Friday, June 28, 2013

East Meet West

The nasal mantra of the Buddhist stupa sounds in my ears the entire trip back to America, even as I traverse Irish streets in the small town of Sward, where I am struck with a compelling contrast. For over a fortnight I've been confronted with an eastern culture.  Now I am face-to-face with the West.

Clean roadways, neatly manicured lawns, symmetrically framed houses--each contrasts sharply with the world I've left behind in Kathmandu, where rugged houses of brick and concrete tumble in shambles, garbage litters city thoroughfares, and humanity plods forward at a leisurely rate. Where boxy tuk-tuks, crammed with people, vie for road space amidst racing motorbikes and overcrowded buses.  Where dust and dirt cover the entire city in a film-like layer that housewives daily battle with buckets of water that they douse outside their living spaces.

Other contrasts abound.  Monotheism; polytheism.  Rationalistic worldview; spiritualistic worldview.  Addiction with the rational; obsession with the supernatural.

Western women uncover.  Eastern women cover.  Westerners expect individualism, while Easterners rely on family for support.  The West glorifies youth, while the East deifies age.

A confrontation of worldviews meets the missionary to the Far East--in a way different from the evangelist to the Western world.  Where the Western missionary employs logic, the missionary to the East is confronted with a people whose superstitions defy reason, whose demonic encounters stand in contrast to the God-defying Richard Dawkins types of the Western world.

How needful then, for us in the recycle-conscious region of the world, where garbage usually remains in bins and dumpsters, where a plethora of choices abound in the well-stocked supermarket, where wealth, even in what is considered "poverty-stricken" areas, is manifested if, in nothing more, than in the well-proportioned sizes of the citizenry, to remember the needs of our missionaries to this culture, as they confront head-on a worldview so different from their own.

Remembering the need from East to West, let us follow the Lord's command in Psalm 2:8--"Ask of Me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession"!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Memories of Nepal

Kathmandu.  It's a city I never thought I'd grow to love when I was first introduced to its dirty streets, harrowing taxi rides, and 30,000 street dogs.  But as our plane prepares to taxi, I feel two drops of tears in my eyes.  I gaze out my window at Kathmandu Valley, a city area of about 7 million people, and see the various colored homes, triangular-shaped Buddhist pagoda, and pointed golden tower of a Hindu worship site.  Mountains, cloaked in clouds, hover in the distance, and I remember the magnificent Himalayan peaks which seemed so tangibly close on our trek just one week ago.

But these tear buds have not been the first ones today.  The others came as we were dropped off at the airport and Dawa, a Nipali friend who also worked as our Tibetan trekking guide, reached into his pocket and pulled out five silken white scarves, which he and the missionary we visited tied about our necks.  "A Tibetan custom," Dawa explained to our group of five, "when saying goodbye."  So this token of love and friendship added its own special quality to our outfits as we made our way to the departure gate.

Last night I felt tears, too, when we gathered in Dawa's home for dal baht, the traditional and daily Nepali dinner of baht (rice), dal (lentils), and various vegetables accompanied by atchar, a spicy tomato sauce like salsa.  Dawa blessed the food, praying in Nepali.  His sister had labored for hours in the kitchen, making fresh roti (Nepali flatbread), frying massala-spiced papad and preparing so many special treats just for us.

We five American visitors, with the missionary family, crowded about a coffee table in Dawa's living room, occupying the bench and chairs there where the open window on this third-story flat spared us from being choked by the stifling heat of the warm summer evening.

The furnishings were bare, a 3-inch soft cusioned mat of about 5' x 6' providing seating for the children on the floor, a TV in the corner with Hindi Nickelodean playing, and then the table, about which we were setaed.

When the power went out at 7:30 p.m., we powered up a lantern the missionary had brought and ate by its light.  Later, after fresh mango and delicious butterscotch ice cream, Dawa brought out his guitar and we sang several church songs.  "This is the Day," sung first in Nepali and then in English, was the first, with each of our group taking part harmonizing with the melody.  After a long game of Phase 10, which Dawa won, we had gone to bed.

And now I will miss this place and the beautiful people I have met, the musical accompaniment of a foreign tongue coloring every day experiences, the crowded bus rides, the gentle cows roaming the streets, and the chorus of street dogs every night, punctuating the evening sleep like a grandfather clock sounding each hour.

But through my travel journal and the thousands of pictures our group shot, my memories can be kept alive.  And, most importantly, the reality of the needs of these people can be addressed in prayer to the one who observed, "The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few:  Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest" (Matt. 9:37-38).

Indeed, the reality of 30 million+ of Nepal's inhabitants can be mine each day as I acquire Christ's vision for the needy and numerous Nepalis in this world.