Being an athlete most of my life, I was concern that I wouldn’t be able to work out on the World Race. Luckily I have been blessed with two amazing teammates – Meghan and Katy – who have put up with my incessant drive to work out in the mornings. Over the months, we’ve ran along the beach in Ireland, through the streets of Ukraine, up to rock viewspots in Kenya with children’s feet pattering behind us. In Transnistria (Moldova) we saw dozens of small girls walking in their best white dresses and carrying small packaged gifts – we followed them and came upon an assembly of hundreds of children outdoors for the first day of school. We’ve been on so many adventures during these morning runs that I am convinced there is no better way to see the world. We don’t always travel the same way and sometimes we do end up getting lost, but it’s not about the destination but the journey.
Yesterday, we were on one of these early morning jogs, but this time we were in the mountains of Nepal. That means that your sleeping bag was way too warm and the air outside was way too cold to get motivated…but once outside and our feet were stepping across the swinging bridge, with the Bhote Koshi river rushing below, I knew there was no place I would rather be.
My tennis-shoed feet stepped up the particularly positioned rocks and the sound of the river filled our ears as we gradually ascended the side of the canyon. Frequently the dirt path in front of us split, letting the leader to choose the path of her heart’s desire, while the other two of us tagged along behind. The joy of running in undeveloped countries is that cars and roads are few and dirt paths are plentiful, which means our running experiences aren’t tainted by smells of exhaust or sounds of droning engines. The fog swirled around us and the canyon below until we made our way above it, into the glorious sunlight above.
We ran by simple homes with hay-covered stick roofs as small brown Nepalese children peeked out to greet us. Foreigners visiting this part of the mountains was definitely not an everyday occurrence.
We continued jogging up a side canyon, our breaths forming fog as we breathed in and out. Suddenly I heard shouting behind me. At first, I ignored it – but then the two young girls smiling and waving behind were too cute to ignore.
We stopped and greeted one another:
“Namaste! Miro nam Kelly ho.” (Hello! My name is Kelly)
They excitedly shared their names as well, which each of us tried to repeat but failed miserably (Nepalese names have way too many syllables!) Unfortunately our verbal conversation ended at that point (wish I would have learned more Nepalese!) but through hand motions we gathered that these young girls were gathering greens to feed their cattle with the sickle and basket they were carrying. One of the girls had a few crackers in her pocket, which was all she had to give, and offered it to us. Knowing this was a gesture of welcoming in this culture, we gladly accepted, and crunched down on the salty goodness.
Meghan motioned to ask if she could take a picture wearing the basket. They accepted, and as she placed the headpiece around her head, the basket slipped out from behind her back and tumbled down the mountain. We gasped. We knew that a basket is such an indispensable possession for life in the mountains, and probably costs more than they could spare.
But the girls just giggled, apparently at the clumsiness of their new American friends. They ran down the mountain, hurdling over the terraced landscape and were back within a few moments what probably would have taken us hours.
Then, one of the girls was trying to convey to us something, and she kept saying the words “swimming” and motioning with her arms in the freestyle swim motion. Surely she couldn’t be referencing swimming in the creek below? It was nearly forty degrees outside…
While I contemplated the thought of skinnydipping, I looked at my watch and realized that we had to leave right then in order to make it to breakfast on time. But in that moment I wanted to do something to bless these beautiful girls, the girls who had so graciously accepted us Americans into their culture and their lives if even just for a few moments.
I noticed that their ears had sticks or strings in their piercings – but no earrings. So I took out my pearl studs – all I had to give – and put them inside the palm of my hand. I carefully removed the sticks in my new friend’s earlobes, and placed her new earrings in her ears.
She gave me the biggest smile I think I have ever seen (way bigger than this photo shows!)
Waving “goodbye,” Meghan, Katy and I ran off and made it home just in time for breakfast: asian noodles, vegetables, rice and spiced eggs.
That afternoon, I realized that my computer had completely broke. As I mourned its death, thinking about all the things I couldn’t do – blog, check my email, update my music library, etc. God reminded me of all the things I had – things many Nepalese would never even consider owning. It’s easy for us as Americans to focus on our lack – what we don’t have – rather than what we do have.
In Matthew 15:33, Jesus asks his disciples to feed 4,000 people and they respond “Where can we get enough bread to feed them?” Jesus points them to what they do have – five loaves and two fish, then gives thanks and all are fed. It just shows that when we are willing to share what we have with one another – no matter how big or small – that’s how miracles happen.
The best thing about our morning runs is that not only do we come away with adventures, but also life lessons. Will you be one willing to sacrifice all you have to give to someone else? You might be surprised to see what God will do with your loaves of bread or your pearl earrings…
Some of my World Race teammates are still in need of financial support to meet our final deadline. If you believe in the work we are doing and would like to take part in God’s kingdom throughout the world, I want to invite you to check out their blogs. (“Support Me” tab on the left)
Katy’s blog: http://katywestrom.theworldrace.org – $1,700 to go
Leah’s blog: http://leahjohansen.theworldrace.org – $2,500 to go
Meghan’s blog: http://meghantschanz.theworldrace.org – $2,100 to go
Life on the World Race is not all roses and chocolates. Some days you wake up at 4:30am, pack up your life’s possessions in a bag, and then travel squished in a bus for hours. Some days you get served mysterious sauces on rice and when you ask what it is you can’t understand them even though they are speaking English so you just eat it with a smile, saying “delicious.” Some days you walk and walk for hours and then engage in conversations with people while they serve you cup after cup of tea that has so much sugar it is more like syrup than tea and would honestly go much better on pancakes than in a mug.
It’s easy in the midst of all this to have the attitude of “clocking in” during ministry and “clocking out” when we finish. On the World Race, personal time is some of the only time we have a say in what we do and when we do it, and thus we have to guard this time because not only do we rejuvenate our spirits but it keeps us sane.
But one thing that I’m learning is that when you are serving Jesus, you are always “on.” Being in full-time ministry isn’t a step you take when you raise support and become a missionary; rather, when you become a follower of Jesus, you are serving Jesus full-time. There is no clocking in and clocking out because Jesus is always in the midst of doing something.
It’s our duty and privilege to take part in His kingdom, but God leaves it up to us to make that choice. I once heard it said that the Holy Spirit is always moving; but our role is to put up the sails, so we can hear what God is already doing. I’ve given myself a challenge to ask periodically throughout the day, “God, what are you doing here? How can I share your love with the people around me?”
Yesterday was one of these moments that I asked God this question. And you wouldn’t believe what happened next.
We were in the midst of a four-hour ride from our ministry site in Hetauda back to Kathmandu. There were eleven of us crammed in an SUV-type vehicle with our large black bags haphazardly roped to the top, causing me to silently pray that our possessions would make it to our destination. As we set off, it soon became evident why big city busses didn’t travel this route. The route twisted and turned up the valley, with huge grassy terraced mountains extending on either side, on a road that was really only wide enough for one car. Our driver seemed unnaturally comfortable with the tight curves – speeding up in places where I would definitely slow down – while aggressively beeping to alert any unsuspecting vehicles of our arrival. The other people in the vehicle seemed unfazed by the car lurching forward every ten seconds as we slammed on the breaks so that the oncoming traffic could get by. Our ride became even more interesting when we got stuck behind trucks which were going plenty fast for me but evidently not fast enough for our driver. My life flashed before my eyes time and again as large vehicles barreled towards us carrying chickens, grains, or God-knows what, getting larger and larger in the windshield as I hope and pray that we’ll make it back to our lane in time.
In times like this I’m thankful that I believe in Jesus. Time and again, I have seen the way our Father has protected us in difficult situations. I exchanged looks with my teammate Meghan whose hip was jutting into my thigh (Nepalese vehicles are made for Nepalese people, who are exactly 2/3 the size of us Americans) and she whispered a simple prayer: “Thank you, Jesus, for protecting us and giving us a safe journey. Amen.”
My mind drifted and I gazed at the grandiose Nepalese landscape. One thing I love about Nepal is the colors – bands of yellows, pinks, and florescent green stretched for miles down the valley. No, they definitely don’t make mountains like this in America. After a few minutes, I said a prayer that would change the course of the duration of our ride, and potentially the rest of eternity:
“Jesus, how can I show your love to these people?” Immediately I sensed a prompting to talk to the man sitting on the left side of me, a young dark-skinned man with black-rimmed glasses. As I pondered how to initiate this conversation, he interrupted my thoughts:
“You know, Jesus will protect us.”
I was a bit taken aback. Evidently, he had heard the prayer that Meghan had whispered a few minutes prior. I responded, “Yes…I definitely believe He will. I have seen it happen time and again” (pause) “Do you believe in Jesus?”
“Yes, I believe in Jesus, just as I believe in Ram and Buddah and all the other gods.” And that was the beginning of our conversation together. I learned that his name was Sarad, and that he was an English literature student studying in a local college. His parents were Hindu, and I asked him to tell me more about his beliefs. After some time, he asked about Jesus and why I believe in Him. I shared the gospel and the story of Jesus…but honestly I did a terrible job with it because of the churning of my upset stomach. I said a silent prayer thanking God that it is not up to me and praying that the Holy Spirit would do what needs to be done in His heart.
For the next two hours, we talked about family, truth, literature, miracles, sports, God, life. He asked me some tough questions about faith, and it was evident to me that God was working in his heart. As we entered the outskirts of Kathmandu, I asked if I could pray for him. He said yes. I prayed a blessing over his life and that God would guide and lead him every day. I asked that the Holy Spirit would come right then and show him how much Jesus loves him. A sense of joy bubbled up in my heart and at that moment he started giggling. I asked what he was feeling. He said, “It feels like…indescribable joy.” I told him that what he was feeling was Jesus’ love for him.
I asked him if he would like to meet with someone locally to learn more about Jesus. He excitedly agreed. We exchanged Facebooks and emails and parted ways a few minutes after that.
As Christians we are never off the clock. At any moment, we can make the choice to ask God, “What are you doing here? And how can I be a part in it?” In the midst of a crazy van ride, Sarad had an encounter with Jesus Christ that will be a part of his story forever.
Will you be one to dare to ask God this question? Who knows what God will do when you put up your sail…
A few weeks ago, I was praying at our debrief in South Africa, and I heard the Holy Spirit whisper to me, “Nepal will be your favorite month.”
I was a bit taken aback at the time, but after being here for about two weeks, I have to say that I absolutely do love this country. Why? Here are ten reasons why I love Nepal:
10. The clothes – Indian-style pants are so comfy! (kinda like wearing sweatpants all day) And they’re real cheap – you can buy wool booties, a hat, and gloves for under $5 USD!
9. Pancakes at every meal, especially dinner!
8. Nepal has absolutely the kindest people – they will do anything to serve you and welcome you into their country. This woman saw us and wouldn’t let us walk by her home, beckoning us to join her and her family for tea, cookies, and coke. She served us cup after cup of tea and threw cookies into our lap until we were stuffed to the brim!
7. There is always a pot of tea brewing – and I absolutely love the Masala spice they put into it
6. Roofdecks. The best invention ever. Great for early morning prayer times as well as sunset worship sets
5. The cutest children in the world. Seriously.
3. The most beautiful mountains. Seven of the world’s highest mountains are in Nepal. This photo was taken on our drive from Kathmandu to our ministry site in Hetauda. Man, do I love the mountains.
2. The way the Nepalese people respond to your questions – shaking your head from side to side means either “yes,” “ok,” or “all right” – or perhaps a combination of all three of these. It’s hilarious.
1. Asian noodles and vegetable curries. There’s really nothing better! In fact, I got a recipe from our host family for the potato and cauliflower curry that they serve us at least once/day because we love it so much:
Cauli Ra Aloo Ko Tarkari (Cauliflower and Potato Curry)
- 1 head cauliflower (cut)
- 3 potatoes (cubed)
- 1 chili chopped (or 1 teaspoon chili powder)
- ½ cup diced tomatoes
- ½ cup peas
- 2 tablespoon oil
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon curry
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- salt and pepper (to taste)
1. Fry potatoes in oil over medium heat until lightly browned and cooked halfway (about ten minutes)
2. When potato is half done, add cauliflower and sautee for about five minutes
3. Add tomatoes, peas, chili and all the spices. Simmer for ten minutes, then add salt and pepper to taste
4. Serve hot with rice or roti (flat bread)
Here is our fabulous chef and his kids standing in front of the meal that they served our team when we arrived in Kathmandu!
The beauty of this recipe is that you can use really any vegetables and it will still taste delicious – we have eaten this curry cooked with zucchini, green beans, onions, etc.
I have to admit that in all the other months thusfar I have counted down the days until we have to leave. But Nepal has literally blown my socks off. But when it is frigid outside – you gotta keep those wool socks on!
There is absolutely nothing as satisfying as a hot cup of tea on a cold day: As the frigid air swirls around you huddled in your jacket, the hot liquid slides down your throat, warming your belly, soul, and fingers wrapped around the chilly porcelain mug…yes, there is nothing better than that.
In my times of prayer for the World Race, God has continually shown me a picture of a group of us huddled together in the mountains of Nepal drinking tea with frigid cold snowy air around us…I wasn’t exactly sure what this meant, but God brought this vision to mind today on our first day of ministry here. For about four hours, we went around with pamphlets and just talked to people about their faith and Jesus. In the four hours we were out, we were welcomed into homes and offered three cups of tea, but I can’t forget to mention the two cups of tea I already had that morning…so yes we were drinking a lot of tea.
But what I couldn’t figure out was why the picture God showed me was of a snowy mountainous landscape and us huddled together tightly in a room. The city we were placed in, Hetauda, is located in a valley four hours south of Kathmandu – where there is neither snow nor tall mountains that I so adore. (photo of the beautiful landscape of Hetauda)
But I am coming to understand that the vision God showed me was not happening physically but rather spiritually – as we offered people the good news of Jesus Christ, it was as satisfying to their souls as a hot steamy cup of tea on a chilly day.
In Africa, God had put a longing in my heart to send me to unreached people – but little did I know that this prayer would be answered in Asia. I’ve been amazed to see how different the spiritual landscape here is. People here literally do not know about Jesus – Nepal is only 1-2% Christian, 75% Hindi, and 15% Buddhist. It is overwhelmingly different – in Africa there are stickers and signs referencing Jesus everywhere, but here nearly everywhere you look you see tikkas (red paint) on foreheads, smudged as a sign that you have just worshipped in one of the many Hindu temples scattered all over the city. Honestly, the spirituality here just feels chilly, like standing outside in cold snowy mountains while gusts of wind blow around you. Below is a picture of a group of us standing in front of one of the Hindu temples.
So here in Nepal, what we have to share about Jesus is literally, news. And it is such good news – I spoke with a young man yesterday who was astounded to hear that we could speak to God and that He speaks back. He said that he just buys statues of Hindu gods and prays to them every morning in hopes they will get him to where he wants to go – but he has never seen any of his prayers answered. He asked us if we could see our God. I said, yes, I see God when I see friends who come to know Jesus and become more loving people, when I believe God for miracles and they happen, and when I see provision for people who have given everything to follow Him. I could see God’s truth begin to sink into his heart and it’s hard to describe but his eyes had a greater clarity in them… I asked him if he could see that our God was different than the gods he knows and he said “Yes.”
Today, we came across one elderly woman who was walking with 25kg of produce on her back. She had never heard of Jesus before, so we followed her for about a mile, talking and sharing together. At the end of our conversation, she said that she believed that what we said was true, and was going to share it with her family.
From these conversations, I’m becoming more and more convinced that the life we have to share is like a sweet hot cup of tea warming your belly… Yes, Jesus Christ is good news, such good news – we don’t just throw prayers up to a god, in hopes that he will hear and respond. We serve God who is Emmanuel, God with us. When all other religions profess a set of rules to perform to get you to god, only in Christianity did God come down to get to us…calling us not to a performance but a relationship. This revelation has put a fire in my belly for our time in Asia. We have entered the 10/40 window – the term coined for the area of the world between 10 and 40 degrees latitude where the majority of people unreached by the gospel live and where the majority of governments are officially or unofficially opposed to Christianity.
For the next five months, may we be used to unveil eyes and open hearts to receive Christ’s love in these villages, towns, cities, and nations!
“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Romans 10:14)
This month, we had the privilege of traveling all over the country of Malawi – it’s been fascinating to compare and contrast the various regions of God’s kingdom here…
For about nine days, we worked with Pastor Eddie in Nkotakota with Timothy Harvest Ministries. I was so inspired by Pastor Eddie’s testimony. He actually used to be a renowned Muslim teacher in the area, but one night he attended a Christian gathering and, well, to put it short, God radically changed his life. Even amidst incredible persecution, he held fast to his faith in Christ and the things that God had done in his life. Hear his story here:
Pastor Eddie also shares a few ways that we can be praying for the nation of Malawi. These include:
1. Pray for economic growth…Poverty is widespread in Malawi – As the population has grown, the agricultural land is becoming increasingly exhausted, which has drastically affected Malawi’s economy. We saw this in the scarcity of bibles in Malawi – at a youth conference, only about one in ten Christian youth owned a bible. Pray that God would continue to provide financially for Malawians and that the Holy Spirit would put it on other people’s hearts to donate bibles so all can access God’s word.
2. Pray for access to training for pastors and workers. Churches are multiplying throughout Malawi, but many pastors are leading churches without any sort of training. The traditional model of theological education cannot produce leaders fast enough to meet the needs of the Church, so pray that more discipleship and leadership training courses would be made available for all.
3. The increasing activity of Islam is a significant issue in Malawi – over 80% of the Yao peoples in Malawi are Muslim (Source: Operation World). Pray for awareness and equipping of Christians to meet this challenge, as well as an understanding of concrete ways for Christians to show Jesus’ love to this community. In addition to this, pray for the peace of Christ to surround and protect communities where Christians are persecuted.
4. Pray for wisdom for governmental leaders– Malawi is currently challenged with high levels of national debt, AIDS, and unemployment. Pray that governmental leaders would lead the nation justly and be led by the Holy Spirit in making decisions.
Pastor Eddie has an incredible reach into the Muslim community within Nkotakota because of his background. In many parts of the city, nearly every household is Muslim and he has gained an incredible sense of respect among local Muslim leaders. Pastor Eddie dreams of equipping local pastors and leaders throughout Malawi to reach their Muslim brothers and sisters. However, in order to provide these trainings, he is in need of financial support. If you would like to learn more about Pastor Eddie and his vision, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org