Story Short: Love and Elephants

There are many moments from my time in Nepal that I want to preserve forever as snapshots in my memory. One such moment was an evening during our last ten days in Kathmandu when Molly, Emily, and I sat on Carly’s roof, admiring the sunset and talking about life. During this conversation, Molly shared a beautiful analogy about God’s love. It goes something like this:

In this life, we see ourselves as street children, dirty, broken, and in desperate need of love. And in our minds, God is a Good Samaritan who comes once a day to care for our physical needs. Somewhere around 3PM, God walks down our street to give us a meal, and make sure we have a toothbrush and some soap. But we always have this nagging fear that if we do something wrong, God won’t come. We believe that He serves us begrudgingly, and that He really only cares for us because it’s the right thing to do.
In reality, we ARE street children, filthy, wretched, and needing love more than we need breath. And God does come to us every day, but He’s so much more than just a Good Samaritan – He’s our Father! So every morning He runs down our street to scoop us up in a bear hug, grit and all. Then He feeds us the best food He has to offer, and gently cleans our wounds and sores. And no matter what we do, He will always be there, waiting for us when we wake up, ready to love us through whatever the day holds. The simple truth is that He loves us because He loves us because He loves us!

And while this isn’t a perfect analogy, it has completely reframed the way I think about God’s love for me. When you live your life from a place of knowing that your identity is the Beloved of God, it changes everything.

I firmly believe that God is constantly revealing His love to us, but we must have eyes to see it. Sometimes His love is sweet, and He reveals it through a teammate who lets you fall asleep on their shoulder. Other times it’s practical, and He reveals it through all of our bags arriving with us in Kathmandu. And on occasion, God’s love for us is wild, and He reveals it through a glorious weekend of playing with elephants!

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Let’s live like we’re loved today!
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Story Short: Home

6/11/15
It’s late, maybe nine or ten pm Nepal time, but my body has no idea what time it’s supposed to be feeling. The past thirty-six hours of my life have been a blur of airports and airplanes, and I’m running on a meager five hours of sleep to cover the past two days. Driving through Kathmandu in the dark, I begin to question the wisdom of my choice to come to Nepal. All the unknowns feel hostile, not exciting, and I find myself wishing I was home. Unbeknownst to me, I am coming home.

7/11/15
It’s starting to get late, maybe seven or eight pm, and I’m fully aware of exactly how long I’ve been sitting in this cramped van seat. The road ahead of us winds up a steep hill before dipping down into the Kathmandu Valley, and the flow of motorcycles and Tata trucks is almost at a standstill in the evening rush hour. The blinking headlights are making me feel carsick, but I am overwhelmed with a sense of anticipation that drowns out my discomfort. I’m almost home!

I’m a firm believer that in this life we have places we naturally call home, but we also have homes that are birthed in our hearts. The place I grew up is, and always will be home to me, but I have also begun to call my college campus home. And now a third home has been added.

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Kathmandu, Nepal

Now I know some of you may be wondering how a place can become a home in a mere six weeks, and to that question I have two answers.

1. God’s been growing Nepal in my heart for three and a half years, and this trip was the final piece of the puzzle in realizing the depth of my love for this place. I’d love to tell you more in person about God’s process of confirming that I will be moving to Nepal someday!

2. Nepalis are some of the most welcoming people I’ve ever had the privilege to meet. We Americans have oceans to learn from them in the area of hospitality. Take for example our friend Bhuwan (front and center in the plaid shirt.)

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Bhuwan was the overnight host at our favorite guesthouse called Five14. (If you need a place to stay in Kathmandu, they’re the best! http://five14.biz) Although it was his job to take care of us, he consistently went above and beyond what his duties required. Almost every night we would return to the guesthouse gate after it was already locked (oops!) and Bhuwan would run down the stairs to let us in. Once we were inside, he would ask us about our day, but it was never just a polite question he asked for the sake of conversation. He genuinely wanted to hear about what we had done, and where we had gone, and who we had met that day. Because Bhuwan chose to invest in us, by the end of the trip he had become our dear friend.

People like Bhuwan are the norm in Nepal, and through the hospitality of my many new Nepali friends, I have discovered that it is nearly impossible to not feel at home when you are so well cared for.

So welcome to my new home!   IMGP1846

Story Short: Meet the Family

We all know that the first step in telling a good story is introducing the cast of characters.

So squad, meet the family!
IMG_1062We started as strangers, but ended as family. These eleven people were the Body of Christ to me with a depth I’ve never experienced before. Six weeks of laughing, exploring, praying, adventuring, crying, processing, serving, and loving with these incredible people has changed me forever. I’ve tasted and seen true community, and there’s no going back! I could write an entire book on the lessons I’ve learned from this team, but for now I’ll settle for introducing each of them to you.

Courtney Cox
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Courtney has an inspiring heart for children, the nations, and the Gospel. A few of her many gifts include calling out greatness in individuals and pursuing unity on a team. Courtney thrives when she is with people, and her heart for them is evident both in the way she feels their joy and pain, and the way she makes them feel valued and loved.

Molly
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Molly has a beautiful outlook on life. She is very good at taking an experience, and intentionally doing something with what she learned from that experience. She also has the inspiring ability to take a vision and turn it into a reality. Molly’s heart breaks for people, and she uses that brokenness to propel her into loving others with reckless abandon.

Chloe
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Chloe is the perfect mix of sweet and sassy. One minute she is making someone laugh, and the next she is giving her full attention to listening to them share from their heart. Chloe is wise beyond her years, and she has the inspiring ability to intentionally pour into whatever lucky person happens to be in front of her.

Anna
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Anna approaches every aspect of life with passion and zeal. She never does anything halfway, and is always up for a new adventure. She has a very positive outlook on life because she sees Jesus in every person she encounters. Anna is known for praying with conviction, and striking up conversations with everyone she meets.

Kristal
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Kristal at first seems goofy and hilarious, but just below the surface lies an overflowing fount of wisdom. She is a deep thinker and internal processor, but when she allows someone into her thoughts, they walk away with a new perspective on life. Kristal is very good at loving people in specific ways that make them feel valued and cherished.

Courtney Caron
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Courtney is a bundle of energy and fun who knows how to make people laugh. She is also a fantastic listener and great encourager, not to mention incredibly wise. Courtney is a lifelong learner who continually takes what she is experiencing back to God through Scripture and prayer, and pushes others to do the same.

Caroline
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Caroline speaks truth with passion, conviction, and joy. She has a huge heart for battered women that spills out in both overflowing love and righteous anger. She has the determination to do anything she sets her mind to and is great at making people laugh. Caroline is an incredible encourager, and a fierce lover.

Emily
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Emily is the sweetest person you will ever meet, and has a heart of pure gold. She genuinely cares for the well-being of others, and is a fantastic listener. Emily also has a sense of determination and passion that spill over into every part of her life, and will propel her far in God’s good plan for her life.

Carly
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Carly is our fearless leader. She absolutely exudes joy, and sets an incredible example of how to let God use brokenness for His glory. One of her gifts is making someone feel important, even in the midst of a crowd. Carly is very in tune with the Spirit, and truly allows God to lead every part of her life.

Austin
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Austin is an intern for our organization (which I won’t name for security reasons) and although we call him the tagalong, he is truly a member of the family. He is an incredibly thoughtful person, who is constantly looking for ways to bless others. Austin has the heart of a humble servant, and is so good at loving someone in the midst of their brokenness.

Usha
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Usha is a Nepali who works for our organization, but also became a member of the family. She is incredibly joyful, and can make people roll on the floor laughing. She has the beautiful ability to pour into people completely, whether they will be in her life long term or not. Usha has an inspiring heart for children and for fighting injustice.

So there you have it, my beautiful Nepali family. I love them dearly!11737918_10204894094768131_8247527262261800558_n
 And what would a family be without an awkward family picture?

Story Shorts: Nepal Edition

Hello Friends!

I sincerely apologize for my lack of communication these past few weeks. I hit a point where there was so much going on in my heart and mind that I couldn’t form thoughts that would make sense to others. So thank you for giving me grace in my silence! I have now returned from Nepal, and while I’m still very much in the readjustment stage, I have conquered jet lag! I am incredibly excited to share my experiences in Nepal with you, and while I am overwhelmed at the thought of sharing, it is the good kind of overwhelm that comes from being in awe of just how much God did during my time in Nepal.

To kick off the process of sharing about my trip I’m going to be doing something I’m calling Story Shorts. Each day for the next nine days I’ll be putting up a blog post that includes a few pictures and the stories they tell. My reason for this format is to be intentional in how I share. Instead of just making an album to dump my pictures on Facebook, or jumping right back into my normal style of blogging, I’m venturing outside of my neat little boxes to create a format that I hope will give you a richer glimpse of my experiences.

So ready or not, here we go…

I Wish I Could Take You There

If I could be granted one wish right now I would ask to take each one of you out to the village of Dhading in the mountains of Nepal. My team just spent from Sunday to Wednesday in Dhading, and it was a unique and holy experience.

Village life is incredible. It is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Since I can’t take you to the village, I will try to give you a tiny glimpse of what it was like.

We saw the smiles of beautiful, wrinkly grandmas, terraced hillsides dotted with houses, and livestock parading up and down the mountain.

We heard insanely loud cicadas, the laughter of schoolchildren hiking to school in their blue uniforms, and our own lilting voices as we read out loud from a book in the evenings.

We smelled the strong afternoon Nepali tea, our own sweat from a lack of showers, and the roasted corn on the cob a hospitable villager cooked for us.

We tasted ripe mangos off the tree, goat meat for breakfast, and delicious dal bhat.

We experienced trekking up the mud steps and taking a right at the cow to get to the squatty, the slow pace of village life, and the Spirit of God moving in power.

The earthquake damage we saw was overwhelming. It looked just like the pictures you see online. In Kathmandu the damage is scattered. There are definitely damaged areas, but sometimes, as an outsider, I can forget the earthquake even happened. In the village, however, the destruction was everywhere. Home after home completely ruined.

As we worked to dismantle the homes by hand, I was overwhelmed by the thought of 750,000 houses destroyed in the earthquake. While we dug pots and spoons out of the rubble, I realized that the earthquake shook more than just houses, it upheaved lives.

And yet, they’re rebuilding.The Nepali people are so strong. Our work in the village was a drop in the bucket and I can take no credit for what I’ve done. I spent two days moving rubble. That’s it.

It was humbling to realize how little I can do, and yet, the little I did can mean so much. The nonprofit we worked with told us that by helping to take the houses apart, we were giving the Nepalis the hope they need to build again.

Despite the desolation, God is moving on the mountain. We went to the village with a spirit of anticipation. Many people had told us that God had big things for our team in Dhading. By the end of the first full day, everyone was feeling good (which is miraculous in itself) but we didn’t feel like anything huge had happened.

Before I went to bed, I felt God whisper, “I’m going to do something tonight.” I went to sleep, woke up, nothing. My immediate thought was, “Maybe I heard God wrong.”

In the midmorning, we were at our camp making dal bhat when an older Nepali man walked up to us. He asked for prayer for a bad stomach pain, and asthma. We prayed, and God miraculously healed him on the spot!

Afterwards he said, “Last night when my stomach was hurting I remembered Jesus and thought I should come here.” In that moment I thought, “God, why do I ever doubt you?”

For the rest of the day we were approached by a steady stream of villagers. Some asked for prayers, some took Bibles, and some were just curious about what we were doing and why we were in Dhading. In the words of my teammate Courtney, “The Spirit is attractive.” It was an incredible day, and it truly helped me see that God is moving in Dhading.

Even though our village experience is only one day behind us, I can tell I will look back on our time there as one of the highlights of these six weeks.