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.