As part of the Fellowship House, our intern program to recruit and encourage kingdom-minded, eternally focused disciples of Jesus Christ, we lead the interns on an international trip to the 10/40 Windowto expose them to God’s heart for the nations. This past February we partnered with a gospel-oriented organization doing long-term development and discipleship work among the unreached people groups[i] of Nepal. The following are the intern’s three-word summary (six words for Sarah Beth) of their trip. Enjoy and be encouraged!
Vibrant Chaos: We arrived into Nepal late, but even though it was dark, the phrase that instantly came to mind while we drove through the mobs of people and cars was vibrant chaos. Katmandu’s colorful, jammed packed buildings combined with Nepal’s mountainous (when you could see them), green tropical geography contribute to Katmandu’s pulsating life and energy. Monkeys and cows and dogs roam free, eating up trash and litter that lie rampant on the grounds. Wherever we went there was never a dull moment, no moment of stillness. Growing up in Africa I thought I was familiar with aggressive, defensive driving, but Katmandu was multiplied 10 times over. I had lots of fun trying to cross the streets J.
Extremes: Nepal is quite the tourists’ attraction for trekkers. Amid the pollution (second most polluted city in the world!), dirt, shanty towns, beggars, and lame men lying on the street, pristine coffee shops playing American acoustic music in the background and lovely rooftop restaurants that offer falafel and Pad Thai exist everywhere. Right next to an earthquake emergency shanty town is a gated, heavily guarded American club with tennis courts, only open to American members. It doesn’t make sense. How can such a place afford such “luxuries”? It just seemed so strangely out of place and it saddens me to think that perhaps it is primarily only to cater to and benefit Western tourists.
Bondage: The first two days of going through Katmandu were so spiritually weighty. We spent the first day learning about Nepal and spirituality and the second day learning about the increasing awareness of trafficking in Nepal. The first night during debrief we all felt overwhelmed and burdened by the vast lostness, striving for nothing and really, the ugliness of such religions that would worship such selfish, demanding, sexually driven gods. So much darkness, oppression, poverty, and trafficking on virtually every corner made the song and prayer “Break Every Chain” play over and over again in my mind like a constant mantra.
Trekking the Himalayas
Kingdom Seeds: Within the first 30 minutes of trekking the heart and purpose behind this trip really clicked. Our guide stopped to talk to a 14 year old boy about Jesus. I got to sit behind and watch this beautiful, over an hour long, interaction. He was so hungry and greedy to hear and learn more. When we gave him a tract he snatched it up and wouldn’t even sit still to let us pray for him first. We had to pray for him while he greedily read loudly and quickly every single word on that oh so little pamphlet. It reminded me so much of the parable of the hidden treasure. My heart broke as I realized how God cares so much for boys like him. And yet, what are the chances that boys like him will ever get the opportunity to hear such good news? He lived almost in the middle of nowhere. His chances of getting much more in life are so slim. Just a simple little village boy who has never ever heard of Jesus in this way. How do boys like him come to hear of this great Treasure? Kingdom seeds. We scatter the seeds, wastefully, faithfully, and pray that somehow God would rain down water to grow them. From the first 30 minutes to our last day, our Nepal trip was such an experience of scattering seed and I have to come to realize the absolute pricelessness in doing that in a way I had never known or understood before.
Surreal-Breathtaking-Beautiful: Words are insufficient. During lunch breaks this word, surreal, always hit me hard in the stomach. After a grueling morning trek we would always enjoy a lengthy lunch break. It would take our hosts at least an hour to prepare our favorite meal, dal baht, from scratch. But there was no hurry. While we waited I got to enjoy sipping sweet milk tea while overlooking the Himalaya Mountains and colorful, terraced fields. It was in moments like these especially that I kept asking myself, “Is this for real?”
Surprising: From a personal standpoint the trip was utterly surprising. While I had resigned myself to going I was fairly certain I would not enjoy it. I hate being dirty. I can’t stand not taking a shower at least once a day. While I enjoy swimming and some working out, I am by no means the most physically active, especially compared to my other team members. When I found out we had to have the mindset of training for a marathon I especially freaked out, “Great, I’m going to be the weak link, I’m going to bring the whole team down and everyone is going to be frustrated with me.” I thought I was going to be cold, sore, and miserable the whole time. I kept hoping that maybe once I got to Katmandu they would decide I would be much better fit to stay in the city. My prayer became one of, “God, I only think I don’t like this stuff because I haven’t had much experience…but maybe, just maybe, could you make it so I actually find I like it, at least a little bit?” I more than liked it. In fact, I think I may have almost loved it. The whole experience of Nepal was so wonderful that I honestly had a hard time coming back. Who would have thought?
Traditional: The first word I chose for the fact that everyone I spoke to in Nepal about religion had no idea what they believed or why they followed their religion. Of all the Hindu and Buddhist people I came across, they followed their religion simply because their parents had done the same, as did their parents before them. They all performed religious duties such as the Buddhist spinning prayer wheels around their holy temple for a few minutes or upwards of several hours at a time to build up good Karma. They believed in their practices in hopes that they would reincarnate at a higher lifestyle then the one they are currently living. However, when asked about the god or gods they worshipped, they could give no clear answer as to exactly who their god was and how they fit into their gods’ plans. I am sure there are some who are more knowledgeable about their religion, but I didn’t come across any during our trip.
Receptive: Nearly everybody that I spoke to and every conversation I sat in on or eavesdropped on had a party that was incredibly receptive to hearing about Christianity and Jesus Christ. After starting a conversation with the Nepalese people, or even other trekkers on the trail, the conversations were redirected to what religion they practiced. Through a conversation of asking questions and listening, nearly everyone we spoke with was more than willing to hear us share about Jesus Christ. Some people reacted with a dull, stagnant response, but still they listened with courtesy. Others responded well, even hungrily, with what was presented before them. I noticed the majority of those who listened more readily were the younger generation. But just the same, they were also the most likely to blow us off. The older generations were willing to listen, though they were far more cautious, questioning and suspicious of this Jesus character.
Neglected: It was somewhat shocking to see how incredibly dirty, rough, and filthy a lot of Nepal was. The temple areas and the places considered most holy, like the river Baghmati, were often the most littered and neglected areas of all. The river was filled with garbage that we watched float by, along with the ashes of the dead, and yet people bathed in it. The temples were perhaps very beautiful at one point, but weather, time, and earthquakes have chiseled away at every one of them and it seemed as though nothing was done to maintain or fix them. The mountains, which were incredibly beautiful indeed, were littered with Snicker bar wrappers at every turn along with all other forms of trash. For a country that takes great pride in the worship of physical space, it was very neglected.
[i] An unreached or least-reached people is a people group among which there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize this people group without outside assistance.