Nepal

My Journal is in reverse chronological order. It started on 03-14-2017 and ended on 04-20-2017

If you have any questions or would like to contact me for any reason you can do so by emailing me at llawrence1017@gmail.com

04-17-2017 – 04-20-2017

I spent my last two full days in Nepal preparing for leaving by picking up a few things I needed to take home, while trying to focus on my health as well as I’d realized I was very dehydrated.

The trip home Wednesday was long and uneventful. I flew into China, with a few hours of layover, then flew from Guangzhou into San Francisco where I had a 9 hour layover. I got a frosty and burger from Wendy’s and slept in one of the comfy booths in the food court area nearby. When I woke up, others had followed after me and were sleeping in the other booths. I boarded my flight home.

Now I have a lot of work to get done. I’m starting by outlining my book, as well as working on a translation of The Bible Project’s The Book of John Poster. (click here to see their full posters)

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I am hoping to have a draft of my book ready by Fall so I can give it a test run when I return, and potentially have copies made by next Spring.

Basically, as a Christian, I believe that the world is sick. But there is hope, because the God that created everything has a plan. This plan is to restore the world through something called the Kingdom of God, and the King of that Kingdom is Jesus. By following the example Jesus gave us, and doing the things he did, we are able to show small pieces and a reflection of the Kingdom, where all human injustice and evil, suffering and hate will end. It is in the hope, which was made possible by the sacrifice of Jesus’ life, that I am motivated.

I believe that in order for the Kingdom of God to be fully present, and in full strength in Nepal that the existing churches there need training, so that they will be strong enough to bring the Kingdom to their people throughout the country. I believe that this is much more impactful than myself focusing on one church, or evangelism, or social work. I am hoping to develop the materials for this training, then work with young Nepali men and women to provide this training to pastors and congregations throughout the country.

My end goal, for my life, is that the Kingdom will come to the whole earth powerfully.

04/11/2017 – 04/16/2017

The night before Easter I was staying at John’s family’s house with Albert, although John had left to go home for America last Monday, Albert was gracious enough to offer me a place to stay when I visited their church Saturday. They told me that their church was waking up and meeting at 5:30 Easter morning, and that we would be meeting with some other church branches in the morning at a park in central Kathmandu. I had heard that John had a few other churches in the valley, so I was excited to meet them.

In Nepal, you don’t move out of your parents house when you get married, the wife moves in with the family. Albert’s house is four stories, and houses 15 people. Him, his wife, his sister, his mother, his uncle, and many of his cousins. The bottom floor has three rooms full of bunkbeds where the kids stay, and there are maybe 8 of them. There is also a guest room where I am staying. It’s really cool.

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Early morning church gathering

Early Easter morning I walked with the kids to church, which is a twenty or thirty minute walk. We arrived to meet the rest of the church members, and then had boiled eggs, bread and tea for an early breakfast snack.

At about 7 we gathered into a line and I saw that we would be carrying a banner with our church’s name, and they began singing and dancing as we marched through the alleys of the neighborhood towards Kathmandu. People stared from their balconies and their yard in amazement to watch the commotion.

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Walking and singing

After a while of singing and dancing as we walked, another church joined us from behind, with their own banner. It was really cool. They also sang and danced.

Then another crowd of Nepali Christians joined us from behind making us into quite a large group. I was really excited to see all the Nepali’s singing and dancing because I wasn’t expecting there to be so many of us.

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We are joined by two more banners

Then we ran into another crowd that was five times as big as ours, and we all attempted to walk in neat lines as to not disturb traffic. I realized that this wasn’t going to be a small gathering.

As we approached a major roundabout I saw from the right an infinite line of banners and people merging with our group. I couldn’t see the front of our line, and had no idea how far it stretched, either in front or behind. The streets of the city were full of Christians singing, dancing, and proclaiming Jesus. Everyone near the crowds had gospel literature in their hands, and some looked like they were reading it out of curiosity. Others had blank faces.

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The line stretched as far as I could see in either direction

Every round about we came to had Christians marching from every direction to merge with our line. All the streets in Kathmandu must have been full of Christians who were marching. We walked for about two hours like this. As we approached the heart of the city from the Southwest, lines from the Southeast and Northwest merged all merged into a massive line in the Northeast quadrant, and we marched into a large space where a stage was set, and thousands had already gathered.

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The crowd was this thick in all directions

In all, once everyone arrived, the number of Christians was several thousand. This video was taken right when I arrived, and people were still pouring in throughout the city. The whole space was nearly shoulder to shoulder, with all of the empty spaces being filled.

Nepali Christians are about 1.4% of the population, but are one of the fastest growing Christian communities in the world.

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A church of Nepali’s that dressed in their ethnic clothes for the gathering

At around 10:00 some of the crowds dispersed, but it went strong until noon when the program ended. The crowds were full of dancing, singing, and happy Nepali people, glad that Jesus has risen. It was the most emotional, overwhelming, amazing, inspiring moment of my life.

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A bit past noon after everyone left. I couldn’t get this shot while the event was going on because the crowds were too intense. This whole field all the way back to the far buildings was packed.

I walked to a book store and picked up a more comprehensive dictionary, and a book of Nepali folk tales. I then walked to rest at a coffee shop because I had been walking or standing for like 9 hours already by 2pm. I then walked to meet the church at the Bible College at 3:30, and their church was packed full, and overflowing. Many of the Nepali’s who came for church had never heard the Gospel.

I fellowshipped for a while afterwards and got to know the guy who started the bible college. I’m really glad to have met these people and am sure I will run into them in the future.

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Kathmandu ‘suburbs’ landscape

I caught a packed local bus back to Albert’s house and am trying to find out what to do on my last two days here.

I wanted to start off this post with Easter, but I skipped a few days which I will briefly summarize. I left Pokhara Thursday, which happened to be the Nepali new year’s eve. Kathmandu was quite busy for new years. I stayed at a super cheap hostel for the first two nights, on Friday I visited the bible college for a Good Friday Service, then on Saturday I visited Albert and John’ church in Bagdol, which is how I was invited to stay with them. I also visited the bible college again for their Saturday service. It has been a busy time.

04/07/2017 – 04/10/2017

On Friday I spent a lot of time writing, note taking and processing things I’ve seen and done during my stay here. My favorite place is a crepe shop that was recommended to me, and their food really sits well with my stomach.

On Saturday I went to church and sat with Shashi. The sky was the clearest it has been since I have been in Pokhara, so I had a really good view on the way to church, and while sitting in church. An american preached and it was translated for the sermon.

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On the way to church

After service Shashi was able to introduce me to a man who has had very successful ministries in the Terai of west Nepal, further west than where I went at Lamahi. I gave him my e-mail and we chatted briefly. He said he would put me in contact with an American man who he said is the person to talk to about discipleship in Nepal, so I’m really excited to hear about it. He also said he has an electronic copy of his discipleship materials he can send me. I want to take a look to see what kind of cultural differences may be present in his discipleship materials. He reaffirmed that there are heretical groups that are a big problem.

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Panorama from the church roof

I then went with Shashi to his house and we brought some fruit on the way. We ate and I then helped him with a few translation and e-mail things, and I then returned to Lakeside.

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View from the church

On Sunday I met with Shashi to go to an English fellowship for Nepali Christians who want to practice their English. There were seven of us including a pastor from Texas who preached. He will be here for a total of five months. We exchanged contact information and I’m glad we met because he may be a useful contact in the future.

I am trying to decide when I should leave Pokhara. There are men at the bible college in Kathmandu that I want to meet with this weekend, so I want to leave before Friday. I am learning more every day. There are some other cool things going on, but I’m trying to leave a lot of names and things out for privacy reasons, and because of the current political/religious climate.

One of my main goals of this trip was to find something to do for a trip this October. I’ve been beyond blessed in this area, and am preparing for that trip already.

Please continue to pray for Rekha. She told me today that she is currently sick with a headache, and cannot speak. “The Lord will hear my prayer, and yours too that you pray for me.”

04/03/2017 – 04/06/2017

For some people, their specific ministry calling is to a group of people in a specific area. For some people their call is to plant a specific church and dedicate their life to the health and well being of that one church. For others it is pastoring, for others translating.

But for some God has called them to a serve a broader group of churches, in hopes of solving a specific problem. We are not a group of independent churches, even though time, distance, culture and language may be temporary barriers. We are one church body, with one Lord who is actively working within us.

What God has spoken to me, is that I am to serve the broader Christian community at large in Nepal, to help them with discipleship training, the understanding of God’s Word, and to protect them against the threat of abusive and cultic church groups and heresy that is ravishing the Nepali Christian community.

I have heard story after story and testimony after testimony of the havoc that groups have spread through Nepal. In some cases, villages where a christian community once existed, no longer exists. In others, families and villages that once lived peacefully are torn apart and divided. In Nepal, a cross on your building makes you a target for these heretical church groups who hope to easily capture more followers. It was for this reason that pastor Bir and Tul in a village in the Terai of West Nepal specifically came to me and asked me for more training in this area when I returned to them, as well as bible study and discipleship training.

If it were not for Paul, who adamantly sent letters and apostles to churches in the first century on the topic of false doctrine, strange myths and ideas, and heresy, we might not be here today practicing the version of Christianity we now know. As Paul said, Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing of God’s work (read 1tim1:3+)

Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, not only does this person not exist for the Nepali Christian community, but these cultic churches appear to be outdoing us in evangelism as well.

In the long term, what this looks like for me on the ground, is partnership with Nepali Christians to bring materials and training on bible study, discipleship, and false doctrine education to existing Christian communities, so that they may continue to thrive and grow.

In the months to come I hope to prepare those training materials, have them translated, reviewed and edited, and give them their first testing when I return for ten weeks in the fall. Already God has put me in touch with a man who loves to translate things from English into Nepali.

But I still need help with much of the other stages of this plan. I am praying for help with the creation of the materials, with training Nepali Christians, with the actual implementation, and of course with the financing of everything. I am unworried about the details of how it will all come together, but will be spending the rest of my time in Nepal researching and problem solving so that I can continue this work when I return in October.

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Samarpan’s grandpa. He was one of my favorites for his smile, and how he would yell at the goats to get out of the garden.

We left on a local bus Sunday evening, and it took about 15 hours before we got home. This bus was less nice than our first one because I could feel every bump in the road. We picked up a group of Nepali Army boys who danced and sang by flashlight in the aisle of the bus to the loud Hindi music. Eventually our bus came to a stop and traffic jam for many hours, and for many more hours we slowly inched forward. I would later learn that the delay was due to a dry landslide that buried vehicles and killed two.

The shakiness in this video is how bumpy the bus was. Most of the music is high pitched autotuned women, and they blast it pretty loudly. You can see how thrilled I am.

We made it into Pokhara, and after unloading about 20 chickens and many goats that had been living on our roof, we went into town and I crashed at Shashi’s as we were very tired from the all night journey. I am thankful that Shashi has shown me such great hospitality during my time in Nepal.

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This picture doesn’t do justice to the sunset here. It was pretty incredible.

I then walked to lakeside where all the hotels are, but on the way, a great thunderstorm began flooding the streets. Marble sized hail fell from the sky, but I was able to keep dry with a poncho I carry. At first the alleys were flooded, along with the margins of the road. As I kept walking and the rain fell harder, there was only a narrow strip of road that wasn’t ankle deep. But soon the whole street was a raging foot deep river and I had no choice but to trudge through. The thunder was quite loud. I made it to my hotel, which i am very happy with for $7 a night.

Wednesday was an errand day. I went around Pokhara getting a few things, and then met with a man who Shashi had introduced to me who has done ministry in Nepal with his family for many years. I met him at his home and we spoke for hours at length about his story, my story, and he had an incredible amount of knowledge that I was able to draw on to help me with what I am working on in Nepal.

Today I am studying, and updating my blog while checking out a few places he suggested to me. I’m hoping to meet with a man at a church here on Saturday to ask him about how he developed his discipleship materials for a church he has in west Nepal. I also really want to meet again with some of the Nepali Christians I met in Kathmandu before I leave, so I am trying to limit my days in Pokhara.

Rekha is texting me every day in Nepali, and she calls me frequently, which is interesting, because she doesn’t speak more than a few words of English, and I don’t really have much I can say to her in Nepali either.  It’s really sweet. I can’t wait to go and speak to her again, and hopefully my Nepali improves.

03/31/2017 – 04/02/2017

Being in the village has been hard. I’ve been incredibly blessed by the hospitality I’ve received here. Unfortunately my body really doesn’t like Dahl Bhat, something I’ve learned during my first week in Nepal, but I’ve been trying to eat everything offered to me. I also have a lot of bug bites, and the number of insects and spiders is a bit unnerving at night.

One of the boys who is eight, Samarpan Rana, is very smart. He knows a lot of basic English phrases and his handwriting is almost as good as mine. He wrote me his name, his family names, his school’s name and asked me my name and my families names. He also knows the months, days, and many other things I’m sure.

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One morning I woke up and was like “Wait I didn’t take this picture” and realized the boys were playing with my camera while I slept. I let them use it after that because they came back with great photos like this one.

His parents own the building I’ve been staying in. It used to be their house, but they then converted it into four rooms that they rent out, and I was in one of them with Shashi. They now live in a makeshift mud and stick room built behind it. The foundation for a guest house is in between the two, and they have a garden growing in the foundation in the meantime.

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Samarpan took this great photo of his brother and mother.

Samarpan has one younger brother, and both of his parents and his grandparents are in the village also. His father served eight years in the Nepali army and showed us photos from the army, and from the early years of his marriage. They are very worried about how successful their children will be. They are hoping that they will be able to get into the British army because they are recruiting Nepali’s still.

Another boy who works in the village, with his brothers, who live in the same building as me, can not read. I am not sure where his parents are. One night we spent some time, Shashi and I, teaching him the basics by typing Nepali letters and words on my laptop. I wish we could do something about the education of some of the children.

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The girl, Anita, I spoke about in my last post, I misunderstood. Her actual name is Rekha. Shashi looked at her doctors report, and it appears that she has Rheumbic Heart Disease with Severe Tricuspid Regurgitation. The valves in her heart are not properly functioning and this requires surgery. Heart surgery is extremely dangerous, especially when performed in a country like Nepal, so Shashi contacted some of his doctor friends in the USA to see if anyone could do anything.

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Shashi says that even if the costs of the surgery are covered by a third party, if the embassy doesn’t think the person will return to their home country, they will not grant a visa. An exception is if the hospital offers to perform the surgery for free. I hope that Rekha will be able to have a successful surgery. She also is blind in one eye and has very poor sight in the other. The text must be extremely large for her to see it at a two foot distance.  Handwriting size text needs to be right next to her face. We spent some time learning one night together. Please pray for Rekha.

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Samarpan, his brother, Rekha, and another little girl

We went to town and ran into one of Shashi’s friends who also had a church nearby. We were going to visit it Saturday but we didn’t have time. Shashi says that many of the churches in this area do not get along. We brought back some fruit for the kids and spent time in fellowship. The people of the village were very interested to know about me and my family. They really like seeing pictures of them.

One woman wanted to take a photo of me holding her two year old girl to send to her husband, who was working in Malaysia to support his family. Many of the people wanted to take a picture with me.

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I had a realization. The only people who stay behind in villages are those who have no other choice. Everyone that is physically able to go to the larger cities or to other countries to work does. Left behind in the villages are the elderly, the children, the women that take care of the children, the sick and blind, and that makes fathers and young men very rare. This leaves a lot of the farm work to the children, and the elderly.

I am glad that I had this experience.

And I’m really glad that they have Bir (pronounced Beer), as their pastor, and Tul, as another church leader, because they are really compassionate men.

On Saturday, their church day, I spoke and Shashi translated. It’s really hard to speak to a group of people when you don’t fully understand their backgrounds, their culture, and what they currently know and understand about Jesus, so I focused on speaking on a group of my favorite verses. I opened with a basic message of salvation, then entered into the invitation of discipleship with Jesus that follows, and then spoke about the importance of love, and the grace of God. They seemed to really like it. Bir then got up and expounded on what I said. I couldn’t understand it, but from his body language, I really respect and admire him as a teacher.

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Tul

Afterward we had lunch. Saturday was the first day I was really sick so I skipped breakfast because I had no appetite, especially for rice, but the gracious people in the church cooked me an egg put on bread and gave me fruit, which really helped. They then asked me many questions, like the American national bird, animal, anthem, and what the constitution was written with.

They also asked me about the meaning of 666 in revelation, because they had heard that it had to do with electronics and computers. Shashi shared with them a story about a crazy man who adamantly said that he knew the end of the world was going to happen in 2012, and that his theory was just nonsense, so I used that to explain the types of ideas some people pull from revelation that seem to catch on.

Shashi really likes translating things from English into Nepali and he is always asking me about complex vocabulary. He translated the book Florence Nightingale into Nepali, because it is about nursing and care for others. I would really like to write a book that encapsulates a basic overview of the bible, basic Jesus discipleship, and basic teachings on heresy, cults and non-christian groups.

Bir himself made sure that I wasn’t a Jehovah Witness because that group already ravaged their community, causing some to leave. Nepali Christians are particularly susceptible to these types of groups and I’ve heard story after story of cultic groups destroying existing communities. Because of this, Tul and Bir really want more education on these types of groups so they can teach it to their community.

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Bir

One American man I met back in Pokhara, who has done ministry here for many years, affirmed how he really sees a need for education on cultic groups for Nepali Christians. Perhaps this is something I could do for the churches, with Shashi’s help translating. I could try and distribute these learning materials to the existing churches in Nepal.

Luckily I happen to be good friends with a man who has his doctorate now in Cult studies, and I have myself a good bit of experience in this area. I hope to have this written and translated over the summer.

As far as social needs go, the needs are pretty uncountable. The reality is that foreign funds can’t fix the Nepali government, economy and job situation that is causing fathers to leave their families for work in cities or abroad. Nepal needs big investment in their infrastructure, and in their education system, and it would take an incredible amount of money to fix everything to western standards. As far as basic needs go, shelter, food, education, clothing, Nepal is doing pretty okay. The shelters may be basic, the food may be simple, the clothing might be worn, and the education, although not up to American standards, has Nepali children the most educated out of any other generation before them. Nepal, despite being the poorest country in south Asia, is heading in the right direction, and there isn’t a quick fix that I can see.

We are preparing to leave tonight, and I hope to return someday.

03/23/2017 – 03/30/2017

I woke up Thursday, and for the first time in a while was able to sleep in past 6am. I began the search for a hotel. Today I wanted a hotel where I felt safe leaving all of my things so I could rent a bike and ride around Pokhara. I negotiated a room, and went looking for a bike, and only took a few essentials that I wore around in the detachable hip belt of my hiking pack. There are lots of places to rent bikes from, I would later learn, so I shouldn’t have gone with the second one I came across, but soon I was riding around town.

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A farm near the edge of Pokhara

Bicycle is definitely the way to get around Pokhara. I spent four hours, trying to cover as much of it as possible, and I hit just about every major area as I made a huge clockwise loop around the city. Pokhara is much nicer than Kathmandu, and has all the nice perks of a big city. The air isn’t dusty, the roads are 10 times better and paved, there is much less traffic, and congestion. I wouldn’t feel as comfortable riding around Kathmandu on a bike, as even the back alleys there are packed, and there are many more road hazards, not to mention what is at times unbreathable air. It’s also beautiful. Because Pokhara has 300,000 people, it still has all the perks of a big city.

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A street in Pokhara

As I got out of the tourist area next to the lake, I soon saw no foreigners, and it was obvious that most foreigners don’t go out into Pokhara because I began turning a lot of heads, and got lots of attention from the children. Pokhara is basically one giant neighborhood, with larger shops and busier areas along the few major roads in and out of the city. On the outskirts there was lots of construction in empty lots, and plenty of farming.

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Pokhara outskirts

I wandered around, and eventually looped back around to the tourist area to return my bicycle. I relaxed for a while and retired early.

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A childrens park

I decided that Pokhara was so nice that I should spend more time here. 8 days total is plenty to get a feel for the city with five weeks of time in Nepal. I wanted to spend a Saturday here so I could check out a church community, so the next day I looked for a cheap hotel and a place to rent a bike for five nights.

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Outskirts of Pokhara

I found a hotel online that was cheap, while still giving me my own room for only $7 a night, the cheapest of my trip so far. The main reason I pulled the trigger upon arrival was that it is actually probably the nicest hotel room I’ve had so far. No cigarette smell, half okay mattresses, nice bathroom, and a closet that has a lock and key. It’s the first time during my trip that I’ve stayed in the same room twice, and its tucked away so I feel safe leaving my things.

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The locals watch the plane take off

I then found a small bike shop that had decentish bikes for $5 a day. I negotiated $4 for five days, and now have a bike to get around. Albert recommended a church that is behind the airport, which is about a 20 minute ride, so I decided to test out my bike and try to find the church. I eventually found it and wandered around the city some more before coming back to work on my Nepali. I spent time in prayer, practiced my Nepali, and worked a bit in my notebook before retiring. There was a great thunderstorm overnight, the lightning was very intense and awesome.

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Nepali children who were playing soccer pose for a photo

When I woke up, the mountains were out for the first time. It had been overcast for the first four days. They were pretty incredible. Annapurna I was visible, the mountain with the highest death rate of 41%, and the 10th tallest mountain in the world, as well as the incredible fishtail mountain, Machapuchare.

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The fishtail is the tall one. Better in person.

I made it to church. I was kind of able to follow along reading the Nepali on the projector screen as they sang. They took an offering, and then a pastor from New Zealand preached a message on John 15. He presented in English and the Nepali pastor translated. They then read anouncements in Nepali and everyone was dismissed. The building was pretty packed, and they had two services. Something I’ve noticed is that there are far more Christian women at the churches I’ve attended. Perhaps it is because the men are working, or that the men go into the larger towns and out of the country for work, or for cultural reasons, but there were 8 seats per row for men and 10 for the women.

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Shashi insisted we take a photo

There were only a handful of foreigners. I did however meet a man, Shashi, who went to bible school in Georgia, and was very very excited to meet an American. He had us take a picture together, and he said I made his day. We talked for a while. His background is in nursing. His profile picture is of him with Jimmy Carter and he showed me a video of him being called out by Jimmy Carter to open prayer for their church since he is from Nepal. He didn’t realize that he was going to be at Jimmy Carter’s church, he was just invited by a friend. As it turns out Jimmy Carter does work in Pokhara.

Shashi says that coming back to Nepal from America is almost unheard of, but he decided that it would be much better for him to do ministry in Nepal because he knows the language and culture. He does extensive work in western Nepal, one area of Nepal I long ago felt called to, and tomorrow we will meet to discuss going to the west together. Shashi is even putting off his trip back to America because he is so excited to work with an American here. God keeps putting me in contact with the right people at the right time. I really don’t care to spend three full weeks in Kathmandu, so this timing is perfect.

This is exactly why I came to Nepal independently. If I came with an organization my schedule would be locked in with no room for God to do cool stuff. I came, with no itinerary and trusted that God would fill in the blanks, and I know that he will never fail me, because we decided long ago that we had a mission that we were unified in. I have full confidence that God will move in powerful ways.

I spent lots of time trying to find decent wifi to upload photos to my blog, but it didn’t happen. One frustrating thing about Pokhara is that I can’t find a decent clean local  restaurant so I keep settling for the touristy ones that are more expensive than I like.

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Nepali Dahl Bhat, at a fancyish restaurant

Highs: I found the holy grail: milk. I’ve been craving dairy, and a store here happens to have it. Its alright tasting. They also had corn flakes. A spoon was harder to find but a trekking shop had one. Also, anytime I see Nepali children, especially when they say hi.

Lows: I had a chicken momo and it had a tiny piece of bone in it. I bit it hard and it really messed up the filling on one of my back teeth somehow making it very sensitive to drinking/eating. Luckily some sketchy mouthwash I got at a little pharmacy has really helped it. Also, I’m having a hard time finding things that don’t upset my stomach. And I’m praying for more community in Nepal.

Sunday, the 26th

On Sunday I met with Shashi so we could talk about going to a village, Lamahi, where he had planted a church that he visits frequently in far west Nepal.

Shashi’s friend from Georgia had eight American friends coming to Pokhara at the same time, so we all met together and had lunch at Lakeside. Shashi and I then walked and talked. I really wanted the opportunity to talk more with Shashi (Pronounced Saucey, but with extra air after each S) and he invited me to his home.

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Lunch with Americans



We took a few local busses to his home. It was very humbling and his family showed great hospitality to me. His wife is very sweet. He has three daughters, the eldest is a school teacher with one son, the next is a counselor for a Christian organization that counsels people with HIV/other diseases and addictions, and the youngest is 17, and in a private school, aspiring to be a journalist. His youngest daughter’s want to go to America like their dad to study for school.

His wife made us Dahl Bhat Tarkari, a meal most Nepalis have daily. It is rice, lentil soup, and curried vegetables. She insisted on waiting until Shashi and I had finished eating before they ate.

We decided to go to Lamahi on Wednesday, which was perfect because Tuesday was the last night I had paid for my hotel. We would take a bus.

It started to get dark, and Shashi’s family and I had talked into the night, and Shashi’s home was about an hour and a half walk from my hotel, so they all insisted that I stay. I later realized that Shashi and his wife slept in the living room, and each daughter had their own room.

I woke up and had two hard boiled eggs and tea. Shashi’s wife doesn’t speak English, so her daughters and Shashi had to translate for us. She is very sweet. Shashi and I then left and went on some errands.

First we stopped by a shop owned by a friend of his, who sells electronics, and his son is a photographer for events. He talked for a while and explained that he sometimes uses their WiFi, and their shop as an office.  

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A very sweet grandmother I met a few times who asks me to sit next to her, near the photo shop.


They somehow got onto the topic of Christianity and Shashi told them the story of David and Saul, and how David spared the life of Saul. There are some similarities in stories between Christianity and Hinduism, Shashi explained, so they are always interested to hear bible stories.

We then left and went to visit the international mountain museum. The history of Nepal’s different people groups, the mountains, and mountain climbing was interesting and informative. The building is pretty huge.

I then split ways with Shashi after lunch, with the plans of meeting up with his family and the other Americans for dinner, but those plans were canceled by the heavy rain.

Tuesday Shashi and I met up and planned to get ready for Lamahi. We went to his friends at Emanuel Guest house, because he knew they were Gideon members. Shashi thought they may have 10 or 15 bibles we could have, but we left there with 60 free Gideon bibles. The Nepali owners have an English fellowship for Nepalis who want to try and practice their English, which was interesting, and I may check it out next time in Pokhara.

We bought our bus ticket, and went to the Ncell office to fill up some data as we were both running low, (3Gb was $5. Cheap!). We picked up some pillows for the bus ride, and for our stay, as we were unsure about whether we would have any in Lamahi as the church was providing our stay. We picked up bug spray/an electronic mosquito repellent, and I picked up some baked goods from the German Bakery for breakfast/lunch.

We also made a long trip by local bus to INF, a huge Nepali Christian  organization. The local bus was interesting, and costs 15 cents per ride.

INF directed us to a further away Christian book store, the only one I know of in Pokhara. It was hidden away inside of a building, and we picked up some other supplies there. I picked up a nicer notebook, we bought hymm books as these are harder to come by, and other things we needed.

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I checked out of my hotel, returned my bike, and went to Shashi’s, because our bus was leaving at 5AM, so it was better for me to stay with him so we could leave together. We made it into the bus just on time. The local bus ride ending up being 13 hours long, and it was one of my more strange, crazy, and adventurous experiences. The bus was packed. One man took the money, and one boy stood in the open bus door to usher people in.

We frequently stopped to pick up more locals, even when the bus was full. I should have had our bags put on top of the bus, because there wasn’t room for it in the small overhead area, so my bag ended up being smashed flat by peoples shoes in the middle of the aisle, but there wasn’t much I could do until we stopped for food.

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Communist propaganda written on the walls of the street

We made a few bathroom stops where everyone went in the bushes alongside the road. We made our way through the mountains, down to the flat forests, and it was very hot, with no A/C. Every time we stopped in a town the bus would be flooded with young boys trying to sell water, chips, and cucumbers or grapes. For most of the bus ride loud hindi music was blasted through the speakers. There was one  huge huge traffic jam from an accident of some sort.

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Local bus. Fun.

We eventually made it. First we stopped in the nearby larger town to grab a few last minute things, and some oranges to bring. Everyone in the town was staring at me. Everyone. Foreigners don’t ever come here. The children are some of the only ones here who speak English since their generation is one of the first to be educated, and English speaking is highly valued, so a few children approached me while I was in town to practice their basic English.

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The nearby town.

We then took a small electric rickshaw to Lamahi.

When we arrived they were very happy to see us and gave us flower necklaces. We then ate dinner, and left to have house church, which they do every Wednesday. The house was packed. They sang a few songs, Shashi said a few things, as well as the pastors.

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House church

The village is about 80% women, and most of the men are children, because the men have left for work elsewhere.  Many of the children are unable to go to school because they have to work to help their families. Shashi translated for me while I said a few things. We took a photo and I hope to upload videos soon.

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The pastor in Lamahi

We are staying in a room at a small three room hotel. Today I showered with a bucket that we heated up with an electric rod, just like Shashi does at home.

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Our room

Today, Thursday, we’ve put the bibles in the church and talked about building a toilet behind the church, but most likely will have to do it in the fall as we don’t have the time or funds, and it needs to be finished before the monsoon season this summer.

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The pastor is always smiling

We also spoke with Anita, a young local girl who has many health problems, especially with her heart. The doctors say that there is a surgery that can fix it, but it is very expensive. Anita has a radio station that she speaks on, to advocate and encourage people with disabilities in Nepal, so we listened while she went and spoke for a bit. Shashi is going to look at the papers from the doctor, and see if some of his doctor friends can do anything to help. We are praying that Anita can get the help she needs to get well.

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We had Dahl Bhat Tarkari for lunch, and left for the capital city of Dang, the district Lamahi is in, so Shashi could talk to his journalist friend.

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Lunch

One of the church leaders in Lamahi was very sick, with a swollen belly and feet, and many visits to private hospitals in India and elsewhere gave no results, with the doctors saying that all the tests came back clear. Shashi took him to the Christian Patan Hospital in Kathmandu, and an American doctor was able to properly diagnose his condition and help him. Shashi is seeing the man for the first time since then, and is very happy that he is now fully well. Shashi has a journalist friend in the nearby city, so we met with him, and he wants to put it in the paper.

Everyone here stares at me too. We are using the wifi at this small cell phone shop to transfer some photos for the newspaper.

We’ll see what happens in the next few days.

03/19/2017 – 03/22/2017

Sunday was productive. I met with Chris, one of the missionaries I met at the airport, and John at the church, while the women did their women’s group. I talked with Chris for a long time. I also met the pastor of the church, Geoff, who is John’ brother, and we talked at length.

Geoff is the person responsible for most of the people that are at the church. He says that everywhere he goes he preaches the gospel. He said that the smart way to go about it is to make friends with the people he is evangelizing, and to talk about Jesus inside their home, as large public evangelism makes the Hindu people very angry, which can be dangerous. Geoff certainly is in my top three coolest people I’ve ever met alongside John. Geoff studied at a bible college in South Carolina, and has been a Christian for many years.

I then went with John and Chris to another place where John was interviewing candidates for a healthcare ministry program. In this program they take Nepali Christians from villages, give them discipleship training, and then support them through medical training. After medical training they then go back to their village where they work as a doctor. This is a very successful tool for evangelism, because nobody can say that what they are doing, providing healthcare, is not right, and they see how genuine it is.

This type of evangelism, where the needs of a place are really looked at first, is one branch of John’ focus on evangelizing Nepal. God once gave John a dream to plant a church in every district of Nepal, all 75 of them. John’ church planting style is as follows; A Nepali family becomes Christians in a village. John helps give them training, and they then become a church, based out of their home. Once their church grows to a size where they need a larger building, John then tries to get them land and a building, and if one person in that church has the gift and ambition to be their pastor, they are then trained for it.

John’ approach to evangelism is to do it all indigenously. For many reasons it is much more effective to do it this way than to accept outside funding, or to send a pastor from outside the village. As a Nepali, when others find out you are a Christian, they ask you how much money you have, because it is assumed by the non-Christians here that if you are a Nepali Christian your conversion was bought with money.

For this reason John has stayed away from foreign funds, and has structured each church to be self supporting, by Nepalis. Only recently has John accepted outside funding, because with the current market it is nearly impossible for a church to build their own buildings. 20 years ago you might have been able to buy a plot of land for $10,000, but today that cost is 10-20 times higher, making it very difficult for a congregation to build themselves.

I’ve been considering being a missionary in Nepal full time. Because the maximum stay is 150 days per year, I would most likely take two 75 day trips per year; one in the Fall and one in the Spring. I think that is a lot more manageable than one 150 day trip.

As I walked towards one of the guest houses’ I’ve stayed at in the past I happened to find a Nepali-Christian book store on the way. I was very happy to buy a smaller Nepali bible, a case, and a printout of the book of John in Nepali for $5. My Nepali bible at home is huge, and this one is easier to carry around.

I checked into the Christian guesthouse and had the room to myself. I spent a little time trying to translate the book of John with my dictionary, which is hard when you don’t know the order of the Nepali alphabet very well, so I didn’t make it far. I then passed out just as it was getting dark.

On Monday I then got up and worked a bit on my blog, and left for the included breakfast at Khairos cafe. It was the best food I’ve had so far. I had two buttermilk pancakes, a cheese omelette, and a pot of black tea included for breakfast. I also added cinnamon banana pancakes, which were amazing. I stayed at the cafe for a long time while reading, working on my Nepali, drinking tea, and working on my vision for Nepal.

I then wandered around the nearby neighborhoods for about an hour before deciding to walk to Thamel using a compass, which a few hours. Using my miniature compass worked very well, because I knew that Thamel was north of me, so I just needed to take all the streets and back alleys that pointed north.

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I went through Katmandu’s Durbar square on my way, and it wasn’t anything particularly special. I found out that the mandala paintings that the scam artists tried to sell to me for $350 were being sold elsewhere for $8, and that the massive one that was $2500 was only being sold elsewhere for $80.

I checked out a few hotels, and made sure that the ticket the trekking company sold me to Pokhara was still good, but decided to stick with Andes hotel from my first night because I knew it would be clean and not smell like cigarette smoke.

I’ve been falling asleep really early, right around 7pm or so, because I get exhausted.

I woke up early Tuesday, and was ready by 6am. I took a taxi to the bus stop where all of the different tourist buses to Pokhara were, and my taxi driver knew which bus was mine. The bus left at around 7am and I knew I had been scammed again, because I had paid $20 for a ticket that was probably only worth $6. The bus was very old, the seats weren’t great, and the next 8 hours were pretty terrible. The food wasn’t included like I thought it might be, and we had a toddler that screamed and cried nearly the whole way.

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The road to Pokhara is narrow, and winding. Because we frequently encountered slow moving tractors, and freight cars, we did lots of passing, even though you can’t really see what is coming in the other lane. It’s pretty freaky. It got very hot in the bus, but the A/C eventually turned on.

We had a few bathroom stops, and we also stopped twice for food. The stops had different sodas, snacks, a coffee stand, and the food was served up cafeteria style, after you ordered what you wanted.

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We finally made it to Pokhara and I was bombarded by taximen and hotel room salesmen. I waited for about five or six busses to unload to see if my friends I met at the airport would be on them. Eventually all the tourists were gone, and it was just me, standing in a sea of taximen who didn’t get anyone to give a ride. I was like a cow crossing a piranha infested river.

One nice guy offered to ride me into town on his scooter to check out a hotel, but I turned him down and took a taxi, because riding behind someone on a scooter isn’t my thing.

I went to Pokhara lakeside and it was really nice. None of the roads in Kathmandu were as nice as the ones in Pokhara, and the air was clear and breathable. Where I was also had tons of tourists, and I walked around the shops for a while before finding my cheapest hotel so far, $8. The mattress was a bit firm, but it wasn’t bad.

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Nepali children play soccer at the lakeside
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Nepali children play cricket

I woke up Wednesday very early and met with the missionaries I met from the airport, and John’ nephew, Albert. We took a Taxi into the mountains, which was interesting because we had four people in the back of a tiny taxi, and the roads are not developed.  We stopped at a village that has a viewpoint, but it was very overcast so we couldn’t see the mountains.

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We then rode a little further before hiking up to Australian Camp, a pretty short hike on the mountainside. The rhododendrons were in bloom, which was nice, and Albert told us the petals are edible, and they weren’t bad.

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Rhodedendrons
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You can’t really see it well in this photo, but the mountains came through for a moment.

At the top was a small group of houses, and a guest house, as well as a woman who was using a loom to make scarves. I bought a scarf and my friends bought some as well, and we stopped for tea, and swung on a Nepali swing.

We stopped for noodles at the roadside, and the glaciated river under us had very nice silver silt. I then rode to town with my own taxi, and tried to only speak to him in Nepali. I was pretty happy with how much I could say and understand, but I think the Taxi driver thought I could speak more than I really do, so he tried speaking in Nepali only for a while.

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Nepali women carrying baskets across the river

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We talked a lot about the different costs between the USA and Nepal, and salaries. He said his takehome salary after he paid his boss was around $50-80, but Albert would later tell me that $150-280 was really more likely, and that he was probably trying to get me to pay him more. He also said his rent was about $35 a month in his village.

I checked out a few hotels and found one, and worked on some things I’ve been writing. Later I met up for dinner with my friends I met at the airport, and we said goodbye as they had to fly back to Kathmandu in the morning, and out of the country the day after.

03/18/2017

Today I woke up in a christian guest house. I found it pretty late at night last night and was lucky enough to have ran into one of the workers who was going into their locked gate, otherwise I might have had a hard time finding a place to stay. In the area I am at, it is harder to find a good cheap hotel, but for 1200 rupees I had a bed and a shower. I shared a bunk bed with a German man who is in Nepal for six months doing Christian social work in villages, but he was sick for three days from some street food, so he had to come into town to get better.

The shower was very interesting. The tiled floor is flat, without a lip for the shower part, so if the shower were to run the whole bathroom would flood, but there is a large bucket for the water to flow into. A smaller bucket acts allows you to scoop the water up out of the bucket to pour over yourself. It was a cold shower, because it is solar heated, so in the morning it is cold.

I started to walk around town, and tried to call John, who is the Nepali man that the airport missionaries know, for directions to their church service, which starts at 10am. He told me it was in Bagdol near ringroad, so I wandered throughout the neighborhood of Bagdol, and got a lot of looks because there isn’t really anything there that a normal tourist would be there for.

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Dogs in the neighborhood of Bagdol

After searching the neighborhood I wasn’t able to find it, so I hung around the main two streets until John and the three missionaries found me and we walked to the church together.

The Nepali church was the greatest and most beautiful thing I’ve ever experienced.

Men sat on the left and women on the right. When I arrived at about 10:15 there were about 80 people, but more and more began to pour in until the whole room was packed, maybe 120+ Nepali people. In Nepal you always remove your shoes before entering, which I’m sure is in part to keep things clean and not track in mud, but its also a cultural thing.

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The worship was in Nepali. Everyone knew the songs they sang, and the worship team consisted of a bass guitar, guitar, and a keyboard. They worshiped for a very long time before the man that sat at the front said some words. Then they worshiped more. Eventually they took an offering into bags, and continued to worship. The three missionaries then sung and played how great thou art, and everyone knew the chorus, in English. Then the Nepali’s sung it in Nepali. It was beautiful.

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A missionary gave his testimony, and John translated it into Nepali. Then the children, the missionaries and myself left to a smaller room for Sunday school while John preached to the adults.

In the Sunday school we talked about the importance of washing your hands, we taught them this little light of mine, and John’ niece who was leading the time, realized that they actually knew the same song but in Nepali, with their own choreography, so they showed it to us.

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One of the missionaries is a second grade teacher. She told them the story of Jesus calming the storm, and shared some of her testimony with them.  The children asked us our names and told us what they wanted to do. Some of them wanted to be engineers. Some of the children wanted to be doctors, even the little girls, which was very encouraging. Some of them wanted to come to American to study. We then played a game similar to duck duck goose and then the adults were done with their time.

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John told me that the church was doing so well that they were trying to raise the money to build their second building, on a plot of land he showed me next to their current building. He said it will cost about $150,000 USD, and that the Nepali’s are raising it all themselves. They are at about 20% of the way currently.

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I went and had lunch with John and the missionaries at a nearby restaurant. There just so happened to be a group of missionaries in the room next to ours, and one of the Nepali’s in their group was the son of a man who John knew from his church twenty plus years ago, and he recognized John.

John has been a Christian for 36 years, and he lived in a mountain village in Nepal. He was the first Christian in his village. For many years he worked in building the churches here, and he became very influential in Nepal, and God was doing great things. Then in 2003 the Maoists took note of how much influence John had, and they gave him an ultimatum; join us and help our cause, or we’ll kill you. John left for America immediately with his family.

John didn’t return for nine years. When the political climate of Nepal settled, he then returned, and has continued to return in recent times to the church that he started, that we were at today.

John’ organization runs an orphanage that gathers orphan children from villages and places them in Christian homes as a sort of foster care system. He says that it has been hugely successful, because it raises the children together in a family environment, where with orphanages the people who take care of them are just workers.

John would also like to start an organization that helps Nepali women who are being trafficked to India, teaches them a life skill that they can use to support themselves, as well as offering Christian Discipleship and teaching.

In Nepal you can’t walk into a village, give everyone food and gifts, and convert them to Christianity. The Nepali people know that you are just trying to buy their conversion, especially if you are a foreigner, and they really don’t like that. But John said that if you instead enter their community and genuinely look at the problems that their village faces, and offer solutions, that the Nepali people know you are doing a good thing, and if they know you are doing good they will listen to you. In this way, social justice and finding solutions to needs of the people here are very closely tied to evangelism.

We went back to the church and they began teaching the youth event, for young adults, teens, and children. I had to go to meet with the men I met at the coffee shop to make it to their 3:30 service.

This second church was different. It was inside of a bible school that some of the Nepali men who I met were attending. The worship band was more comparable to a western one. There were lots of foreigners as Nepali’s, and we sat in chairs. I was given an earpiece and radio that a translator spoke into to translate the sermon, which was on Acts. The pastor gave a sermon in Nepali that was comparable to one you’d find in a western church.

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After the sermon I got to know some of the Nepali men there and tried to learn as much as I could about the school, the community, and how they operated. Every Saturday orphan children from a Christian orphanage they operate come down to play. My friend Raheet told me that the orphans when they arrive from the village look very messy, and abandoned, and sad, but that they are very happy once they are taken in. Some of the men stuck around and played basketball.

I left and ate some bread and curry at a restaurant. Every time my pile of curry on my plate got low, the waiter would come out and carefully spoon more curry from the bowl onto my plate, which was weird. I paid and left because it suddenly got dark, and I didn’t have a place to stay yet. I walked towards the guest house I was at last night, and tried calling, but couldn’t get through. I was able to find a taxi that I took to Thamel, where I easily found a room.

I’m meeting with John on Monday morning to further discuss missions in Nepal, and my vision for my time here. I don’t know what i’ll do tomorrow because both groups that I know are busy.

-3/17/2017

Today was one of the best and most insane days of my life. There were so many ups and downs and it was complete chaos.

I woke up and checked out of my hotel and went out into Thamel. I bought a sim card, data plan, and lots of minutes/texts for my phone, for 1600 rupees, or about $15. It was great to have access to google maps again because I get lost easy.

I bought three small pastries that were put in a bag that looked like it was made out of someones homework. I thought the shopkeeper said 100 rupees, but he actually said 30 rupees. Just a quarter for these yummy things! The flaky one was pretty good, but the other two were so soft. It’s hard to explain the texture, but they were awesome.

I then took a taxi to the monkey temple. The monkey temple is a big temple site and there just so happens to be hundreds of monkeys that live there. It was great, and very old. A salesman there sold me a hand carved elephant statue which was neat, but being constantly accosted by salesmen is really annoying.

I then went to the big Boudha Stupa that is really well known. It costs 250 rupees for tourists. The guy who asked for my ticket started guiding me around, and I realized he wasn’t an actual ticket person, so I quickly exercised my assertiveness to avoid getting scammed and asked him how much he was going to try and charge me for guiding me around the area. He said he didn’t want the money, that I could donate if I wished, but that it was no problem, that because he is a Buddhist that he does it from his heart, and that he doesn’t care about the money. I figured that even if I was going to give him $5 that it would be worth it to just let him do his thing

He was really informative and I was able to get a few photos of myself finally thanks to him. I probably would have never found some of the things he showed me, and I wouldn’t have done any of the prayer wheel things, because I have no idea where I’m not allowed to go or do, so without this guy I would have just stood around awkwardly and left.

I walked into a few Buddhist monasteries, and met some seven year old kids who have been monks since they were 4. I was then directed to a shop that sells Mandala paintings by my guide. A mandala is a sort of Buddhist pattern that is used for meditation.  He said that the area around the stupa is called little Tibet because it has lots of Tibetan refugees, and that this school made these paintings to help support the Tibetan artists who are unable to work in Nepal due to their non-citizen status.

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The wheel of life

The person who was head of the school started showing me around the shop and took me upstairs where the artists were at work. The paint is made from a glue derived from boiled yak hide mixed with clay, and natural colorants found in the mountains. The gold coloring uses 24 carat gold. It was really interesting watching the artists work. I was then guided to the basement where I soon found myself in another huge sales pitch, that my guide had been orchestrating from the beginning.

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If I wanted to help these poor Tibetan refugee girls with no way to support themselves besides these paintings I could buy a painting. The masterwork mandala painting that are about a square foot big were only a measly $350 USD or so. He claimed they took three months to make because of the level of detail. I asked about the other huge Mandalas and the one behind him was only $2500 USD, taking a year and a half to make. If I wanted a poor quality Mandala that uses acrylic paint it would only cost me $40. My guide came downstairs and got in on the sales pitch.

The paintings were very beautiful, but I was obviously in the middle of a scam. I doubt the small ones take three months of work. I doubt $350 is a reasonable price for a painting considering that is what many Nepalis make in a year. And I doubt that the money goes to support the artists beyond having them slave out more paintings to fuel the scam while a few shop owners reel in good money from unsuspecting tourists.

I’d like to think that if all Americans were sorted by how easy it is to rip them off that I would be in the top few percent of people who can think critically and get out of situations like this. But Nepal’s tourist areas have proven to be extremely unforgiving. If a naive and timid person came independently to Nepal they’d certainly leave penniless, because certain Nepali’s, like my guide, thrive on being very very good at ripping off tourists. From the moment a foreign person steps outside of the airport, literally out the doors, a person will be taken advantage of for not knowing any better.

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I begrudgingly gave my guide some money for his service because I actually think it all enhanced my experience. He claimed that his house was destroyed in the earthquake and that he was trying to rebuild it, but looking back on it I mostly doubt it. I feel like when people say something that tries to play at your emotions in order for them to get more money, there is a high likelyhood that they are lieing. He was very persistent that I add at least 1000 rupees, $10, to what I was trying to tip him, calling the money I handed him small change. If I added $10 this guy in one of the poorest countries in the world would be making more an hour than me back home. It was very offputting.

I took a taxi to my next stop, one of the biggest Hindu temples in Nepal. The cost for a ticket for foreigners is 1000 rupees, which I thought was steep. I was pretty put off when I realized I wasn’t allowed to go in because I’m not a Hindu, but then found out that there is a non-Hindu area that has views of the sacred area, and lots of other cool stuff, so it ended up being worth it.

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The overview of the main Hindu temple. Below they are preparing a man for cremation. The holy river is barely in view.

I turned down two or three guides in the first 30 seconds, but they were extremely persistent. One tactic is that they constantly talk over you and lie to you about their intentions, and just follow you and pretend that you’ve accepted them as a guide, which required me to have to stop, and tell them clearly several times, no guide. No guide. I walked around and this lady tried to sell me some necklaces. I wasn’t going to buy one until she had this really cool one supposedly made out of yak horn. Everyone was watching me look at this lady’s necklaces. It wasn’t good attention. For one I’m carrying way too much cash since credit cards arent really a thing. For two, now everyone and their mother wanted me to buy their things. One guy followed me around trying to sell different things for like half an hour. Another lady was very upset when I didn’t buy one of her necklaces, since I bought one from the other lady. Both ladies said that it was their first business, so I think that is another one of those lies that is supposed to make me feel like I should buy something from her.

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A set of buildings that make a mirror image illusion

I turned down a few more guides but an extremely persistent boy about my age kept following me even after I told him no guide. He said he didn’t want money, that he just was doing it to be nice, so that I would tell my friends to come to Nepal. I watched cremations right next to the river. There is one side for the poor, and one for the rich. I didn’t see the bodies directly because they are covered with straw, so it wasn’t particularly gruesome, but it is an open air pyre, viking style. I did see a body being prepared for cremation from a distance in the hindu only area, next to the river, but it wasn’t any different from an open casket type of deal.

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My sort of guide was actually pretty helpful. He told me that the necklace lady totally ripped me off and I paid ten times the reasonable price. He told me reasonable taxi price suggestions, and affirmed that basically every souvenir I had bought, I paid way more than I should have. He asked for money at the end, but wasn’t as persistent as the last guy.

Next I went to Patan. I saw a group of marching Nepali Army boys running along with ancient looking rifles, it was pretty cool. Of course, in Patan I was immediately accosted by people who wanted to be my guide, but I was pretty good at telling people no by now. I had Dahl Baht Tarkari, Nepali yoghurt with a crunchy bread thing, and black tea on the roof of a restaurant and it was really good. $5. I couldn’t tip the server because my bills were too big so I went on a search for a money exchange place. In Thamel money exchanges are very common, but I couldn’t find one. I found a Nepali bank. The guard had a shotgun and didn’t speak english. I exchanged some of my larger bills for smaller ones.

Now that I was away from the tourist part of Patan nobody asked me for anything. Nobody accosted me. They just looked at me funny, probably wondering why I was in their neighborhood. The tourist shops disappeared and the shops were more geared towards normal Nepalese. Less people spoke english. Patan was super cool. It’s basically an ancient city, where people actively live in super cool old architecture places.

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Need to go to the dentist? The patient is behind the glass back there.

I kept wandering and wandering and I wandered into the zoo. The zoo was really cool. I was disappointed at first because the first five exhibits were different kind of deer, then a goat. Then I saw the sign, “Don’t feed the hippos.” They had rhinos, monkeys, tigers, an elephant, sloth bears, a jaguar, and so many more awesome animals I didn’t even know existed. The zoo conditions were obviously terrible by western standards, and for some reason they seem to have a thing for mixing different animals together into one cage. They also have way too many of every kind of animal. In western zoos one or two is normal, three is a lot. I got some good footage of the sloth bears fighting over the tiny trickle of water they were getting. What I also found funny is that there were the type of monkeys from the monkey temple in cages, but one was running freely around the zoo.

I left the zoo and started to wander around again with no idea where I was when I found a coffee shop, and I wanted to take a rest and try coffee grown in Nepal since I’m from the Coffee capital of the world, Portland. I got coffee, 190 rupees for a 12 oz, less than $2 USD.

I sat down at a table. Next two me were four men about my age talking. One was playing a guitar. I caught a hint of their conversation, the word Church. I thought huh. I quickly realized that I was sitting next to four Christians. I was ecstatic. I asked if I could sit with them. Supposedly only 1.4% of Nepalese are Christian. The Kathmandu valley has millions of people in it. I picked a place at random. What are the odds.

Three of them were students at a bible college in Nepal, and the other is a man from California who teaches them. They all go to a nearby church, and I was really looking for a church to visit tomorrow.

One of the men, Vinay, told me his testimony, and it was pretty incredible. What amazed me is how here in Kathmandu, thousands of miles from home, in a different culture, language, and lifestyle, how similar themes can be. We actually had very similar themes throughout the different steps in our testimonies.

One thing Vinay is passionate about and would like to do with his life is to teach Christians. The pastor of his church was only doing it for the pride, and the power, and to be served. He went to the second and third in charge pastors of his church as well with the same result. As it turns out, many Christian communities in Nepal are led by men who take advantage of the opportunity to transplant the Hindu caste system onto Christianity, and put themselves at the top. Vinay was blessed with seeing through the facade, and the reason he wants to teach, is so he can teach Nepali Christians who Jesus actually is, and that being a pastor means service, and humility.

The three Christians from the airport also got back to me tonight. Tomorrow I’ll meet with them by 9, go to their church and youth group event from 10 till 3, then i’ll go to the service with the men from the coffee shop. My contacts list and schedule is going to be overflowing by the end of tomorrow. I’m really excited.

03/16/2017
I arrived in Nepal today at about noon Nepal time. The planes land on big plane parking lot and we were shuttled to the terminal in a bus. The airport terminal was chaos because it isn’t really clear what you are meant to do. As people poured in, I had a head start because I actually had a pen in my pocket, albeit it had exploded on my flight and covered my hand in ink.

I filled out a short card for my visa and looked around, clueless as to where to go next. There were three lines, one group of lines was for visa application kiosks, one was for payment, and another for exchanging money. I took advantage of the non-existent money paying line, exchanged $20 into rupee’s, and got in the shortest kiosk line, but had no idea if I was doing it right or not. Most other people seemed confused too.

I picked up my bag and talked with Aadi, the hippie. As I left the airport I was acosted by groups of taximen. The prepaid price for going to Thamel, the main tourist district where my hotel is, was 750 rupees, about $7. I could have gone for cheaper but as I have learned, I’m really bad at haggling to save a buck, so I hopped in the first taxicab I was offered.

The traffic in Kathmandu is insane. Motorcyclists outnumber the cars, and weave in and out of people walking and driving. To make up for this they honk their horn a ton to let people know to move. There is a lot of dust, so most people wear facemasks.

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In the passenger seat of my cab was a man named Shankar who runs a famous family trekking business called Great Vision. We talked at length on the half hour cab ride into Thamel. He was very interested about my life in America, my family and siblings, and he told me all about his family and himself.

In Nepal, competition is fierce because there aren’t enough tourists to meet the inflated number of shops, taxis, trekking companies and hotels. This causes many to politely accost tourists or employ tactics like the one I found myself in to get tourists to their companies instead of the competition.

Pretty soon I was in Shankar’s office and he was very good at helping me think of ideas for what to do in Nepal. I told him I didn’t want to do a popular tourist trek like the Anapurna Circuit because I wanted to experience more village life, and I wanted to avoid busy touristy areas, so he suggested that I do the Manaslu circuit. I also told him that I wanted to learn Nepali. He told me that I should go to his home village of Tandrang in the Gorkha district to stay with his parents. He said his family all speak English and that there is a school there. He said that the children speak English also, and that I could teach them English in exchange for them teaching me Nepali.

He said this would all be free of charge, of course, to sweeten the deal and try to convince me of booking a hike of the Manaslu circuit, but I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to spend 13 days trekking because it would eat up much of my time in Nepal. Most of that would be spent in different villages, with easy hikes between them, while staying in a teahouse, so I’m considering it. Booking with a trekking company is nearly required to satisfy a Nepal requirement that states a minimum of 2 trekkers plus one guide in order to receive a permit, which makes it hard to try and just do it solo for cheaper.

I really liked his home village idea but wasn’t sure about the trekking. I thought it was weird to just ask for the village part of the deal since he was offering that for free, so we talked about him providing me with a car to get to the different areas around Kathmandu, so that I could group that into a sort of package deal. I didn’t want to make a decision yet so I told Shankar we would be in touch. He walked me to my hotel.

It was all a sort of weird situation but it seems to have worked out well. The biggest thing I learned on my first day in Kathmandu is to deal with being accosted and saying no. I’m glad I made it out of Shankars office without spending all of my money and planning out my whole trip because I hadn’t even had the chance to look around yet.

Its kind of like going to those free timeshare seminars that promise cool stuff if you just stay and listen to the seminar, even if you don’t buy anything. In reality its pretty tough to get out of there, but I’m getting better at it.

I checked into my hotel which thankfully had wifi. It was a nice room with an included bathroom, and for $14 I was pretty happy with it. The towel and sheets were not pure sparkling white, and the flooring and walls aren’t perfect, but thru-hiking took the germophobe out of me so I don’t mind.

I took my things and began to wander Thamel, a part of Kathmandu that is lined with tourist shops, hotels, and chaos. Many of the shops are just booths, or are very small. For the most part there are are two dozen or so different kinds of shops that just repeat themselves. There are scarf shops, backpacking gear shops, Kukuri knife shops, food places, mobile phone and electronics shops, book and map shops, and other crafts. I picked up a Nepali-English English-Nepali dictionary for $4.

I was quietly accosted several times by people trying to sell me hash and weed. Some were more persistent than others. Also persistent were the taximen, people selling wood flutes, and trekking company operators.

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I wandered down a lot of dead end alleys. There are lots of street dogs here. In one mostly empty alleyway I saw three teenagers that had collected a pile of food, maybe noodles, out of the garbage onto a piece of cardboard. They were digging through it and eating together. I teared up. I walked a few blocks and there was a fruit stand, and I was hungry. The owner was very happy that I was buying some of his grapes, so he took the opportunity to load me up with a full kilo for 220 rupees, about $2. When I went back to the alleyway the kids were gone. I continued to wander Thamel, carrying my grapes, looking for someone to share them with. I didn’t want to eat them myself without washing them with water from my filter back at my hotel, so I carried them around.

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Most buildings in Thamel look like they are falling apart and the streets are really basic.

It was starting to get dark and I had wandered and wandered through the streets. My phone doesn’t have internet here, so I can’t just google maps how to get back to my hotel, but I was tired and hungry, and not even in Thamel anymore.

I stepped into an open air shop where a man prepared me a plate of rice, a rice pancake with peppers and tomato, a bit of lentil soup, and Chiyah, Nepalese tea with milk. It was very spicy. Most food places here certainly would never pass any sort of US health code inspection. I practiced my Nepali with the shop owner and asked him for directions back to Thamel so I could find my hotel.

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Different Nepali currency. The backside has an animal, and the front side well known places. The largest bill in the top right is about $10, and the smallest is a few pennies.

I wandered around Thamel, looking for something familiar, but was completely lost, and it was now dark. I didn’t mind because it gave me the opportunity to explore more, and I realized that I had only scratched the surface of exploring Thamel. A local who I was chatting with was kind enough to google maps the directions to my hotel for me which I took a picture of. It was only an eight minute walk, a few blocks, in a mostly straight line. I got lost again.

I kept wandering. I eventually stopped and realized that I had just walked in a huge circle. I stopped in a restaurant that had free wifi for some tea, and looked up directions myself. That didn’t help me not get lost again. I knew I was close, maybe, and after some more wandering I eventually saw something familiar and found my hotel.

3/15/2017
I’m on my flight to China. It’s been a long flight and I’m in the middle row, in the middle of four seats. We had two meals, both were weird. I had rice and fish, carrots, pineapple, and ham, and then some kind of ginger rice soup porridge thing with shrimp.

I watched The new Harry Potter, Moana, Dr Strange and just started the Martian. The scene at the beginning, where he pulls a spike out of his gut, made me start to feel woozy. I tried to stay calm and breathe, but wasn’t getting better and realized that I was probably pale white. I paused the show. Then I blacked out. When I woke up I thought I had been sleeping, but I looked at the screen and after a moment realized what had happened. I motioned to the guy next to me to let me out and I went and kneeled on the floor, on all fours, stumbling around lightheaded, trying to get blood back to my head. I’ve never blacked out before.

I remember in middle school when we dissected fish and I turned green. the assistant teacher said “I’ve never seen anyone actually turn that color before”.

We still have a few hours left and we are somewhere over mainland China right now. It’ll still be 12 hours before I get to Nepal.

In the seat in front of me there is this hippie. He has the dreads and the huge slouchy beanie, full beard, a basket instead of a backpack, hippie pants. Most people on the flight are Chinese except a few rare others.

I purposely don’t think much about what comes next in life in detail. The night before Christmas, as I’m falling asleep, it hits me; Christmas is here. I don’t build it up in my head for weeks because it’s hard to wait and wait, so ignoring what is coming is easier, and I find it better to preserve the surprise. Nepal is becoming real now. Really real.

To prepare I read a book on Hinduism, Nepali Culture, worked on my Nepali language skills, and skimmed a book on Buddhism. I’m also a good portion of the way into a missiology textbook.

I don’t know what I’ll tell people when they ask me why I’m in Nepal. I’m not there for trekking. I’m not going as a tourist, or I’d totally go see Everest and do more hiking. And of all the places to pick for a vacation, Nepal would probably be low on my list. I’m in Nepal with a specific goal in mind; I want to learn the culture, the language, and soak up as much information as I can so that I can positively impact as many people there as possible.

And in my worldview, there is no greater power than a community of people brought together in unity for the purpose of spreading love, motivated by love, as Jesus has told us to do.

So I’m going to Nepal and am seeing everything through the lens of mission. I am asking myself, what would make a church here thrive? I have five weeks to visit with existing churches and followers of Jesus, learn the culture, and prepare for future trips.

I suppose I’ll tell people I’m a tourist because it’s easy to explain and is mostly true.

My plan is to see everything there is to see around Kathmandu, Patan, Bhaktapur, and the valley. On Sunday I want to try and connect with Christians there. Then after a week I want to go to Pokhara to see what it is all about, and visit churches there.

I might want to and visit smaller villages in more remote regions of Nepal, but I don’t know the details of that just yet. That would be on foot, so I brought a hybrid of backpacking gear and town stuff.

2:35PM Pacific time
I’ve landed now and can post what I wrote earlier thanks to the China airport wifi. I met up with three Americans who I overheard are going to Kathmandu. As it turns out they are going for Christian missions work as well. We’re waiting for our flight in about three hours. I talked to the hippie who is named Aadi. At least thats his yoga name.

Here is what I packed.

Hiking pack
Sleeping bag
Inflatable torso length sleeping pad
Tarp tent
Laptop
MP3 player
One change of socks
Running shorts
Gloves
Beanie
Buff
Rain Jacket
Wind Jacket
Rain Poncho
Sunglasses
Two battery packs
Charging stuff/220V converter
Camera
Passport
Earbuds
Toothbrush/Paste/Comb
Bandaid/Ibuprofen/Hand sanitizer
Water filter
Smartwater bottle for dirty water
Vitamin water bottle for clean water
Nepali Dictionary

I’m wearing jeans, my watch, a long sleeve button up shirt with an undershirt, a light fleece jacket, and the same type of shoes I wore on the PCT. I’m really happy with how light my bag turned out. Probably somewhere around 15 pounds, which isnt bad for having a laptop.

03/14/2017

I’m at PDX waiting for my plane to LA, then Guangzhou China, then Kathmandu, Nepal. It will be about noon on the 16th that I actually land, local time, which is about 30 hours of travel time, with a 15 hour flight to China.