Saturday, September 13, 2014

Back Home!

There's nothing like almost three weeks in Asia to reveal the many virtues of home. And there are many virtues! [If you haven't read about our trip to the Himalayas (and you would like to), read the previous 18 posts, starting with this one from August 22nd.]
Oh how I love that our airport has wooden rocking chairs! It
just says, "Welcome home."
The trip back was long. Busy airports, many lines and searches (we traveled on 9/11!), and crowded planes. All was relatively smooth until, yes again, Chicago. Sorry folks, they've got problems. My daughter got stuck there in June and had to spend the night in the terminal, our luggage got lost there on the trip to Asia, and the people who work there are particularly cantankerous. Chicago, surely you can do better than that. This time we had a bit of a layover there after flying in from Abu Dhabi. After being told our gate, we saw it was changed shortly after we arrived, and after going to that gate, it changed again. We were sitting where we could watch the Thursday night NFL game on TV, right across from our gate. Madison laid down to sleep, while Jesse and I stayed up. Three times, Jesse went over to check to make sure the gate didn't change and the flight was on time. We saw no personnel, so we figured it was delayed. We were even watching pilots we tagged as ours dawdling and taking their time. There was no announcement over the intercom, except for a few individuals who were called to check in at the desk. Our boarding time came and went. Jesse went over again to ask what was going on and then we got the news: We missed the boarding. The plane was still sitting there and they wouldn't let us get on. What!? After all this time (over 40 hours) of travel and we miss the last leg!? The American Airlines (yes, I'm naming names), particularly the "supervisor" with whom we tried to reason (who's last name, printed on his name tag, was, appropriately, "Butt") would not budge. And the plane was unmoved, right outside. We watched helplessly as it was towed out and rolled away. I'll spare you the rest of the story. Madison called his new bride (from whom he has been separated for almost as many days as he has been with since the wedding) to break the news (not good). Jesse was too upset to rest and spent the night trying to get us a quicker way home (he did). I laid down on the floor and went to sleep. It is what I do best. I awoke the next morning to find that we were booked for a USAir flight to Charlotte and then to home (thanks, Jesse). That part went by quickly with a friendly USAir staff that got us home a little earlier than scheduled. Finally, about 51 hours after we started the journey home from Nepal, we had arrived. There are few sights I have learned to appreciate more than looking down on the Smokies, and the wonderful little Knoxville McGhee-Tyson Airport. Ahhh.
A petty, emotional list of things I really don't want to think about for a while might include: American Airlines, Chicago, rice, curry, lentils, and body odor. A petty, emotional list of things for which I am thankful would include: beef (yes, I ate a Five Guys burger after coming home), clean water out of the faucet, clean restrooms, MY [clean] BED, ice cream (yes I went to Marble Slab after coming home), southern hospitality, traffic rules that are actually obeyed, and air conditioning.
On a not-so-petty (but still emotional) list of things for which I am profoundly thankful, I would start with my family. In particular, my beautiful and wonderful wife. I missed her sooooo much. When I got back, we just talked. It was so good. It was like a very thirsty man downing a long drink of water.
I also look forward to sharing with my church family. It is going to happen this Sunday. I pray this will be more than just a trip report. We learned a lot, and have much to share.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

One More Day

Well, we have one more day before boarding the plane to come home. I miss my family, and I miss my church family, too.
As I am thinking about what all we've learned on this trip, I realize it is a lot. But there are three things I'd like to mention to all of you (between 350 and 700 people reading each day!):
A room full of women making bracelets...and disciples.

1. The church is the hope of the world. Why do we focus on planting churches? Because the absolute best way to help the poor, care for orphans and widows, feed the hungry, liberate the downtrodden, and change the harmful cultures of humanity is when Christ changes people--who then want to see their neighbors changed. The church is what makes a real, lasting difference. As I've seen all over the world, I see it here. Today we went to visit a micro-business started by a missionary, and run by a church. It is a bracelet-making business, called "Blessed Hope." Here needy women are given much needed jobs where they can bring their kids and make a living in a safe environment.
Want to buy some of these bracelets?
We'll provide information when we return.
More than this, the Christians teach the employees about Christ and disciple them. For example, women in this culture frequently hide the fact that they are pregnant. They are shunned--even when they are married! They are expected to keep their mouths shut and keep working the same grueling schedule to provide (many times in the place of a lazy husband). But the Christians tell the ladies that a baby is a gift from God! They help them see how God see's life--precious in his sight. They help them with how to take care of themselves when pregnant and how to care for their new babies. While we were there, one lady brought her fat little girl in to show us how she blew kisses and could shake hands. So beautiful. The same church also has a school for refugee children, some of whom are housed by the members. Here's the bottom line: put a healthy church in a community and you improve every aspect of that community.

2. The family of God is amazing in every culture. This was a big truth that God revealed to me on my first mission trip, and this one is no different. There are Christians I have met here who speak different languages and have a completely different culture...but they are family. Whether in India, Nepal, Tibet, or our target country, the believers have been so wonderful to us--people they have never met and, other than God's grace and the indwelling Holy Spirit, people with whom they have very little in common. We are filled with love.
This is Uncle, Sonam, and Batash. An incredible family. I
previously mentioned Uncle, who was attacked by a bear
as a teen. All of these dear people are testimonies of God's grace.
Tonight was a perfect example. Madison's Sherpa friend, Batash, his wife Sonam, and his uncle (they just call him "Uncle") invited us over to their two-room home to eat. It was a traditional meal of eggs, dalbot (lentil beans fixed like soup, and rice) with traditional vegetables. It was soo good. But even better was the fellowship we shared. Sonam is pregnant and very excited about having their first child. She just finished getting a degree. They are so pleasant and kind and considerate. Genuine Christian love is something you just can't describe. You must experience it.

3. God is on the move to save sinners and use them for his glory. Like Uncle. When Madison came here two years ago, Uncle was a hardened Buddhist. While Madison was living here, Uncle received Christ. Madison said that when it happened, Batash who had prayed many years for him, was beside himself with joy. However, Madison said that Uncle would hardly even look at him then. He was ashamed of the sinful life he had lived. He spoke very few words, and claimed that he had actually been possessed by a demon! What a radical change is evident in Uncle's life. We had sat in front of him at Lohmi church on Saturday. I noticed that he was there early and was still there when we left. He sang loudly and prayed fervently and just showed the joy of the Lord the whole time. A couple of other older men sat with him and also showed great joy. One of them afterward showed a group of young men how well he could walk. You see, after having a stroke, people in the church prayed for him and he was able to recover. He gives God all the glory. Back to Uncle: when we were at their home tonight, he began to tell us (in Nepali) that he was praying for our mission in [the target country]. He told of when he had once spent much time there, and told us of what cities were good to live in. He said, "I am very glad you are taking the Gospel to [the target country]. Most are Buddhists living in darkness. They need churches there. You go tell them about Jesus." He told Madison that he was going to pray for him and for our mission. This was no mere courteous gesture. Sonam said that Uncle is a man of great faith and is a prayer warrior. He will pray...and God will listen. When we were walking back across town after leaving their home, Madison said that Uncle had grown phenomenally. He said Uncle said more this night than he had ever heard him say in total before. And it was all good.
God redeems sinners. God grows and uses people who we would never expect him to use. Uncle's testimony makes me well up with tears. There are people all over the world like Uncle. Blind followers of a demonic religion, needing the Gospel and a church family.
They live around us too.

So we plant churches because this is God's method for changing people and cultures and bringing him glory. But we must BE the church in Knoxville. This is what I almost always come home with.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Important Conversations

This post will be short for several reasons: I don't have any exciting pictures, I can't really mention specific names due to the sensitivity of those with whom we've been meeting, and I'm about to go to bed.
This is one of the maps of the people groups of the Himalayan
region. So much work has gone into mapping the groups and
languages and by so many different organizations, it is
stunning. I hope to share some of these with you.
We've had several very good conversations with some key people today. Two in particular. The first is an area leader over the Buddhist Himalayan region people groups for one of the largest evangelical mission organizations in the world. The second is a strategic missions leader over our target country. Both of these individuals were extremely knowledgable and helpful. Both seem to be affirming of the strategy we are forming based on information we have gathered during this trip. And both have expressed a desire to partner with us as we proceed. We could not be more delighted and thankful for these people and their organizations. I have rarely met more serious, qualified, humble, and determined people who have given up so much to make Christ known in this spiritually starving part of the world. I really wish I could tell their names and organizations, but it would jeopardize what they are doing here. Some have to keep a low profile so that they can do their work, others must operate with a high degree of secrecy when they are working with/in peoples of closed countries. Some of them could even face physical harm if their identities were known. Please understand that this is a very serious issue.

Here are just a few of the facts we learned today:
  • There are 25 unreached people groups in the nation we are targeting. That's amazing. Just think--God may choose to use us, Providence, to reach some of these. That would be profoundly great and eternally significant.
  • The only people group that is even partly "reached" in the target country is a minority group that is being sent out of the country. Many of these people are refugees. Some of them are being sent to make a new life in Tennessee (yes, you read that right).
  • Outside of this partly reached minority group, there are only 75 total individuals who are Christians in all of the target nation. Some of these few Christians have begged for Christians outside the country to come and disciple them and teach them the Bible.
  • The first translation of the New Testament in the official language of the target country has just been completed. The completed Old Testament will be coming in a few years. The first printing of these New Testaments have just started making their way into the target country.
  • There are at least a dozen languages in the target country that have no Bible translated in their language at all. 
These are stunning facts. We (our whole church) must consider the opportunity to be a part of changing them for the sake of God's glory. I beckon you to pray about how God may want to use you. Yes, you. 
This is what a happy man looks like. Just behold the size
of that steak! And man, it was good.

Ok, here's a picture. After all the meeting, talking, listening, and learning today (no kidding, I seriously had a headache!), we went to eat at a steakhouse. Madison's been telling us about this place all week, and we had skipped lunch in anticipation of it. He said they have a filet mignon (beef tenderloin) that is as big as his forearm. We've been questioning his veracity. Well, he was right. In fact, it was bigger than his forearm. Forty ounces, to be exact. And we all ate our fill for about $7 a person. This alone makes me consider moving here despite all the other inconveniences and dangers of this area!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Saturday Worship at Lohmi Church

We are back in Kathmandu, Nepal. Saturday is generally when the local churches here worship together. That's because here, the weekend is one day, and that day is Saturday. Sunday is still considered the Lord's day, but most churches worship on Saturday. Makes me wonder...would we be committed to "gathering ourselves together" (Heb. 10:25) if we only had one-day-weekends? It seems we are many times too preoccupied to worship together with two days off. These people really make it a priority.
After breakfast this morning, we walked a mile or two across town to worship at Ghangri Church (which Madison calls, Lohmi Church). They meet in a simple rectangular block building (about 60 x 30 feet) that holds about 120 people in plastic chairs. It is the first Tibetan church (specifically, the Lohmi people in Tibet) started in Nepal. 
This day there are about 65 men (mostly young), and about 30 women in the main church building for worship. The men sit on the right and are separated by an aisle through the center from the women and children on the left (kind of like the old pioneer churches like in Cades Cove and elsewhere). There are some things about this arrangement that I actually like. There is a focus and lots of discipleship going on--friends sitting with friends they invited, singing loudly together--good stuff. What surprises me is that there are more than twice the number of men than there are women and children combined. [Correction: more women trickled in as the service progressed. I counted about 45 women during the sermon. The place was nearly full, with still more men than women. The children--lots of them--are having their service and activities outside. I'm guessing there is a total of 140-160 people here today.] 
The women are almost all dressed in traditional clothing (complete with distinctive Nepali aprons), and some have fans. I broke a good sweat walking here, and now I'm roasting--it's hot in here. The men mostly have on jeans and button-up collared shirts. The worship is mostly their own songs in their own music by traditional instruments. Their instruments include a dramyan (like a long-necked, 4-string, round-shaped, bass ukulele), and a yangzi (looks and sounds like a hammer dulcimer), a fish-shaped tambourine, and simple bass hand drum. Again, men are the ones on the instruments and a man leads the worship. There are three additional men and three women backup singers. 
After a few songs the worship leader asked them to take a moment to pray and worship God for his glory. This was a very sincere time of prayer and praise where people were closing their eyes and telling God of his goodness, grace, and power. Many had tears running down their faces. Some became quite emotional. After things calmed down a bit, first-time guests were asked to introduce themselves. Jesse and I were the only ones there for the first time. We introduced ourselves as a pastor and elder from the United States and expressed greetings from Providence Church and told them how honored we were to join them for worship. Jesse also shared that we were hoping to do work near there. They warmly welcomed us. An elderly woman then came to the stage and gave her testimony. She is a new believer--a Sherpa woman who had experienced a very hard life. She had had some dreams about heaven and hell which drove her to seek Jesus. She thanked the church for helping her believe and for training her to be a disciple. She ended by singing two Sherpa songs. Pretty awesome. 
This is Batahsh and his wife. This is a dear,
dear couple who are expecting their first
child. Batahsh was a guide and close friend
of Madison's when he was here. He's got his
long hair pulled back in a ponytail.
The worship leader then did the announcements and prayer requests. Next was a testimony from Dorjee the skinny, older-teen-aged cousin of Madison's close friend, Batahsh (who Jesse affectionately calls Jeronimo because he has long hair and totally looks like an American Indian). We had met Dorjee last week. He is from a Tibetan village. Madison said that when he became a Christian, his parents disowned him. He now has a sickness (perhaps TB?) that makes him weak and causes his hands to shake. Dorjee is an incredibly kind person who you can tell loves Jesus. He was very nervous, but shared a testimony and quoted a long poem he wrote. His hands were shaking. The central theme of the poem (in Nepali) was Jesus died and rose from the dead, therefore he has joy regardless of his circumstances. It also proclaimed that those who believe this are saved. The poem had a rhythm and repeated the line that Jesus died and rose from the dead. I think it is interesting that they incorporate testimonies and poetry (especially given our recent emphasis on the arts in Psalm 23). After another quick testimony, they passed the offering "pots" (they really look like flower pots). Madison had prepared us to only give 100 rupees (= $1). To do more (even $10) could be a problem, he said. 

Next, the pastor walked to the podium with a briefcase full of books, took some of them out and placed them on the podium, and then began preaching. He seems to be an articulate man, he's small and about 60 years old. Everyone has a Bible and is paying attention to his words. [Note: we are over an hour into worship when he is beginning to preach at noon.] Even though he is speaking Tibetan, I can tell he has all the marks of a good communicator. He seems very sincere, uses appropriate gestures, makes great eye contact, and uses vocal variation. He's not putting me to sleep even though I have no idea what he is saying. He seems to spend good time in the Scripture for his main text (he's preaching on John 6 where Jesus claims to be the bread of life) and more Scripture for his supporting texts. He might do well to smile more and give some humor breaks. He's been going 40 minutes now, with no laughter. 
The really cool old building behind Jesse's shoulder is the
office building for the church and has served as a temporary
residence for people who were in need. The two blue sheds
are the children's ministry buildings.
Then suddenly (after a 45 minute sermon),  the sermon was over and about a quarter of the people walked out. Batahsh told us they are preparing to do the Lord's supper. Only baptized believers can participate. Those who left are either not yet believers, or are new believers not yet baptized, and those who are discipling them. They went outside to discuss the sermon with them one-to-one and answer questions they may have. That's awesome. 
They sang a song and moved away some of the empty chairs, before reading the Lord's supper passage and passing out the unleavened bread and cups of new wine (grape juice).

After the Lord's supper was over all was concluded in a song. "I have decided to follow Jesus...Though none go with me I still will follow...My cross I'll carry 'til I see turning back, no turning back." I know this song. It sounded much different than the version I grew up singing, but it was unmistakable. I fought tears as I thanked Christ for taking up his cross for me and I committed anew to follow him, if needs be, to my own death. 
Some of the students at Lohmi Church. The guy in the Jack
Daniel's shirt was on the worship team. He has NO IDEA
what the shirt is about. Funny! The girl next to him looks
like Lainey Greer's Tibetan sister (even more in person)!
These are just a few of their very committed high schoolers.
I can't imagine the abuse they experience from their peers.
These people had endured much to follow Jesus. This was no easy thing for them. Many had lost families who shunned them, some were forced from home villages, some had scars from persecution--all had shared in the sufferings of Christ, and continue to do so in this world center for Buddhism. I am such a wimpy, soft, uncommitted, Christian. I want the love for God and faith in him that these people share. They are extremely poor by our standards. Yet they are planting churches. Five so far, and have plans to take the Gospel to villages in the Himalayas that have not yet heard. This is real Christianity, folks. I want this kind. 
After church, we greeted and spoke with many members. Experiencing the love for Christian brothers and sisters that crosses cultures and languages and is universally shared is reason enough to go on a mission trip. I pray all of you will experience it. 
I love how this mom carries
her baby. She was embarrassed
that I was taking her picture.

Lohmi church is the goal for our work in the target country. We want to plant a church that loves God's word, makes disciple-making disciples and plants more churches. I am reminded of why we are here.

I'm also better for worshipping today with God's people. I needed this. I pray for us, my Providence family, that we will love & encourage each other, and love & worship God like these dear brothers and sisters in Nepal. I pray that God will give us the great blessing of seeing what is really important in life. Will you make his people your priority? I miss all of you. I wish I could worship with you tomorrow in Knoxville. Brian Havely will be preaching about how God our shepherd anoints our heads and overflows our cups. You don't want to miss it. God willing, we'll be with you next week. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

From Birtamod to Kathmandu

Last night Madison wanted to take us to eat at a restaurant across town owned by a guy who had stored a yak's head and horns for him while he was here as a missionary (don't ask). We walked a mile or so until a guy in an electric rickshaw offered to give us a ride for about $1.30. i don't think that little machine has the needed suspension for the 800 lbs. payload it was suddenly carrying. But we made it across town to the restaurant which prodly proclaimed on a large banner: "BEST TASTED NAM IN NEPAL." Madison's friend was there and was very happy to see him. He brought us out some dry-rubbed BBQ chicken, dal, and some truly great nam (that's fresh flatbread made Nepali style). Mmmmm. The other people in the restaurant just stared. there was a guy there who had served for Nepal with the allied forces in Afghanistan near where Jesse was stationed. Pretty cool. The whole meal with drinks cost about $10 for all of us. We rode the electric rickshaw (this time the driver brought his wife!) back to the hotel and went to bed.
Today began as usual with roosters crowing and car horns blowing. Will I miss this? No. After I took a shower in the grossest, stinkiest bathroom yet (and that's saying a lot), we ate a toast and eggs breakfast at the hotel. We packed up, those who hadn't showered did so, while the rest of us hung out for a while until eating lunch (butter chicken) before paying and leaving.
This is the face of a happy man with his butter chicken!
"The Roach," our affectionate name for the Suzuki Omni. 
I'm writing now from the front seat of a Suzuki Maruti Omni minivan. When I say minivan, I mean take the weird-looking, first-generation Toyota minivan from the 80s (remember those?) and shrink it down to 3/4 scale. Madison calls it "the roach." This one rides like a bucket of bolts, no a/c, and there is virtually nothing between me and the bumper. I'm looking at a framed picture of a four-armed Hindu god with a mustache riding on an elephant, which is bolted to the dash. All our backpacks are on the roof and the $35 guitar I brought is between my legs. Jesse, Madison, and our guide are sitting on facing seats, knees intertwined in the rear. We're riding to Chandraghadi to fly a Yeti Airlines flight to Kathmandu. We've been joking about "the roach" vans we've been seeing--they're ubiquitous in this part of the world. Madison says he wants one as his car back home. I don't think he's joking. 

Just got off the flight. I'm on a hot bus filled with Nepali-Bhutanese refugees bound for the US. They'll be there before we will. I feel for these people. They are being kicked out of Bhutan by the government there because they are not pure Bhutanese, even though most were born there. They will be sent to America and be lost and alone in a completely crazy culture to them. This makes me see how important our Global at Providence ministry is. We can't imagine what kind of culture shock this is, and it is a great opportunity for the church to be the church of Jesus. I am convicted of the importance to be more intentional about welcoming and befriending internationals in Knoxville. Will you imagine what it would be like if you were in similar circumstances? What if someone--anyone--was nice to you and helped you navigate your way, learned the language, invited you over to eat, etc. God, help me to be a Christian to these people. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God (Leviticus 19:34)
We got a taxi (another roach!) and the driver is an elderly man who recognized Madison. He's a friendly and talkative former Gurkha soldier who speaks good English. Very nice man. One potential problem: he has Parkinson's or some other muscular disease. This makes him drive spastically and with many jerks and lunges. Another problem: he has cataracts. Combine these factors with the already crazy driving experience here and it is quite a ride! As I write now we are five-wide (not counting motor cycles or pedestrians) on a two-lane road, forcing the oncoming traffic onto the shoulder! We have been inches from a collision many times and no one has stopped. 
Ok, we made it to our hotel in Kathmandu. Went to the only restaurant in town that serves bacon cheese burgers, and washed it down with Mountain Dew. Thank you, Jesus.

Here are some more pictures from our day: 

Not an unusual sight. People all over a "taxi."

Women planting rice.

Another Royal Enfield. They're just cool.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Out of India!

Sorry for the delay on posting. We've had no access to Wi-Fi for three days. I'll try to get pictures up as I can (check back if there are just a few showing).
We left the city of Kalimpong and jeeped about six hours to Jaigaon. It was quite a journey. There were several places where landslides (a frequent occurrence here) had taken whole sections of the road out. This is not like the US, where the authorities will shut the whole interstate down to repair it well. No, the traffic just pushes a way through while the shoddy-looking roadworks goes on. All with 1000-feet drops just a step away. And it's no interstate, let me tell you. It is one or two lanes the whole way. There are times three vehicles will squeeze by going full speed paying no mind to any traffic rules.
There is little regard for signs or people directing traffic. Sometimes (many times) I just close my eyes and pray.
That was three days ago.
 As I write now we are leaving the Indian border city of Jaigaon. It is the nastiest city I've been in since Port Au Prince, Haiti in 2009. Trash everywhere, crazy muffler-less smoke-belching cars and trucks--all blaring horns, beggars begging (especially when they see a white man--let alone three), large animals roaming around crapping on the streets, trash burning, people yelling. It stinks when it rains and you have to walk through the toxic mud and puddles, and it is dusty when it is dry...It's just a beautiful place. I am glad to leave. We did not see another westerner the three days we were there.

 We did have air-conditioning (which exhausted into the bathroom), but that's about it. No Wi-Fi (even though they advertised it), it was musty, dirty, and loud. Whenever the power went off, the room became hot. Jesse and Madison shared a bed and graciously gave me the other (there are advantages to being the old, fat guy). The mattresses we have had in India are two to four inches thick and have no springs. They lay flat on the floor or a wooden platform. There was no toilet paper, the showers are in the bathroom with no curtain, tub, or anything separating it from the rest of the bathroom. The water just falls on the floor.  Oh and the towels...supposed to be white, they are dingy brown with stains on them. They are great for scratching your back due to their roughness. Words don't describe adequately!
The target country is right across the border. We peered through the fence and it seems much cleaner and calmer. Our guide and our driver went to the other side (they are not questioned by border guards because they look like they belong) and confirmed what we saw.
The entrance to our target country can be
seen from our hotel.
They said that the stores are neat and streets are more orderly. They brought us some indigenous food from the country we are targeting. Very interesting and good. The meat was like beef jerky stir fried with peppers. It was very spicy. They make momo different than the Nepalese. They are round pouches containing the same beef jerky. They have a hot sauce that tastes a bit like salsa from a Mexican restaurant, only hotter.
In short, here's how God has worked. We saw a bookstore there near the border that had some ESV Bibles and other Christian literature in it. When we went inside we asked the owner if he was a Christian. He was. He was also from the same tribal village as our guide. Amazing. We told him why we were there and asked if there was anyone working with people from our target country. This man told us he knew someone we should meet. We got in the jeep and he got in with us and led us to a community right on the border, and we walked to a house which was a stone's throw from the border wall (I say a stone's throw, but Madison made a pitiful attempt and hurt his shoulder).

We entered a home that was being worked on and had lots of children running around.  There were three women and one man (not counting the carpenter who was installing a ceiling). After greetings we sat down and it started pouring rain outside. They served us freshly-sliced apples and coffee (if you know me you know that I don't like coffee, and it is never a good idea to eat fruit with peeling if you want to keep from getting sick). We all ate and drank (yes, I choked down most of the coffee). The man's name is Zama. He is a deeply committed Christian who takes in women and children from our target country who are Buddhist and teaches them about Christ, and shows them the love of Christ. He is a wise man who had much good advice for us, again bringing up the idea of teaching if one wants to legitimately get inside the target country to stay and do ministry. He was telling us what he thought would be a good strategy for starting a church: make true disciples who make more disciples. Sound familiar?! After speaking at length with Zama, he called all the children and they sang a song for us about Jesus. He told us of some of their stories. Some had been rescue from slavery and human trafficking. Amazing.
After praying with them we walked about 1/4 mile further down the road where it runs beside the border wall (which is made of stone) and hopped on it for pictures. Nearby some boys were washing clothes at a place in the wall where a creek crosses from the target country. Interesting, it is crystal clear at the border and gets trashed within a few feet of being in India.
We have thus far been protected by God from sickness or other incidents. This is a pretty big deal if you understood how insanely people drive and how dirty things are. Another of our party (unnamed) is having some of the same digestive struggles, but nothing bad. We've been eating pretty much nothing but spicy meat, rice (bot), noodles, lentils (dal), and bread (nam). It's really good, but not very healthy.

Ahhh! We just crossed the border back to Nepal. I'm so happy to be back. We just got a "taxi" from the border (a completely junked car like a Geo Metro that has a wheel about to fall off). Madison had to stop at the border town to buy a knife for his dad.
Madison is just a little bit obsessed with
knives. These are famous knives of Gurkha
warriors, and are made in this town.

Here are some pictures from Jaigaon. They do not do this place justice.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Good Connections

 Today has been good. After a hot shower (yes, hot!), we ate breakfast and actually had enough decent WiFi to call our wives.
We traveled to the home of an American YWAM missionary who has lived here many years and who, reportedly, works with college students from our target country. After finding her house, we found that she was out of the country. Bummer. But then we met Dorjee, a woman from our target country who is a Christian living with her family in Kalimpong. There is no doubt that God orchestrated this meeting. She invited us into her home. After introductions and tea, we told her what our hopes were for planting in her native country. She was guarded and dubious. She told us of the many outsiders who have come to start a mission to her people, who only wanted to take care of themselves. As we told her of our plans to plant a church-planting, disciple-making church, her demeanor began to change.
Madison asked her to tell us her testimony. Amazing. She had a very hard life growing up in the target country. She said that for many years that she wanted to get out of her country and never return. After leaving she came in contact with Christianity and in a medical crisis, told God that if he was real, heal her and get her home. He did...and she forgot God. But God didn't quit. He continued to bring Christians in her life and she was taught the truth and believed. She now has a passion for girls who have left the target country to pursue an education. She and her Indian husband let them live with them where they show them the Christ-centered life. Here's the kicker: she and other Christians from the target country have been praying for God to start a work there. The few churches and Christians that are there are not preaching the true gospel and making disciples. It is a sickly, competitive church in a spiritually dark country.
She said the two biggest problems there are idolatry and adultery. I told her America is not much different. We got lots of great information from her and by the time we left we were all praising God.
After lunch (we ate some great momos), our next meeting was to be with the headmaster of a business college where a lot of people from the target country attend (reminder: we are very near the border). The guy we wanted to meet wasn't there, but again (providentially!) we  met with a guy who's wife is a native of the target country, and who's family owns and runs the college! Madison was asking about finding a job as a professor. Before Madison mentioned the target country, the man did! He said the target country is wide open for jobs, in particular, coaches and teachers--and he has contacts. Long story short, God had prearranged both meetings!
We spent the afternoon in awe of God's grace and sovereignty. There is much more to tell but sensitivities will not allow. Just know that today was very productive.
Here are a few more pictures from the day:
Pretty, but don't touch.  This is the Himalayan version of stinging nettle. Only it is much more vicious than our East Tennessee variety. 

Harley dudes, your India counterparts love the Royal Enfield. These are pretty cool.

We think we're smart with our four-door Jeeps. What about this six-door?! I want one. We've even seen some eight-door Jeeps! Awesome.