My Nepal Video

This is a video that we shared this past weekend with a group of our supporters. For those of you tired of hearing about Nepal, you will be relieved to know that this will be my last post on the subject…maybe…at least for now :)

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Under My Skin

Man_by_Rubble

It has been a month since we returned from Nepal and it has taken nearly that long to fully recover physically, mentally and emotionally. It’s quite perplexing to have an intense, life-changing experience and then try to figure out how it all fits back into “normal life.” When I was in pastoral ministry, I would often tell our short-term missions teams that this “re-entry process or stress” is like experiencing a movie in full technicolor and dolby surround sound and then trying to synthesize it with what feels like a “black and white world” at home. There’s nothing wrong with life at home. It’s just that you’ve experienced something amazing and it takes time and wisdom to incorporate it into life as you once knew it.

Through email, I told the missionaries that Sonia and I left Nepal but Nepal has not left our hearts. One of them said in reply, “This country gets under the skin of many people who come here! (in the best of ways)” When you experience the Nepali culture and get to know the people, there is a genuine warmth and simplicity that leaves you longing for more especially when you see the heart of the Father in action amongst them! I miss the open charm of the people I met on the streets. I miss the missionaries whose faith is contagious and enviable. I miss the savory flavors of the food. I miss the rock bottom prices of the food and everything else. I miss the vibrancy of worship in the churches. I even miss the chaotic traffic of cars, motorbikes and tuk-tuk’s (gas powered rickshaws) crowding the roads. I guess Nepal really did get “under my skin” and I hope it never leaves.

Nepal_Rise_MuralRegardless of the re-entry process, I long to return to Nepal. I already have an invitation to return this Fall but it may not work out with my schedule. I trust there will be a time to come back and when it happens, it will be clear and evident to all. Until then, my prayers continue for the people, the churches and the brothers and sisters in Christ that continue to serve there. Here are some ways that you and I can keep praying for them:

  • The People: Pray that fear would be cast out by the perfect love of the gospel. Pray that those who need healing and help would receive it. 10,000 were injured and over 2 million were displaced.
  • The Church: Pray that the Nepali church would continue to grow in depth and number. Pray that they would be a Spirit-empowered witness in word and deed to those who are lost. Pray that the gospel may propel the Nepali church to continue being the fastest growing in the world.
  • The Constitution: Nepal has been without a Constitution for seven years. While they currently are closer than ever to establishing one, it is still not finalized. This was a great concern for many of the people I met. Pray that a just Constitution would be drafted and enacted and that righteous leaders would be of influence.
  • The Rebuild: Pray that new housing would be built quickly especially as the monsoon season begins. Aid is abundant but often tied up in red tape. Pray that resources would reach those who need food and housing.
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INF

INF_Group

International Nepal Fellowship (INF) is an amazing Christian organization that seeks to serve the physical and spiritual needs of Nepal. Three weeks ago, I had the privilege of serving their staff for five days in Pokhara at their annual conference. Sonia and I were utterly inspired by the lives and testimonies of those who have committed themselves to serving our Lord there. We returned home with hearts full of hope because of the work that the Spirit is doing in and through each of them. Here is a little more about the organization as a whole:

INF’s vision is:

Nepali people in Nepal and beyond experiencing fullness of life in Jesus Christ, and serving with others to promote health, peace, justice and harmony with God and his world.

INF’s mission is:

Live out the good news of Jesus Christ in word and deed by serving Nepali people through promoting health, fighting poverty and social injustice, working with and encouraging churches, and caring for creation.

What INF does:

  • hospital and rehabilitation services for people with disabilities
  • health and development programmes with marginalized communities
  • medical camps
  • assistance for organisations working for people with disabilities
  • HIV / AIDS education, testing, counselling and care
  • work among displaced people
  • TB and leprosy clinics
  • Second personnel into government institutions and other organizations to provide health services training.
  • Encourage Nepali churches, and work among the Nepali diaspora.

So what does all this look like in real life? Below is just one testimony of how their work is impacting real people for the sake of His glory. To find out more about INF or to donate to their work, check out this link.

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The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Nepali Food

I love to travel. I love to meet new people. I love to learn about different cultures in foreign places. There are many ways to take in a new culture. While some love to read travel books or go on guided tours, I prefer to be with those who call that place “home.” I want to talk with the locals, shop where they shop and of course, eat where they eat. Food is palatable history. The sights, the smells and the tastes of the local cuisine provide a tangible connection to a location’s past and present. You’d be surprised how much you can learn through what you taste.

Food-Momo

When I visited Nepal, one of the first things I ordered was “momo’s”. Every Asian country has its version of dumplings and these are Nepal’s. They are most commonly steamed although you can order them fried as well. You will find them on every menu in Nepal at a very reasonable price. A set of ten costs no more than $1.50. Wikipedia provides the following history of momo’s,

Since this dish was initially popular among the Newar community of the Kathmandu valley, one prevalent belief is that traveling Newar merchants brought the recipe and the name momo from Lhasa, Tibet where they were a traditional delicacy for centuries. They modified the seasonings of the dish with available ingredients, using water buffalo and kept the same name.

Nepal is sandwiched between China to the north and India to the south. It’s interesting to see how momo’s embody both culture’s influence. The appearance of the wrapper is very similar to that of the Chinese xiao long bao (the soup dumpling made famous by Din Tai Fung), but is more el dente and doughy in texture. The filling is typically a mixture of minced pork or chicken with finely chopped vegetables primarily consisting of cabbage and onions. The flavor is distinct. Garlic, coriander, cumin and other Indian-inspired spices combine to provide a pungent and pleasant taste. A dipping sauce similar to tikka masala is included. It’s mellow tomato-base compliments the aggressive flavors well.
Food-Dal-Bhat

Another very common dish is Nepal is dal bhat. Bhat means “rice” and dal is a simple but very flavorful lentil soup that is eaten with it. Typically included with these two items is a chicken or goat curry and tarkari, a mix of various cooked seasonal vegetables. The spices and spiciness is very similar to Indian cuisine but slightly more subdued. Also included is a small portion of yogurt and a mild mustard-like dipping sauce that blends well with the other complex flavors. Overall, the presentation is quite exquisite as everything is served in individual metal bowls encircling a large portion of rice in the center.

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The best restaurant Sonia and I ate at for momo’s and dal bhat was Thasang Authentic Thakali Kitchen in Kathmandu. It was quite swanky and quickly became one of our favorite places. But by far, the best food we had in Nepal was in the homes of people who invited us over to share a family meal. The Nepali people are naturally warm and very hospitable. Two different times, we were invited to come and break bread (or share rice), sometimes unexpectedly. Nothing can compare to a home cooked meal. No doubt family recipes outshine restaurant offerings but what made the meals even better was the love and generosity of the hands that prepared and served the meals.

We were told that in Nepali culture, if you have food left over on your plate, that meant you truly had enough to eat and were satisfied. But, if you were able to finish everything on your plate, that meant the host had not provided enough and should give you more. We found that to be true as the host families were always willing to generously refill any bowl or plate that ran low. That’s why I also lost very little weight on my trip.

Pasadena_NepalIf you can’t go all the way to Nepal to eat but live in southern California, there are two Nepali/Tibetan restaurants in Pasadena. The Himalayan Cafe and the Tibet Nepal House are quite authentic. I would recommend the latter over the former although neither can compare to the real thing. If you want to taste a little of Nepal, give it a try. You might discover a new culture and in the process find it’s the best thing you ever ate.

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The Thneed

IMG_1461I’m being quite useful. This thing is a Thneed.
A Thneed’s a Fine-Something-That-All-People-Need!
It’s a shirt. It’s a sock. It’s a glove. It’s a hat.
But it has OTHER uses. Yes, far beyond that.
You can use it for carpets. For pillows! For sheets!
Or curtains!  Or covers for bicycle seats!”

 

In Dr. Seuss’ beloved story, the Lorax, one of the main character’s creates a highly versatile object knitted from the foliage of a “truffle tree.” Thneeds can take on a variety of forms being used as a shirt, a sock, a glove, a hat, a pillow, a hammock, a canary nest and so much more!

Why am I writing about a thneed? Because I own one. At least, it looks and acts like one. When Meghan, one of my daughter’s dearest friends, was learning to crochet, she made Kristin something for her birthday. It was a red “scarf” that had a uniquely short and stout shape. It sits like a tall collar when you wear it. I told Meghan, if you make me something, I ‘ll wear it from the pulpit when I preach. Of course she did and I wore it on one Sunday last year. My crocheted item had such a one-of-a-kind design that I wasn’t sure how to wear it. When I asked Meghan, “Am I supposed to wear it like this or like this or like this (placing it on different parts of my body)?” She said, “Exactly.”

When I left pastoral ministry to join seeJesus, I promised Meghan that wherever I traveled, I would take at least one selfie with my thneed on. Below is a few places it’s been to. The first is in Pennsylvania at the seeJesus headquarters. The next one is in Canada at a church I was serving. The third is at the Seattle airport and the final one is in Kathmandu.

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When Meghan heard Sonia was coming with me to Nepal, she rushed to make Sonia a thneed as well. So, we each took one with us on our journey. During the conference in Pokhara, I left the thneeds on the seeJesus book table and invited the missionaries to take selfies with the thneeds. The top two most creative selfies would get a prize from the table. I wasn’t sure if anyone would participate, but I found missionaries like to have fun too! Below are just a few of the submissions. The last two (eye-thneed & jellyfish thneed) was the winner that Sonia and I chose. And the very last picture was the winner that the crowd chose. It was so cool looking, I though it could be on an album cover.

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If you’re interested in purchasing a thneed, sorry, they are not available for order. Mine is one of a kind and Sonia’s is as well. I guarantee you there is nothing else like them on the planet. Thanks Meghan!

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Heroes of the Faith

I’ve been back from Nepal only a few days and it has not been an easy adjustment.  The physical recovery is only part of the challenge. The greater one is processing everything that I experienced and trying to figure out how it all fits back into life at home. Having gone through the re-entry process a handful of times in the past, I have found that writing is helpful for me. Thus, I will continue to blog about Nepal even though I am now home. I hope it is not only therapeutic for me but also encouraging to you.

God is the main character of the Bible. The Word is a revelation of his character and actions in real time and history. That being said, God, by His grace, uses people to accomplish His purposes. As they obey Him, these people can be examples to follow. The apostle Paul said, “Imitate me, as I imitate Christ.” This is true not only of characters in the Bible but also other saints through church history. In this way, these people can be called “heroes of the faith.” In Nepal, there are countless numbers of them. Here are a few that I had the privilege of meeting.

Pastors
Having been in pastoral ministry for nearly twenty years, I always have a heart for local pastors. Whether here or abroad, the life and call of a pastor is a demanding one. In Nepal, I had the privilege of meeting some of the main pastors at Gyaneshwor (NIM), the first church in Kathmandu. Pastor Robert Karthak and his brother-in-law, Pastor Dr. Rajendra Rongong (pictured far left) were pioneer missionaries and church planters who by faith followed God’s call to reach Nepal. Despite many obstacles and great persecution, these men along with a band of faithful believers, persevered over the past sixty years for the sake of the gospel. Much of the spiritual fruit currently being harvested throughout Kathmandu is the result of God’s grace planted through their years of faith and obedience.

Another pastor I providentially met in a restaurant where Sonia and I were enjoying lunch. Pastor Babu (center) has a wonderful testimony that includes coming to Christ after searching out various religions in college, adopting two girls and pastoring a local church that follows his lead in speaking and living out the gospel. His passion and joy is contagious. It was through and with Pastor Babu that we were able to purchase and deliver supplies for the village. He is constantly on the phone tending to the growing needs of his flock and organizing relief support for the villages.

Another thing that encouraged me was meeting the next generation of pastors that God is raising up to continue in the footsteps of pastors like Rajendra and Babu. I had the privilege of meeting Pastor Arbin of Crossway Community Church. He is a man deeply committed to making disciples who make disciples. I met young pastors in Gyaneshwor as well as in the village we visited (pictured on the right). There is great hope for the continued multiplication of the church in Nepal as the Spirit continues to lead others through faithful men like these.

Missionaries
The reason I originally came to Nepal was to speak at the annual conference of an international missionary organization. It was a privilege to serve nearly a hundred missionaries from all over the world. They are followers of Jesus who left their families, their friends and their homelands all for the sake of answering His call to reach Nepal. They are truly people who walk by faith and not by sight.

Heros-MissionariesHalfway through the trip, I got a 24-hour stomach bug. I was miserable. The missionaries were very empathetic because this is commonplace for them. Whether illness or weariness or loneliness, the challenges are ongoing in the life of a missionary. I never sensed any bitterness or despair in any of them but I know it must be easy to feel forgotten or unappreciated when serving so far from home. Like pastoral ministry, being a missionary is a call that often comes at a high cost. The suffering can be great but the glory is as well. Despite numerous setbacks, the faith of the people we met was deep. Tested, but deep. There is no sense of regret in their voices. Joy marks their obedience. They were inspiring.

You don’t have to be a pastor or a missionary to be a hero of faith. All you need to do is be faithful to whatever God has called you to. That’s what the men and women I met in Nepal have done. By their faith and through their faithfulness, God has called them, humbled them, used them and blessed them all for His glorious purposes. May the same be true of us here in America that, like the Nepali church, we too might see a rapid and powerful growth of the gospel!

If you know a missionary in the field or a pastor in your church, let me invite you to send him or her a note of encouragement and/or a gift of support today. Small things make a big difference. Even heroes need help!

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My BFF

Sonia_PokharaThis trip to Nepal has been a life-changer. So many unique experiences, so many amazing people, too many overwhelming blessings. I am so grateful that Sonia was here to experience them all with me. Partly, because it would have been impossible to come home and describe everything to her using only words and pictures. But, mainly because she is my best friend and I would want no one but her by my side in pursuit of the Lord.

Sonia_baby

We partner well together in ministry. Sonia’s many strengths cover my many weaknesses. She continually smooths out my rough edges. When we’re together, she even makes me more lovable. Since people are naturally drawn to her warm personality, by default they assume I can’t be that bad since she chose to marry me. Her gifts of faith, compassion, wisdom and generosity were used abundantly to blessed many here in Nepal. She not only equipped many through workshops on special needs and prayer & parenting but also prayed for, counseled and encouraged countless others. It was obvious that many women felt Sonia was a timely gift for them in their time of need.

I am well aware that we can’t always travel together on trips like these but there is no doubt in my mind that Sonia was supposed to come to Nepal with me. She was not an added bonus to this trip. She was an integral part of it. Many of the opportunities and appointments would not have been possible if she was not here. Her prayers, her faith and her perseverance helped us follow the Spirit’s lead throughout the entire adventure. I couldn’t have ask for a better (or prettier) traveling companion. I couldn’t have dreamed of having a better best friend. Thank you for journeying with me in pursuit of His heart, my dear!

Village-Candy

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Providence

Village_ValleyBefore Sonia and I came to Nepal, we were praying for divine appointments. Because of the earthquake, half of our original agenda was undetermined even after we arrived. We trusted that the Lord would fill in the blanks and He certainly did! Over and over again! One of Sonia’s deepest desires was to aid those who had the greatest need with hands-on help. Every time I inquired about helping, we were told that only those who were connected with relief organizations or a local church outreach would be able to assist.

Village-Receiving-Rice

I don’t even know how to fully described what we experienced today. It was a totally God-appointed moment. We got to witness the Father’s heart and even participate in what He was doing. It’s a long story but through many providential meetings, we had the privilege of purchasing rice, lentils, salt and oil and delivering them to an entire village (125 households) that has been largely ignored. We traveled away from Kathmandu for nearly two hours in a 4 x 4 with a local pastor, the head of a Nepali Christian Relief organization and two journalists. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the entire village. We really didn’t want it to be a big deal and kept expressing that to the pastor who arranged everything. But they immediately placed homemade leis around our necks and had me, the pastor and the community leaders say a few words. It was overwhelming and extremely humbling. What a privileged place to be representing the hands and feet of so many believers back in the U.S. Many special thanks to AL, SM, K&KW, G&JL, J&SC, MN, MK, R&CT, K&FM, A&JJ for helping to contribute toward the total cost of the supplies. Know that your generosity put food in the stomachs and smiles on the faces of many people today.

Village-Teenager

The people in this village are “untouchables,” a part of the lowest caste, yet almost all are Christian. When I asked how the gospel reached this tiny village, a young man told me it all started when the “Jesus Film” was shown here many, many years ago. Since then a church building has been built (which was undamaged in the earthquake) and a local pastor now shepherds the flock. Remarkable to see God’s faithfulness in loving and saving all people especially those who are the most despised. I know our help is but temporary not only because the supplies will be consumed after a month but also because we will be soon heading home. I don’t pretend to be a savior. Not even a tiny, temporal one. Thanks be to God that our true and only Savior, Jesus Christ, has called real heroes of the faith who are committed to serving these people for the long haul. The local churches, the pastors, the foreign missionaries and the Nepali Christian community development leaders are the true hands and feet of Christ to those who are suffering in villages like these. May we continue to pray for them as they follow His lead to serve the least of theseVillage_Pan

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Pokhara

Pokhara-Valley

For the first three days of our trip, we were stationed in Kathmandu. It is the capital city of Nepal. Very urban. Very busy. But since Sunday evening, we have been doing ministry in Pokhara. Pokhara is very rural and very lush. It almost feels like we flew to a different country after being in Kathmandu. Slower paced and a lot more laid back. I am more of a Pokhara kind of guy. The epicenter of the earthquake was between Pokhara and Kathmandu but the brunt of the force went toward Kathmandu. Pokhara shook a lot but there was not much damage.

Pokhara-street

In the mornings, I have been doing A Praying Life training for one hundred missionaries at their annual conference. Sonia and I feel privileged to minister to these people during the morning sessions, workshops, meals and free time. They are a wonderful group of people from all over the world: America, Sweden, Netherlands, Germany, Australia, U.K., Nepal and more. They are deeply committed, faith-minded, gifted and compassionate. I admire what they do and more importantly admire who they are.

Pokhara_Pastors

While in Pokhara we also had a chance to connect with local pastors about future ministry partnerships. They are hard working men who not only shepherd their flocks but also look to develop the community through drug/alcohol rehab programs, AIDS patients outreach, micro-business economic development and more. It was a privilege to meet with them and see how the Spirit is moving in the Pokhara church.

Pokhara-Motorbike

One of the thrills of the day was riding on the back of a motorbike through the streets of Pokhara to get to our appointment. You haven’t really seen Nepal until you’ve been on a motorbike during rush hour. I had a blast!

 

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Fastest Growing Church in the World

Nepali_Church

When I was preparing to go to Nepal, I heard on various occasions that the Nepali church is the fastest growing in the world today. Nepal?!? Really?!? I did some research and found out the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, based at Gordon Conwell Seminary, published a study that reported that the Nepali church is indeed growing at the fastest rate in the world. Reverend Manoj Shrestha, former principal of the Nepal Ebenezer Bible College, reported the same thing saying,

The only reason I can think of [for the growth of the Nepali church] is the work of the Holy Spirit…If you come to Nepal, you will see many similarities between the church in Nepal and the first century church as described in the Book of Acts — in the religious life of the people, how the church is being persecuted, the excitement of the believers, how the power of God is being demonstrated through healings, exorcisms

When I told my missionary friend in Nepal about what I heard, she said based on what she’s seen, she wouldn’t be surprised if this true. Based on my limited experience with the Nepali church, I wouldn’t be surprised either. I have heard first-hand testimony after testimony about the rapid growth of the church through the preaching of the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Fastest_Church

First church in Kathmandu

This past Saturday, Sonia and I attended worship service at the oldest church in Kathmandu and the second oldest in all of Nepal. The Gyaneswor Church was started by pioneer missionary and pastor, Robert Karthak. Raised in Darjeeling, Karthak felt a strong call to go to Nepal and in 1956, moved there with a small group of believers. Gyaneswor Church was planted a year later. Today, the church meets at five locations around Kathmandu with over 10,000 total in attendance. The largest site has multiple services with 2,000 attendees at each. We had the privilege of visiting the original site which was much smaller. Sonia and I were sitting very close together so we could share a wireless headset for English translation. After I settled into my seat, I realized all of the women were sitting on the left side of the room and all of the men were on the right. I was on the left and felt so embarrassed. There was no room to move so I was just praying that everyone would think I was a really big, ugly, hairy woman.

Pastor Robert is now 89 years old and rotates every week to preach at each of the sites. On the Saturday we attended, he happened to be there. Not surprisingly, he was a great preacher! Pastor Robert shared that the last time he was at this particular site, it was the day of the earthquake. He was preaching that if Jesus is in the boat with you then you don’t have to worry about anything, not even natural disasters! Five minutes later, the earthquake hit and the people in the sanctuary didn’t panic but left in an orderly fashion. A children’s class that was meeting outside had some metal siding and bricks fall on them but fortunately, all the kids were OK. Pastor Robert went on to preach through nearly a dozen texts that refer to the earth shaking but his primary text was Hebrews 12:25-29,

See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

The sermon was primarily focused on the sovereignty of God in all circumstances and he saw the earthquake as a wake up call for the church to share the gospel in both word and deed in an even greater way. Wow! If the Nepali church was already the fastest growing in the world before the quake and this is the message now being preached, it puts the rest of the global church, especially in America, to shame!

Pastor_KarthaI had the privilege of meeting for tea and snacks with Pastor Robert and some of the elders in a small room immediately following the service. He is a gracious man that exudes wisdom and faith. It was like meeting John Piper, Tim Keller or Billy Graham in person but waaaaaay better. Kathak’s English is excellent so it was inspiring to hear from him and his brother-in-law (also an elder) how the seeds of the church were planted nearly 60 years ago by faith. I asked them why they thought the church was growing at such a rapid rate. Their answer, “the movement of the Holy Spirit.” Funny, same answer as Reverend Manoj Shrestha. It’s all about God and His glory. It’s by Him, through Him and for Him. All praise and honor to Him!

 

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