Dispatches: Nepal 2022
Mission: Nepal 2022
By Gary Fallesen, founding president, Climbing For Christ
Wednesday, June 8
Trekking into the Kangchenjunga area in eastern Nepal, above, and spending days teaching and playing with SARA children, below. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)
We have returned home to the United States. We packed up many great memories of God working in and through our team members – those who trekked and those who taught. It was a blessed time. I thank God for the brothers and sisters He brought together to serve in Nepal: Adam, Megh, Samuel, Corey, Dave, Brendon, Danica, Grace, Rachel, Laura, Elaine, Joel, Tej, and me.
Tuesday, June 7
Our SARA Children’s team Monday night in our Kathmandu hotel courtyard: (back row, left to right) Brendon, Laura, Danica, Rachel, Joel, (front row from left) Adam, Grace, Elaine, and Gary – all wearing Mission:
2021 2022 T-shirts designed by Grace.
Time for our team to pack up and begin the two days of flying back to homes in the States. This is Day 22 on Mission: Nepal 2022 for Adam and me. It was shorter (most of them say too short) for those who came to serve in the SARA Children’s Home that is supported by Climbing For Christ. The youth from Canon City, CO waited two years to get here, thanks to COVID-19. All were rewarded for their patience.
Everything is done in God’s time.
Our prayer is for safe – and smooth – travel back to Rochester, NY, and Canon City. We are scheduled to arrive on Wednesday afternoon and evening, respectively. The first flight is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Kathmandu time.
Rachel, above, and the team taking COVID-19 tests this morning at the hotel for re-entry to the United States. Below, the test vials being collected. All tests came back “negative.” We get to return to the U.S.!
Monday, June 6
SARA children meet C4C/CFF youth for a big group photo. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)
Today was the last of five days with the kids of SARA ministry. Our youth group from Christian Family Fellowship in Canon City, CO, did their final lesson, handed out treats, played more games, watched more dances, and delivered gifts before having to say (some) tearful goodbyes.
We started the day with another religious/cultural stop on the mission-education tour: Boudhanath Stupa.
Our group – and a flock of pigeons fed by paying customers – in front of the Boudhanath Stupa.
Brother Megh again joined us to serve as a tour guide. He explained prayer flags, prayer wheels, and the evil eyes of the largest Buddhist stupa (or shrine) of its kind in the world. It is located in Kathmandu and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city, complete with shops selling souvenirs and our favorite coffee shop (Himalayan Java). I apologized for stopping, but this is Day 21 of the trip for me, and I needed a little boost.
After a brief lesson on Buddhism, we returned to Pastor Tej’s SARA Church and did many of the things usually accomplished on our final day of visits. Elaine handed out baptism gifts to the latest SARA kids to be baptized: Laxchu, Koushila, Rosmita, and Pastor Karna’s oldest daughter, Pratikshya. They were baptized on Easter Sunday. The children in SARA’s care come from Hindu, Buddhist, and animist backgrounds. They are introduced to Christ through living in a Christian home, but they must make the personal decision to follow Jesus. When they do, they become baptized believers. Through the years, 42 children have been baptized.
Elaine and Pastor Tej with (left to right) Laxchu, Koushila, Rosmita, and Pratikshya, who is Tej’s niece. These four were baptized on Easter.
Rachel then did a fingerprint exercise and taught how God has made each of us unique. The CFF team did a drama, “Wake up! The harvest is ready!” featuring Brendon trying to wake up his brothers and sisters in Christ to enter the ripe fields. The SARA kids returned the favor with a dance-drama about Jesus’ crucifixion.
Brendon’s character tries to rouse Rachel’s character in the drama, “Wake up! The harvest is ready!”
Gifts were then given: first from CFF to SARA and then from SARA to CFF and C4C. The SARA kids and leaders then closed the program with a song and dance thanking Climbing For Christ for supporting them through the years. We are blessed to be a blessing to them.
Sunday, June 5
Swayambhu stupa – known as the Monkey Temple – sits atop a hill overlooking Kathmandu. (Photos by Elaine Fallesen)
The Monkey Temple promo plays over and over on a large screen at Kathmandu’s airport. Swayambhu, it says, means “self-created.” The white dome represents the whole world. The eyes (evil eyes) represent “wisdom and compassion.” And the holy (read: dirty) monkeys “guard the site.” They claim “spiritual bliss for thousands of Hindu and Buddhist believers. Swayambhu (is) a symbol of peace and tranquility.”
It is, of course, anything but that.
Today’s religious and cultural field trip for the youth was to the Monkey Temple. Unfortunately, they were poorly guided, so they probably did not learn much about it. The stupa is a collection of shrines and temples, all of them dark and deceiving.
Manju and Shristi C. with today’s craft.
The group then went to SARA Church for another afternoon with the Project 1:27-sponsored kids. They did a craft – teaching how disciples make disciples – in which a marker was written on a paper plate representing the world. Water was sprayed on the marked area and the ink spread, like God’s Word spreading across the globe.
After that, another “Nepal’s Got Talent” show broke out with singing and dancing by both the SARA kids and the Canon City youth.
Following lunch, the children all wrote letters for Elaine to take back to sponsors along with photos that we’ve been taking during our visit.
Brendon then taught a lesson about Moses and training others to carry on the work. The rest of the afternoon was games and dancing, which the SARA kids did not want to end.
Children rescued by SARA ministry.
There were six new faces in the mix today. They are siblings – ranging from 1 ½ years to 15 years in age – who were delivered to SARA Home Friday night. Tej said it’s his first “rescue family” in the 19 years he’s been caring for children. The six, from the Majhi tribe, were brought from near Langtang after their mother died and their alcoholic father was derelict in his duties. The children were mostly living alone in a hut. Now they have a new home and will be going to school in Kathmandu. These six along with two others coming from Dharmashala (Rolpa) bring to 10 the number of children in need of sponsorship through our Project 1:27. Email info@ClimbingForChrist.org if you are interested in helping.
Saturday, June 4
The Canon City, CO crew delivers a gift to SARA Church in honor of their 25th anniversary, above. Below, Gary preaching with Tej translating. (Photos by Elaine Fallesen)
Today was the time for worship for our team as we joined Pastor Tej’s church to praise the Lord. Laura, Adam, Danica, Rachel, Joel, Grace, and Brendon (right to left in top photo) presented Tej with a gift to commemorate SARA’s 25th anniversary, which was celebrated in April.
I was then honored to preach. I taught on abiding, based on my life verse John 15:5: “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”
I congratulated SARA Church on 25 years of ministry. We have been overjoyed to have been a part of what they have done for the past 12 years – helping to build churches, supporting radio and children’s ministry, and providing encouragement and physical support in times of need (such as the 2015 earthquake and COVID-19 pandemic). I said it was important to remember milestones but only to “boast in the Lord,” as Paul wrote.
And we can’t live in the past. We must move forward because God is out in front of us leading us into service. That’s where abiding comes in.
I explained that “apart from You, I can do nothing” has become one of my breath prayers. I was saying it to myself as I inhaled and exhaled on the Kangchenjunga trek – a hike of more than 100 kilometers with 14,000 meters of elevation change. Apart from God, I could not do these things – including preaching today’s message to about 150 worshipers. Glory to HIM!
Friday, June 3
Megh, center above, leads a tour of Pashupati. Below, bodies burn outside the Hindu temple on the bank of the Bagmati River in Kathmandu. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)
The religious and cultural tour began for our young team members in the courtyard of our Kathmandu hotel. A mural is painted on a four-story building next door depicting the Hindu god Shiva – or the “god of gods,” as they like to call it. Pashupatinath, the holiest of temples in this Hindu-majority country, is also painted on the mural. Our team visited Pashupatinath (or Pashupati) this morning.
Brother Megh, our Kingdom worker in this country, led the tour as we were joined by Pastors Tej and Karna. Megh described the beliefs and what takes place here – the cremation of dead Hindus, whose ashes are swept into the polluted Bagmati River. It is a dark place. It is also a World Heritage Site, of course.
From there, Tej and Karna drove our team to SARA Church, where we spent Day 2 of our visit with the children in SARA’s care, children who are supported by Climbing For Christ.
Joel, standing with translator Hanna above, teaches the first lesson of the day about the body of Christ. Below, puppeteers Brendon and Grace.
We joined about 28 children in worship at Tej’s church and then Joel taught from 1 Corinthians 12:12-30 using M&Ms to illustrate how the body of believers may look different but are one in the same. Playdough was passed out to the children, and they were asked to make their favorite animal. Cats, birds, a rhino, crocodile, bat, bear, and penguin were among the creations. Danica then taught how God can transform our lives into something different (read: better) if we let Him.
After that, an episode of “Nepal’s Got Talent” broke out with all the kids dancing.
We paused for a dahl bat (rice and lentils) lunch before the Canon City youth taught the children a game. Brendon and Grace then performed a puppet play about the disciples.
Before the second day ended, several Project 1:27 alumni stopped at the church to see us, including the young woman Elaine and I sponsored from the start. We are now supporting Manisha in college.
Thursday, June 2
Pastor Tej shares his testimony with our group. (Photo by Dave Stoessel)
Pastor Tej, a Climbing For Christ member since 2009 and ministry partner since 2010, talked about living in an orphanage as a child. It was there, in the care of a Christian orphanage director, that he was introduced to and visited by Jesus. He surrendered his life and then was led into ministry, founding SARA (Savior Alone Redeems Asians) Church a quarter-century ago.
In 2003, two children were brought to him. They were orphans in need of care. Tej did not want to become an orphanage caretaker. Then God reminded him where he came from. The SARA Children’s Home was born.
Climbing For Christ has supported this Children’s Home for a dozen years and today the Christian Family Fellowship youth group (Brendon, Danica, Grace, Rachel, and Joel led by Laura and Adam) went with fellow mission-team members Dave, Elaine, and me to start five days of serving at the orphanage.
Elaine did introductions, including impressively remembering the names of all 28 kids – most of whom are sponsored by C4C supporters through our Project 1:27 (based on James 1:27). There were four new boys who have been added to the mix since we were here in October 2021.
The CFF youth then led the kids in a fish craft to illustrate Matthew 4:19 (“Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!”), which Brendon and Joel explained. Elaine handed out letters and photos from sponsors, and we took a break to hear Tej’s testimony and learn about the challenges of running a children’s home in a Hindu- and Buddhist-majority country.
Saru, who has no sponsor, shows Elaine her fish craft while Hanna Rokka looks on. Hanna and her husband Pastor Karna, Tej’s younger brother, care for the 15 girls at SARA Home. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)
Brendon, Danica, Grace, Rachel, and Joel – who are between the ages of 15 and 18 – waited two years to make this trip because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We decided to use this introduction-to-missions as an educational opportunity where they will learn about Hinduism, Buddhism, and the culture and country of Nepal. Tej kicked off the educational tour with his inspiring story of serving the Lord in a country where Christianity was once illegal and now is persecuted by anti-conversion laws.
Thursday, June 2 (2:30 a.m. Kathmandu time)
The second wave has arrived! Pastor Tej and his brother Pastor Karna drove in two vehicles and Adam and I greeted our wives Laura and Elaine along with Brendon, Danica, Grace, Rachel, and Joel as they landed ahead of schedule at about 12:50 a.m. Their first impression will be of a deserted city as everything shuts down by 10 or 11 p.m. Only the dogs roam the streets through the night. They get to sleep in today as we’ll start our ministry at SARA Children’s Home in the afternoon. Praise God for safe and uneventful travel.
Wednesday, June 1
Corey and Sammy.
Samuel returned home to Phulkharka today and Corey headed for a night flight to his next destination. It’s always sad to see team members leave, marking the end of our time together. For now – prayerfully.
Meanwhile, new team members are on their way! Elaine, Laura, Brendon, Danica, Grace, Rachel, and Joel landed in Doha early this morning and endured an 11-hour layover. They are flying from Doha to Kathmandu this evening, scheduled to land around 1 a.m.
Tuesday, May 31
Team Kangchenjunga: (left to right) Dave, Tshring, Megh, Adam, Corey, Gary, and Samuel on Day 5 of the trek. Missing from photo Nima and Ravi. (Photo by Ravi)
Four Americans and two Nepalis made the short flight from Bhadrapur to Kathmandu. It was only 45 minutes but flying domestic in Nepal is never a sure thing. I’ve taken 42 flights around Nepal through the years, and we’ve had a couple close calls, including a lightning strike last year. There’s a reason why all the Hindus and Buddhists who get on the little planes that fly over the mountains – usually using only the pilot’s visual ability – wear all sorts of good-luck charms. We use prayer to get us around.
On Sunday, a flight from Pokhara (where we built our last church) flying to Jomson crashed in Mustang. There were 22 people on board: 16 Nepalis, four Indians, and two Germans. Those are sad moments because we sense the fate of those who are lost.
Walking to our plan in Bhadrapur this morning. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)
We thanked God for our safe travel today and during the 11 days we spent in eastern Nepal – on foot, in Jeeps in four-wheel-drive, and on Nepali planes.
Upon return, I plugged my Garmin watch into the laptop and saw the official numbers for our seven-day trek: 67.33 miles with more than 46,500 feet in elevation change. I was glad I trained for two weeks in Colorado before coming here.
The survey of the Kangchenjunga area was a success. God opened doors for us and led us, once again, to the right people. We are excited about the seeds that were planted, the two dozen audio Bibles that were distributed, and the plans God has for us to walk in next year when we return to that area. We will be bathing it in prayer, as we do all things Climbing For Christ.
While we have returned from the trek, this trip is far from over. As Adam, Megh, Samuel, Corey, Dave, and I were landing in Kathmandu, the rest of our Mission: Nepal 2022 team was just setting out from the United States. Adam’s wife Laura and five youth – Brendon, Danica, Grace, Rachel, and Joel from Christian Family Fellowship in Canon City, CO – took a red-eye from Denver to New York City. My wife and ministry partner Elaine flew this morning from Rochester to meet them at JFK. We praise God for this connection.
Together, they are flying to Doha, Qatar and then on to Kathmandu. They are scheduled to arrive early Thursday morning and then we’ll go to work with Pastor Tej and the kids of SARA Children’s Home who are supported by Climbing For Christ. Keep praying for all of our travels and for all that God has in store for us and those we are blessed and honored to serve.
The Canon City crew (left to right) Joel, Laura, Grace, Brendon, (and kneeling) Rachel and Danica before leaving Denver late last night.
Monday, May 30
Our ride, all loaded up, for the trip out of the mountains today.
We returned to the lowlands of eastern Nepal, driving 175 miles in 10 hours on the usual mountain roads (curvy, unpaved, and narrow). We reached Birtamode only a few kilometers from the Indian border, where we have to stay overnight to take a Tuesday morning flight back to Kathmandu. That will mark the end of the trekking part of this mission.
Adam and I will then await the arrival of our wives and five youth from Adam and Laura’s church in Canon City, CO. Laura and the youth are scheduled to start flying from Denver at 11:55 tonight. Elaine will meet them at JFK tomorrow and, Lord willing, all seven will travel to Kathmandu by early morning Thursday. They’ll be serving in Pastor Tej’s SARA Children’s Home, and learning about the culture and religions of Nepal.
Sunday, May 29
Team Kangchenjunga: (left to right) Dave, Samuel, Gary, Tshring, Corey, Megh, Adam, Nima, (and kneeling) Ravi, and Sete.
We celebrated the way the Lord brought this group together during a time of sharing and dinner tonight in the Hotel Mountain in Taplejung. Our team took a 3 1/2-hour Jeep ride to go about 20 miles on rough mountain roads to reach Taplejung, where we started our trek last Sunday.
It was not by chance that we came together, as I explained to our three porters and now friends Tshring, Ravi, and Nima. When God put the Kangchenjunga area on my heart our Kingdom worker Megh started looking around. This was a new area to him. But a friend’s younger brother, Sete Bhatta Rai, owned a hotel here. Megh reached out and Sete connected us with Tshring, Ravi, and Nima, who didn’t know one another. Tshring and Nima are Sherpa, and Ravi is a Rai.
This is how God weaves people together.
The porters knew the area and the people, and were instrumental in a successful survey. After looking over a map to discuss a future trek here, we explained to them who we are and Who we represent. They’d watched as audio Bibles were distributed and each man wanted one. Tonight, they received the gift of God’s Word.
We explained who Jesus is in our lives and that we are here because of Him. He told us to GO and make disciples of all people, including their unreached people groups.
Tshring spoke for the others in thanking us, even as we were thanking them. “I’ve never met people like you,” he said.
We are eager to grow this friendship and to see Tshring and the others develop a soul-saving relationship with Jesus.
Approaching Taplejung on the road from Tapethok.
Saturday, May 28
Megh praying with Lakpa Nurbu Sherpa in Amjilosa. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)
We began the day with Megh sharing with Lakpa Nurbu Sherpa, the brother of our guesthouse owner in Amjilosa. He was one of 18 people to receive an audio Bible yesterday. Lakpa has a college education and suffers from mental health issues. Megh told him that Jesus can ease his burden. He encouraged him to listen to the Bible, and then led him in the sinner’s prayer.
We continued to retrace our steps, hiking down (and up some, too, of course) 11 miles and 4,000 vertical feet to Tapethok. This is the entry/exit checkpoint for the Kangchenjunga Conservation Area.
Hiking down from Amjilosa.
John 12 had been our morning reading and Corey commented that he’s always liked the image of the fragrance of the perfume Mary poured on Jesus’s feet filling the room. He said we should carry the fragrance of Jesus with us as we GO. We pray those we have encountered smell something different in us.
We also hope that after seven days and nearly 70 miles of hiking in all conditions they aren’t smelling us, but the beautiful sweet odor of our Savior and Lord.
Friday, May 27
The sowing started today.
Megh gives an audio Bible to Tshring Tashi Sherpa, the son of the high monk in Ghunsa. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)
After our prayer walk around Ghunsa yesterday, Megh and I discussed the strategy for the final days of the trek. It included giving an audio Bible to the head monk in the village, whose family guest house hosted us. We spent time talking with Pema Chhophel Lama (lama is a high priest title).
Megh also gave audio Bibles to the lama’s two sons, who run the guest house. Both are well educated and speak English.
I prayed for each man, their family, and Ghunsa before we started hiking. The words of 1 Peter 2:9 (“He called you out of darkness into his marvelous light”) came to my mind as I watched Megh show the lama how to use the audio Bible. Not coincidentally it then popped up on Megh’s phone as the verse of the day. Indeed it was.
We prayed (and will continue to pray) that those in darkness in Ghunsa will be called into His marvelous light. When I finished praying, the lama’s son Tshring said, “Thank you for the prayer. I feel it in my soul.”
That moment was the highlight so far of six days trekking.
We then began a long day of walking up and down on rocky, muddy trails: 12 ½ miles backtracking the last two days to Amjilosa (at 8,195 feet/2,498 meters). We made several stops along the way to deliver audio Bibles to people Megh had promised “a gift” on our way up. Seeds sown for God to water and grow.
Thursday, May 26
We were reading about Jesus the Good Shepherd in John 10 this morning before hitting the trail. In John 10:16, after telling how the sheep (that’s us) know His voice, Jesus said: “I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheep fold.” He was speaking to the Jews about Gentiles, and that includes those in the Kangchenjunga area.
We trekked from Gyabla to Ghunsa, another seven miles, another 5.5 hours hiking. Ghunsa, a large (by local standards) Buddhist village, is the end of the trail for us. We are at 11,200 feet (3,415 meters) and have come 40 miles in five days. It is raining and cold, the surrounding mountains shrouded in clouds, the way the people are lost in darkness. “This is a stronghold area. That is why we came here to pray,” Megh said.
We did a two-mile prayer walk around the village. We are praying for relationships, opportunities, and for Jesus to bring them into His sheepfold.
Wednesday, May 25
Prayer flags were strung outside our guest house in Amjilosa as they are in most of the mountain villages in Nepal. Megh explained how the people believe the flags keep the demons away and please the gods. He told us about the colors of the flags: white for gods, green for demigods (like angels), red for “hungry ghosts” (demons), yellow for humans, and blue for animals.
We read from John 9 and I was struck by verse four, where Jesus said: “We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us.” We must have an urgency in reaching the lost who are all around us. “The night is coming,” Jesus said.
We set out from Amjilosa and climbed back down to the river, which we followed until climbing up to Gyabla (8,940 feet/2,725 meters), another sparsely populated village. We’d wanted to go farther to Phale, where many Buddhists live, but there are some tired legs on our team after another 5.5 miles today in the rain and 33 miles in four days. We will reach Phale and even the larger Ghunsa (11,204 feet/3,415 meters) tomorrow. Praying to answer divine appointments.
A local at the guest house, named Tshiring, asked Megh if we wanted to see Gyabla, which was situated farther up the side of the mountain. Corey, Megh, Samuel, two of our porters, and I went with Tshiring for another two-mile hike. We visited the village Gompa (local place of worship) and prayed that God would claim this place that He created.
Tuesday, May 24
The trail turned rugged out of Sekathum as, on day three, we settled into the rhythm of a long-distance trek. We covered 7 ¼ miles in five hours, the last 1 ½ hours a steep ascent away from the river. We ended the day about 2,800 feet higher in the village of Amjilosa (8,195 feet/2,498 meters).
This is a survey trip and we are finding that places like Amjilosa do not have many inhabitants. There are five houses on the side of the mountain.
In our daily studies in the Gospel of John this morning, we read and discussed chapter eight. Dave was moved by John 8:29, where Jesus said: “And the one who sent me is with me – he has not deserted me.” It was in line with the morning devotional Adam shared about God always being with us.
We knew He was with us every step of the way today – as He was yesterday and He will be tomorrow. We were taking a trail described as “dangerous” on maps of the area. We’ve seen far worse.
But it is a blessing to know that God is guiding our every step, leading us toward someone who needs to hear, making a way to glorify His name.
Monday, May 23
“The world can’t hate you, but it does hate me because I accuse it of doing evil.” – Jesus speaking to His then-unbelieving brothers in John 7:7 (NLT).
We began the day in John 7 reading how the world hated Jesus and how those of us who follow Him can expect opposition. Our study Bible says, “If circumstances are going too well, ask if you are following Jesus as you should.” Comfort has a tendency to lull us into not doing as we are called.
Here, as we pass through villages, we are often laughed at. We are different looking, humorous to locals. We sound funny when we try to speak their language. This used to bother me. Then I thought about what Jesus endured.
Our hike today was shorter: only 7 ¾ miles, taking four hours and 15 minutes. We left Chirwa and began climbing along the Tamor Nadi river. We were planning on going to a village called Lelep, but we were warned about rock fall on that trail so we changed course. We entered the “restricted” Kangchenjunga conservation area, which like most places we go in Nepal requires a special trekking permit.
It was hot and sunny today and we walked through “flocks” of butterflies at every turn in the trail.
When we crossed a hanging bridge near Sekathum, we began following the Ghunsa Khole river. It’s all upstream from here. Soon we’ll be visiting villages inhabited by unreached Tibetan people groups. This is a stronghold with no Christian presence or witness. There is no comfort zone here.
Sunday, May 22
Sherpa Tshiring, one of our three porters, crosses the second hanging bridge of the day, above. Below, the third bridge we crossed had to be built before we passed over the raging river. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)
We are in Tibetan territory so we started the day with Tibetan bread and eggs for breakfast. Then we read about the Bread of Life. We studied John 6 and paused after the Feeding of the 5,000 (verses 1-15) to note that God does the miraculous. We are told to trust Him to provide for our needs when He gives us a mission.
God gave us Mission: Nepal, not Mission: Nebraska, and today He provided strength and endurance. Day 1 of the trek was 12.5 miles long. It required five hours, 45 minutes of hiking in steamy conditions, including a rain storm. Add a lunch break and a stop caused by the building of a bridge over a river swollen by rains the last few nights and today, and it took us eight hours to get from Taplejung to Chirwa.
The first three or four miles were a steep descent (Nepal style) and the last three or four were more of an ascent. In between was up and down. Lots of up and down (remember it’s Nepal, not Nebraska). We ended about 2,000 feet lower than we began, but there were thousands of feet in vertical change.
Around mile nine, we were dropping along the trail toward a river. Only to see men working on a bridge consisting of three logs and some bamboo. We watched Nepali ingenuity at work as a foot bridge was fashioned. Then we became the first to cross it. We thanked the bridge-builders, all local villagers, when we got to the other side. The trek continues.
Saturday, May 21
Flying into Bhadrapur. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)
Our final team member, Megh’s cousin Samuel, joined us in the pre-dawn hours in Kathmandu. We are six now.
Together we flew from Kathmandu to Bhadrapur in southeastern Nepal. It was only a 40-minute flight after a 1 ½-hour delay. The hot hot we’d been warned about (being in the lowlands near the border of India) didn’t come to fruition. It was warm but overcast.
Our Jeep driver was waiting for us and we headed for the hills. The drive was only 175 miles, but took more than 10 hours as we wound back and forth, up and down hairpin-curvy roads. We reached Taplejung around 9 p.m. in the rain. Taplejung is about one mile high. We are weary from another long day of travel but grateful to God for safe passage.
Friday, May 20
Trekking team members (left to right) Dave, Megh, Adam, and Corey meeting in a hotel courtyard for Bible study. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)
We conducted our Spirit Walk today at our Kathmandu hotel. The Spirit Walk is a concept Climbing For Christ adapted from the work of the late Steve Smith, author of T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution, the No Place Left sagas and Spirit Walk, and co-founder of the 24:14 Coalition. We use the Spirit Walk to unite team members on the mission God has for us. We have done so on expeditions since 2018.
Our focus this morning was on abiding (based on John 15:5) and we began what will be a daily study of the Gospel of John by reading and discussing the first five chapters of the book. When we reached John 3:16, I asked Adam to read the note in our Study Bible: “The message of the Good News comes to a focus in this verse. … When we share the Good News with others, our love must be like Jesus – willing to give up our own comfort and security so that others might join us in receiving God’s love.”
I asked Megh, “Does that mean, getting up tomorrow to be ready to go at 5:30 a.m., flying to an airport where it will be 100 degrees, and then riding more than 10 hours in a Jeep?”
“Yes,” he said, “it does.”
That is what our team is scheduled to do on Saturday when we begin our trek into Kangchenjunga Conservation Area in the eastern Himalaya.
We GO using Megh’s five prayer points, asking God to: 1. Open the way for us; 2. Open the door (or the gate) so people will invite us in; 3. Open the hand (may we find a person of peace and may we continue to be supported in the work by C4C members and donors); 4. Open the heart, so the people will receive Jesus, and 5. Open the heaven, so many will receive eternal salvation.
All for the glory of God!
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5 (NLT)
Thursday, May 19
Megh leads Dave, Corey, and Adam out of the international terminal at Kathmandu airport after our morning arrival. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)
Wednesday we were in the dark. Adam, Dave, and I took off from Chicago at nearly 2 a.m. local time and we landed in Doha, Qatar more than 13 hours later at about 11 p.m. local time. Yes, we crossed eight time zones. The shades on our flight were drawn the entire way so we never saw the sun on Wednesday. It was a travel blur as night merged into night.
We took off from Doha today at almost the same time we left Chicago the previous day: after 1:30 a.m. local time. Doha to Kathmandu was the final leg of our travel, finishing about 30 hours of airtime. We landed in Nepal and were united with the fourth American on our team, Corey, who was waiting for us at the luggage carousal. All of our bags arrived shortly thereafter, thanks be to God.
We then exited the terminal to a waiting Megh and Tej, who drove us to our hotel. We ate breakfast together and started to get acquainted and reacquainted with one another. God is weaving this team together to GO into a new area, and we are excited to see where and how He will lead us.
Tuesday, May 17
Adam and I flew from Denver and met up at Chicago O’Hare with Dave, who flew from Rochester, NY. The usual travel stuff always occurs (like a jetway not working and passengers on the plane becoming upset because they are missing connections), but we go with the flow. We will be spending Wednesday flying to Doha, Qatar (leaving Chicago at 1 a.m.). We are scheduled to arrive in Kathmandu Thursday morning, God willing. Traveling on!
“As the dew is dried up by the morning sun, so are the sins of mankind by the sight of Himachal.” – quoted from the Puranas (ancient Hindu mythological writings)
I read the quote above in legendary late British mountaineer Doug Scott’s book, Kangchenjunga: The Himalayan Giant. My first thought was the only Son that will dry up the sins of those living in the remote corners of the Himalaya – and everywhere else in the world – is Jesus Christ. That is why we GO to places others cannot or will not. To deliver the Good News of Jesus, whose death on the cross and victory over death through the resurrection is the only way, truth, and life for humankind.
We are GO-ing for the first time to Kangchenjunga in eastern Nepal. This is the world’s third-highest mountain at 28,169 feet (8,586 meters). It is located on the border between eastern Nepal and western Sikkim (India) – “a considerable massif with many inspiring and formidable satellite peaks,” Scott wrote. “All possess degrees of religious significance for the local people.” Some of those peaks remain unclimbed – closed to mountaineering – to ensure the well-being of the local people. “Local villagers do not want the mountain’s deity to be disturbed.”
The Kangchenjunga area is a Buddhist stronghold and Nepal is a predominantly (81 percent) Hindu country. The people – Hindu and Buddhist – believe in and worship innumerable gods.
Hindus, for example, have attributed the formation of Kathmandu Valley to Vishnu, who used his mighty sword to cut into the earth. Another legend claims Krishna, the physical embodiment of Vishnu, emptied Kathmandu Valley of water by throwing a thunderbolt, which produced a gorge through which the holy Bagmati River runs.
Some folk beliefs are close to (yet far from) the Truth. The Lepcha people, for instance, believe the first couple were created by Itbu Mu from the virgin snows of Kangchenjunga’s summit. “It is their own Garden of Eden story,” Scott wrote.
On one of the satellite peaks, the sacred Jannu, the Limbu people believe “according to their ancient religious texts, the gods meet, as they have done since creation. On the summit of (Jannu) the three creator and developer gods gathered for the purpose of creating human beings.” These are people ready to learn about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Jesuit priests first came to the region in the 1600s and 1700s, traveling across the Himalaya “without map or much information,” Scott wrote. They faced “dreadful hardship: freezing weather, periods of drought, stupendous gorges, and high passes where the oxygen was one third less than at sea level; local rulers who might forbid progress, or bandits who might rob or kill them. There is some evidence for the latter, but more missionaries died from illness or sheer exhaustion.” They went because a “lost nation” of Christians had been cut off by “evangelic Muslim hordes.” They also went on “their remarkable journeys” to “convert the heathen to Christianity.”
We GO to help the lost find the Way.
What today takes several days of air, bus or Jeep, and foot travel was an epic years-in-the-making journey for early missionaries who traveled across seas by ship and land by animal and foot. What they found then is often not so different from what we find today: pilgrims prostrating themselves before holy mountains and locals living lives of superstition. It is into this climate and culture that we enter, carrying “The Treasure” (audio Bibles) and the Word of God in our hearts and on our lips.
“That is why the Scriptures say, ‘How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!’” (Romans 10:15, quoting Isaiah 52:7).
Our team – Adam Copper from Colorado, Corey Slider from Pennsylvania, and Dave Stoessel and I from New York – will be guided by Climbing For Christ’s Nepali Kingdom worker Megh Gurung and his cousin Samuel Gurung. This trekking team will be joined later by my wife Elaine, Adam’s wife Laura, and five senior-high youth (Brendon Chavez, Danica Clanton, Grace and Rachel Comstock, and Joel Leone) from Christian Family Fellowship in Canon City, CO, who are coming to Kathmandu to serve in ministry partner Pastor Tej Rokka’s SARA Children’s Home. The Children’s Home is sponsored by Climbing For Christ through Project 1:27 (based on James 1:27).
We GO because we love Jesus, who loved us first (1 John 4:19), and because others need to hear about this eternal love. May many have ears to hear. Pray on! Glory to God alone.
“He himself [Jesus] is the sacrifice that atones for our sins – and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.” – 1 John 2:2 (NLT)