[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="yes" overflow="visible"][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="no" center_content="no" min_height="none"][fusion_title size="1" content_align="left" style_type="default" sep_color="" margin_top="" margin_bottom="" class="" id=""]Get Out![/fusion_title] Sometime in 2014, Nathan Nielsen, my friend and the base director of Youth With A Mission Yosemite, mentioned to me he had been to Nepal on an outreach and thought I would enjoy the country. He mentioned then he would like to take me there sometime. I kept the idea in the back of my mind but didn’t think much more of it.
In early April of 2015, my brother and the pastor of Calvary Chapel of the Sierra, told me his church had been involved in sending resources to help construct a church in Kathmandu, Nepal. He was planning on a trip in the near future to visit the church.
On April 25th, of 2015, a violent 8.1 earthquake shook Nepal, centered around the town of Lamjung, in the Gorkha district. This caused widespread destruction and ultimately, 8,000-12,000 deaths, injuring about 30,000 more.
My brother asked me if I wanted to go to Nepal. I didn’t have a current passport. I had not been planning for a $1500.00 airline ticket, and I was scheduled to work. Still, five days later, I found myself in a 737 over Tribhuvan International Airport. The plane was almost empty, with only a few western missionaries flying in although the flight out was booked full of Indian and Chinese citizens leaving the wreckage and chaos of the earthquake-shattered city of Kathmandu.
Working with the established entities in a place in Kathmandu, we were able to buy black market tarps, rice, lentils and cooking oil, and transport it to some small villages outside of Kathmandu, one of which, a small village called Sikre had sustained complete destruction. Not a single building was left undamaged, and the residents were huddling together under shelters made of remnant corrugated roofing and loose piles of bricks and rocks. We were able to provide tarps to make temporary shelters and food supplies. As we were there, the rain was starting- a bigger threat to the village than anything else, as they were just finishing their wheat harvest, but had no place to keep the wheat dry during the coming monsoon.
The tarps we provided, through money supplied by our friends, our families, and our communities enabled the people in Sikre to keep their wheat harvest dry and allowed them to have food over the coming months.
In the time I spent in Nepal in April of 2015, I saw firsthand the absolute corruption of power by their government and the complete uselessness of the United Nations in responding to a crisis. I saw how the Tibetan Buddhist and Hindu belief systems created a phenomenon of a nation which felt no moral compulsion to help their own countrymen. I saw atheists leaving. I saw Hindis leaving. I saw Christians, and a few Sikhs, flowing in to help in droves.
Nepal opened its doors to westerners in 1961. It is still largely untouched by the western world. In the 1960’s there were estimated to be less than 500 Christians in the entire country. In 2011, the Christian population was still less than 2% of all Nepalese. 80% of the country is completely unreached by Christianity. Still, the growth rate of the brethren in Nepal is growing at about ten percent per year!
The Nepalese people are not blind. They saw that the majority of those who came to help them after the earthquake were Christians. While proselytizing is still illegal in Nepal, the law is rarely enforced and can easily be circumvented (you are allowed to answer questions about your beliefs). Getting people to ask questions is not hard. Every day, western missionaries and relief workers are asked why we are there. The concept of personal sacrifice and helping others is a foreign concept to many Nepalese, especially in the cities.
That first trip was over far too soon. I returned home but continued praying for Nepal. The day after I left, a second quake hit, causing relatively little damage, but costing the lives of 218 people, mostly in Nepal, but also in India, Bangladesh and Tibet. The aftershocks continue to this day.
In January of 2016, I accompanied Nate as he traveled to Nepal to visit and support a YWAM team who had been trekking in western Nepal for several weeks, spreading the gospel and evangelizing to the people in several villages. I was surprised by how quickly I became reoriented with Kathmandu. There was a difference, though. In April, people had been hesitant to walk down tight alleys, and every aftershock resulted in people standing in the streets, waiting for their homes to collapse. This time, a mere 9 months later, people were happy and there was a sense of normalcy to life. There were still broken walls and buildings, and the evidence of the earthquake was still around every corner, but the people had adapted and were going about their lives. The feeling wasn’t that of peace but more a sense of acceptance. While we were there, there were two aftershocks in the 4-5 range, but it was barely more interesting in morning conversation than the weather forecast.
We traveled by bus to a village near Nepalgunj, a few miles from the India border. We found out about a small church in the area and were invited to visit for their weekly service that Saturday. When we arrived, we found a small building, about 20’ by 40’, packed with people, sitting on the floor, shoulder to shoulder, with no extra room in front of them or behind them. There were no chairs, no pews; nothing but blankets on concrete. There were people standing outside the door in the front of the church, watching through it. The church was alive. When members of the team spoke, every ear in the building was turned to them. When the pastor spoke, they were attentive. An elder of the church later told me that they were trying to build a new building, because their church was too full. They had started construction, but needed funds and labor to be able to finish it. No pews were planned.
We walked to a nearby village, where a few of the members of the congregation lived. There, the YWAM team was invited to pray for some of the sick in the village, and many were healed. The team was joyful, but did not appear surprised. They had seen this happen many times over the past few weeks. It is estimated that about 80% of believers in Nepal credit supernatural physical healing with swaying their decision to put their faith in Christ.
The next day, we walked a couple miles outside of the town to a small village. There, we gathered at a crossroads in the dirt path, next to a Hindu idol. The YWAM team worshiped and prayed for people who gathered there. We were able to show an excerpt from the Jesus film in the Nepalese language by setting up Nate’s iPad on the wall of the idol’s “house”. A pastor nearby fed us lunch in his house, and explained that the village we had been in, inhabited by the Tharu people, had never before heard the gospel. It seemed impossible to me. There was a Christian church just an hour’s walk away. The more I listened, though, the more I learned. 80% of the nation of Nepal is unreached. 80% has never heard of the Bible, of Christians, or of Jesus Christ. Proximity alone does not make them reached. Christians are such a minority that even people living a few houses away from a believer might not have heard the gospel. Those that have heard of Christ are the exception, not the rule.
One thing that I found that was consistent between both trips was that people were very willing to talk about their religion, to listen to other views, and to accept prayer. The openness of the people is shocking when compared to the standoffishness of many Americans. Americans are busy, concerned about appearances, and guarded. Nepalese are open, friendly, and have no appearances to be concerned about. The only other place where I have seen similar openness in the United States is on the streets of the Tenderloin District of San Francisco. There, the drug dealers may not accept prayer (though sometimes they do), but the users, the poorest of the poor, the lowest of the low, often are more open to the laying on of hands than many people in the sanctuary of a church. I think it has something to do with perceived value. In Mark 10, verse 25, Christ says that it is, “Easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God”. Perhaps that is because he is trying to “take it with him.” Perhaps the rich man doesn’t own his wealth; perhaps he is owned by it. When we have something to protect, we protect it. When we are trying to protect our reputation, we spend energy on that. To someone who is sleeping on a sidewalk, begging for food, what reputation is there to protect? When you are living hand to mouth in one of the poorest nations in the world, which just got rocked by a massive earthquake, what folly there would be in pretending to be able to protect anything! It is much easier to speak with those who know you see them for what they are than it is to speak to the so-called “civilized”, “upper class” person who wants to be seen as someone important. Maybe that is a hint of what Jesus was talking about. When we lay down our guard, and leave our own personal desires on the table, it leaves us room to be open to His will, and His direction.
As I began to mull this over, I began to pray more deeply, not for Nepal, but for America. My heart, though certainly driven to serve the people in Nepal was simultaneously breaking for both Nepal and the United States. We have such religious freedom, such opportunity to spread the word, and to take care of those around us, but we seem so often to waste it. We spend our time and resources on video games, new toys, and vacations. There is nothing wrong with fun. There is nothing wrong with financial security. But how often we seem to focus more on that than we do on helping others and spreading the gospel! How silly we are to try to find happiness, when we should be looking for joy.
In Matthew 28, Jesus gives his disciples a parting directive just prior to his ascension. He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” I’m going to risk ruffling some feathers here, so please forgive my bluntness, but don’t ignore the message: The “Great Commission”, that passage in Matthew, does not have an “If you feel called” clause. It is the last verbal commandment given to us from Jesus’ mouth. He is commanding us to “Go out and make disciples of all nations”. It is pretty clear. I didn’t say it. Jesus said it. You can be upset at Him.
God doesn’t need your help. He also doesn’t need your money, but he asks that you tithe. Why? Because He knows, in His infinite wisdom that it is good for us to be generous. It is good for us to be grateful, and it is good for us to be active in our faith. Jesus didn’t say, “One or two of you, go out into all the world and make disciples.” The message was directly to all 11 remaining disciples. Does it then not apply also to us? There are two main elements here. The first is that we are to make disciples. We are to bring others into the fold. We generally call it evangelism, but there is much more to it than that. We are to disciple, to mentor, to teach, to bring up. It is relational. The other element is that of “Going”. Did you ever notice that our faith tends to mature when we are uncomfortable? God desires a relationship where we rely on Him. Stepping out in faith is a part of this walk. That ties back into tithing. We do it out of obedience, gratitude, love and faith. He didn’t design it for Himself. Remember, He owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Ps 50:7-15). He doesn’t need us. He knows that we need to need Him. Our obedience is for us. How much to do you want to grow? How much do you want to be blessed?
The most common thing I hear in response to Matthew 28 is this, “He said ‘all nations’. America is a nation. I’ll just stay here.” Variants of this include opinions that we should “start at home first”. While there is a small element of truth to this, there is also a terrible lie hidden behind the scenes. First, while America is, in fact, a part of “all nations,” it is not by itself “All nations”. Nobody in the United States is unreached. There are plenty who are unengaged, but each and every one of them have access to church, to a Bible, and to other Christians. Some may have never heard the gospel well, but every single person who has lived in this nation for any significant amount of time has been exposed to a Christian church, or has scanned through a Christian radio station, or has had a conversation with a Christian. They have been exposed. There is a difference between those who are unengaged in our country, and those who don’t even have the option of stumbling into a church out of curiosity elsewhere. They have no exposure at all to Jesus. That should break our hearts. “Going out” is a key element of all this. It is important to get out of our comfort zone. It is important to rely on God and trust our safety and security to Him.
Only about 4% of the finances in the American Christian church go to mission. 96% stays here. Only a very small percentage of Christians ever do overseas missions work, and an even smaller number dedicate their lives to that endeavor. If 99% of American Christians are actually fulfilling the great commission at home, utilizing 96% of our financial resources, then we aren’t very successful. Christianity has actually become LESS prominent in the United States in the past few years, and it is estimated that there will be more Christians in communist China than there will be in America within the next few years. Go out. If you are truly called to stay here, then stay here and actively make disciples. Stay here and be fathers to the fatherless. Stay here and live a life of submission and service. Actively seek out ways to walk in obedience in your hometown, or in your home nation. Don’t just stay here and pretend that reading your Bible in Starbucks makes you a missionary.
In Matthew 9, we read of Jesus’ travels around Israel, as he raises the dead, heals the sick, and calls Matthew to follow him. Starting in verse 35, and continuing into Chapter 10, verse 1, we read, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and heal every disease and sickness.”
In Romans 10, Paul speaks of salvation and quotes the prophets Joel and Isaiah when he writes, “If you declare with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.” How will they hear? You, Christians, possess the medicine that gives eternal life. You have enough to share. People are dying. They need what you have. Are you willing to give it to them?
I spoke with a young man once who was contemplating going on a short term mission trip. He told me that he didn’t think that he would go, because he “didn’t feel like he was called to”. My question was if he was called to stay. Ironically, this young man is now a full time missionary, and is leading a team overseas as I write this. The Bible gives us very clear instructions sometimes. We are very adept at trying to reason our way around them. We often attempt to circumvent black and white clear commandments with a need for supernatural “calling”. This is often a desire for a “feeling”. We seek out feelings of “peace” or “direction”. Please understand this. If the calling that you are feeling contradicts the Bible, it is not God. It is you. Don’t listen to you. Listen to God. He tells you things directly in the Bible and all you have to do is read it. Supernatural stuff will happen. I’ve seen it. I’ve experienced it. I have observed that it tends to happen when Christians are obedient. This is not to say that God won’t impress directions on your heart. He absolutely will. I’m just recommending a litmus test to make sure that you are hearing God and not feeling something from some pizza that was left out too long. If you know The Word, then you know the truth. If there is conflict, the Bible is not what is wrong.
We continued to serve in Nepal, and eventually made our way back to Kathmandu. There, I was able to spend time with the staff of the Calvary Chapel Bible College. A friend of mine there, Anand Chowdry, mentioned he was excited we had been serving the Tharu people group because he and his wife were both Tharu. I learned that the Tharu language has never been written, and as such, the Tharu people, who make up about 6% of Nepal’s population have no way of reading the Bible in their own language, but must rely on those who speak Hindi or Nepali to read and translate it. He spoke of a desire to someday be able to provide them with at least an audio Bible in their own language.
I continued to brood over the United States. I knew, from past trips, that communicating the contrast to American Christians would be harder than anything I would do overseas. I prayed for God to allow me to quit my job and move to Nepal full-time as a missionary. His answer was clearly, “Not now.” I knew I had to accept His direction and return home. I also knew this didn’t mean I had fulfilled any requirement that would allow to me rest on my “good Christian” laurels. My heart began to long to inspire others to have the blessing for themselves which I experienced through outreach. I read Revelation 3, a statement to the church at Laodicea, paraphrased from The Message, “I know you inside and out, and find little to my liking. You’re not cold, you’re not hot – far better to be either cold or hot! You’re stale. You’re stagnant. You make me want to vomit. You brag, ‘I’m rich, I’ve got it made, I need nothing from anyone,’ oblivious that in fact you’re a pitiful, blind beggar, threadbare and homeless.”
Does this describe the American church? Does it describe me? You? Let it never be. We cannot afford to be the Church at Laodicea. We must be hot. We must be alive. Christianity is a life of obedience in action. Mark 16:15 says that we are to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature”. It does not say we are to “Send penniless college students into all the world and preach the gospel.” The commandments do not only apply to the youth.
I am a 34 year old man with a career, a mortgage, a wife and three kids. I am not the example to compare yourself to, but if I can do it, then others can as well.
As I left Kathmandu, I began to prepare for the culture shock of western influence, and the opulent environment of my layover in Dubai. I began to turn off my missionary mindset and began focusing on travel logistics. After I got on the airplane, I was seated next to a young lady. She was texting her husband prior to the plane taking off. She was, like most Nepalese, very friendly. She told me she had just been married and now was returning to New York where she worked. She told me it had been hard to get married, because her husband was of a higher caste than she was, and both families had been resistant. She was proud, however, they had finally overcome the resistance and were able to marry for love, rather than taking part in an arranged marriage. We chatted about wedding customs for a few minutes, then she asked if it was my first trip to Kathmandu. When I told her I had been there previously, after the earthquake, she bluntly asked, “So you are a Christian?”. I confirmed her suspicions. She told me she was Hindu, and her husband and family and everyone she knew was Hindu. I asked her what she thought about Hinduism, and she unenthusiastically said she had never thought much about it because it wasn’t her choice, it was her family culture. Though my part in the conversation was little more than short questions, before long, the young lady asked me if I believed in heaven. I told her I did. She texted for a few more minutes, then stopped and for the first time since I sat down, fell silent. A few minutes later, before we had even left the ground, she asked me to tell her how to get to heaven. She came very close to committing her life to Christ on that airplane, but held back, because she couldn’t imagine that Heaven could be a perfect place if her family wasn’t going to be there. I believe that this young lady will come to know Christ, if she hasn’t already. How much easier it would be if someone could share the gospel with her whole family! The harvest is plenty, but the workers are few. The mission field does not end at any airport. We must constantly be prepared to answer the questions that may be asked of us.
Why do we have an organization called “Youth With a Mission” and nothing called, “Retired Guys With a Mission”? The youth have no money, no resources, and nothing holding them down. They can slide through the eye of a needle with room to spare. What about us? What about that vacation time that you have been saving? What if I told you that there are missionaries all over the world who need YOUR support? They don’t often get vacations, or even weekends. They don’t all have your skills. They can use them. If you open your hands and let God have some of your time, then He will use you. He wants your obedience and your willingness. He wants to bless you through your service. Supporting missionaries monetarily is great. Do it. Don’t stop… but that isn’t all they need. If you aren’t ready to dedicate yourself to a full-time overseas commitment, then at least seriously consider and pray about visiting those that have, and renewing their spirits. The harvest is great, but the workers are few. Come be one of the few. I guarantee it is worth it. I promise you that you won’t regret your willingness.
If I could ask anything of any of you, it would be this: Please pray, and ask God if you are being called to stay here. If not, I know some people who really want someone to tell them how to get to heaven. All they need is your time. [/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]