2016 Nepal/India Video

fullsizeoutput_7c34I just completed a brief video summarizing our recent trip to Nepal and India. For the security of our overseas partners, not all of our friends are included in the video. Also, for that same reason, it is password protect. To watch, simply click on the picture to the left and enter the password. Hint: It’s the street I live on.

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The Beauty of Nepal


I’ve heard people say, “you can’t take a bad picture in Nepal.” I have to agree. Foreigners flock to Nepal to explore the ancient architecture and the beauty of the Himalayan mountains. But, I think the most beautiful part of the country is her people. With Tibet to the north and India to the south, Nepalis can look Chinese, Indian and everyone else in between. They are lovely inside and out. I have found the Nepali people to be humble and hospitable. A long history of oppression and suffering has honed a resilience that is cloaked with a “shy kindness.” Building friendships with the people has been the most delightful part of this trip. Through them, my love for the nation has deepened and my desire for them to know and grow in Christ has quickened. Oh, what a joy to know the beauty of his splendor amongst the nations!

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The Future Hope of Nepal

In the first two days of our trip to Nepal, I had the privilege of speaking at a national students conference in Kathmandu. An unexpected surprise and joy was to see the vibrancy of the young leaders who worshipped there. There are a total of 6,000 students who participate in fellowship groups throughout the country. This conference hosted 500 of their top leaders. After being around these young people for a few days, I could see why Nepal not only has one of the fastest growing churches throughout Asia but why that trend will continue for years to come.

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My Chuck Wagon

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Never mind the Liquor Cabinet sign behind our chuck wagon

When we were preparing to adopt Eden, we needed a new car that would accommodate a growing family of six. The Lord provided a great Honda Odyssey that I infamously named, “the swagger wagon.” I was so grateful for that van that I dedicated an entire post to it (My Swaggerwagon). After logging over 111,000 miles, my swagger wagon has now been transformed into “a chuck wagon.” There are no horses pulling our Honda, but our chuck wagon will still carry my entire family and all of our stuff over 800 miles of roadway within the next few days.

Today, we departed the Bay Area after a brief visit with extended family. Our destination? The Pacific Northwest. Our timeline? One month in Seattle and two months in Portland. Our purpose? Ministry, education, following His lead. Our feelings? Hopeful and grateful.

To make a long story short, God opened up an opportunity for us to temporarily move to the PNW to live, to learn and to serve. This was quite unexpected. In fact, it all came together within the last few months in a surprising and sovereign way. While there are definite plans, there are also a lot of unknowns. In other words, some of the details of this trip are “open-ended.” While that might be concerning for some, for me and my family, we find this quite exciting. Life is a faith adventure when you know your Father is writing a story of grace. At times it will be challenging. We won’t always know what the next chapter brings. But unexpected surprises are gifts that build faith and gratitude. I know we always need more of those things in our family. For now, all I know is our venture into the Pacific Northwest begins in our chuck wagon. Your prayers are appreciated!

(This is being posted three days late. We arrived safely in Seattle on Wednesday!)

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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

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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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