Nothing like waking up to a view of the Himalayas! The morning was clear and the view from our room was outstanding. After a nice simple breakfast we hiked through the village of Nargakot and took in the scenery. Even though this is a “tourist” area because of the hotels facing the mountains, the locals live in structures that resemble something like chicken coops. Yet everyone was busy about their day, reasonably happy and content. Butchers were chopping slabs of something atop a plywood counter along the dirt road; several ladies were huddled around a blanket full of onions and garlic, preparing something for a wedding; and idol makers were busy carving masks for sale to Hindu homes. Yes, that last sentence was completely accurate. In fact there were several idol makers working on masks in a village that could not have been more than a couple of hundred in population.
We left around noon to head back to Kathmandu. The road seemed more bumpy and rough than I remembered it going up. By the time we were down the mountain I was a green as my winter collards. In fact, even as I write this I am not sure when, if ever, I will eat again! I am sure I will get over this soon enough.
I am not sure when I will have internet connection again, so let me share with you what remains of our trek. Tomorrow morning I will be preaching at the Kathmandu International Christian Congregation, which ministers to English speaking residents of Napali. While some Nepalese attend the church, the church itself encourages Naplese to support the churches in their city. This may sound counter-intuitive, but this is to encourage local growth among the Nepalese and not create systems of dependency with Western congregations. The pastor of the church is Rendell Day, former missionary with the International Mission Board, and most recently with Habitat for Humanity. Here is what he wrote to me in an email before we left for Nepal:
…services are very informal, I usually preach in jeans, open shirt, etc. The worship style varies but is usually quite comtemporary. We have about 8 worship teams …The demographics of the church is quite balanced with families, singles and youth. The attendance runs from 300-375.
We meet in a school hall and sit on plastic chairs, wooden benches and mats. There about 40 nationalities represented in the congregation from a wide variety of denominations (High church Anglican to Latin American Pentecostal and everything in between).
After services we will make our way to the airport and fly to India for a few days. While in Delhi I will preach at a house church in one of the slums that Sam cares for as part of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship mission.
This will likely be my last blog for Nepal, but hopefully others in India. Let me quickly reflect in saying I have met some fine people doing great work. Much of the great work is coming from the Nepalese Christians who are seeking to create a better future, especially for the “least of these.” I have also been inspired by the good work non-Nepalese Christians who have dedicated their lives in Nepal to encourage and help equip the work taking place here.
The other evening Milton and I sat down with the young Nepalese woman who oversees all six of the homes with Apple of God’s Eyes and asked her what were her specific needs. She noted the usual things: medical care, clothing, etc., but when pressed she said they really needed good generators to supplement the long power outages each day. To provide them for all the homes and school will cost about $15,000, which is a hefty sum of money in Nepal where the average Nepalese lives on less that $2 a day.
Yet in our brief time working with these folks, I am certain their future looks promising. Children rescued from trafficking are growing up and now making a difference. Grace can never be paid back but it can certainly be paid forward.
It is full of grace that I close these words,
As I write this it is actually Monday night, but this is the first chance I have had since my last posting. Sunday at Kathmandu International Christian Congregation was a wonderful conclusion to our time in Nepal. The congregation numbered well over three hundred, in addition to the many folks who could not find a seat inside, but had to crowd around the doors to sing and participate. The congregation can best be described as a micro-United Nations of Christians with folks from many different countries, traditions, professions, etc. There were Bible translators from the Wycliff Society, missionaries from various agencies, diplomats, and Napalese pastors (whose churches typically worship on Saturday, the only official day off in Nepal). I preached in blue jeans and an open collared shirt and had a bamboo stand as a lectern. We sang several old hymns set to new arrangements, which made me feel a bit more at home. While I offered, Milton declined to preach another sermon. All the same, he was a good participant.
One of the pastors I met was from Burma (Myanmar). He escaped two years ago and since that time has lost a brother and several friends due to political and religious persecution. It is quite humbling to be around people such as this young man who bear so much in this life.
We had a pleasant, but brief lunch with the pastor, his wife Theresa, and young Nepalese family, and some of our hosts. Soon we were at the International Airport of Kathmandu (which is just slightly bigger than the Augusta airport) and exchanging sad goodbyes with our new Nepali friends. The flight was about an hour and a half, which included a sweeping view of the western chain of the Himalayas. I even woke up my seat mate so that he could enjoy the view too!
We are staying for the next two nights in rooms at Delhi’s YWCA, which are dormitory style and very economical. The rooms are clean and they are secure which are two great things to appreciate in Delhi. Delhi is a modern city on the one hand, but still distinctly Indian. It was a long day, but a good one and rest and sleep was welcome.
The alarm called me up from slumber and into what turned out to be one of the “hardest” days I have had since on this mission for reasons I will soon explain. This is ironic since today is set aside as a site-seeing day before we fly out Tuesday night. Today’s site was the Taj Mahal, one of the “Seven Wonders of the World.”
Bright and early we climbed into our car that we had rented for a day to make the drive from Delhi to Agura – just 120 or so miles away. What I did not know, but Sam knew only too well, is that what would take us less than two hours to drive on our interstates, would be more than four hours on Indian roads. There is no question that the roads were far better than the ones we traveled in Nepal, but that is not saying much. Through the entire drive the air was thick – I mean slate-blue, gritty, dusty, stifling, thick – with smog. There was smoke billowing from brick kilns fired by wood and brush; garbage fires burning alongside the road; dung smoke used by locals for cooking; and car, motorcycle and auto-rickshaw exhaust fumes. I have no idea how anyone travels by car in India.
We bumped our way through farmland and villages and cows – everywhere cows – monkeys, buffalo, and the occasional stray dog negotiate through traffic as adept as the Indian drivers. With such a long stretch of road you would think there would be plenty of distances between villages but more often than not it was just continual stream of humanity with patches of farmland filling the gaps.
After about four hours we made it to the Taj Mahal, but I will spare you the tour guide synopsis. You can read about it on wikipedia. Suffice it to say it was a majestic site. We also visited an ancient fort (forgive me, the name escapes me but it was built during the time of the moguls.
Getting home turned out to be tricky. Apparently when you hire a car and guide you not only get transportation and guided explanations in incomprehensible English, but you are taken on a “forced” shopping jaunt to various stores – all of which give the drivers and guides kickbacks. We smiled and indulged the shopkeepers, but most of the time walked out without buying anything. Everyone has to make a living, right? In fact that is one very positive impression I have had of both the Nepalese and Indian people – they are highly industrious and work unbelievable hard for what little they have.
Our drive home can best be described as grueling – four and half hours. We remained steadfast in our car the whole time and passed the time easily with story-telling, discussing politics, arguing politics, and learning about important mission strategies taking place in South Asia as well as around the globe.
At one intersection, just as it was getting dark, beggars came knocking our windows asking for money for food. This has happened all day during our travels. One little girl – could not have been more than six – was at my window. It is just heart breaking that children are born into this life of begging and will likely live the rest of their life in such a way. It is precisely these children that are the most vulnerable to the human trafficking problem that we have been addressing. It is important to celebrate the success stories like Apple of God’s Eyes, but it is just as important to be mindful that there is much, much more work to do.
We did arrive back to the Y safe and sound and enjoyed a meal of chickpeas, lentils, rice and vegetables – all for about 3 dollars.
Sam and I went for a walk that night around the city, while Milton called it an evening and said goodnight. Delhi is a city of stark contrasts, as most modern cities are. While there are contemporary buildings and newly constructed expensive hotels, the sidewalks are lined with people of all ages sleeping; the roads are thick with garbage, and people use the bathroom pretty much wherever they want to go (sorry to be so direct). We walked to one of the major Hindu temples which is not far from where we are staying and they were having services. It was filled with exotic noises and sites as well as the amplified din of the “priest” leading in the service. Apparently what I thought were Muslim calls to prayer yesterday morning was actually coming from this temple.
While this day did not involve any mission work, it certainly was a revealing day regarding the work that continues to be needed in this great part of the world. Indians are industrious and hard working people. There is much room in their lives for hope.
Bless you and keep you,