Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Ten-Year Honeymoon

After the English language service at Patan Church, chia (milk tea with sugar and spices) is served at the back of the auditorium. It’s a legitimate excuse for people to linger, chat, and fellowship after the service. There’s no lack of interesting people to talk to. Over half of those who come are Nepali college students or young career people, the rest are tourists, missionaries, diplomats, UN workers, and businessmen that come from any obscure country you can think of. I came with seven of my hostel mates, and while we stayed within arms-length of each other (yes, we are all girls—we do stick together!) we ended up all talking to various people.

I ended up in a conversation circle with a guy named Ryan. He and his wife have been in Nepal for the past ten years, working with orphans and female victims of trafficking. They are involved in all stages, from taking the children off the streets or rescuing the girls to schooling them, housing them, providing vocational training, and the like. How did they become involved in such work?

“I’m originally from Calcutta; my wife is ethnically Nepali but grew up in India. We met at a YWAM arts training seminar, married, and came to Nepal for our honeymoon. Once we got here though, we felt God calling us to stay and work here. So, here we are, ten years later…still on our honeymoon!”

This comment made me smile—a lot. Interacting with my church family here, I have been confronted again with their passion for their Savior. It has been like opening a furnace and being singed by flames. It’s made me examine my own life, revealing ways I’ve “eclipsed the Son,” (thank you Rick Holland!), become lukewarm, or allowed myself to become too comfortable. Here are a few slices:

  • The elder who led the service at my Nepali church two weeks ago hammered home the principle of Malachi 3:10, challenging congregants not just to tythe their financial resources, but their time too. In this same service, the pastor spent a lot of time discussing suffering, focusing on the sovereignty of God and how we can trust Him in the midst of trials. Talk about preaching to the choir on both accounts! Since, I grew up in this church, I know that many of the congregants give $2 at most for their tythe a week, and have had trials ranging from extended sickness and spouses working abroad, to persecution from Hindu family members and planting churches in some spiritually dark areas of the country. While some of these are similar to things we face in the States, much of it is compounded by the poverty situation too many of them are in. While they acknowledge that it’s hard, the hope they have in Christ shines through all their actions, and doesn’t take away their joy or their willingness to love other people with the resources with which God has blessed them. Their boisterous singing (which takes up a good hour of the service) is evidence of that!
  • When I stopped by SWM—the school I worked at last summer—Nelson happened to be working in the office. His church also has an English language worship service, which I was able to attend regularly last summer. I asked general questions about what had been happening at SWM since I’d been gone, but in addition he updated me on the AWANA ministry at his church, the Putalisadak English language service, and the new youth centre (targeted at adolescent boys to keep them off the streets) he and some of the other young men at his church are now involved in. I had been informed of plans for such a center last summer, so it was good to hear how these plans had begun to come to fruition. I was reminded again about how impressed I had been with the attitude of the teachers and members of SWM: that their service is an outpouring of gratefulness to a God who loves them. What less would they give in response to so radical a love?
  • I’ve been reconnecting with many of the missionaries that I grew up around, but instead of being the sassy-and-shy MK, I’m now their office mate or fellow alto section member (yes, I’ve joined a choir; more on that later!). I’ve received the Reg-digested version of the history of Western missions (complete with its entanglements in colonialism), and begun to hear more of his personal stories (he’s had more than a few adventures). In the course of making another point, he recalled a conversation he had with the village headman about 20 years ago when his family first arrived in Nepal. “I told the guy, ‘Right, bideshis [foreigners] get sick and die just like Nepalis. If that happens, where do we get buried?’ He showed me, and that was the end of that.” Later, I had the passing thought such a conversation should be part of grad school orientation or printed in the graduate handbook, but my immediate thought was “wow…most people don’t see the possibility of death as part of the mission’s package anymore.”

These are just a few of the passing moments I’ve had with people that God has used to make me stop and think about my own response to His glory, love, and sacrifice on my behalf. While there are areas that I’ve certainly grown in this past year, I can recall too many selfish decisions or missed opportunities to act in joyful obedience as well. The fact of the matter is, there is a God who, for reasons I can’t entirely fathom, desires communion with me, His creation, and has done some incredibly radical things to make that possible. I haven’t always responded to the invitations to love Him in return. While its inevitable that I’ll continue to fail in this area, there’s grace to cover this, and its no excuse not to respond.

So, please pray that:
~ God will continue to reveal sin in my life, and that I’ll continue to confess and renounce it.
~ I would look forward to and guard my own daily time with God, and not give in to laziness
~ I would step out in faith and take the opportunities God has given me to love people while I’m here.