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!

my nepal encyclopedia

To try and capture more of Kathmandu than I can by camera, and to record all the random things that make up this trip: an encyclopedia of words, places, moments. (All the Nepali words are my spelling, since the actual language uses another alphabet...)

Aunty: what the kids call us and the other house moms. I taught the kids to call me Kiki Aunty since they had trouble pronouncing Kirsten!

Bai: younger brother

Bus rides: bus rides in Kathmandu are crazy. The ceilings inside are maybe five feet tall, so if we have to stand, we all have to hunch over - while packed in so tight it's impossible to move. The ticket-taker, who rides on the step outside of the door, also works to cram as many people inside as possible, a puzzle-master of sorts. Make sure you have the right change so you don't get ripped off.

Chai: Nepali chai is sweet and heavenly. Mix black tea, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, milk, black pepper, and tons of sugar.

Chia: tea. Nepalis drink either super sugary black tea or milk tea. Milk tea is boiled milk with black tea and sugar, and I drank it constantly at the children's home. The more, the better.

China: none. Example: when Rajn came up to me and said, "Panties china!" meaning, "I have no panties" :( Don't worry, he does have panties, but he wets his pants so much still that he runs out all the time.

Dahl bat: rice and lentils - the staple Nepali meal.

Dai: older brother

Danyabat: thank you (pronounced DAHN-ya-baht)

Didi: sister. I guess Nepalis call each other Didi, Aunty, Uncle, Bai, or Dai constantly - either attached the end of a name or all by itself.

Dogs: I really dislike the dogs in Kathmandu. They either bark, howl, or shriek all night long, especially at the children's home. And we heard two dogs die in huge dog fights two nights in a row at the kid's home. It was so horrible!

Higher Grounds: a Christian owned coffee shop close to the Debortolis that actually really looks like a western coffee shop and feels like home. And has yummy pancakes. I've only been there once but really want to go back before we leave.

Jamasi: a Christian greeting meaning victory in the Messiah (pronounced jay-mah-SEE)

KFC: not to be confused with Kentucky Fried Chicken, the Kwality Food Center serves Indian food like momos (dumplings) and naan. Lyssa and I can eat there for about 300 rupees, or barely four dollars, depending on how much naan we get...

Khokana: the village right outside Kathmandu where the children's home is located. Lots of rice fields around - it's beautiful!

Lazarus: the Debortolis' red jeep, so named because it's died and been resurrected so many times. Should fit five people, but can fit twelve... The van at the children's home, a rickety thing that should fit eight, has fit 21 Nepali kids with Gonga driving. I saw it with my own eyes, and then rode in the next trip with 14 adults and bigger kids. I don't think I need to say that there are no seatbelt laws here.

Mirinda: an orange soda, like fanta, that comes in a glass bottle. Yum!

Miro nam Kirsten ho: my name is Kirsten (pronounced MEER-oh-nam)

Mo lie chya dinus: give me tea!! (pronounced mo-LIE chee-uh din-OOS)

Motorbikes: they're everywhere. And while at the children's home, our primary transportation. Lyssa rides on the back of Nelson's and I ride on the back of Dinesh's. Slightly terrifying - Nepali roads, if paved, are dense with potholes and loose gravel, people, animals, buses, other bikes. Also exhilarating!

Naan: garlic or butter, we eat this stuff in mass quantities when we go to Indian places!

Namaste: hello! (accompanied by pressing your palms together, like in prayer). Direct translation is "I salute the gods within you" which is why "jamasi" is such a cool greeting for Christians.

Numbers: I can count from 1-10 in Nepali now! Ech, dwee, teen, char, baht, cha, saht, at, noo, das.

Pani: water

Paneer butter masala: my favorite Indian dish - butter masala with chunks of cheese.

Rupee: Nepali currency - 76 rupees to one American dollar. For 76 rupees, you could get two cokes, or eight pieces of roti, or one and a half pieces of naan, or four donuts.

Soaking: a Saturday night worship session at the Debortolis' house. Always by candlelight. We listen to a sermon podcast, have Communion, sing, sleep, praise the Lord. It's the best!

Ta piko nam kay ho: what is your name? (or timro nam kay ho for someone younger)

Tiksa: "it's all good". Most useful Nepali word to know, I say it all the time now!

Thammel: the trekking district, full of narrow shops with fake North Face (and any outdoor brand you can imagine) gear. Rumor has it you can buy three Patagonia down vests for $40...

Toe pie la danyabat: a super polite way of saying thank you, meaning "thanks to you"

Universal: a bright green, orange, red and blue cafe with delicious Indian food and the best naan in Kathmandu.

on being nothing

There've been some moments on this trip when I've felt like nothing. (Also moments - many of them - where I've felt full, content, happy, in awe of the Lord, excited to be here) - but several moments when I've felt like nothing.

One of them was during our trek. We'd been hiking since six in the morning, and I'd been sick all afternoon as we scrambled downhill toward a river. When we got to the river, it was four o'clock, sun was setting, and we still had five hours of hiking ahead of us. Usually I love hiking, but this day had drained me of everything. I was using a walking stick, leaning on it too much, sweaty and shaky and feeling like I had nothing left inside of me. I don't know if I've ever felt that empty before.

Another couple nothing-moments happened at the beginning this week, at the children's home, after hours of playing and being pulled in 23 different directions at once - and looking at the time and realizing I still had three more hours of craziness until dinner. 

And in general, it's draining to be living in a completely different world (in many ways), away from normal things and people that I know, living out of a backpack.

And I'm realizing, in a new and intense way, that I'm nothing without Jesus. I have no strength of my own, can accomplish nothing on my own. I couldn't hike for five more hours on the trek and I couldn't play for three more hours at the children's home - not without some serious divine intervention. I've been wondering why I didn't feel like this (at least too often) during the summer, which was so busy, with my job and two internships - I think it's because at home, we have health food and energy bars, constant internet access, books and TV shows, so many things to unwind with. So when we feel empty and drained, we turn to these things for a recharge.

All of these things are good - believe me, I'd love some an energy bar right now - and I'm not bashing them in any way. I'm just realizing that they're false supports, and can make us forget that the only real recharge and refill is Jesus. Because in Nepal, especially at the children's home, none of my usual recharge strategies are available. All I have is Jesus!
"They [the Lord's people] have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water." - Jeremiah 2:13
I'm learning that my broken cisterns can't hold water. Even when I do have the little luxuries of internet or chocolate or a couch, they're not enough. Which is so great! I love that Jesus is the spring of living water, that when we fill up on him, we'll never go thirsty. He strengthens us with all power according to his glorious might, so that we may have great endurance and patience (Colossians 1:11). He takes great delight in us, quiets us with his love, and rejoices over us with singing (Zephaniah 3:17). This strength is thousands of times stronger than any energy bar or chocolate chip cookie. Evidence: I climbed that mountain by the light of my headlamp until 9 o'clock that night, filled with a strength that was certainly not my own (since I'd had none at the river). More evidence: after recharging with the Lord at the children's home, I couldn't believe how fast time flew and how much fun I had with those crazy kids. For the whole entire week!

I'm still craving some healthy food, some cheese maybe, or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a movie night - but not for any source of perfect or lasting energy. For that, we have to go straight to the Source.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

at the children's home

Finally, after two weeks, I'm doing what I told everyone I'd be doing in and volunteering at an orphanage. Actually it's called a children's home because these kids aren't orphans any more - and you know it when you walk in the door. They're the loudest, kindest kids, a family of 25 with a heavenly Father. They all eat more than me. And they're so tiny!

Our first day, we played catch and hand-clap games, counted in English and sang the ABCs, worshipped in the evening and ate dahl bat (it's what they eat for every meal). It was fun but exhausting - maybe more exhausting than trekking 13 hours? Just kidding. Not really.

My favorite thing is that they all call us 'aunty' and shout it all the time at us. 'Aunty watch!' 'Aunty here!' And for some of them, aunty is the extent of their English - which makes smiles and laughter so meaningful.

Here are a couple pictures:

(the view from the roof: this area is called Khokana, and it's right outside Kathmandu. Tourist buses come here all the time because it's marketed as a real Nepali village. Compared to the villages we saw, it's not at all...)

(we taught them 'down by the banks' - a group hand clap game. 'Again, aunty, again!')

(Sita and Rajn)

(the children's home)

(the front door)

(praying during worship this morning)

It's so beautiful to see these kids, who all have sad and grim pasts, joyfully praising God, at home, learning, eating enough food. And it's beautiful to see the Nepali house parents who live here (Dinesh, Sita, Nira, Suna, and Nelson) and dedicate themselves to bringing up these kids. They are such patient people.

I've been thinking a lot about Philippians 2:

"If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

Sometimes I just want to have internet and gourmet food,a softer bed, all these selfish things, and need to remind myself that this trip is not about me. Or if it is about me in any small way, it's about me being a humble servant, which is hard.

Pray for these adorable kids! I'll post more pictures when I can.

Friday, October 21, 2011

...all that we have accomplished you have done for us

himalayas from the plane window!
Last night, my trekking/outreach team of 23 people debriefed over spaghetti and garlic bread. We'd just spent seven days trekking near the Annapurna region of Nepal, sharing the Gospel with unreached villages - so there was a lot to debrief and reflect on. We laughed, shared stories, sometimes cried, and over and over again came back to Isaiah 26:12: "All that we have accomplished, you, (the Lord), have done for us."

excited to be landing in Nepal!
Everything that happened as we trekked and shared the Gospel last week was for the glory of God, only for his glory. Which is a really good place to start this blog post. Because some crazy things happened, things I've never seen before and things I definitely wasn't comfortable with. But when it's all for God's glory, and all because of God's love for people, it's easier to understand.

lhasa, tibet (layover)

Lyssa and I got to Kathmandu on October 10th, after a nearly 40 hour travel day. The next day, we set off for rural Nepal on a rickety bus, with backpacks and hiking boots and no idea what we were heading into.
The team:
Joel Debortoli: the missionary Lyssa knows through her church. Six foot eight inches tall, carted around a 90 pound backpack all week long. Truly seeking after the heart of the Lord for Nepal.
Jordan Debortoli: his 14 year old son, who kept us distracted on long trekking days with senseless and silly riddles.
D and B: an amazing missionary couple, names omitted because of where the Lord is calling them, full of stories of God's grace on their lives. LOVED getting to know them.
Kyle and Annie: a Canadian couple serving with Iris. They've been in Nepal since April. And they pronounce house "hoose" like all good Canadians.
Ryan and Katie: an American couple who's been in Nepal since April, like Kyle and Annie, but aren't working with Iris. Ryan is an engineer, and he's working on a water project in Dadhuwa, the second village we trekked to.
Gonga, Nelson, Babu, and Dinesh: four Nepali guys who work with Iris and are possibly the most Christ-like men I've ever met. It was an honor to see their fire and passion for the Lord. Also, they're hilarious. My favorite Gonga quote: when someone told him that he was the man, he said "Yes, I am 100% man."
The Kona YWAM team: Hayley, Cody, Jen, Sarah, Sarah (or Sarah Squared), Amy, Scott, Don, and Chris are from all over the States, serving in Nepal for three months as part of their six month YWAM training. Like me, most of them had never seen anything like the things we saw on this trip, and were completely excited and honored to be doing God's work in rural Nepal.
tired hikers
mountains over puma
washing dishes
Day one: After a seven hour bus ride from Kathmandu to Besisahar, we trekked into the hills. Straight up into the hills, actually. We gained 1000 meters in about four hours, sometimes climbing up a trail that seemed more like a cliff. It was rough, one of those hikes with endless false summits. But when we arrived in Puma at dusk, with the Himalayas crisp and blue and close to the north, cooking fire smoke and radio chatter curling around us, we knew we were exactly where the Lord wanted us. See, one of the YWAM girls received a word from God, way back in Kona - and the word was Puma. She googled the word, and it happened to be a tiny village in Nepal. A couple weeks later, there we were.

Day two: I'm honestly not that familiar with receiving words from the Lord. To be completely honest, I'd barely heard about it until I came to Nepal. But after Puma, where most people looked completely blank when we asked if they'd heard of Jesus Christ, I believe that this word, Puma, was definitely from the Lord. We spent the morning perched on the edges of the village's steep paths, reading our Bibles and looking up again and again at the Himalayas, so close-looking I could almost touch them but so far away and vast.

puma (our view as we prayed)
i love doors! (also where we prayed)
puma is gorgeous
We ate roti (fried bread, see picture), hard boiled eggs, and beans for breakfast. Then split into groups and spread around the village to pray for people and tell them about the Jesus Film, which we were going to show that night. My group went to one house, small and clay with a thatched roof and swept porch, chickens wandering around, and ended up staying there for over two hours. As soon as we started praying, about fifteen people showed up. We prayed for women with aching backs and teeth, for a man with stomach pain, for a woman with a fever and fear in her heart. And the Jesus completely healed them! It is a wild experience to lay hands on someone, to pray to the Great Physician, and then have this person tell you that all their pain is gone - and to be able to see it on their faces, to see peace and joy and surprise. I was surprised - never stopped being surprised at these miracles and at the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit in these people who seemed to believe in Jesus' healing power without even knowing who he is.


dahl bat and veg curry

morning light, himalayas
After a dinner of dahl bat, or rice and lentils, with veg curry (eaten by headlamp light) we showed the Jesus film to a crowd of probably 100 people. I've never seen the Jesus film before - it was made in the 80s and lasts about two and half hours, and it's a way more powerful tool than I ever thought it could be. After, Jesus healed countless aching knees and backs (life is hard in Nepali villages). I think I was still in shock - or at least trying to take this all in - we all were. Was this really happening? Nepali people are very honest, and if they weren't feeling any better or different, they'd tell us, and we'd pray again. But when these old and wrinkled village woman realized their knees had stopped aching, they would dance. Literally. Bend their knees and hop around.

games with the kids
Hardest moment of the day: the village outcast, a man with one blind eye and a shriveled frame who always hung back. We prayed for him for maybe an hour or more, our whole group, all our hands on him, praying that the Lord would heal him as a testimony to Puma - and nothing happened. It was confusing. But I wrote in my journal, "I trust the Lord worked in his heart, which matters more; God's love was so clear as we surrounded him and touched him." Still doesn't answer the question of why God didn't heal him, and I'm still processing that. But, (and this is getting ahead of myself), Jesus uses miracles and healings as testimonies to his power and glory -- as signs of something deeper and more powerful. What he really cares about most are healed hearts. And maybe, who knows, only Jesus, something was touched or healed in the blind man's heart.

sunrise over puma
i loved hiking along right next to the HIMALAYAS!
Day two: Journal excerpt: "We hiked 13 hours today. Maybe more. Lost count." Crazy day. We left Puma at 6 a.m., after watching the sunrise turn the Himalayas pink, and hiked along a cliff with views of the greenest terraced fields I've ever seen. The early part of our trek was easy, cruising terrain, with constant views of white peaks so far up in the sky. We stopped for lunch in a village along the way and ate beaten rice with sugar and fried bread (with peanut butter from our packs). The afternoon, humid and windless, got hard. It was all downhill, an elevation loss of about 4000 feet. And then I got sick. We got to the bottom around 4 o'clock, shaky legged and exhausted, faced with another 3000-ft climb on the other side of a rushing river. The locals said it would take us anywhere from three to seven hours to climb. There were no villages around. So we pooled our snacks, loaded up on carbs and sugar, crossed the river on a swinging suspension bridge, and began to hike up. It was a lesson for me in praying without ceasing as we first climbed through terraced rice fields, then headed into the jungle, full of whining bugs and snaggy tree branches, slippery rocks and humid dark. We hiked until nearly 9 o'clock by the light of our headlamps, up and up and up, carried up by the Lord. Because if you'd seen us at the bridge at 4 o'clock, you would have seen a bunch of physically and emotionally exhausted people, on the verge of collapse. We only made it up to Dadhuwa by the strength of the Lord.

not clouds. mountains!
terraced rice fields in the foreground

so much green, my camera couldn't handle it

dried corn, dadhuwa
Day three: Difficult day for me. After our trekking day, I spent nearly the whole night in the buggy and spidery outhouse near the school classroom we slept in, sick with some kind of food thing. So I slept most of the day.

Our team spent the whole afternoon praying in Dadhuwa, experiencing more healings and a beautiful openness to the Lord. I got to join in later, for the evening. Cool backstory: Dadhuwa's church had three people before last week. Ryan and Katie, the engineering couple, have stayed at the believers's home there several times while working on their water project - Dadhuwa used to have easy access to water until an earthquake changed the water table fifty years ago, so now their water source dries up soon after the monsoon. They have to walk 30 minutes to get to the nearest source of drinking water. So Ryan and Katie's connection with the village is strong.

nepali woman
Before the Jesus film began that night, in a packed-out field filled with probably 300 people, one of the believers, Chandra, shared his testimony to this Hindu village. In a country that persecutes Christians openly and is 80% Hindu, this was an amazing thing. And then the Lord moved in a powerful way. After the film ended, and Gonga shared his testimony and invited people to come forward for prayer, we were swamped. Didn't have nearly enough translators - the seven people on our team who know Nepali were completely overwhelmed (Gonga said later he was trying to translate for up to four groups at once). So we asked two girls (one who was a believer already, one who'd become a believer than afternoon) to help translate for us. I've never seen anything like it. It was the book of Acts alive - crazy, we'd just look at each other like WHAT is going on as one boy's fractured and immobile wrist was completely healed, as one man's tumor shrunk and then disappeared -- and as the church in Dadhuwa more than doubled in size! There are six believers now, praise the Lord!

laying hands

finally in the valley!
Day four: Dadhuwa sent us off with bouquets and bouquets of flowers, and then basically tried to keep us from leaving by bringing more sick and aching people to us as we left. So we didn't leave until nearly noon - but it was so good. The new believers translated and prayed with us. Jesus healed backs, knees, a deaf man's ears, as literally seventy or more people gathered around to watch. They saw testimony after testimony of Jesus's healing power! I'm so excited for Dadhuwa - the Lord is doing so many good things there. It was truly an honor to be able to witness it.

We hiked out to Bangrabeshi, our last village, after the morning of prayer. The hike was super steep downhill, painful on my knees. The humidity stuck. I've never sweated so much in my life as I did on this trek - every hiking day, I was soaked from head to toe, day four included. But a beautiful thing happened at the bottom of our descent. A river! After crossing on a bridge of three logs tied together, we ditched our packs and stinky shoes and jumped in the water. It was cold and clear and soothing, and we washed our hair and faces, then just sat half-submerged on rocks and ate lemon and chocolate biscuits, stared at the green hills and were overjoyed by the beauty of it. And the total freedom of dunking in a river in all my clothes and not caring one bit!

the river
we washed our hair!
our beauty salon
so clean and so happy

the valley as we hiked out
The last part of the hike to Bangrabeshi was easy and beautiful. The sun was setting as we trekked out of the valley and everything was gold-colored. We got to Bangrabeshi just in time for dinner - dahl bat, of course. Dinesh grew up in this village, but left after his family became Christian and was persecuted by the whole village. The atmosphere there was completely different than Puma and Dadhuwa - darker, more frenetic, more hostile to us. Didn't help that a baag, or tiger, roams the village at night, or that the place we stayed was infested with some of the biggest spiders I've ever seen. They weren't spiders - they were terrifying beasts, bigger than my hand. Anyway, the first night we showed the Jesus film, nearly everyone left before it was over and hardly anyone came up for prayer. I remember thinking, why are we here, Lord, why are you letting everyone just walk away? The answer came when one of the only men who asked for prayer told us he used to be a believer, had backslid because of persecution but wanted to follow Jesus again! His whole right arm was paralyzed, but he regained full movement of it as we prayed and then totally gave himself to the Lord.

kids watching, bangrabeshi
Day five: Because some of Dinesh's family still lives in Bangrabeshi, we spent most of the morning eating. As Joel said: "When you know people in Nepal, you eat a lot." We ate rice pudding, chickpeas, a Mt. Everest of roti, and of course, dahl bat. In the afternoon, we split into groups again to pray. My group encountered a lot of hostility. The first house used to be Christian until the woman's son died (what do you say to that?), and the second house told us that Nepal is 80% Hindu and they had no interest in prayer. At the third house, though, a young girl was living alone with two sons, and she let us pray for one of them, sick with jaundice - he was screaming when we arrived but sleeping peacefully when we left.

nepali kids are so tiny
Then we got a call from Gonga: one of the groups was praying for a demon-possessed woman and wanted everyone to come. And this sounds so weird but it totally happened. She's been demon possessed for twenty five years, ever since she went to a temple in India. The demon spoke Hindi, though the woman only spoke Nepali - so Gonga, who knows Hindi, spent a lot of time talking to it. Its name was Kali, the goddess of death, and it couldn't look any of us in the face - because it can't look into the face of Christ! Basically, we just worshipped there in the yard, asking the Holy Spirit to come, praying over her, proclaiming Jesus' powerful name over darkness that's already been defeated. It wasn't scary at all, just sad. And confusing at the end, because although apparently many of the demons left (there were thirty or more total), the woman wasn't completely healed. We all struggled with that. But Mom told me a story when we got back about a bishop she'd talked to in India - he'd had a similar experience with a demon-possessed woman in a village there, prayed and had to leave, but returned years later to find that the church had faithfully prayed and the woman had finally been healed!

beautiful flowers, hike between dadhuwa and bangrabeshi
The atmosphere at the Jesus film that night was entirely different. The coolest thing happened: though we had all felt the spiritual darkness and hardness of this village, the new believer's wife and daughter came to Christ, and two children who had been mocking us all day came to Christ as well! And three women who've been Christians in Bangrabeshi for six years came forward as well - we got to pray for encouragement and joy for them. How amazing that the church in Bangrabeshi has eight people! Though we were exhausted and weak after six days of trekking, Jesus did so many amazing things - proving that his power is made perfect in our weakness, and proving that he did everything we accomplished.

And at our debrief, we proclaimed that over our whole trek. We also agreed that while healing and miracles are awesome signs of God's power, the only true and lasting healing is salvation in Christ. And that we need to go back - especially to Puma - to encourage the new Christians and continue the Lord's work. He will do so much more, maybe through us or through people and ways we can't even imagine - but he will definitely continue this good work he's begun in Puma, Dadhuwa, and Bangrabeshi.