Story Short: Joy

This final Story Short is going to be short and sweet, but first off I want to say thank you! Thank you for listening to me share about my experiences, and for engaging in what God is doing in Nepal.

Since being home I have been asked what surprised me about my trip, and one of my answers to that question is this: I was surprised by the deep joy I felt for the vast majority of my six week adventure.

I went into the experience expecting it to be good, but also expecting it to be hard. And it was. There was miscommunication and frustration, a morning spent puking, complete exhaustion, and a whole lot of spiritual warfare, to name a few of the trials I faced. However, through it all, I felt pure joy. And for that I can take no credit. It was 100% Jesus. Through my time spent in communion with Him, He enabled me to be joyful in most circumstances. (I’m haven’t quite reached the the point of joyful in all circumstances, but hopefully I’m heading in that direction).

I’ve always heard that joy is different from happiness in that it isn’t dependent on what is going on in your life, and on this trip, I experienced that on a deeper level than I ever have before. And that joy I felt in Nepal doesn’t have to stay there. If it transcends circumstances, it transcends location as well. So in new season that’s completely different from the one I just left, I’m committing to continually turning back to Jesus – the source of all joy!

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Story Short: God of This City

11268037_10204325261313623_221065261382192294_n“You’re the God of this City
You’re the King of these people
You’re the Lord of this nation
You are

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You’re the Light in this darkness
You’re the Hope to the hopeless
You’re the Peace to the restless
You are

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There is no one like our God
There is no one like our God

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For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City
Greater thing have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City

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For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City
Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done here”

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{God of This City by Chris Tomlin}

On one of our free evenings in Kathmandu, we met up with the Nepali staff of our organization to have a worship night. We alternated between singing in Nepali, and singing in English. The most impactful moment of the night came when we sang “God of This City” by Chris Tomlin. As we sang it, I realized that we were making a declaration over Kathmandu. As visitors we were proclaiming what we saw – God is at work in Kathmandu! However, the beauty of the moment was deepened by the realization that our Nepali brothers and sisters were singing that God is the God of their city. It was so powerful to be able to confidently sing with our Nepali friends that greater things are yet to come in Kathmandu!

Story Short: Treasure Hunt

Sunday July 5th, 12:00 PM

We’re sitting upstairs at Hotel Blue Heaven, finishing up our team devotional time, when Carly announces that we’re going to do a treasure hunt. Carly explains that we’ll be split into groups of three, and our only task for the next three hours is to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading. Since it’s lunchtime, we have the option of going to find lunch, or we can choose to fast. Before we leave the hotel, we are to spend at least thirty minutes in prayer, asking God to give us images, words, and other directions on how He wants us to use our time.

As soon as Carly finishes talking, I immediately think “my group is supposed to fast.” I get put into a group with Austin and Courtney Caron, and we go down to Courtney’s room to pray. On the way downstairs, I wrestle with God because I don’t want to be the one to tell my team we’re fasting, but when we get to Courtney’s room, I jump right in and tell them we’re supposed to fast. Courtney sighs and says, “as soon as Carly mentioned fasting, I just knew God was going to tell you to fast.” Talk about confirmation!

Courtney puts on some worship music, and we spend the next forty-five minutes praying individually, and then speaking out whatever God tells us. God gives us an extensive list of things to look for including: little boys fishing by the lake, woven bracelets, canoes, and a jewelry seller we had met a few days prior.

As I pray, I am looking out the hotel window and I can see a yellow building. Twenty minutes into our prayer time, God clearly tells me “go to the yellow building first.” I proceed to ask God what we should do at the yellow building, but He won’t answer.

11709431_3220417759221_3166244258785451986_n{the infamous yellow building – bottom right corner}

1:00 PM

We finish praying and head over to the yellow building. When we get there, Courtney and Austin look at me as if to say “now what?” In the bottom of the yellow building there are two little shops, but I don’t feel like that’s where we’re supposed to go. The woman in one of the shops sees the confusion on our faces and says, “there’s a cafe upstairs, but they don’t serve food, just drinks.” We look at each other and think, “we’re fasting and don’t need food, so why not go upstairs.” As we climb the spiral staircase, Austin prays for us to have confidence in whatever is about to happen.

We emerge into a neat hangout space  complete with pool tables, guitars, and two young Nepali guys. Austin says, “hey Courtney, why don’t you play the guitar?” She picks up the guitar and starts singing worship songs. Austin and I join in, and shortly thereafter the Nepali guys pick up instruments and jump right in. One guy plays a drum, and the other a mouth organ. We sing for a while, and then we strike up a conversation with our fellow musicians. We introduce ourselves, and discover that one of their names means light in Nepali and the other’s name means truth in Japanese!

3:00 PM

We realize it is already time for us to go back to our hotel! The past few hours have flown by as we discussed theology and truth with our new friends. You see, our new friends are Hindus, but they were very open to having an honest conversation about religion and faith. As I leave Babylon Cafe, I am filled with an overwhelming sense of joy! When we reach the bottom of the spiral staircase, I turn to Courtney and Austin and see that all three of us are beaming. Who knew that “go to the yellow building” would turn into such a wonderful afternoon!

7:00PM

Austin goes back to Babylon to give our new friends his copy of Mere Christianity, and play a few rounds of pool. They are very excited to read it, and love the fact that he came back to spend time with them.

Saturday July 11th, 2:00 PM

Right before we leave Pokhara, Courtney and I duck into Babylon one last time to see our friends. Only one of them is there, but we snap a few pictures and say our goodbyes.

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{Isn’t his smile contagious?}

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It was a joy to spend our treasure hunt at Babylon, and we definitely found gold! I truly believe that God is at work in our friends at Babylon, and who knows, maybe someday we’ll all get to sing together again in heaven!

Story Short: The Future of Nepal

These are the faces of the future of Nepal.IMGP1778

Throughout our time in Nepal we had the privilege of visiting five of our nonprofit’s children’s homes, and running a camp for their school. I came away from each interaction both inspired by the amazing environments the nonprofit has created for children, and in awe of the Nepali children we met.

In the midst of poverty, darkness, and sorrow, these children are beacons of light!IMG_0221

They’re silly,
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sassy,
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sweet,
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and so full of life!
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Every time I get bogged down by the overwhelming struggles Nepal faces, I look back through our pictures of kids,
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and remember that someday these children will be leaders in their communities.
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Because of these children, I am filled with hope for the future of Nepal!

Story Short: No Longer Slaves

Going into my time in Nepal, I knew very little about our itinerary, but within the first few days, Carly provided us with a tentative schedule. My initial response was excitement, but after taking just one glance, my heart sank. While the schedule was chock full of wonderful opportunities and ripe with potential adventures, our first big trip out of Kathmandu was scheduled for the following weekend… and we were going to Chitwan.

In my pre-trip research on all things Nepal, I learned that little, narrow Nepal has three distinct geographic regions. The mountainous northern region that consists of the Himalayas, the central hill region that includes the main cities, and the jungly Terai region that borders India. Chitwan is in the Terai.

By this point you’re probably wondering, “What’s the big deal is with Chitwan?” One word – jungle! You see, I have a plethora of irrational, jungle-related fears. Massive spiders, sneaky tigers, aggressive rhinos, poisonous snakes, no thank you! Prior to Nepal I had never been to a jungle, and if I had had my way, I would’ve never gone to a jungle. But God had other plans.

We arrived in Chitwan at night. My first impression was that the air was alive with the noises of bugs and animals, and I was immediately overtaken by an oppressive and crippling fear.

I spent the evening completely withdrawn. I did not want to be in Chitwan, and I honestly didn’t know how I was going to survive the weekend.

When we returned to our guesthouse after dinner, Courtney Caron, Emily, Austin, and I went up on the roof to look at the stars. While on the roof I told them, “Guys, my fear is so intense right now that I don’t even know how to be here, and I can’t carry this burden alone. Will you pray for me?”

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They laid hands on me, and prayed a beautiful and bold prayer for me to be released from my fears. When they finished, I felt completely different! Free, and light, and unafraid!

The next morning, we walked barefoot through the jungle in a rainstorm, and I was struck with the realization that I felt no fear!

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And from that moment on, I knew that their prayer had truly released me from my fears. But in order to remain free I knew I would have to continue choosing to receive the freedom God wants to offer me.

Right before we left for Chitwan I discovered this song, and it became the anthem for my time in Nepal.

Every morning for the next five weeks I would wake up and listen to this song. Then, whenever I would start to feel afraid I would sing, “I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God!”

Since returning home, I have realized that while I worked through many fears in Nepal, America comes with a whole new set of fears to tackle. However, I know that the freedom God offered me there continues to be available here. So I’m ready to run free and fearless into the future!

Story Short: Jaimashi

Friends, meet Bim.
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Bim is a Nepali Christian who works for a nonprofit in Kathmandu. We went to the village with his organization, so we became friends with him when he served as our village host. Bim has a big smile, and an even bigger heart. He serves with humility, and loves with gentleness and grace. Bim is one of the many inspiring Nepali Christians met throughout our trip.

Although Christians make up a minuscule portion of Nepal’s population, Nepal has one of the fastest growing churches in the world! While I firmly believe that God is at work in every nation, He is doing something special in Nepal right now. Within the past ten years, the church in Nepal has been able to come out from being underground, and the Gospel is spreading like wildfire! It was incredible to be able to witness such rapid growth of the Kingdom of God!

The current religious atmosphere in Nepal is live and let live. Christians are generally tolerated. This atmosphere, however, is at risk of being changed. The Nepali government is in the process of writing a constitution, and the newest draft proposes making religious conversion illegal in Nepal. As a petition on change.org states “The current draft of Nepal’s new constitution criminalizes “any act to convert a person from one religion to another.” Since no one can really change their religion without the guidance of others within that religion, this clause nullifies the freedom to share, change, and choose one’s religion. This would criminalize acts like baptizing or sharing one’s faith, and would be a violation of the UN’s Declaration on Human Rights.” (https://www.change.org/p/the-government-of-nepal-guarantee-the-right-to-discuss-choose-and-practice-one-s-religion-of-choice-in-the-new-constitution)

If I’m being honest, this proposed constitution terrifies me! It would completely change what every organization we worked with is allowed to do, and would deeply impact the lives of my Nepali Christian friends. Will you join me in praying for Nepal as a nation? Pray that the government officials would realize that religious freedom is immensely important, and should not be compromised.

During this time of uncertainty, I’m holding onto Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” In Nepal, the common greeting is “Namaste,” which is a Hindu word that roughly translates to “I honor the spirit in you that is also in me.” The Christians of Nepal, however, have decided to use a different greeting when meeting each other. Instead of saying “Namaste” Christians greet each other with “Jaimashi” which means “Victory in Christ!” During my time in Nepal, I saw Christ win many victories, and I have to continue to trust that God will use this new proposed constitution for His glory!

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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