer why.

Then Lyssa and I taught Sabita, Tassi, and Roshan hangman. I remember playing it with high school students in Thailand, when my family and a group from my church taught English there for two weeks, so thought it would be perfect. It wasn't - not quite - because it took literally forever to explain the game. We had miscommunication after miscommunication: at one point Roshan said something like, "I don't get the fun of this game." And I felt stuck; after using up every possible word I could think of to explain, I'd still failed to tell him the "fun" (or the basic point, I guess) of hangman.

In the end, we all figured it out and played some pretty fun games of it! And it was a great day. We'll be going back next week to continue teaching and helping out. But it's all just making me think about the messiness of communicating across the language barrier. What can I really do here without knowing Nepali? I'm not discounting myself, or the work of non-Nepali speaking Christian workers here, because I know that Jesus gets around the language barrier just fine. I'm just feeling the inadequacy of my English - of every way I know how to express myself - feeling small.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

kid stories

(We didn't have much Internet this week so a bunch of blog posts piled up in my head - which is why I've posted three this afternoon. There's so much to share!)

These kids! They're crazy. We spent much of last week playing tag, Hanky Panky, and Nepali games, learning new Nepali words, and bonding with all of them. It was the best. This week we'll be at the Debortolis visiting several ministries in Kathmandu - but next week I'm planning on being right back with the kids.

Rajn, who fell asleep on my lap one night. Cutest thing ever.

I have to admit that learning 23 names was hard...and I don't remember this girl's name. But I do know that she really loves to jump rope!

Tara and a baby goat

Two favorite stories:

After we'd been gone for one morning, Mahandra, a little 4 or 5 year old, grabbed my hand and led me up to the kitchen to make sure I got some of the 'saal roti' (fried bread) they'd all made, even though lunch was long over. And when I got manure on my arm one afternoon in the field, he ran to get a pitcher of water, poured a little on my arm, and scrubbed it off. He would have kept on pouring and scrubbing until my skin rubbed off, but I convinced him it was gone and gave him a HUGE hug. What a little servant!

Lyssa has a cold, so when Tara, who's 7, found out, she instantly put her hands on Lyssa's cheek and throat and prayed. And Lyssa felt better. These children have so much faith and love for Jesus!

Okay. Want to learn a little game in Nepali? Grab a friend. Face each other. Put your right hand on top of their left, and their left over your right. Then slap their left hand four times while saying, "ko ko dai, ko ko dai." Have your friend slap your hand three times to a slower "ko, ko, ko." Then count to ten (in English, actually!) - slapping on every other number. Whoever slaps on ten tries to hit the other person's hand, and if they don't pull their hand away in time, they lose and you win! Whatever happens, cheer a lot when it's over :)

Rajn, our little monkey man

Rajn and Anita (one of Tara's three sisters who are all here together).

My new best friend, Tara. I LOVE this girl. We took about thirty of these silly pictures.

Mahandra and Sunil

My other best friend Biba (another one of Tara's sisters) who taught me a lot of Nepali and braided my hair in the mornings.

Here's a closer picture of Biba. She's 15. I had so much fun talking with her! Her English is sometimes hard to understand, and I obviously know no Nepali, so occasionally we'd just have to laugh and give up. But we had a blast together.

Looking out on the roof after an afternoon rainstorm (during which I taught Sita "rain rain go away").

I can't wait to go back!