NEPAL 2014--Sam's Final Post
The purpose of this write up is to get thoughts, stories, and personal feelings down on paper of my recent trip to Nepal with ACT ministries. The main focus of this paper is to tell about God’s work in Nepal and my experiences with it. I will not focus much on differences between the US and Nepal, but will mention them where applicable.
Our mission team included me, Randy Gardner, and David Ward. Randy and I have audio engineering backgrounds; both of us have worked in churches doing this, while Randy has an extensive background in recording work as well. Dave was our musician on this trip. He held worship workshops in the different areas we went to, and taught about leading worship in the church.
The first 2/3rds of our trip was working with Jeewan Rai and his father Simon with NNLPI (Nepali National Languages Preservation Institute) in Kathmandu, to install a recording studio for them to use to do Bible translation and Christian Nepali music recordings. One of the first things I discovered when we got there was that they already had a working recording studio, and had done many recordings with it. I was amazed on how much they had done already with the limited resources and training they had. God had given them the ambition and the vision and they were off the ground with it. What I found was God brought us (meaning Randy and me) there to guide and teach, as well as help finish out their studio.
Randy and I planned on building some sound panels for the studio that would help take out some sound reflections and echoes they were having. The room has all flat walls and is made out of concrete and brick. By adding in some soft materials it would deaden the room and help make it sound better on the recordings. We decided to go out in Kathmandu and purchase the materials we would need to build these panels. Randy had brought some panel fabric from the US, so we needed to find some soft material as the innards of the panels, and the plywood to mount them on.
Because of not knowing exactly where we needed to go, we had a couple of Jeewan’s guys take us out into the city. These guys were the heart of this ministry. Bikash was a somewhat recent Christian who’s calling is the studio engineer, but also a musician. Jeewan joked he was the only Christian rapper in Nepal. Bikash even showed us a music video of his material! Karan was the guy they used for vocal talent but did many things behind the scenes for the ministry. We walked around Katmandu for about 5 hours, visiting a mattress factory where we found some foam, and a wood store that had the plywood. This is where we got to see Katmandu (or a small part of it.) It is a crazy big city with very religious overtones throughout. The main religions are Hindu and Buddhism, and it is very apparent with all the shrines and markings. The traffic there is insane, with no street signs, traffic lights or lanes; everyone had the right of way. I feared for my life every time we had to cross a street!
Once we had the materials delivered to the studio, we went about building and installing the panels. This took the rest of the time we had in Katmandu. Jeewan and Bikash helped us in building these panels (they loved the staple gun!) and we finished hanging them the last day we were there. Every morning we would meet with Jewaan, for breakfast, including a meeting with his father Simon who runs the ministry. We got to hear about how much God has worked in Nepal in a very short amount of time (1991 I believe is when the ministry started.) He told us there are 123 different languages in Nepal, and the ministry had translated about 12-13 with the equipment they had. Once again, God’s glory shone through, getting so much done already but having so much left to do. I was humbled on how God would use this studio to reach every Nepali regardless of the language barrier. Later in the week, we met up with Ed and Kathy Boehm who are missionaries from the church I work at: Redeemer Bible Church. I was able to give them some news about the church, but also had good conversations with them about what we had seen so far and their experiences in Nepal.
We finished up our work the last day we were in Kathmandu, and got to do a couple sound tests before we left for our next stop, Hetauda. Randy and I wished we had had more time to teach the guys there more, and fix a couple small issues we weren’t able to fully finish, but we explained it to them, and did get connected to them through Facebook. We finished our final night there going with the team to an American themed restaurant on a one of the tallest buildings in the city. We got some great pictures on the roof of the city and prepared to leave the next morning.
I was a little hesitant going to Hetauda. I knew it would be more rustic than what we were used to in Katmandu, (and that could be considered rustic to some American standards!) and I wasn’t feeling too well from my American meal the night before. Also Randy and I had no real tasks there. But God had big plans for us! So I prayed for strength to get through the drive and also for strength while I was there. The cities are only about 90 miles apart, but the only way there is a mountain road that takes 4.5 hours to drive. We took a mini bus that is designed to hold 10 Nepali’s, or in our case 5 Nepalis and 3 Americans! The pastor of the first church we visited and who we stayed with was Darshan. We also had with us our interpreter Karna, and his 7 year old daughter (she reminded me a lot of my daughter!), and two other guys that came with us to visit while we were there. One interesting note is that Nepal plans one day to build a tunnel under the mountain between the two cities, and cut the time down to an hour and a half. The road was paved mostly, but was to me a one lane road. Passing other cars and trucks was always fun, and since I was on the inside of the road I jumped a few times on how close we passed people (much to the amusement of my fellow Nepali passengers.) The drive was absolutely stunning though and we got to see some amazing scenery and small towns on our way there. We drove through the city of Hetauda and then arrived at the house Darshan rents and where we would be staying in a village just outside the city.
The house was being used by 3 different families including Darshan’s. We stayed in what had once been a garage and had a lot of openings to the outside. They did put up some mosquito netting on the open windows to keep out the bugs, though we had a couple friendly geckos stay on the ceiling with us every night. Darshan, his wife, and two children stayed in one room and everyone in the house shared the bathroom. Darshan gave us an extra bed plus his two dining tables for all of us to have our own bed, while his entire family slept in one bed. We would have breakfast with him every morning, which included hardboiled eggs and Nescafe because he knew Americans loved coffee. We didn’t know it at the time but Nescafe is not very cheap relative to their income; we were so blessed and shocked by their generosity and sacrifice to make us as comfortable as they could. The bathroom took a little getting used to, and on the whole staying there was very rustic to what I am used to, but God continued to humble me regarding our “requirements” of living standards and broke some of that down in me.
We got to Hetauda on a Friday, and in Nepal they have their church services on Saturday. So on Saturday morning Darshan brought us into the city to rent a sound system for church later that morning, because his church did not have one. We picked up a speaker with amplifier and a couple microphones to use for the service. Amazingly enough there were 3 different DJ/sound rental places within a block radius of a pretty small town. It just showed me how important music is in Nepal. We brought back the speaker to the church (which at one point in its history had been a chicken coop and a third of it was still being used as such!) and after tracing some wires and hand patching the electrical wiring got the sound system up and running. Dave preached that morning, though we were all honored and introduced in the church prior to Dave’s teaching, and each got real flower lei’s. That afternoon Dave did his worship teaching and it seemed liked the entire village and then some more showed up. We figured about 130 came, some walking over a half an hour away to come listen. They loved the saxophone, most of which had never seen or heard one. Randy and I ended up outside to make enough room so everyone could get in. We got to hear a lot of Nepali Christian music songs, and they all loved to clap and shout in their music. They also sang a few English worship songs such as “How Great Thou Art.” I saw God use worship in Nepal as the introduction to the Christian church, and Dave’s teaching was used by Him to help narrow and hone in that focus, and to show them how He uses music to do that.
The second day we went to a different church in the area where Darshan knew the pastor. This was a bigger church, with a stage and sound system already there. The event here was a worship revival, which included more of Dave’s teachings, plus some song and dancing by the youth that attend there. Randy and I again watched, but I did run sound for Dave’s portions. The sound booth was actually an isolation booth! Not very easy to mix in, especially because the door frame was made for an average Nepali’s height, not an American. I constantly was bumping my head on the top of it. One thing the pastor asked Randy and I to do at that church later was to teach any sound help we could give to make their sound quality better. We were again surprised on how far they had gotten on their own. I got to meet their sound guy, who also played bass, named Bibek. He had figured so much out on his own, and we were able to show him a few pointers to make things better. Again we wished we had known earlier to take more time to teach. I know God used it; I just had a passion to teach more. Again we were able to exchange on Facebook to stay in touch.
That night we were invited to eat at a women’s house who attends Darshan’s church with her 4 daughters. I am going into more specifics of this dinner, mostly because of what God showed me but to give you an idea of the heart of these people.
Her name is Ruth, and she lives in a small one room hut with her 4 daughter’s ages 5 to 16. She gave us the standard fair we had been eating since we had been in Nepal: Rice with a lentil broth, some green vegetables, sort of like kale, and various sauces. She also offered us fresh buffalo milk, which only Dave braved to have. It is a very special honor to receive this from the host we were told later, though I think it stayed with him longer then he had hoped! She and her children would wait to eat until we were finished, and they would eat what was left after we ate. At the end of the meal as we were getting ready to leave our interpreter said she had a prayer request for us if we would pray for her. We of course agreed and asked what she wanted. I figured in my mind more money or a bigger place; material things. But she shocked me with her request. She wanted us to pray for her husband, the dad of her 4 daughters. She said he was a trucker and was always gone and never visited her or the kids often. Darshan explained to us later that a trucker’s lifestyle was a hard one in Nepal, and they tend to be unfaithful because they are gone a lot for their families and become disconnected with them. He didn’t say if that was the case here. But more than that, she wanted us to pray he would become a Christian. I was floored by this request. Of all the things she would want prayer for, all she wanted was her husband to become a Christian and to come see his kids more often. It really showed me how important Jesus was to these people, more than I have ever seen before. We prayed for that request and the family in general and she was very happy we did. The next morning we made a point of going back to them again and giving them some money, but also some peanut butter and chocolate bars we had brought to share. The girls actually squealed in happiness when we gave it to them.
That morning we left to go back to Kathmandu and for Randy and me to start the long journey home. Dave stayed an extra day with Ed to go out to another small town. We drove back in the morning and we all got to do a little sightseeing and souvenir buying with Ed before we left. I thank the Lord I was able to go on this trip and for Him providing it to me. I know He used us over there, but He used the people we interacted with in Nepal on me. I learned that God can use us even if our resources are limited or seem to be. God can overcome all that to reach His people. I found people that are so on fire to bring God to their country and even within their own cities and towns, to show how God can be a personal Savior to them, and that He wants to know them intimately, not just be another deity in a host of gods in the other religions there. We ran into a US hiker in the airport when we were leaving that was surprised to hear there were Nepali Christians, and that she had never met one before. My prayer for Nepal is His continued spread of His gospel so that even foreigners recognize God’s hand and Spirit is moving in Nepal. Thank you to everyone who has supported all of us on this trip with prayer and also finances. I hope this gives you a small picture of what God is doing there, and what Nepal is like.