As we rounded the last corner and arrived back home, I would often repeat the nursery rhyme, “Home again, home again, jiggety–jog”. Home means different things to different people and in different situations, but I said the rhyme in recognition of a day well spent and in gratitude for the physical, mental and spiritual protection we had experienced. Home in Kathmandu was a place where we could relax and reflect on the day, and rest and recharge for day to come. Now that we are home in Newton, we are reflecting on our time in Kathmandu and on our calling for the future.
Even before we arrived in Kathmandu we were hoping to use bicycles as our primary mode of transportation, but that didn’t happen until mid-November. Michael and Lupe Geiss have spent the last decade or so walking from village to village in the Himalaya sharing about Jesus. When they are in Kathmandu, they attend the Koinonia Patan Church. We noticed that they had bicycled to church and we told them how much we missed being able to get around on bicycles. Immediately they offered bikes which they weren’t currently using. Bicycling provided us a much richer experience of the streets than we had had on the motorcycle; it was similar to walking, but we could go further. On one of our first rides, we headed south out of town, and for the first time were able to look over the ridge and into the next valley. Elena says it was one of the most difficult rides she’d ever experienced, but the smile on her face was spoke louder than her words. On other rides we went to the highest point in the city, the Swayambhu Stupa and up Tahakhel, a hill to the southeast of the city. It seemed like we were drawn to places where we could look out over Kathmandu and get a sense of perspective, of the size and sprawl, that was impossible to see from street level.
As we entered Advent and Christmas approached, our experience was truly multicultural. We had joined the Kathmandu Chorale and were preparing for their Christmas program. We decorated the shop and asked customers (including many from the nearby British School ) what Christmas treats they would like us to bake. We waited with interest to see how our churches, Nepali on Saturday and English on Sunday, would celebrate Christmas.
Both performances of the chorale were well attended by an appreciative audience, as was an impromptu performance at a local Christmas fair. We baked delicious mince pies and peppernuts and made English toffee. English church did a dramatization of the Christmas story on December 18. But we still weren’t sure of what would happen at the Nepali church next door. On Saturday, December 24, I was given the opportunity to give the message. Through a translator, I challenged the congregation to think about how to bring the Kingdom of God to Kathmandu. I asked them to pray a paraphrase of the Lord’s prayer, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, in Kathmandu as it is in heaven.” I’m not sure how well it translated, but I had and still have a strong sense that the Kingdom is active in Kathmandu. We were told that their would be a Christmas day service starting at 10:00, followed by a meal and a gift exchange. What an understatement! We arrived at 10:00 and fellowship was happening around meal preparation. The worship service began at 11:00. Then around 12:30, we enjoyed fellowship around the meal. Around 2:00 the service resumed, and then we had a very lively gift exchange. It was about 4:30 before we arrived back home. It was truly a Christmas well-spent.
Dale and Bethsaba arrived home on January 1, and the next few days were spent debriefing, but we still had unfinished agenda. When we first arrived in Nepal, Elena knee was still healing from surgery. We weren’t sure whether she would be able to walk to the Top of the World coffeeshop, so certainly trekking was impossible. But by January her knee was feeling good so we planned a short trek. We visited Pokhara, a local tourist destination, and from there did a three day trek to Poon Hill. It was wonderful to be in the Himalayan foothills and be able to see the 20,000 ft. peaks up close and personal.
Our second day of hiking was a Saturday, the day of worship in Nepal. It was mid-morning when we heard the sound of a guitar and drums. As we continued up the path we heard singing, then we saw the church. We stood in the doorway and listened for about 10 minutes before continuing our hike. Until 2007, Nepal was officially a Hindu Kingdom. In 2015, they adopted a new constitution and are now a secular democracy. According to long-term service worker Miriam Krantz, 50 years ago there was only one church in all of Kathmandu, now there are 17 within walking distance of her home. We knew that the church was growing at a phenomenal rate in Nepal, but experiencing a local church worshipping along a major trekking route brought it to life for us.
We arrived home on January 13 and in some ways life has quickly returned to normal. We brought a piece of Nepal home with us, but now we are praying, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, in Newton as it is in heaven”.