Friday, May 31, 2013

Where Ever I Am With You

We are far, far from home
But we are so happy!
Far from home, on our own,
But we are so happy!

I realized I owe y'all an update of some of my adventures from the last two and a half weeks. So here goes.

Tribhuvan International Airport is a strange place to fly out of as a woman. While the men are required to go through multiple levels of security on par with the strictest TSA standards, women breeze through a metal detector (shoes and belts intact), get a quick pat down, and a glance of a passport gets them on the plane. Not the safest, but convenient if you happen to be one of the fairer sex.

In Thailand, I got my first taste of a tropical monsoon. We arrived at night, and were able to get some Pad Thai in a food court that had exclusively Thai customers (except for our team of 9). The next morning, as we prepared to load the van that would take us to the Thailand/Cambodia border, a giant thunderstorm broke loose over the city. It was the hardest rain I'd ever seen in my life - at least, until I'd seen a storm in Cambodia.

Our days have been full, cleaning a mission school in the morning and teaching English in the afternoon. At night, we would go out into the town and do evangelism, but the flavor of the evangelism is much different from what we have done in the past.

In Cambodia, the police can and will shut down a religious meeting if it is too loud. You are not allowed to hold open air evangelist events, not allowed to go door-to-door, not allowed to perform dramas in public locations. Cambodia has embraced the idea of religious diversity, but to be Cambodian is to be Buddhist.

In Nepal, the tricky issue is to covince Hindus of Christ's exclusivity. Buddhists need to hear of the love of Christ. Hindus will more easily accept the concept of Christ's divinity, but Buddhists need a demonstration of commitment on the Christian's part. This is not to say that one technique fits all - rather, it had been a paradigm shift from our ministry in Nepal to one so heavily based in Buddhist philosophy.

On one of our trips into the central market area, I had the opportunity to try durian. For those of you not in the know, durian is a tropical fruit that Asians appear to be crazy for. It comes in the center of a sharp, spiky shell. The smell is quite distinctive, and can be smelled from long distances. It is not especially appetizing. Durian tastes like some mild tropical fruit. However, it is the consistency of cream cheese and
has the aftertaste of rotting fish or Vegemite.

I have to leave this internet cafe now, so I'll just awkwardly sign off and pretend it was graceful. Tomorrow we leave for villages, so it is possible my next post will be from Thailand. Or possible Australia.

every moment but this one

As a forewarning, this post will be a jumble of conflicting ideas and crossed threads of thought. I have been thinking about all sorts of things recently, so they may very well come splashing out of my brain in a fountain of less-than-inspired writings.

I was listening to one of my favorite bands in the micro from Bangkok to Battambang in an attempt at normalcy, when one of the lyrics caught my attention.

We live in every moment but this one.

On DTS, there is no time truly spent by oneself, at least on the Perth base's regime. When base rules state that outreach teams must always be in pairs, preferably threes, a starving introvert such as myself must find increasingly creative ways to grab some solitude. These range from the simple - plugging in an iPod during a bus ride and ignoring the world - to the more elaborate - finding an equally human-weary companion, and spend your free day ignoring the other.

As I listened to this song, I realized that I was also compensating for time by myself by dwelling a lot on both the future and the past. I was letting myself focus on past times of struggle and future stresses. And thus, when the lyric was repeated, I received something of a challenge.

How does a wayfaring introvert balance the need for escape from constant companions with the desire to live "in the moment," as the cliche goes?  How do you go on with the last two weeks of outreach while resting in the knowledge that if the past six months were hard, the next four years will be harder? How do you balance the "I love you but I cannot bear to see your face right now" with the knowledge that in four weeks, I may never see "your" face again, and should treasure each passing day?

This is where my quiet times have proved increasingly necessary.

You see, Cambodia is hot. I would say that I feel like a fish out of water, but that's exactly wrong. I feel like a land-dwelling mammal in a sauna. Except this mammal must keep the majority of its skin covered by heavy, suffocating clothing. The nights are full of mosquitos. Who am I kidding? The mornings and afternoons are also full of the pests. If all the animals in Australia can kill you, all the animals in Cambodia are out for blood. Specifically, yours. You sweat in your sleep, and when the fan turns off every two hours, you wake up in a little puddle. The food is plenty of rice, and shrimp and mushroom broth served with twigs and leaves.

Not that I complain. I've had my quiet time for today, and I freaking love Cambodia. I am so blessed to be here, and to be caught up in the beginnings of an amazing work here in Battambang. But if you were to catch me before my time with God, I'd probably grunt something unintelligible about mozzies and shamble off to take my anti-malarial pill.

There is a tension to everyday. It would be easy, so easy to mentally shut down and power through my remaining time here in the middle of underdeveloped South East Asia. But this is my call, and even were I here against my will, I am not my own. The crazy stuff I've done - hiking for ten hours to an unreached village in remote Nepal, preaching the Gospel in front of a crowd of 200 men outside a Hindu temple, building a house for parapalegics, worshiping God in pagan temples, washing walls in Cambodia, teaching English in a nation shattered by genocide - has not simply been me. Every person who contributed to my outreach fees; every person who prays for me; every person who bought cookies or attended a fundraiser has, in a way, come with me to Asia. You have been a missionary without leaving your state.

Today was a hard day. "It is your day off," you might say. "How could you have a hard day?" Today was my last day in Battambang. For the past two weeks, I stepped in to teach English when the regular teacher had a family emergency. At first, it felt strange investing time in students I would only know for two weeks. But today, when I stopped by the youth center to say farewell to them, two of my pupils had bought me a going away gift and written letters so I could remember them.

I felt so ashamed. All I did was buy them a fifty-cent icecream cone and go for a walk with them. Yet they were crying as we parted.

I had no idea that a mere two weeks could make such an impact to someone's life.  How can I live in any moment but this one if this moment could so impact some one's life?


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Last post from Dadeldhura

The past two weeks have been quite busy here in Daldedhura.  One of the most striking aspects of life here is the contrast between the lives of believers and those of the predominantly Hindu population. In Kathmandu, those who surrendered their lives to the Lord had an immediate and striking change in their lives.  Since the culture is overwhelmingly Hindu, conversion can mean separation from family and friends and can carry life-threatening impacts.  Here that commitment comes with a price and has an immediate impact.  This is because of the striking differences between Hindi and Christian worldviews. 

For instance, we understand that Christ does not differentiate between rich or poor, men or women, slave or free.  His death on the Cross was for as many who would come, without regard to those distinctions.  This flies in the face of Hindu teaching that these distinctions are the result of your birth or caste in life; you have no hope to change this at all - it is your fate and must be accepted.  When people in Nepal hear the gospel, they understand the impact on centuries of life. The gospel will drastically change the social, economic, and spiritual landscape. What results is the violence between Hindi and Christians we have seen in India; it plays out similarly in Nepal.

What this also means in Dadeldhura is that believers can become isolated and cut-off from fellowship with the body.  It also makes it difficult for believers who need assistance as your community is now smaller.  This led to a couple of great opportunities to strengthen and encourage fellow believers and testify to God’s grace.  During our first days here, we hiked for two hours to visit a family that had been without fellowship for two months.  We were blessed to be able to visit and worship with them, share communion, and encourage them.  We also spent time on a couple of building projects.  One was for a pair of paraplegic women who live near the church in this area but are unable to attend regularly because of the house they live in.  We helped prepare a new foundation for their home.  The other project was for a Hindu family that lives next door to the base where we stay and have become friends with the family who runs the base.  We helped to clear their property in preparation for doubling the size of their home.  Both were wonderful opportunities to bless those people.

People in the Dadeldhura area are noticeably more reserved than in Kathmandu. People are very shy and wary, making for hard work in sharing the gospel.

The mission clinic that we came to assist has had a five-year contract with Nepal to run the clinic.  That contract just ended and the group has been asked to turn over the clinic to the state.  There were complaints of proselytizing and accusations by some of financial mismanagement.  It sad, as this clinic (which has been doubled in size to treat more people) will now likely become a hospital for the wealthier citizens in the area, abandoning those from the lower castes whom the clinic has been serving without regard to caste or ability to pay.

As a result of these changes, medical equipment that had been donated for the expansion was packed up to be returned to the manufacturers or sponsoring organizations. On the way back to Kathmandu, the shipment was seized by the police and the driver was charged with theft and jailed. In addition, the doctors and nurses who serve there have been asked to find other lodgings. 

The state has also forbidden them from providing care except in the case of severe emergencies.  As a result, we helped pack over 60 kilograms of medical supplies and medicines into a remote area north of Dadeldhura.  What was supposed to be a one hour jeep drive and a four-and-a-half hour trek became a ten hour trek in the dark.  (I can now claim that I have summited on of the (lower) Himalaya peaks as a result!)  I have much more to share on that trip, but it will have to wait for another time. We were the first Christians to come into the area and I was one of the few Caucasians many had seen. Most of my group could easily be mistaken for natives or south East Asian. It lead to a few tense situations, one in which I was mistaken for a doctor by a local women.  I was quickly surrounded by others reaching out to touch me, begging for help.  I was reminded of the crowds pressing in around Jesus, reaching out to be healed.

While they are disappointed in the closure of this clinic, the staff is looking to purchase land further north of Dadeldhura where they can establish a new clinic. The area is undeserved medically and spiritually.  They need to find property they can purchase, which means gaining favor with the local people.

By the time you read this, we will have made it back to Kathmandu for a few days before we leave for the final portion of our outreach in Bat Dambang, Cambodia. Hopefully our trip will be without incident and much shorter than the 23-hour trip over.

One final thing - because we have had to walk everywhere while Dadeldhura my feet are in extreme pain. The team has been praying for them regularly, but after our ten and seven hour hikes to and from the village where we did the clinic, I am really looking forward to a foot massage of epic proportions.

You can see there a great many needs in the area. Please pray for those living in Dadeldhura and those who remain to serve them, especially that they will be able to establish a new clinic north of the area and continue to serve and give Hope to the people living there.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

From Lady June, in her own words from June 5

I will keep this brief, as I have another busy week ahead of me.

Today was my first day of rest in two weeks, and I can whole-heartedly say that it was needed. This past week, we went to the most prominent Hindu temple in the area to worship and proclaim God's name. To give you an idea of the esteem this temple is held in, many villages in this area have poorly maintained or non-paved roads leading to them, while the temple had a nice (by US standards) asphalt road leading up to it. At least, nice underneath layers of cow dung. I went into the innermost sanctuary, a foul, closed room that reeked with the stench of decaying offerings thinly masked by the heavy clouds of incense. Carpets of flies covered everything. I was praying and interceding in the chamber when three Hindu priests walked in. Fortunately, they did not appear to speak English - the awkward encounter would have been worse had they known what I was actually saying. As it was, they rang their worship bells and then left.

I also have helped build two houses - one I was actually carving into the mountain's rocks to clear an area for the foundation of the second floor - home schooled some missionary's children, learned how to cook a Nepali delicacy, and visited an entirely self-sufficient village to fellowship with new believers. The hike down took two hours, and we didn't eat lunch that day.

There is an amazing couple who came to Dadeldhura with us. Chelsea cooks, and Ashok (ahh-shook) translates. They are amazing people, and it absolutely hilarious to hear Chelsea speaking Nepali in a fake English accent.

My team is weird, God is good, I love my life, and miss you all.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Arrival at Dadeldhura

While it may have been a quiet week in Lake Woebegone, such has not been the case on the road from Kathmandu to Dadeldhura, Nepal (shown on the map here as Dandeldhura).  After a 23-hour drive (which was originally estimated at 16 hours), a forced stop at night in an area thick with rabies-infected monkeys to allow the bus engine to cool down, her team made it to their destination. 

Since A. Turtle is at the outer edges of access and unable to update her blog, she has asked me (Dad) to fill in for a bit.
Having come to Kathmandu, Nepal with the full Compassion outreach contingent from YWAM’s Perth, Australia campus, the G24 has broken into three smaller outreach teams.  A. Turtle is now in Dadeldhura, on the western edges of Nepal for about three weeks.  The other teams have gone on to outreach in India and elsewhere in Southeast Asia.

While in Dadeldhura, Sarabeth and the rest of her cohort will be assisting with medical and arts outreach in the local area in addition to helping with some community development projects.  The area is very rugged and she says that about 10% of the view out of her window is of the Himalayas.  That ruggedness is typical of the places they’ll be getting to – and all on foot.  Lots of walking and hiking wherever they go.  Sarabeth would like prayer for this as she’s been suffering from sore feet already and even with a good pair of shoes, it takes its toll on the tootsies.

She has already noticed a difference in the people – although they are still friendly, they are more reserved than in Kathmandu and usually just want to practice their English.  It would be great to break through this reticence and establish friendships with the people in the area so they will listen and hear the Gospel.

Although this area of Nepal is high mountain desert with elevations around 5600 feet, the area is right at the beginning of the monsoon season.  This has the potential of washing out roads and making travel all the more dangerous.  Sarabeth told us that the roads were paved at their best and washboard gravel at their worst.  Our prayer is that the return to Kathmandu is safe and without incident.

The Turtle has been enjoying the work they are doing and the opportunity to get to know the people and understand their needs.  They visited a temple earlier this week and spent time praying there, asking the Lord to break down strongholds and open the hearts of the people.

The hospital where they will be helping is operated under a contract with the government of Nepal by TEAM, a medical missions group.  That contract has not been renewed, but TEAM has been asked to continue operations until someone else can be found to operate the facility.  There have been complaints of proselytizing and financial mismanagement.  Please pray for the entire medical staff and people supporting them that these issues will dissolve and they will be able to continue their work in this area.  With the government focused on writing a constitution, it is difficult for them to focus on providing health care for this area; it is one of the only hospitals and clinics in the area and is currently doubling the size of the hospital in an effort to provide more services.

That’s about it for now.  Thank you for your prayers and support!