Friday, February 27, 2009

Week Two: Go West Young Man

So things have slowed down a bit. Partly because I've stayed in Pokhara. Partly because that cold came back. But never fear, it was good to slow down.

With tons of time doing nothing but traveling and then being sick I was able to read all of the Gospels and Acts (the fifth Gospel). Let me tell you, what a blessing that was. It's always good to get a refresher course on why I do what I do and to be encouraged by those who came before me.

A kernel of exceptional encouragement was the fact the Dr. Luke never really wrote an ending to Acts. He leaves of with Paul in house arrest continuing with his outreach in Rome. He doesn't tack an "The End" or "Amen" at the end because the story is not finished. The story continues. The Spirit still moves. Oh what blessed hope!

So this past week has been more adjustment to both being in a new culture and being away from family. This is usually the time when the team is packing up and heading out. Alas, there is no team and the departure date is three months yet t0 come. Yesterday it hit me that I'm in Nepal. It hit me that I will be living the next few months of my life here. I'm still getting over the shock (I can be a little slow sometimes).

I had the unique pleasure of spending the better part of a day working along side a YWAM outreach team from Norway. That's right, you read right, Norway. It was a much needed time for me to be encouraged and I know the guys here were as well. They were passing through on there way to India. They had just spent a few days in Kathmandu after coming over from Tibet. The team was an international mix of Norwegians, Swedes, Greenlanders, Canadians and Californians. Please keep them in prayer as the finish out their trip.

Sunday I head out for West Nepal to visit and help out a church plant team in a Muslim community. I was told yesterday that tensions are rising as some fundamentalist Hindu groups are publishing anti-Christian propaganda. Because of this, the team leader said I might be spending the majority of the week in surrounding villages rather than the city. There maybe opportunity to teach at and work alongside the local CPTs and churches.

As for pictures, I'm can't guarantee anything at the moment. I've hit three different cafe's and only one of them had access to the actual computer so I could plug my cam in. With sketchy power and crazy net caf's, getting on here to update is an adventure all its own.

grace and peace

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Week One: Everybody Tamang!

So I've been here a week and sooo much has been going on. More than I can fit in a post. But never you worry, I've been keeping a daily journal so I can type it all up when I'm sure the connection will hold. The power has been kind of sketchy of late.

A brief recap of the past week:

Landed in Kathmandu and waited for a few hours for my contact to pick me up. Somehow I was whisked away to hotel in the middle of town along some backstreet. I'm still trying to figure out when I ever said anything besides "NO!" I finally got a hold of Mohan, who got a hold of Ishak (Issac), my Kathmandu contact. So when Ishak showed up at the hotel, he looks at me and says, "I saw you, I saw you but I thought you were a Nepali! They said Andrew from America is comign and he is a young man. So I thought skinny, white, brown hair, maybe blue eyes. I saw you!" So I spent a few days in Kathmandu at the Frontier Missions Center and then headed of to Pokhara...

So I was put on a micro-van full of Nepalese with my only instruction being that it would cost me 350 rupees and that I should give it to them only when they asked. Then off I went. The total ride was about 6 hours in what amounts to be a very speedy minivan. We stopped at a small "restaurant" half way through the trip, so I got out and looked around. Again, everyone just assumed I was Nepali...

I got to Pokhara and was just let off at the beginning of town. No words, no instructions. So I found a phone and called Mohan. He sent one of his staff, Nar, down to get me. I waited a few hours and I noticed this guy walking past me for the 5th time. He finally approached me. "Where are you from?" "America" "What is your name?" "Andrew" "Umm, I come for you." And away we went...

So I settled into the Tamangs quite nicely. They are a wonderful family. Sangeeta, Mohan's wife, is constently feeding me. They gave me my own room, which is in their storage room, but is still very nice. I've been able to meet alot of their friends and family. They even adopted me and gave me a Nepali name...

Bal Bahadur Tamang.

Which means "strong" or as I was told by my friend Singarag, "Push push!" I was able to stay a few days up a mountain which Mohan has dubbed "Mt. Olive." There I helped with one of the construction projects going on there. They are building a FMC training center which is where I helped at. They also have an orphanage and a missionary rest home being built further up the hill. Due to some conflicts with the local villagers, which I will write about at another time, Mohan has stopped the construction of the rest home in an attempt to appease a few men who are stirring trouble.

I went to Lamachoour Church on Saturday and met a few people there. It was Mohan's turn to preach so he talked about what God has been showing him through the situation with the villagers. Afterward, Sangeeta took me to see a Tibetan refugee camp.

And today started off quite well until I was hit by a motorcycle. I was on a bicycle, of course, and he clipped my rear tire. When the police came they let me go on my way. The guy was trying to blame me. But they weren't buying it. Now I am checking e-mail and chatting with family on facebook.

grace and peace,
Bal Bahadur

A few random thoughts:
1) Everyone I have met is a Tamang. Either a cousin, brother, or brother cousin. And now I am one too.
2) There is nothing more humbling than knowing that a 3 year old can communicate with more people than you.
3) On the same note, using a Nepali toilet is also very humbling.
4) There are many many many many different ways to cook rice, either that or it's just my imagination.
5) No traffic laws means anything goes, including being hit by a motorbike while cruising on a bicycle, and then being blamed for the accident.
6) Cows are very spoiled here. Very very spoiled.

Prayer points:
1) That the villagers on Mt. Olive won't be blinded by a few bad men.
2) That the continuing projects would run smoothly without injury
3) That it would rain. There a huge water shortage, which is contributing to a lot of problems with the villagers.
4) That God would continue to guide my steps as I seek to serve Him and the people of Nepal

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Live From Bangkok

So after an amazingly loooong flight I am finally in Thailand. The fact that I am on the otherside of the globe is starting to set in. English is being overtaken by Thai and Hindi as I cruise the terminal. It is indeed an eye opening experience.

My flight wasn't too bad. I had an aisle seat on the side. My own video screen. Three square meals. It wasn't too shabby at all. The total flight time was 17 hours and 50 mins. We flew north through Alaska, then across to Russia, down over Japan and then over Vietnam into Thailand. I have an hour before I can even go wait at my gate for my flight to Kathmandu, so I'm going to browse around and find something to snack on.

I finished my first book on the flight, Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers, it was such a good book I'm sure I will read it again before the trip is through. I have started The New Friairs and it looks to be a truly challenging book.

until next time
grace and peace

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Reunion & Rest

It has been a good time in California. Scratch that, blessed time in California. I've been reuniting with church family that I haven't seen in yeaaaaaars. Praying and fellowship has been a good time to exchange mutual adventures and happenings. It has been encouraging to see the work God has been doing in this place and in these people in the past few years. I look forward to seeing what God will continue to do here, as well as Colorado, while I am away.

I leave from LAX Tuesday, prayer for traveling mercies is much appreciated. I have also come down with a cold, I should have listened to Carissa, so prayers for health would be equally appreciated.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Killing My Inner Boyscout

In preparation for my trip to Nepal, I have delved headlong into Hindu cultural studies and various books on missional lifestyle. I have read through the book of Acts. I followed along with the Mars Hill community through the book of Philippians, led by Rob Bell and others, via podcast. I have taken every possible measure to devour every piece of literature I can get a hold of. I am engaging in a personal study of Nepal's national language, Nepali. I have met on a consistent basis with my to mentors/advisers/friends/colaborers to discuss and plan what this trip should look like. I have enlisted the help of my church family to grasp and accomplish that which I am bound to overlook. I have taken every opportunity to use the resources at my fingertips to accomplish a successful mission trip to the country of Nepal.

But then it hit me.

Slowly at first. Subtle. Soft. Harmless. The notion that this trip is in someway larger than myself. Bizarre. As days passed, I would read or hear things that disturbed me to my core.

"Whatever you do to the least of these, you have also done to Me."
"Be of one mind and of one spirit."
"As Christ loved the church, so to shall you love one another"
"He wrapped a towel around His waist and began to wash the disciples feet."

Familiar words, to say the least. But something was different. Something didn't sit well. My soul groaned. It slowly started to make sense, what it was that I was getting myself into. I began to read stories of the church in Asia. Their struggles, their pain. My soul ached.I read of disease, rape, and genocide in Africa. My soul weeped. I recalled the broken and shattered lives I came into daily contact with on the city buses in California. My soul was troubled. How can this be? How is this even happening?

Then, I turned my focus to Nepal. I spent many late nights reading and watching news stories. Civil war. Riots. Poverty. Death. Government abuses. Unbridled hate. Slaves. Gods and goddesses. My soul grieved. What can I do? What can be done? My mind wandered over scripture. How does God deal such tragedy? How am I to deal with such tragedy? Turning to the story of Job, I read how he dealt with tragedy. "Blessed be the name of the Lord." Then I turned to Ruth only to see God reconciling a broken family into the lineage of the Messiah.

I have developed a friendship with a pretty awesome girl from work during these past few months. And, as always seems to be the case, the question of whether or not this friendship would become something more came up. As we discussed and shared our feelings on the matter, she uttered words that caught me a tad off guard. "God is sovereign. He will do what He will."

God is sovereign.

Those words have been ringing in my ear since. Not just in regards to our friendship, but to the whole scope of humanity.

Friendships. Family. Relationships. God is sovereign.
Rape. Genocide. Abuse of power. God is sovereign.
Loss. Brokenness. Evil. God is sovereign.

Again, familiar ideas, but somehow they hit me harder this time. Like a brick was smashed into my head and the shards pressed into my heart. (Yes, that dramatically intense.) And again my body tensed. How can this be? Something doesn't make sense.

"Lord I believe, help my unbelief."

My immediate reaction was that something must be done. Somehow this sovereign God has to, right this moment, restore everything to Him. If not, this will never end. I've been doing a lot of reading of books/articles/sermons by Shane Claiborne, Rob Bell, and other like minded individuals. The common theme being that God's plan of restoration began with Abraham. His covenant with Abraham began a reclaiming of creation that led to the ultimate act of redemption, the cross. But it doesn't stop there, the business of reclaiming creation does not stop there. Jesus then hands the plan to His followers and the revolution continued. The revolution continues.

As most revolutions go, it was, no, it is a reaction to a fundamental wrong. Something within the world is not right. Something must be done. Things are being done. Things will continue to be done. Despite all the wrong, things are becoming right. From community gardens to national revivals, the spirit is moving.

Aslan is on the prowl.

In the book of the Acts of the Apostles (or the Spirit) a beautiful narrative unfolds of the early Christians reacting to the wrongs of their day. Famine, poverty, religious persecution, religious abuses, bad government, human rights violations, things completely exclusive to that place and that time. As a result of their actions and openness to the Spirit, reconciliation was made known throughout the Roman world.

As a result of their actions and openness to the Spirit, reconciliation was made known.

As a result of their actions and openness to the Spirit...

Which was a reaction to the broken, restoration came down to the community. People were made aware of this Jesus and His sacrifice and they wanted it because of what was being done.

This totally tweaked the Jewish leaders whose system was built on adhering to very specific rights and rituals that had to be followed to the "t" in order to find favor with God. As if God's favor was something to be earned like a merit badge to display for all to see. Something to feel better about themselves by. To say to the world, "Because I do righteous deeds, I am righteous." Or, I am good, because I do good.

Like a boy scout.

No offense to any scout or scout-like people, but the idea to do good simply because it's a duty and it makes you feel good is a totally twisted way of doing things. Helping an elderly woman cross the street is the right thing to do, so it is done. Not because you feel compassion for her physical state. Not because streets can be dangerous and you are moved to protect her. But because it is the right thing to do. And when the event is retold how Mr.s Murphy was aided across the street, pride swells inside. Another badge is awarded. Applause resounds throughout the hall.

Then what? Another good deed? More help for Mrs. Murphy? What is the motivation? It becomes a shallow deed. An action done just because it was the right thing to do. An action done with an expected reward. Compensation for a job well done.

In God's economy good deeds/righteous acts are done in reaction to grace. This is something the early church knew well. They were given something completely new and astounding; a personal relationship with the Living Creator of all. How could you not want to spread the love? Their lives became changed into a reflection of the love they had been shown (like the moon to the sun). They operated in a relationship to humanity that was triune in nature. When the Giver gave to fill a need, nothing was expected in return. No debt was incurred. There was no one saying, "You owe me one." This was distinct in the fact that, unlike the world, there was no notion of "one good deed deserves another." They gave and loved because it became an integral part of who they were. Their lives echoed God's redemptive purposes.

I have been moved by this notion. That the Spirit is moving through the Body. He is actively changing people to reflect the love of the Father. Not to gain praise and recognition for good deeds, but to right the wrongs of this world. To reconcile all creation to Himself. My trip is not to be taken lightly. It is not a chance to add to my spiritual resume. I have become increasingly aware that this trip is God allowing me to observe and to partake in His plan of redemption for Nepal (and more generally the world). In doing so, my perspective on life has changed. I have, in a sense, killed my inner boyscout. I am open to what the Spirit has in store for this trip. I'm open to what He has in store for the rest of my life. God has reached out and stretched me through this process. It hurt. There is no easy way to kill a boyscout. Looking back, it has taken two years to reach the point to where I was even close to being ready for this. God works in wonderful ways.

God is sovereigns. The Spirit is moving. Let us reflect the Son.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Book Club

Cross-Cultural Servanthood by Duane Elmer
The Epistle to the Philippians by Paul the Apostle
The Epistle to the Romans by Paul the Apostle
Beautiful Feet by Danny Lehman

Acts of the Apostles by Dr. Luke
Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers By Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
The New Friars by Scott A. Bessenecker
Through the Bible: Acts by J. Vernon McGee