An Asian Access service trip diary
My wife Kyle and I recently got a rare treat: A chance to join some of our closest friends on an earthquake-repair service trip to Nepal through Asian Access.
Six leaders from Community Covenant Church in El Cajon, California (our home church) met up with us last month in Kathmandu. There, we connected with our in-country Asian Access leaders for a week that combined hard physical labor in a rural village with up-close encounters with men, women, and children who are being touched by the love of Christ through our local leaders’ many outreach efforts.
But rather than having me tell you about it, I’d like to share some excerpts from trip diaries that two of my friends kept during their time in Nepal. Let them tell you what they saw and experienced in their own words:
“About four hours into the trip, we suddenly turned onto a dirt road that led us up to the village of -----. This community had only become vehicle-accessible within the past year. Still, there were few vehicles. Most of the traveling was by foot, including many sightings of the toughest women on the planet: Nepalese trudging directly up the steep slopes bearing enormous weight in a head-strap basket.
“The heart of the community was a collection of dwellings atop a small ridge. They housed about six groups of one extended family. The homes ranged from stone to tin to a shed with walls of dried leaves (the temporary home of the lead pastor whose home was damaged by the earthquake).
“At the north end of the village was the newly-built church, simple but very nicely constructed. The church could hold about 150 people. When asked where they come from, our leader pointed to distant hills and valleys. Some people walk well over two hours just to get to church service. Guess they’re a little more motivated than us to fellowship with Jesus and with their Christian brothers and sisters?”
“The pastor's house had partially collapsed in the recent earthquakes. Our job was to take down the structure, sorting through the building materials as we went. Everything would be reused.
“The pastor whose house we were working on had been a founder of the area church movement. That church has now grown to over 200 members. They are meeting outside for services until the new church building is finished.”
“Sleeping overnight in the village completely changed the way I felt. I went to sleep feeling disoriented and foreign, our beds belonged to our hosts, and they were displacing themselves to make room for us. When I awoke and left my room, I could then appreciate the beauty of the surrounding valley. In the distance to the north, you could just make out the Himalayas, up as high as the clouds.
“The people are subsistence farmers and very self-sufficient. Everything they need, they have nearby. The goats and chickens often inspected our work when we had finished making a new rock pile. We worked five hours the first day and four hours the next. When we finished, our leader translated for the local pastor, who thanked us and shared his own story.”
“All Nepalese are friendly, but I did detect a lightness about the Christians in this village. They were more than hospitable. They seemed happier, they smiled more. Is this the work of God?
“In the US, we hear about people who are happy with little and philosophically, we like it and believe it. Actually seeing it is more persuasive, especially when the people seem to have so little and life is so much more work: getting water, washing clothes, going to school and market, cooking, feeding the livestock, tending the garden, staying warm. All these take huge amounts of time and physical effort, yet I never saw on their faces the weariness I would have expected. Ironically, I saw them most happy when they were giving of their meager resources: serving food to us and giving up their beds for us.”
“I personally feel a sense of inadequacy in this trip. When we are served and hosted by these people who are doing so much with so little; I feel embarrassed to be taking their time and resources. When we do some activity to try to give back, I am reminded how these are token gestures really.
“I'm used to being competent and in control and being the giver or provider. That's all thrown on its head on this trip.”
“We enjoyed a long and blessed debrief with our Nepalese leaders. When we first arrived in Nepal, I initially reserved my judgment on them, but after observing them over five days, I have found them to be sincere, passionate and effective minsters, spreading God’s reign through their acts of helping others and by sharing the Gospel.
“These leaders provide a wonderful model of Christian leadership: a servant’s heart, an entrepreneur’s boldness and foresight; a prophet’s passion and a diplomat’s sensitivity. I especially appreciate their true humility. It’s not the false humility that would be much more fashionable: “Oh, I’m nothing.” It is the humility that C.S. Lewis describes so well in Mere Christianity: telling the truth while giving credit to God and putting it all in proper perspective. They both did this so well as they freely talked about things they’ve chosen and accomplished in their ministry without any sense of self-aggrandizement.
“Though they are clearly national leaders who have accomplished much, I never got the sense that they were puffing themselves up trying to convince us of their worth; they were simply telling their story and having genuine joy in it. The whole of their character and the actions of their life already testify from Who their accomplishments come and from Whom they receive their affirmation.”
We are excited that our Asian Access in-country leaders will be joining us at Community Covenant soon to share about their lives and ministry with more of our area friends. And we are looking forward to seeing how God is going to use this service trip to build long-term relationships between us and our Nepalese brothers and sisters.
I hope that you will have the opportunity, whether through Asian Access or by some other means, to serve the Lord through a faith- and worldview-stretching service trip. As another of our friends on the trip put it…
”Hanging with your buddies, trying to make a difference…what could be better than this?”