Good Morning, Nepal supporters! Time for another snipped of processing from the journey there and back again. (Yes that was a Hobbit reference, for you non-nerds.) Last week after my return, a friend asked me three questions about my trip that promised to dig a little deeper into my psyche about this trip and what God was up to while I was in Nepal. I love the questions because it makes me think a bit about how to frame a lot of what was going on. With so much happening on the trip, it's hard to figure out a way to put it all into words. But her three questions were these: 1) What was your first impression? 2) How has your view of God changed? 3) What was your last impression? - So let me try to frame this up for you.
First impressions were hard to really give words to. My first impression of Nepal formed the word "decaying" in my heart and mind. Physically, the buildings were falling apart, piles of rubble everywhere, the wires of electric lines were in disarray, and things looked like they might collapse at the first sign of destruction. Beyond that, though, dust and exhaust shaded everything, from buildings to people. It was, visually, everything I ever expected a third world country to look like. The people we encountered were kind, hospitable but also had empty and hallow eyes - void of life - from the smallest child to the oldest eyes. I was exhausted by the time we landed in Kathmandu, but even with that weariness, there was a a clear heaviness to the atmosphere. This brought to mind Ephesians 6:12 because the heaviness was not physical. "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the powers, against the forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." (NASB) The spiritual oppressiveness is tangible in places like Nepal. Before I left, a friend of mine mocked the spiritual battle I felt raging inside my heart. It was someone who I don't think has ever encountered real demonic activity. If you've never truly felt or seen the grip of the enemy over a person's life, I understand the difficulty with accepting it. To quote a favorite movie of mine, "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn't exist." That is so true. North America, as a whole has no real concept of the spiritual battle raging because we have images of a red-skinned, horned devil with a pitchfork and tail. He sneaks around our culture masked in pretty faces, subtle religious activity, glossed magazine pages and other subversive ways. One of the girls on our team described Nepal as the place where Satan was out on the lawn relaxing in a lawn chair relaxing because he's got a firm grip on the people there. Destruction, lies, decay, hopelessness. I saw it everywhere and the enemy's finger prints were all over it.
This was vastly different once we pulled into Trust Home. There was an overwhelming joy, peace and refuge to the environment of Trust Home. Whether or not that's a side affect of the kid's joy in a secure and loving environment or the constant stream of prayer that comes from Dolma's heart and presence or the pressing of Jesus-exampled behavior the kids are trained in...I don't know. Before I arrived in Nepal, Shea had shared her heart that God as "refuge" had been something she'd been digging in. I took that in myself and started pressing into that concept because before I left the U.S., I was in need of a refuge, a hiding place. Psalm 91's image of a refuge and hiding under the shadow of His wings was something that resonated with me. It still does. More so, even when I drove through Nepal. I wasn't afraid of the oppressiveness or heaviness of darkness that existed. But the safe harbor of Trust Home where you don't have to be concerned with the darkness or oppressiveness of the culture was a tangible example of the Harbor that God is for us in hard and difficult times. There was safety at Trust Home, our team felt safe enough to share, safe enough to love freely, safe enough to breathe. I wouldn't say I saw God differently, per se, but I did see a physical representation of this Refuge-ness of God.
Safety is such an important part of Love. Loving is a vulnerable activity and requires that both parties give safety and refuge. God never fails to be faithful, safe and a refuge. How desperately the church needs to be this to and for each other. How often I fail at this is something I can't even express. I want to love like that. I want to be a safe harbor for broken hearts, oppressed and heavy people. But I cannot do that on my own strength. I must seek refuge for my own brokenness, my own heaviness in God and not depend on myself or other people to be that for me.
Last impression as I left? We had to drive back to Kathmandu from Trust Home and the oppression and heaviness was still there, but overall, I was ready to go. I wasn't ready to leave Trust Home per se, because I'd grown to love and enjoy my days there. But I knew God had accomplished what He had done in me - at least for the moment. And like I said in my last post, it was time to leave and put all of that into practice at home. What I left Nepal thinking was "There's hope for hopelessness." After listening to the young man, Karma's soft-spoken voice share his story of being the only Christ follower in his village and how his young and tender heart is to go back and change his village for Christ and hearing Dolma share how she is training her kids to share the gospel with their own people, I knew there was a light, a beacon shining brightly in Nepal. Even after visiting the downright evil places of worhsip for Hindu and Buddhist faith the day we left, I left knowing that even though the enemy was lounging in his chair, God was busy in Pokhara and getting ready to bust out all over Nepal and Tibet through those kids. I'm praying for those boys and girls and all the people that encounter Trust Home through Pokhara's community, or the hired help at Trust Home or through encounters with the kids in various camps, colleges, etc.
Coming Home, I was just glad to have seen what I saw, experience what I did. I pray that I never forget the reality of Spiritual Warfare but also never forget the fact that God is MORE than the enemy, Greater than any power on earth. The danger in the Church is to either make too much of the enemy or not enough. Both are greatly dangerous pitfalls of faith. Balance in this is so incredibly important.
So that's my answer to my sweet friend's questions. Hope it's good. Anyone else who has questions is absolutely able to ask, I'd be glad to answer. :)