Unforgettable is. . .

Pauline (a tripper of Nepal exposure trip 2008)

With the blink of an eye our 12-day exposure trip toNepalhas come to an end, and I quickly resumed my daily routine after returning home.  Unforgettable images and anecdotes from our journey to this mountainous country continue to flash across my mind. . .

Unforgettable is all the smiling faces that greeted us in the journey.  For 12 days we travelled through the nooks and crannies of bustling city squares, tourist attractions and remote villages, encountering people from different strata of Nepalese society.   When we greet the locals by saying “Namaste” with our palms closed, everyone, whether young or old, curious or modest, frigid or expressionless, will always respond with a big smile. Friendliness and placidity was the impression the Nepalese left me.  Life maybe hard, but they neither live in bitterness, nor treat outsiders with hostility and suspicion but  kindness.  This experience brings to mind what I read in Off the Beaten Track about the Nepalese secret of happiness— They do not possess much, but they need very little.

Unforgettable is the only time seeing sadness on the face of Ramesh Khadka, founder of Share & Care[1].  During our first breakfast inNepal, Ramesh sat around the dinning table with us in a big smile.  During the meal Ramesh, to his surprised, was being asked about his journey of conversion. After a long pause of silence, Ramesh detailed how his original intention to infiltrate the church by uncovering the flaws of Christianity was subverted, that leads to his submission to the Biblical truth and ultimately his conversion to faith in Christ.  He recounted the many times he was rebuked for his faith by his family members, who are devout Hindus.  A sense of profound sadness hung on Ramesh’s face as he relived the memory of being rejected by those who were closest to him.  During the rest of the journey, we had ample opportunities to contact local church leaders and believers.  Though their stories of coming to Christ all varied, they all have in common the same kind of rejection Ramesh had to face, or worse, persecution by the government and the painful experience of being arrested.  For someone to profess faith in the Lord in this feudalistic country in which Hinduism and Buddhism has a strong foothold is already quite incredible, not to mention the fearless courage and diehard loyalty in following the Lord as is evident among these believers.  Looking at them I see a reflection of the Christians who risked it all for God during the apostolic era.

Unforgettable is the village doctor that we thought we have missed.  That afternoon under smothering heat we were following Krishna of Shanti Nepal[2] to visit several marginal groups and clinics in a remote mountainous region.  After walking for half a day up the hill, most of us were totally exhausted.  When we were wrapping up our visit to the last clinic,Krishna said that a village doctor whom we have made arrangement to meet may not return on time from clinic duties at another mountain village.  On the way out, we saw a sweaty and burly bouncer-like local man wearing a well-worn tank top and shorts chatting up with another staff member.Krishna told us later that this man was the village doctor who could not make it on time to meet us.  Whenever I think of this anonymous village doctor who was covering with sweat from traversing across rough mountain terrain to visit poor villagers, I see a man of extraordinary charisma. 

 

Unforgettable is the scene composed of a little girl’s innocence.  During the commute from Pokhara toKathmanduwe stop for a meal break at a roadside rest stop area.  There we met with a girl who resemble a little fairy.  When I took out my camera and snap a picture of her and then habitually let her see her own picture on the camera screen, she reacted with unusual astonishment and excitement.  Her eyes were wide opened, making unbelievable shriek and giggle while calling out to a woman (possibly her mother) sitting a stone’s throw away accompanied by exaggerating body language.  It finally dawned on me that she has never seen the magic of a digital camera (or perhaps even a mirror?)  I was driven to uncontrollable laughter by her innocence and guilelessness, and yet a sense of indescribable sorrow also came into my heart.  

Unforgettable is the helplessness of the Nepalese young man who work at the currency exchange. Pokhara is a famous tourist spot in where we had a little more than a day of precious free time to roam around.  Setting aside our mission of the exposure trip, we go all in to shop and sightsee as a pure 100% tourist.  Before long we have used up every paisa in our pocket, leaving us with no choice but to seek help at a tiny currency exchange shop nearby.  When the transaction is finished, the young man at the shop asked me about my impression ofNepal.  While I was expressing my appreciation of the jaws-dropping beauty of the country and the friendliness of the people, this young man smiled reluctantly and said, “Unfortunately this is all we have”, lamenting on the deep-rooted poverty of the country and the struggles the people have to face everyday.  Being taken aback by this display of candour in the middle of the tourist area, I tried to console him ever so awakwardly, saying, “But you people are still smiling all the time” “We have to!” He answered even more helplessly.  This conversation keeps on replaying in my mind like a broken tape recorder.   I regret for not having told him this—besides the amazing scenery of Nepal, these last few days I have witnessed the wonderful things done on this land by many people and the church.  I regret not having told him that the Lord God still loves them and there is hope for this place.

Unforgettable is the large and small hiccups throughout the entire journey—falling ill before the trip or during the trip due to upset stomach or flu; the long commute due to scattering incidences of disturbance enroute; falling asleep every night under the attack by mosquitoes, flying cockroaches and heat waves; a 20-minute hike up a rugged mountain track turned out to take 2 hours; or sitting in a vehicle with two treadless rear tires and a failing brake system while travelling on a windy mountain road on a pitch black night…  This chain of unexpected events forced us to experience first hand what it really means to not take anything for granted as well as looking up to God for His provision and protection.  Personally, this experience give me a sense of joy in entering the reality of local life over there and give me a deeper appreciation of the connections between incarnation and poverty alleviation—because of this invaluable experience I tasted first hand from the poverty of the local people.  Otherwise, caring about poverty will remain a grandiose dream only.

I believe every trip member have many other unforgettable moments from the trip.  What I hope for is that we all have the power for actions to pass on this spark that was kindled by these unforgettable moments.


[1] Share & Care is the first partnering organization we visited.

[2] Shanti Nepal is the second partnering organization we visited.

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