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.


  1. Your description of God's miracles and works moved me to tears, Praise the LORD!!!! How wonderful that you get to experience being a vessel of his power to the Nepali people! I'm so excited for you and jealous! What an amazing week!

  2. Amazing descriptions- what an experience. I praise the Lord along with you, and can't wait to share some of these stories with my friends and my Bible study. You are right - the book of Acts continues even today. The Lord bless you and keep you as you serve Him in Nepal.
    Love and prayers,

  3. goodness, kristen. this sent chills down my spine. what power. what beauty. what joyous plunge into the reality of Christ's healing power. praying for continued peace and harmony and strength for you all, that you will continue to be vessels of grace and love.
    also... i know that backpack ;)