26 May 2010
On 25 May,we made the drive to Chitwan and back in the same day for the important occasion of groundbreaking for the new Maranatha Home. The trip is six hours on a good day, and this was not a good day. We suffered a traffic jam on the return that left us trapped among exhaust belching trucks on one side and an unprotected mountain drop on the other side. Even without the jam, road trips in Nepal are never simple sitting and riding. Driving always means hard stops and starts, constant horn blowing, twisting and curving around narrow mountains roads, close calls with oncoming vehicles, heat and dust. I actually love the road travel in Nepal, but they are not easy days. However, this note is about the groundbreaking, which I suppose should really be called a "rock laying." In actual fact, ground was already broken for the new children's home. Fencing, about 12 feet high, already surrounded the property. Work on a well was already started in one corner. In preparation for today's event, large rectangular holes were dug for the pillars that would support the foundation of the building. As we gathered, I counted nineteen men in attendance and I, the only woman. About half were pastors or Maranatha committee members. The construction contractor was among us. The others were day laborers, the guys who had already built the fence and dug the holes. It was so hot and only one small tree provided any shade. We all huddled under it until time to begin. I have participated in these events in the past for other buildings we have funded, such as the village churches. The holes are usually a couple feet deep and equally wide. THESE holes were deeper than I am tall and about five feet square. There were two of them across and four down each side. It is going to be a huge building. Praise the Lord! The plan was to put me into one of the holes to lay the first foundation stone. I could do that, but a conversation began (in Nepali, but I understood most of it)about how to get me back out of the hole. I wondered about that myself and had no suggestion to contribute. Rapture might be the only way I could get out. Arjun Dai thought there were too many loose clods of dirt in the hole, so directed one of the construction laborers to go down and throw them out. As discussion for the plans for our ceremony continued, the boy hopped into the hole and threw out the clods. When he finished, he stretched his reach, placing fingertips on the edge and nimbly pulled himself out. My own return to the surface, if it happened at all, was not going to be that easy. There was nothing I could do about it. In just a few minutes, if the men told me to go down into the hole, that is what I was going to have to do. I was not the one in charge of this. It happened that someone arrived with small handmade wooden ladder taken from a nearby home. Into the hole it went, increasing my chances of doing this thing, but still did not completely resolve the athletic challenge. To my relief, it was decided that Anand, with the pastor and three other men with leadership roles in the project would go into the hole. My honor was to hand each of them a stone which would be the beginning of the foundation. This was a good idea and I was happy. However, the stones were about 18 inches long and I cannot estimate the weight. I was to lift each one and bend over to hand it WAY DOWN to a man who would definitely prefer that it not fall on his bare feet. I did it-- then watched as they held the stones and prayed for this building and this ministy. Anand balanced his stone with one arm, while slapping very recently mixed concrete in the place where it was to go, then he carefully set it. The beginning of this building was accomplished in that moment. So much had gone on before--and so much yet to be done, but we twenty people witnessed and invested this special moment together. May the Lord multiply His work. More concrete was dropped for the next stone until all five were placed. The men, still in the hole, held hands in a circle and voices raised to the Lord once again. The unsaved contractor and all but one laborer(one who was a believer)stood silently and waited as we prayed and praised for quite a few minutes. The mixture of Christian and Hindu seemed appropriate. Everything done at Maranatha will be in the midst and under they eyes of the village people. One laborer praising among the silent ones seemed symbolic of the job we face. I cannot describe the blessing of being present for this simple event and the worth of giving the day and the hard travel to be there. Thank you Lord for this beautiful blessing. As we turned to leave, the laborers began throwing concrete and rocks into our hole with amazing speed. They knew what to do and they gave their whole strength in the blazing sun to the task. May we do the same with the work of speaking the gospel to this village and those that surround it. May the light shine from Maranatha Children's Home and Training Center. We pray for a church on these grounds in the coming days and for many, many lives changed for eternity.
21 May 2010
About one year ago, we received a new little boy into one of our children's homes. Bidham's mother had abandoned the family years earlier, and his father was severely mentally ill-- so much so that he could not even feed himself and was given to bouts of violence. Bidham was small for his stated age, certainly under nourished and emotionally withdrawn. He spoke a tribal language that no one in the home could speak or understand. Over the summer of 2009, he learned a working knowledge of Nepali and was showing good interest in the Bible and worship time which happens twice daily. In September, he was killed when a delivery trucked backed over him, crushing his skull and spreading brains for more than 2 feet. I arrived within a half hour of his death and sat in the road by the body as the villagers gathered. They were preparing to riot and attempt to take the driver to beat him to death or as an alternative, burn him alive in the vehicle. The police surrounded the truck, but could not move him to safety because of the bonfires planted by the villagers fore and aft the truck and it was certain death to try to walk him out. I was caught in the tear gas as police tried to control the angry crowd. Today, when I visited the home, I looked into a near duplicate of Bidham's face as I met his younger sister, Asha. She had been living with a grandmother, who could no longer care for her. Like him, when he first came, she cannot speak Nepali. And like many village kids, she was afraid of the foreigner who wanted to take her photo. Petrified, she stood against the wall, tolerating the procedure. An older girl held each of her hands as they oriented her to her new home and environment. I slept in a corner bedroom on the third floor. I was comfortable and safe. So was Asha. I'd had a good dinner. So did Asha. I had taught the devotion time for the children. I began by asking for favorite Bible verses. Child after child stood to recite in English. Asha will learn here-- learn things that can make an eternity difference for her. Asha-- her name is the Nepali word for HOPE.
It is a known phenomenon that we always have the choice of whether to look at the good or the bad in any given situation. Negativity breeds more of the same--and our God does give joy in the work, if we are not too blind and stupid to experience it. I think I love Bangladesh almost as much as Nepal. I do not have as MUCH to love there and we have not been working with them for nearly as long. One little children's home and a small sponsorship program for children of pastors is the total of Allow's presence in Bangladesh. I had three days planned for Bangladesh, not counting travel days on each end. I lost one day when my flight was finally canceled after two(long)delays. Shanti,wife of my main partner in Nepal, traveled with me. I introduced her as my "boss's wife" to which she kept responding "No,no" but really is not off the truth. We made a good team. I was good for moving us to the front of lines.(When the foreigner was beckoned forward as often happens, I took her with me.) She was good for communication. To my amazement,she could speak Bengali. She said she could not, but she did talk to them (children in the program, taxi drivers, store keepers, passersby) and they responded, often moving us along in whatever our purpose. As I write this note, all of the negative things flood my mind. I could describe the suffocating heat, the horrible hotel provided by the airline after the last cancellation, the annoyance of going through the extensive security procedures twice for one flight-- and these things pale as I remember the nightmare of the return travel-- probably my worst airport experience ever. OR I could choose to share about the two new little girls now under our care in Light and Life Home. They are two precious little lives, now connected with mine, now changed from a life of terrible need to something approaching what childhood should be. I could remember the beautiful Bay of Bengal and my night time solo swim-- something I love to do. We visited the mission hospital and we walked into the steaming jungle to visit a man who needed the Lord-- almost ready to trust, but held back by his devout Muslim wife. I could focus my memory on the new children's home building project in the tribal mountain area. As soon as it opens, it will make an incredible difference in the life of every carefully chosen child to enter it-- and as the ministry progresses, those children will provide openings to new villages and families to be reached. Praise God for what He is doing,and allows us to join it with Him. Yes! I can sleep in dirt and mold, mosquitoes, noise and broken plumbing. Yes! I can spend the days(and nights) soaking wet and sticky from the terrific heat. YES! I can work through all kinds of transportation hassles to see two little girls who are safe, fed, enrolled in school and learning about the Lord Jesus. We did not have a big project for this trip or important objectives that make a good report. It was just a "sponsorship maintenance/management" visit. I hope we encouraged the Bengali partner. I hope this note encourages our Allow family. The work moves on-- in Bangladesh.
12 May 2010
Jeremiah is an interesting fellow. He did not want the job of prophet and did not have an especially successful career at it-- but God ORDAINED him as a prophet for the nations and it does seem that he followed faithfully. I have been studying and praying over Jeremiah and a few other passages for over a week now, as I prepared for the Bible conference that was completed today. Sometimes, when I prepare messages, they just seem to come out of my hands. I read some Scripture and perhaps a commentary to help me start. Then I lay my hands on the keyboard, think of a title, and by that time, my fingers are usually flying to keep up with my thoughts. I did not have that experience this time. The preparation was a struggle and my little brain seemed to be having an off day- every day. Sin can cause that, or excessive stress(probably covered in the sin category) or maybe the Lord just was not going to give me a message from His Word. I couldn't agree more that I am an unlikely vessel, yet here I am. By the grace of God, I am what I am (I Cor 15:10), Paul wrote, and it applies to me as well. I had four messages ready before the start of the conference yesterday. I taught in one of our partner churches in Butwal, then repeated the same material for a village daughter church today. IT WAS SO HOT. It has been a while since I have taught in these conditions and I think I was at least a year younger at the time. No need to worry about any stage fright as I struggled to survive-- breathing, thirst, lethargy, sleepiness (though I'd had a full night's rest)were all factors in my own life and the listeners seemed only slightly better adapted. Now, after the conference ended this afternoon, we drove six hours to Trust Home. They were having their devotion late, but I went straight to the fellowship room from the car and arrived in time to teach. With nothing else prepared, they got a few nuggets from Jeremiah's life and will get a few more tomorrow morning. I love being here-- at Trust Home. I only have two nights, but it is enough to refresh and encourage me.
04 May 2010
Nepal is under a major Maoist bundha, in fact, as I write, we are in the third day of the strike. Schools, businesses, government offices are all closed and no motor vehicles are allowed on the roads. To drive is to disrespect the cause and with thousands of Maoists gathering and marching in the city, that is not a good idea. Only emergency vehicles and tourist buses (which are difficult to get and only from the airport) are allowed to run. Other vehicles pass occasionally, but they take the risk of vandalism or even burning. My group was in a hotel during the last two days of their time in Nepal. We were so grateful that our Nepali friend and leader found it for us. The crucial characteristic was that the location was within walking distance of the airport and that was very handy on the day of their departure. However, I was not leaving Nepal and I had no desire and also no reservation to stay in this hotel. After the noon check out time, which had actually already passed, I was going to be homeless. Actually, I do have a home, but no way to get there during a bundha. It was Indian-run hotel and mainly served Indian people coming for a pilgrimage to the big Hindu temple just across the street. No one was really rude to us, but personally,I did not feel very welcome or comfortable in the environment. This was an unusual experience for me, because I am usually happily satisfied anywhere in Nepal and poor standards are not a problem for me. If I had Nepali friends with me, my attitude would probably have been better, but circumstances as they were, I wanted to go somewhere (almost anywhere) else. I asked the Lord to find me another place to live after the group left and waited to see how He would do it-- having no idea myself. When I went downstairs to pay the hotel bill, one of my Nepali partners was waiting at the desk. (Sent in answer to my prayer?) He was on foot, come to meet some Korean guests at the airport but first stopped by to see me. He planned to hire a tourist van for them and invited me to come along with him. Within the hour of my prayer, I was on the other side of the huge city of Kathmandu, in familiar surroundings and with Nepali people I knew and loved. Now a variety of housing options and invitations were available to me, but I was not surprised when the Lord showed a way that I could get home-- that is to Godawari, the place where I have a room with a Nepali family. I wish that I could explain to Americans what a miracle it is that I slept in my own bed last night-- but it is just one small thing that the Lord does here in Nepal.