Not many days pass without me thinking of Nepal.
Nepal was my first out-of-country experience. It was the first place I smelled poverty. So many details about that place burnt into my memory, lodging a deep and lasting affection for a beautiful land, an infectious people, wedged in a complex situation.
But the lack in Nepal is not what has lasted in my memory. When I think of Nepal, I remember the poverty. I remember the oppression. But what I remember most, is the beauty, power, mystery, the saturation of color, the fragrance of joy.
I went on a medical mission. I was seventeen and deemed the optometrist’s assistant. In retrospect I was probably not a necessary part of the trip. I didn’t have useful skills to offer people. There were no initials at the end of my name. I wore green scrubs with the rest of them, but it was everything else about me that was green. There’s no doubt the $2500 it cost to get me there could have done a lot of good if I’d stayed home. But in October of 2003, God and I mingled in Nepal. And I realized, just a smidgen, how huge He is. That $2500 altered courses in my heart and mind. It didn’t really change Nepal; it didn’t even really change the tangible trajectory of my life (at least not yet). It did, however, change me.
At seventeen, I was naive enough to feel like God was understandable. I knew verses, knew quotes. But in Nepal, my God-in-a-box blew wide open.
People walked for days to get to our medical camp in a rural part of the country. While I put glasses on people’s faces and attempted to find a good fit through a translator, a woman with a sick child came into camp. During the day, all I knew was the whaling, the sounds of that woman’s agony. That evening, I got the whole story.
The woman showed up with her child. The doctors tried to care for the child, but with no success. The whaling was the cry of a mother’s mourning, her baby dead in her arms. While the American doctors continued to frantically try to think of something to do to, the Nepalese pastor moved them aside, laid the dead body in the mother’s arms and prayed. For a miracle. For death to become life.
The woman left, death cloaking her demeanor. As a mother now, just the thought of that woman’s experience makes my stomach surge, my eyes fill, my breath shorten.
But on the walk away from the place she had hoped would heal, her child came back to life.
The dead was raised.
You don’t have to believe me. I wouldn’t either. The God I experience in American culture and American church doesn’t do that kind of stuff anymore. I don’t know why, but after Nepal, I wondered if it was because we didn’t have faith.
The woman came back to tell of her good news. And now I’m telling you.
The next day our team left in the dark of night in a bus because the local people asked us to leave. The U.S. had declared the Maoist terrorists (rebels in the country), and our presence made them feel unsafe. We were all a wreck, frantic that we were leaving hundreds of people who walked for days to receive care they desperately needed. They needed us, we thought.
But the whole point of the trip might have been that it wasn’t about us at all. We needed Nepalese people. We needed Nepalese Christians. They gave me a million times what I gave them. And all of it came from God anyhow. It was crystal clear that the power is in his hands.
I share my little tidbit at this time not because the current tragedy has anything to do with me. It doesn’t. I haven’t set foot in that beautiful place in over thirteen years. And the agony in Nepal, right now, is unfathomable to me. My house is standing. My belly is full. My children are safe. Any fears I have are self-induced.
I share this story because what Nepal taught me is that God is powerful. He’s mysterious. And his people are alive and well in that land. So alive and so well.
If you would like to make a monetary donation to organizations doing great work in Nepal, I would suggest World Vision for current relief efforts and Tiny Hands International for lasting, longterm work.
A prayer for Nepal:
We don’t understand. Why is always our first thought. We admit this; we own it. But we know you live outside our thoughts, outside our understanding. You are so much bigger than anything we can imagine.
We beg you to take this tragedy and to fracture it into a million tiny little blessings. We often don’t have the faith to believe in miracles. Help us in our unbelief and work your love and peace and mercy into Nepal. Use your people there. Give them strength to love their neighbors. Give them peace that passes understanding.
Forgive us in advance for our lack of preserving. Help us to think of and pray for Nepal and the people there long after the images are filling our news feeds.
Particularly we pray for the vulnerable of society – those who were already suffering. Tragedies are hardest on those who already have it hard.
Give the first responders wisdom and strength to do their work well. Give the Nepalese church wisdom and strength to do your work well. Multiply resources. Let nothing be wasted.
Comfort those who are without homes, those who are now widows and widowers, those who are now orphans, those who are sick and wounded. May those who are missing be found. Feed the hungry; give water to the thirsty; give shelter to the cold.
Thank you for being there before this tragedy. Thank you for being there long after. Thank you for being near in the darkest of moments. May Nepal experience your closeness, even as the earth has crumbled around them.