On December 30, our team embarked on an adventure to visit our sister church in Pokhara, Nepal. It was an amazing experience, but it was not life changing. Our lives will never be the same after going to Nepal, but it was not the trip itself that changed us – it was God.
We left for Nepal with a lot of questions. What will it be like? What exactly will we be doing there? Why does God have me on this trip? What does God have in store for this trip? We all knew God wanted us on the trip but we didn’t have many specific expectations.
Short-term mission trips are tricky. How can we go into a place for two weeks and make a lasting impact that is more good than harmful? Our goal was to build up and encourage the church leaders and members in Nepal, and inspire them to keep sharing Jesus with the people around them. We wanted to make sure that anyone we connected with while we were there also got connected with a church leader, someone who could continue investing in their life when we returned to the U.S.
And now that we are back in the U.S. we face a lot of questions. How was Nepal? Was the trip a success? Did it change us?
Nepal was (and still is) beautiful. The people are beautiful, the mountains are beautiful, what God is doing there is beautiful.
Our sister church in Pokhara is part of a network of churches in Nepal which largely grew from a small village near the city of Gorkha, which is near the epicenter of the earthquake. Many of the church leaders grew up in the same village and have now devoted their lives to spreading the Gospel throughout Nepal and its neighboring countries. This village rests in a valley, surrounded by crops of mustard and rice paddies. In the morning, the air in the valley is thick, covered in a cloud. Then the sun peeks through and breaks apart the cloud. When the sun first breaks through, there is a ray of light, like a spotlight beaming down on the valley, as if God Himself is looking on the valley with pleasure.
After meeting the people of this village, and seeing their faithfulness and how they delight in Jesus, it seems right to say that the way the sun looks upon the valley in which they live is a representation of how God puts His hand of blessing on these people. These people, and their faith, are beautiful. They live humbly, working in fields their whole lives to grow food, their children walking miles to go to school each day. And yet, despite their hardships, they are joyful. They laugh and play and joke around, often about the same things we laugh about in our daily lives. And they are so generous. They give out of their poverty with open hands.
They don’t just give their possessions, though. They give their stories, their identities, their faith and love in Jesus. They are so willing and eager to share who they are, to get to know you in return. They have a genuine interest in sharing the art of being human with those around them. And they are reaching the nation. The leaders of the church keep finding new places to plant churches, new ways to reach people, new programs to help more people in hard places. And it is beautiful.
So were we successful? We laughed together, we played together, and we prayed together. We shared life stories, dreams for our futures, fears, struggles, encouragements, games and stories. Stories of how God has led us where we are and stories of what we have seen Him do. In the end, we realized we came to Nepal with more expectations than we realized. We expected to see God work, and we expected to help the Nepali people we encountered. God did show up, and what we didn’t expect was to leave feeling so full, like we have been encouraged, challenged and inspired to follow Jesus harder, to pursue people the way Jesus pursues us: relentlessly, lovingly, and by diving in with them right where they are. We made connections and shared moments that cannot be put into words. But most importantly, we got to see more of Jesus. If that’s not success I don’t know what is.
So yes, pray for Nepal. Pray for the hearts of the people, that they be ready and open to meeting Jesus. Pray for the church there, that they be encouraged and empowered to keep doing what they’re doing. Pray for more workers, to continue spreading the Gospel to the most remote parts of the country. And keep your eyes up, because God is doing big things in the hearts of His people, and He wants you to be a part of it.