MISSION: NEPAL 2008
Everest and the One True God
Kyle Austin, Houghton, N.Y.; Becca Catlin, Tacoma, Wash.; Jim Doenges, Littleton, Colo., trip leader; Pete Hohmann, Mechanicsville, Va.; Jerry Isaak, Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada; Todd Jenner, Cameron, N.Y.; Jim Nowlin, Colorado Springs, Colo.; Brian Smith, Loveland, Colo.; Dan Stewart, Hornell, N.Y.; Erica Zeiler, Littleton, Colo.; Jason, Katmandu, Nepal.
Mission: Nepal 2008
By Jim Doenges, expedition leader
Jim Doenges in the breathtaking Khumbu during this trip.
Saturday, May 10
We finished strong on this our last full day in Nepal. There is a six-day work week here and Saturday is the common day off when many businesses are closed, so it is when Nepali believers gather to worship. Team members attended four different churches in Katmandu today, as arranged by Jason:
- Pastor Erica preached at Shalom Church. Pastor Pete taught the children, and Becca and Brian worshipped there as well.
- Jerry and Jim attended Khangri Church with our friend Pachanga (a Nepali climbing guide we met at the beginning of our mission). This church is attended by the Lhomi — a mountain people from northeast Nepal near the mountain called Makalu. These people were displaced to Katmandu by Maoists.
- I preached at Bethel Church. Jason introduced me and Dan. Bethel is a mother church, having sent out leaders to start many other churches. Tashi, a Buddhist and member of our Sherpa support staff responded to an invitation Jason made while we were trekking and met us at the hotel to come to church! He brought a friend, too. They did not stay for the entire service, but we pray that God instilled curiosity to learn more about Christianity. It was wonderful to see so many Nepali Christians — at least 200. The pastor translated for me. Even though I could not understand most of what was prayed and sung, it was wonderful, heartfelt worship.
- Todd, with Kyle, had a very special morning of worship. Here is a report from Todd:
“My wife Wendy and I have sponsored a child through Mission of Mercy's Nepal Family Project for the last eight years. This morning, after exchanging pictures and corresponding from afar, Raju Dangole and I met in person and worshipped together at his home church, Nawajeevan Church here in Katmandu. Our hands and hearts touched and his English also allowed us to share words. After church his mother joined us to share some food together and exchange small gifts. His mother remarked that I gave Raju gifts like his father used to. His father died only four months ago. I found out they had prayed for my health (in time of need). We thank God we were able to unite.”
After a group lunch, Jason and his wife Kristi hosted the team in their home. We spent some time debriefing the trip: unpacking our experience and recording lessons learned. C4C strives to make evaluation and continual improvement part of our mission culture. Iron sharpens iron. Next to God, our strength comes from our members. No short-term mission is perfect, and I could have done better as the trip leader. This was an extraordinary team. I am very thankful for their honesty, perspective, and many good ideas. We will continue to discern and reflect about the mission and the next steps for C4C in Nepal.
Nine members of the team begin the journey home to North America tomorrow (Sunday). Jason continues his long-term calling here in Nepal. Brian will depart soon for a two-week trek to a very remote area of Nepal in search of aponga (disabled) to serve; he and his family will return briefly to Colorado in late June.
ON BEHALF OF THE MISSION: NEPAL TEAM, WE THANK YOU FOR YOUR PRAYERS AND FINANCIAL SUPPORT. You have partnered with us in this ministry. Those who are called to go cannot do so without many who support us. Dhanyabad (thank you)!
With your help and by the grace of God, much was accomplished:
- We played a big part in three medical clinics for Sherpa people in the Khumbu region;
- We were involved in more than 100 decisions to accept Christ;
- We learned a lot about the Sherpa, and the culture and ways of the Khumbu;
- We made many contacts, and made many new friends;
- We lifted much in prayer, pushed back against darkness, tilled soil, and planted seeds.
Mission: Nepal will continue ... Check back in the days to come for a Trip Report and some photos. Look for additional information in future issues of The Climbing Way (the C4C magazine, which is sent to members and supporters free).
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit!” — Romans 15:13
Friday, May 9
While Jason and Brian got reacquainted with their families, the rest of the team began the day by reviewing the basic beliefs of nondualistic Hinduism, followed by a devo on demons - drawing from a sermon by John Piper — and then group prayer.
Many people today believe that there are no such things as demons. In North America, many believers find it hard to take them seriously because in our culture most people do not see the kinds of strange supernatural manifestations we typically associate with demons. If we reject the reality of demons, we reject the counsel of Jesus and his apostles (see Paul in Ephesians 6:12, Peter in 1 Peter 5:8, James in 4:7, and John in 1 John 4:3).
Only about 5 of the 39 books of the Old Testament mention Satan. And nowhere does any prophet, priest,. or wise man cast out demons. But as soon as Jesus is on the scene, He is in conflict with Satan in the wilderness, and according to Mark 1:34 He cast out many demons. Jesus gives His people a new kind of authority and armor to make war with the evil one.
In Nepal, demonic manifestations can be right in front of your face. This is a place to perhaps get outside your comfort zone, and engage in spiritual warfare. We need not be frightened. We are empowered. We are only impressed with God, not evil. Consider these words from Martin Luther's classic hymn, Mighty Fortress:
And though this world with devils filled
should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim,
We tremble not for him.
His rage we can endure
For lo, his doom is sure:
One little word shall fell him.
One word shall fell the devil and his demons, and that word is JESUS. In Mark's version of the Great Commission, Jesus says, “Go into all the world and preach the good news ... and these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons.”
The culture shock intensified today. Jason, his wife Kristi, and a taxi took the entire team to Pashuputinath, the most holy Hindu site in Nepal. It can be a dark, oppressive place. Bodies of the dead are burned and their ashes pushed into the stagnant brown water of the Bagmati River, with its foul stench and floating flotsam. Tears welled up in my eyes when we first entered; there is an absence of light and hope there. “Holy men” with long dreadlocks and painted faces make money posing for photographs and everywhere it seems someone is trying to sell something. There are inclined ramps at the water's edge where people lie in hopes of dying with their feet touching the river. They believe it will provide release from the cycle of rebirths and entrance to nirvana. We saw many elderly and infirmed in an adjacent complex — not being cared for, just waiting to die by the river. Death is highly ritualized; on one wants to be haunted by a displeased dead relative.There is a heaviness to the air. Oppression seemed tangible. We prayed as a group: for the area, for the grieving families, and for the tourists.
Our next stop was Swoyuambhu — a predominantly Buddhist temple complex on a hill overlooking the city. There are many Hindu elements as well, and it is festooned with prayer flags and almost overrun by monkeys. There was little darkness, just emptiness. We listened to about 40 red-robed monks chant in unison. They were not trying to fill their minds with God; they were droning on their desired path towards nothingness. In Matthew 6, just before Jesus gave the disciples the Lord's Prayer, He taught: “When you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard for their many words.”
We finished the day with an uplifting visit to the Nepal Theological College. Started in 1981 as the Discipleship Training Center by the Assemblies of God, it has trained over 400 people. Jason is very involved in the school, which is undergoing an accreditation process in order to offer a four-year Bachelor of Theology degree. Once completed, the wonderful compound will be able to house up to 100 students. The Assemblies of God have now started over 350 churches throughout Nepal. Praise God!
We had fun taxi and rickshaw rides through narrow streets jammed with traffic and a crush of humanity. Thunderstorms have brought cleaner air and cooler temps. Saturday is when Nepali Christians worship. Pastor Erica and I have been invited to speak at two different churches on what will be our last full day in Nepal.
Thursday, May 8
We are now in the capital — Katmandu. It is culture shock. We had good views of mountains and terraced hillsides on the flight from Lukla. Even though he is now sick, our trek sirdar — Kami Tsering Sherpa — met us at the lodge in Lukla to see us off. He presented each of us with a kati, which is a silken scarf used as a blessing in Tibetan Buddhism. It was a gesture of respect and kindness. It was good to see some of our crew one last time.
After 16 straight days of either clinics or hiking, the team enjoyed some free time to shower, do errands, and rest. I delivered two duffle bags to the Porters Assistance Project office. The bags were stuffed with shoes and outdoor clothing donated in the U.S. for porters. The Katmandu Environmental Education Project got more than 200 bottles of iodine for water purification. Our team transported these goods from the U.S. on behalf of the International Mountain Explorers Connection, based in Colorado.
We enjoyed a meal together at the famous Rum Doodle. Kristi Loper, Helen Smith, and the Loper and Smith kids joined us for fellowship. The Rum Doodle is a restaurant frequented by climbers and trekkers. As an Everest summiter, our own Brian Smith can eat there for free for life. Everest climbers from Hillary on have their photos and signatures on the walls. Trekkers can decorate a giant white footprint to hang on the wall; Rebecca and Erica did a great job putting the C4C logo and web address on a foot, with Isaiah 52:7 written out. We hoisted the flag of Christ in a secular hotspot.
Hinduism is by far the dominant religion in Nepal even though Buddhism dominates in the Khumbu region and is present in Katmandu as well. Like Buddhism, Hinduism cannot be reconciled with the truth of Christianity. Here is a succinct description adapted from the booklet “Are All Religions One?” by Douglas Groothuis:
Hinduism is a polytheistic religion of great variety, with six major schools and plenty of theological disagreements. Hinduism is a worldview that has influenced the West largely through Transcendental Meditation, yoga, and the New Age movement. Hinduism claims that all reality is ultimately one. All apparent distinctions and diversities are not real but illusory and due to ignorance of the ultimate reality. This great oneness in Brahman, the supreme deity of Hindu scripture.
Nondualism denies the duality of the Creator-creation distinction that is affirmed by Christianity. While Christianity teaches that the creation must not be worshipped, nondualistic Hinduism teaches that there is nothing but the divine. The dualistic idea of separating Creator from creation is dropped. The self itself is divine in essence. In one famous Hindu scripture, a son asks his father about the nature of God. He is told, “That art thou.” The self is identical with god.
Brahman is not a personal agent who enters into relationship with his creatures. There are no agents, no creatures, no relationships. All is one. Since the Hindu god is impersonal and all encompassing, there is no notion of sin as a moral offense against a holy God. The core problem is a lack of awareness of one's true essence as divine. Faith in an external being (a personal God) is excluded because there is no external being. All is one. Everyone is Brahman itself (whether one knows it or not). The knowledge of one's divine essence is what brings salvation.
Enough said? Throw in reincarnation and destroyer gods, and it is clear that Hinduism cannot be reconciled with the Truth.
Tomorrow we hope to prayer walk at some dark Hindu places in Katmandu.
Wednesday, May 7
“Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
O Lord, you preserve both man and beast.
How priceless is your unfailing love.” (Psalm 36:6-7)
Today was our final day in the Khumbu region of Nepal. We hiked uphill to Lukla where the airstrip is and will fly to Katmandu tomorrow morning if the weather allows. The mission will continue in the capital area.
Here in the only lodge we've stayed at, I already miss God's majestic peaks and the wonderful people who live and work in the Khumbu who are so in need of Jesus. Down the hall there is a room full of drunken people singing bar songs, and outside my window there is a clanging generator providing electricity. It sounds like Humphrey Bogart's Africa Queen, only louder. Transitions can be harsh.
After breakfast Jim N. shared his vision for a new adventure travel firm he is starting: the Adventure Reach Company. It will partner wealthy travelers with missionaries' humanitarian projects around the world.
We stopped at the small church in Lukla and met briefly with a few believers. Their church is on the third floor and is one room about 20-by-30 feet in size. We made arrangements to return in late afternoon when the pastor should be there.
After we arrived at the lodge we gathered outside with our trek support crew to say good-byes to the porters, kitchen staff, and senior Sherpa staff. We shared laughs, smiles, and hugs. We told them they bear the image of God, and we will pray for them. They earned the tips we provided. They are warm and gracious people. We will miss them. We pray we taught them something about Jesus by both our conduct and our words.
Then we all returned to tiny Kangri Church in “downtown” Lukla. The room was very smoky. Typical of Nepali homes and buildings, smoke from fires on the first floor rises up through the building. Many homes have no chimneys. Only a few believers were available to meet with us, but Jason did a great job translating to and from Pastor Sangi Sherpa. The pastor is 22 years old, and was trained and placed by a well-known ministry that works with college-age people worldwide. We sang several praise songs in English and they sang several in Nepali. We circled around the Pastor and lifted up his prayer requests: that weak believers among the 35 who gather for worship would be strengthened, and that an assistant would be provided as well as a building of their own (they rent the room where they meet.) Jason also led us in prayer, asking that the church would become a city and light on a hill — a mother church for the whole Khumbu region. We left the last of our Nepali Bibles and books with the church.
Tomorrow we transition to the predominantly Hindu culture of the Katmandu Valley. The mission continues...
Tuesday, May 6 (P.M.)
Todd Jenner is out of the hospital, feels no pain, and is at full strength. We thank God for his rapid recovering and all the prayer support. We look forward to meeting in at the hotel in Katmandu. Todd is taking medication for inflammation of the kidney. He likely passed a kidney stone during the helicopter evac.
The rest of the team completed the descent to Phakding. Things have changed since we were last in the lower Khumbu: everything is greener, the wheat is knee-high, and birds more numerous. A light, steady rain all afternoon, soaked us but it knocked down the trail dust and made everything seem even greener. The team continues to give water and aspirin to porters in need, as well as an occasional trekker. Some of our porters now know about the hikers’ vitamin I, also known as “I-be-broken” (Ibuprofen).
We saw many trekkers throughout the day. Many have their personal stereos in their ears, heading up the trail. Why? Do they not want to hear the friendly “Namaste” greeting being offered by the passing porters? Are the ever-present sounds of water and birds offensive? Over-stimulated, plugged-in, tuned-out people cannot hear the still small voice of God, or the deep call of a waterfall. We suffer from “Creation Deficit Disorder.” It is profoundly sad.
After lunch, Brian, Becca, Kyle and Pete visited a primary school that Brian had found earlier in the day. There were 60 students in grades 1 through 7. Brian was ushered in to see Lakpa Temba, a 9-year-old aponga (disabled person). The headmaster did not understand Lakpa’s condition; he thought the boy had broken an arm and leg. He had not. Lakpa likely has cerebral palsy. Becca is a physical therapist. With Kyle translating, she worked with Lakpa to help to learn to button his coat, tie his shoes, and master his ABCs. Brian’s vision is to establish centers throughout Nepal where aponga can get physical and occupational therapy in addition to being ministered to.
Talak, our cook, pulled out all the stops for our last dinner on the trail. It was a sumptuous feast, finished with a massive cake. “Yum-yum,” as Pemba (one of our kitchen staff) is fond of saying.
There are mixed emotions among the team as we realize we will soon depart from the Khumbu. In some ways it feels like we have lived here for quite some time, in other ways it’s as if we just arrived.
Tuesday, May 6 (7 a.m. Eastern U.S. time)
Todd Jenner is out of the hospital in Katmandu. Todd’s wife, Wendy, heard from friends who told her he passed “a big stone” and X-rays showed he is A-OK. “It was good he got to the hospital — it was serious,” Wendy Jenner said. “Todd will be back with the team again on Thursday.” We give thanks to God for watching over Todd and keeping him safe.
Tuesday, May 6 (Noon Nepal time)
There are widely varying estimates of the numbers of Sherpa people worldwide. They are centered in the Khumbu region, Tibet, and Darjeeling, India. In the United States, the largest numbers of Sherpas can be found in New York City and Colorado. Here in the village of Kumjung we are in the heart of Sherpa culture in the Khumbu. It is the largest village in the region, appears well off, with little trash and a genteel nature. There are many buildings among the many potato fields. Views of Ama Dablam and Thamserku (large peaks) are spectacular. All the fields and walkways are lined with stone walls. The Buddhist presence is everywhere. There are three large Stupas at one entrance to the village. The upper portion of Stupas have the eyes of Buddha painted on all four sides. As Kyle commented, there are no ears on Stupas, because Buddha does not want to hear from you. In fact, he was a historical figure – a teacher who made no claim to deity. There is a line of mani stones that streches for at least a quarter mile at the edge of the village. Both Kami and Nawang of our support staff live here.
After breakfast we shared many laughs with our porters and support staff. With Kami's help, we got the full name of every person and the jobs they have been doing. Jim N. took a photograph of each as we took their info. Having this info will make tipping at the end of the trip less chaotic, and we can continue to pray for them by name and face when we return home.
Tourists here are often aghast at the amount of litter they see along the main trekking trails. However, we should remember that the trails serve as the region's roads and highways. Anyone who has ever served on a volunteer litter pickup or walked along an American highway can attest that we trash our byways much more than the people of the Khumbu.
Monday, May 5
Kami and I checked on Todd first thing in the morning in the clinic here in Pheriche. Unfortunately the sharp pain is persisting. The doctor recommended an immediate helicopter evacuation to get Todd to a hospital in Katmandu. Kami called our trek support company. The owner agreed to arrange for a helicopter. Todd was able to speak with his wife on the satellite phone. Todd agreed that the mission should continue. We had a lot of ground to cover today and it will take several hours to get the helicopter in. I asked Brian (an EMT and our strongest hiker) to stay in Pheriche and help Todd to the heli-pad while the rest of the team hit the trail. Kami agreed to stay as well. As we hiked we saw three chopper flights go up and down the valley. The last carried Todd. A representative from our trekking support company will pick up Todd at the airport and drive him to the hospital that was recommended by both the clinic and Jason. Before leaving Pheriche, I told Todd that I expected him to rejoin the mission once we hike out to Lukla and return to Katmandu on Thursday. We will miss him, but see him soon.
Our hiking today involved more than 6,000 feet of vertical elevation change. We saw trees for the first time in a week: whole hillsides of flowering rhododendrons, birches draped with old man's beard, blue pine, fur, and hemlock. And birds galore. We passed thru Pangboche, the largest village we've seen since leaving Namche.
We stopped and prayer walked at the Tengboche Monastery, the largest Buddhist monastery in the Khumbu. It draws many tourists, searching for a “spiritual experience” in an ancient place. This monastery was originally built in 1916; it is NOT ancient. Monks are sent from all over the region to study Buddhism here. The leader of each monastery is venerated as the reincarnation of his predecessor and is expected to carry on the same spiritual tradition. In 1988 an American foundation funded the construction of a small electro plant to bring electricity to the monastery. Less than a year later a fire from a space heater burned the monastery to the ground. With aid from Westerners it was completely rebuilt, even larger than before.
Tengboche Monastery. (Photo by Jim Doenges, taken in 2000)
In the early part of the 20th century, Sherpas were drifting in the direction of Nepali Hindu practice, a trend that was reversed by the monasteries in the Khumbu. The monasteries pushed for “upgrading” Buddhism so the ideal figures would be the monks and reincarnated Lamas. During the last 90 years a once popular practice involving ritual animal sacrifices to gain wealth was eliminated, shamanism has almost disappeared, and the more bawdy and violent elements of annual festivals have been toned down. This change was done by the lamas. Cultures are not static.
Unfortunately, all 40 monks were away today at the Tengboche Monastery. We toured the intricately painted worship center. Many of the painted scenes were horribly violent and disturbing.
Once in Kumjung, Kami invited Erica, Jim N., and I into his house for tea, which his wife served. We learned a lot about many things during our visit. Kami owns a guest hose near Gokyo. He has a cousin and niece living in Colorado. Kami is a devout Buddhist, and he showed us his temple room, which was built many generations ago. Since his mother died, he and his wife will keep 108 yak-butter lamps burning for 49 days. This is Tibetan Buddhist practice after someone dies. The dead are cremated and every village has designated areas where this is done.
Kami has many very old books of Buddhist writings, but like most Sherpas he does not read them. They are considered to be for monks' eyes only, not common people. When given a Bible many Sherpas will place it in a position of respect in their homes, but never touch it. This is sad as we know that God's Word is for ALL people.
While walking down the trail today, Jason learned that Tachi (a Buddhist) has a friend who is a Christian in Katmandu. Jason invited Tachi to attend church with him and Tachi accepted. Go Jason, Go God.
Sunday, May 4
As planned, our terrific support staff woke us at 4 a.m. and served hot tea and cookies. At 4:30 a.m. we began our hike to 18,130-foot Kala Pattar by headlamp. It was 15 degrees, calm, and clear. Watching the first light of the day catch the high peaks was breathtaking. This is a show God puts on every day in mountains all across the world. Ten of our 11 made it to the top, with only a solo German climber arriving before us. Soon there were over 100 trekkers in a parade line extending up the mountain. The reason was the great view of the upper part of Everest, as well as Pumori, Luptse, Ama Dablam, and a sea of peaks and glaciers in all directions. Lots of very cold toes. So we descended for breakfast
Team member Todd Jenner was stricken with sharp pain in his side, which he knew from experience was likely a kidney stone. The pain was likely to worsen, possibly to the point where he might not be able to walk. Three of us laid hands on him and prayed while still up on Kala Pattar. I left Todd with Kyle and one of our Sherpas to continue a very slow descent while I raced back to camp to set in motion an evacuation. Conferring with Jason and Brian (an EMT), we agreed that we should get Todd to a medical clinic in Pheriche, only a half-day away. The clinic is run by the Himalayan Rescue Association and staffed with an M.D. We would get Todd there on horseback. We called in Tachi, our acting sirdar and briefed him and asked for his input and ideas. He concurred with the evacuation plan. Tachi knew someone in Lobuche who rented ponies, made a quick call, and in short order we had our ambulance.
God provided Todd temporary relief when we prayed on the mountain, but at camp Todd's pain increased. The entire team prayed for him there. Then it was time to evacuate him. With the pony handler pulling from the front and Tachi encouraging the pony from behind, we waved good-bye to Todd and told him we would visit him soon. We broke camp and headed to Pheriche, where we would camp for the night.
We stopped on the outskirts of Lobuche and prayed for the village. We prayed that instead of a foul stream through town, the people would come to know the Living Water. Instead of piles of rocks, they might know our Rock and Redeemer (Psalm 19). We prayed for softened hearts, for Nepali missionaries to come, and for God to bless the people and place.
We passed an area with 50 or more chortens. These are stone memorials built in memory of people who have died on Everest. Each have a plaque or other designation. There were many famous names as well as some lesser-known names. It is a sobering place.
It clouded up and a steady, light snow continued from late morning until near Pheriche, when it turned to a cold, wind-driven rain. We managed about 6,000 vertical feet today. As we got into town, we were unexpectedly greeted by Kami Sherpa, our sirdar, who had taken leave of us when his mother died last week. I immediately found the clinic and checked on Todd.
Todd had arrived on his four-legged ambulance. He had an I.V. going and had been given pain and anti-inflammatory medications. The doctor suspected a kidney stone; he was being attentive and checked often on Todd. Todd will be kept overnight. If the stone passes, he can likely rejoin the team. If the sharp pain persists a helicopter evacuation to a hospital in Katmandu would be needed in the morning. The clinic cannot make a full prognosis or properly treat a kidney stone. Several team members were able to get in to see Todd before visiting hours ended at 5 p.m.
In the entrance room to the clinic I used my feeble Nepali to introduce myself to Ang Rita, a Sherpa who set a record by getting to the top of Everest 17 times. He said that Kami's mother was the oldest Sherpa in the Khumbu.
Today was Jerry's birthday. Several days ago I asked the cook, Talak, if he could bake a cake. He remembered and did a great job. After dinner tonight the entire senior staff presented the birthday boy with a frosted lemon cake.
We go to sleep praying that God will bring a rapid and complete healing to Todd tonight. With the weather, events, and some tired people, we were not able to worship today. We hope to do so before we leave the Khumbu.
Saturday, May 3
We moved up to another tiny village that exists to serve trekkers and climbers — Gorak Shep. A light wind began in late morning. The lack of air at this elevation makes it feel colder than it is. Many people experience a diminished mental capacity (likely including me). Gorak Shep is littered with yak dung and human waste. It blows around with the wind. Talak, our cook, is doing a superb job keeping us healthy — as are our prayer supporters and, of course, our loving God.
Not far from Everest is another 8,000-meter peak named Cho Oyu. It is the least difficult 8,000-meter peak and the usual routes are on the Tibetan side. The Chinese have closed Cho Oyu to all climbing this season. It is believed that the Chinese Olympic torch team has been acclimatizing there in preparation for their Everest attempt.
In the afternoon, all but one of our team made the trek to Everest Base Camp (EBC), located on the Khumbu glacier at 17,500 feet. Erica, who was a little tired (but is otherwise fine), stayed back and prayed for the group. Brian is an elite mountaineer who knows the terrain well: he soloed rapidly ahead of us in hopes of connecting with people he climbed with last year. A group of six followed and then a group of three — each with one or more of our senior support staff. Pemba Sherpa, a wonderful young man who is part of our kitchen staff, was able to visit his uncle who is a cook at EBC this season.
It snowed steadily in our faces as we made our way up and down and up a morasses of moraines on the glacier. The trail is blazed with yak dung. We passed many yaks heading up and down the trail. Finally we reached an army post, but due to the snow no one was out of their tents. So we kept on walking. Just past the outpost was a huge, brightly colored tent city perched atop the uneven terrain of the glacier. There were hundreds of tents, and the entire tent city was crisscrossed with Buddhist prayer flags. We could see dozens of puja alters, one for each team. Due to the snow, all was quiet as people were in their tents.
On the way to EBC, I had prayed for safety, strength, and that God would hold back the snowfall to reveal Base Camp to us. Just as we passed the soldiers outpost a hole of blue sky opened above. Clouds persisted in all directions, but they lifted over Base Camp to reveal great views of the Khumbu Ice Fall, the snow dome on Pumori, and the Khumbu glacier. There were no further checkpoints and some of the team walked into the camp. Others stayed in an overlook at the edge. Four of us formed a prayer circle there and lifted up Base Camp. We prayed for safety, wisdom, patience, salvation, and God's forgiveness.
On the way back, the soldiers were out their tents. I said, “Namaste, sanchai cha?” (“Hello, how are you?”). That was all it took to have a sergeant invite Becca and me into a mess tent for tea. His English was poor, but we managed to have a good conversation. The sergeant is a Hindu man, and like most Nepalese assumed we were Christians because we are from America. In our case, he was correct. He beamed when we told him we had prayed for peace at Base Camp and for Nepal. He spoke about the influence of Nepal's large and powerful neighbors — China and India. He confirmed there were indeed armed Chinese in Base Camp. He expects his men to be choppered out within a week — after the Chinese have finished taking the Olympic torch up the mountain.
Brian returned to our camp at night, jazzed by a great time connecting with friends at Base Camp. He had been able to find the Sherpas and guide he climbed with last year, and had tea for about five hours with about 30 Sherpas. Word had spread among the Sherpas that Brian is in the country to help the Nepali people. Sherpas often say no one cares about Nepal and they have no hope, so they are excited about Brian's ministry to the disabled.
How great can the despair be among the young Sherpa? Brian was saddened to learn that a 24-year-old recently hanged himself. This young Sherpa had summited Everest four times and saved Brian's life last year.
Brian was able to confirm that there are armed soldiers up at Camp 2 with orders to shoot anyone who unfurls a pro-Tibet banner. There are no fixed lines above Camp 2 and 39 teams are still here waiting to hurriedly climb once the Chinese are done. This could be a very lethal year on Everest.
After dinner, I told the team that today and tomorrow represent the physical crux of our mission, but we need to stay focused because the spiritual crux is still to come. We are not headed for the barn door. God has work for us to do. We need to persevere and be steadfast.
Tomorrow we will rise at 4 a.m. and attempt to ascend Kala Pattar (18,130 feet) to watch the sun rise on Everest and pray. It will be Sunday here. We will be worshiping God.
Friday, May 2
Praise God — of the two team members who were ill last night one is completely recovered today and the other is much improved. We thank you for your prayers.
This was our fifth consecutive day above treeline. Sherpa up here use yak dung to heat their lodges and tiny homes. I saw a young girl forming balls out of fresh dung with her bare hands, then flattening them. The dung patties are put in the sun to dry, sometimes stuck to the sides of buildings. Cramped living conditions and indoor smoke contribute to Nepal's high incidence of disease. One of out of 10 Nepalese has tuberculosis.
We are now in Lobuche, at 16,175 feet, located along the trail to Everest Base Camp (EBC). We saw more trekkers today than the last seven days combined. There are occasional tourist and military helicopters flying up and down the valley. During the walk we got our first views of Pumori (23,507'), Nuptse (25,791') and Lhotse (27,890'). Unfortunately, in the eight years since I was last here, Lobuche has become the armpit of the Khumbu. There is trash and dung everywhere, a flooded stream runs through the village, and there is a paucity of lodging for the porters. It's a grim place. It is windy and cold today with snow in the afternoon. We are glad we are here for only one night.
Becca gave the devo on prayer and thanksgiving. She read Matthew 7:7-8, Mark 11:22-25, Philippians 4:4-7, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, 1 Peter 3:12, and Mark 14:35-36. She listed the many things she prayed for before the mission began, and while we have been in-country. It is testimony to God's faithfulness that so many prayers have been answered. It is a fine thing to journal God's answers to prayer. Our mission will continue after we return to our homes if we continue to pray.
Tomorrow we will attempt to visit EBC. Soldiers and police at EBC have outlawed Dispatches and expedition Web sites. All climbers have been required to descend from Camps 1 and 2 back to Base Camp. All this is an attempt by the Chinese government not to lose face while they carry an Olympic torch up their side of the mountains.
Sherpas are the most widely known people of the Himalayan mountains, but still do not get the respect they deserve in mountaineering circles. Most climbers who summit Everest do so only because Sherpas have guided the route, fixed ladders through the icefall, fixed ropes, prepared meals, and stocked the higher camps. Most Everest records are held by Sherpas (fastest ascent, most ascents, and longest time spent on the summit). More Sherpas have died on the mountain than any other people group or nationality. All those who died were there trying to make a living by serving others.
Sherpas working for each team on Everest hold puja ceremonies at Base Camp. A puja asks for protection from the mountain gods. To Sherpa, Mount Everest is Chomolungma (“Mother Goddess”). During expeditions 40-to-50 years ago Sheraps would hold pujas in small and private ways, often in tents. Base Camp pujas have grown over time and now Western climbers are expected to attend the puja. Puja involve building a stone alter in the center of a team's camp, hanging Buddhist prayer flags, and tossing rice blessed by a Lama. Usually chang is served — an alcohol drink made from fermented rice. Drunkenness is not uncommon. Some longtime observers feel that the evolution of the Base Camp puja is the Sheraps' attempt to promote cultural identity and perhaps even provide staged performances in response to Westerners' desires to experience the exoticness of Tibetan Buddhism.
Brian, who spent a lot of time at EBC last year, described the scene for the team: There a lot of big egos at EBC. Last year there were about 800 people there; this year there are many more. This tent city perched on the rock and ice of the Khumbu Glacier sets up at the end of March and lasts until mid-to-late May. There are both national teams and commercially guided teams. Climbers combat boredom with lots of card games and monopoly. Last year there was a bakery that showed movies at night with the aid of a generator. Nepal employs four “ice doctors,” who maintain the complex system of ladders and ropes through the Khumbu Ice Fall. Alcoholism can be a problem among the Sherpa. The ice doctors' camp was known as “Camp Inebria.” The “poop doctors” carry the large amount of human waste out of EBC each day. Most climbers will not associate with trekkers and look at them with disdain. Brian met a lot of people on Everest last year, but not a single Christian. He did encounter some intense hatred of Christianity among some climbers.
“In the last days the mountain of the Lord's temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.'” — Isaiah 2:2-3 (NIV)
Thursday, May 1
As we had done in Gokyo, Kyle spoke with the innkeeper in Dragnag and asked if she would like a Bible. As in Gokyo, the response was “Ho, dhanyabad” (“Yes, thank you”). In Dragnag, the innkeeper declined our offer to pray for her, but allowed us to circle up and pray for the village. We rejoiced that the team member for whom we prayed earnestly yesterday was dramatically improved today.
Lobuche peeking through the clouds in a photo taken by Jim Doenges during a Khumbu trek in 2000.
It was a clear and calm morning as we began our ascent of Cho La (the Cho pass) at 17,612 feet. Some large ups and downs made it more difficult than the elevation gain would indicate. On the descent to the village of Zongla (three buildings at 15,889 feet) we were treated with stunning views of three peaks: Cholatse to the right, Ama Dablam ahead, and Lobuche to the left. We saw many Tibetan snowcocks — birds big enough to fill an oven — as well as yellow-billed cough, free-ranging yak herds, and many glaciers. We walked across one snow-covered non-crevassed glacier.
We are so impressed and appreciative of our porters. They are short-handed and are carrying monstrous loads. They are paid double, and we intend to tip them generously. A 15-year-old porter is probably carrying 150 pounds or more with just a strap across the forehead (the traditional way to haul loads in Nepal). We encouraged them throughout the day, gave them water, and prayed for them. In a small way I tried to help by loading my large daypack to the max. Our crew will be back at full strength tomorrow night when we arrive in the village of Lobuche.
After we arrived in Zongla, the clouds rolled in, the winds picked up, and it snowed. Twenty minutes later the sun came out and it was 70 degrees in my tent.
We heard from both trekkers and porters that Everest Base Camp has now been closed to all trekkers (that's us!), even for short visits. Incredibly, we have heard that there are now armed soldiers or police at Base Camp. China seems to be taking advantage of Nepal's fragile, newly elected government (elections were just held last month). Our current plan is to hike up Kala Pattar three days from now. At over 18,000 feet it looks down on Base Camp. We will pray for all those at Base Camp and all it represents.
After dinner we took turns giving thanks and praise to God. Then the team laid hands on and prayed for healing for two sick team members.
We have traveled over two 17,000-foot passes in three days, but growing spiritual power and endurance of this team is a far greater thing. All honor and glory to God!
Wednesday, April 30
The day dawned calm and clear. You don't tire of the views of the majestic Himalayas. Since we are crossing another high pass tomorrow no one was interested in the uphill hike up Gokyo Peak. Kami (our sirdar) took five porters down to Namche. These were the people most adversely affected by crossing the pass yesterday. This will allow them to recover and bring up food and fuel to Lobuche, where we plan to meet them in a couple days.
Before breakfast, Kami came by my tent to tell me his 94-year-old mother had died last night. He would be leaving to hike to Kunjung to be with his three siblings, including a brother who was working at Everest Base Camp. It is amazing there was a satellite phone here in Gokyo and the message got to him. Kami is a devout Tibetan Buddhist (he politely declined the offer to accept Jesus in Thamo). Buddhist practice is for the dead to be cremated after three days and various things are done to gain the deceased merit and ease the journey to the next reincarnation. We will meet Kami in Kunjung in about five days and he will accompany us to Lukla. He designated Tashi as acting sirdar in his absence.
During breakfast I reminded the team not to be distracted by the scenery and not become “tourists for Jesus.” Prayer is primary. Martin Luther wrote: “Prayer is not overcoming God's reluctance, but laying hold of His willingness.” I also shared quotes from Charles Spurgeon and Richard Foster on prayer. Prayer has always been a common and critical component in the life of any effective missionary.
Since our short hike to Dragnag would involve crossing a glacier I made a brief talk on glaciology with help from Brian, Jerry and Todd, who all could appreciate this aspect of creation.
I have been sharing laughs with Temba Sherpa, one of our staff. He speaks no English and has a quick and wonderful smile. While sitting together next to the windows in a teahouse/lodge, where our staff took us, a fly repeatedly buzzed against the panes. Sherpas revere all life and I mimicked Temba's careful hand motions to shoo the fly away. I was horrified when my gentle swat caused the fly to drop motionless. Buddhists believe Christians kill animals, which is a very sinful act in Buddhist thinking. Of course there are Bible stories that show God's concern for animals (Noah's Ark), how God made a day of rest for animals (Exodus 23:12), and in God's new kingdom the animals will not harm one another (Isaiah 11:6-9). So great is Sherpa respect for animals I included God's care for critters in my presentation of the Gospel at the clinic. In an instant it seemed as if I had destroyed all that I had worked for. Temba picked up the motionless fly. He stared at it. Then I gently blew warm air on it. The fly revived and Temba's smile returned. Thik cha (all's fine).
Before departing Gokyo we circled and prayed for the village, its people, and their salvation. We prayed for missionaries to be sent and the town to become a Christian hub for the upper Khumbu. We also prayed for Kami and his family.
The hike across the Ngozuma Glacier was interesting to all. It is the longest one in the Khumbu. We crossed near the terminus, and as far as the eye could see it appeared to be covered by rock — a thick layer of unconsolidated sediment ranging in size from soot to giant boulders, the rocks transported from the mountains along the Tibetan border. Most people would not recognize it as glacier if it weren't for the occasional glacial pond and ice cliffs. Unique in the team's experience was an area of sand dunes atop the glacier.
Dragnag has four lodges, some potato fields, and small traditional homes with slate roofs that have become uncommon. We laid hands on and prayed for a team member who was asymptomatic but experienced anxiety. He is doing better. Later Jim N. led us on guitar as we sang praise songs in a lodge before dinner. Todd gave an evening devo; he used Mark 6:1-13 and 9:17-29 to remind us of the place of prayer and faith in healing. Lack of belief will hold back God's healing power. The father in Mark said to Jesus: “Yes, I believe, but help me in my unbelief.”
[Note: Todd, a Climbing For Christ board member, summited Mount McKinley when he was 51 — the same age, day of the year, and route of the man who made the first ascent, Hudson Stuck. CLICK HERE to read his reflection on that climb. Like Todd, Stuck was a missionary.]
Tuesday, April 29
We are very thankful for the C4C prayer team and others who prayed for our three team members struck with illness or injury yesterday. We were under attack. All three are dramatically improved today – testimony to prayer and God's power.
“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” – Isaiah 40:30-31
Those could have been our verses of the day. Most of the team feels tired as we hiked up and over 17,770-foot Renjo La (or “pass”) and down to Gokyo. When we weren't looking down to avoid stepping on our tongues, the views were superb, including three of the tallest mountains in the world: Everest, Makalu, and Cho Oyu. Gokyo is a small village on the shore of a small lake of the same name. The lake is the color of the Caribbean Sea, only more so. We are camped at 15,715 feet.
We passed no villages or structures on our way here, only Buddhist prayer flags on the pass. Two trekkers heading in the opposite direction were the only people outside our group that we saw. Many on the C4C team came to the aid of struggling porters with water, aspirin and ibuprofen for headaches, encouragement, and prayer.
After dinner I reminded the team of the value of testimonies in sharing faith. Your testimony is your story of how you came to know Jesus. The use of narrative (stories) is effective with post-moderns. In Acts 26, Paul's address to Agrippa provides a great example and format for giving your testimony: thank the listener, tell what kind of person you were before you accepted Christ, the circumstances of your conversion, and what your life is like in Christ.
Kyle shared his testimony. His parents are missionaries and he grew up in Germany and Czechoslovakia. Kyle spent 2 years doing trekking ministry in Nepal. Other team members will be sharing their testimonies in the days ahead.
Monday, April 28
Dawn broke clear showing peaks that were hidden by clouds when we arrived. We camped next to a small lodge and were delighted to see Christian, a German believer we met in Namche. He was feeling weak until our team laid hands on him and prayed for healing.
After breakfast, Brian shared the genesis and vision of the ministry he is co-founding. The strength of C4C is its members. Each person on this team is unique and like all of us Brian's story is one of God at work.
Brian is an accomplished mountaineer. Last May he nearly died on Mount Everest when he was struck by severe HAPE (high altitude pulmonary edema). After descending well down the Khumbu valley he made a miraculously rapid recovery and returned to Base Camp. Brian soloed up, carrying his own gear to Camp 3. Climbing with two others he summited at night and descended all the way to Camp 2 in a single push. A remarkable accomplishment.
Upon returning to the U.S. Brian experienced extensive TV and print media exposure. Despite this attention, Brian felt depressed. After much tribulation and prayer God gave him vision to stop living selfishly. Brian felt a call to live for Him. He researched what he could do as a missionary. He found Climbing For Christ and our mission to Nepal. After spending time with disabled Iraq war veterans God gave him a desire to work with disabled people in Nepal. God connected Brian with Dr. Debra Strong, who shared the same vision. (The story of this divine appointment is quite amazing.) Brian and Debra have been researching the aponga (disabled) of this country.
Because of Hindu and Buddhist beliefs people in Nepal mistakenly think the aponga must have done something terrible in their former lives to merit their disability. The aponga are shunned and the lowest caste and usually kept out of sight. One boy with cerebral palsy was locked in a dark room by his parents for 15 years in Katmandu. There are many horror stories. About 7 percent of Nepal's 30 million people are disabled. Brian's wife and two young children have recently moved to Nepal from Colorado with him. Just as Mount Everest led to celebrity, mission work can also. Brian reminded us all of Jesus' warning in Matthew 6, not to seek celebrity when serving the needy.
Soon after Thame we left all trees and shrubs behind. Way up here we have seen many potato fields lined with stone walls. The introduction of the potato in the 1850s was the catalyst to cause the Sherpa to settle in villages rather than cont in nomadic lifestyle. Their spuds are quite flavorful. We are camped at Ayre, near Lundge (4,200 meters/13,780 feet). We will be above treeline for at least the next five days, never dropping below 13,000 feet during that time. It is windy and when the sun drops behind the peaks the mercury drops with it.
I shared tonight how God has called people up mountains for ages, and how the faithful have responded: Moses in Exodus 20:19 and the disciples in Mark 3:13 and Matthew 5:1-2. We are all here in the mountains of Nepal because we, too, have responded to God's call. Tomorrow we will go over a 17,000-foot pass to visit another village. I reminded the team of some important lessons for us from Mark 6:45-51. Jesus knows our struggles, He may let us struggle to transform us, and we need to call out to Him for help in such times. I also read Romans 5:3-5; I suspect we will be filled with hope tomorrow because of what the climb entails.
Sunday, April 27
We had our first night below freezing and morning dawned clear revealing the peaks. Great are His mercies every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23)! Everyone is well.
The C4C and medical-mission teams gathered together for outdoor worship in Namche on this Lord's day. Jason brought a great message on Numbers 13 (exploring Canaan). He drew both parallels and contrasts between the Israelites recon of Canaan and our recon of the Khumbu region. Just like the Israelites we are on a short-term mission. Just as Canaan was for the Israelites, God does not ask us to ignore the difficulties and challenges of Nepal. When the Israelite recon team got back to Moses, the original report was accurate and true. We need to do the same when we return to our home churches. The truth of Nepal is it is a challenging field. There are spiritual strongholds here (e.g. Hinduism, Buddhism, and animism), demonic forces, and oppression. We must not minimize the reality and difficulties.
Unlike the Israelite recon team of Numbers 13 we must not move beyond accuracy to fear, apprehension or exaggeration. We need to have the heart of Caleb. We need to hold fast to the promise of God. God is going to reach this nation for Christ. Be assured that with God nothing is impossible. It is just a matter of time until the Kingdom of God spreads throughout Nepal.
Pastor Robbie, a wonderful Nepal evangelist serving with the medical mission team, also spoke. He reminded us of the centrality and linkage between vision, mission and passion. God's vision is inclusive – for all people; it is global. Vision is love in motion. It is looking to Jesus. The mission of every church and every believer is to give glory and honor to God. Passion comes from loving Jesus and leads to living for Jesus. Every believer is given a ministry!
Evangelist Robbie, right, praying with soldiers at the medical clinic.
The divinely orchestrated gathering of these two teams continued as we both trekked up-valley to the village of Thamo to do yet another clinic. This smaller village is more strongly Buddhist. Word had spread we were coming and people inquired along the trail. The C4C team again filled the same roles assisting our new friends. In all, 81 people were treated. There were many salvations. There were some people who only spoke Tibetan. The border with Tibet was visible in the distance and Sherpas have a strong affinity for their ancestral homeland. There were many children; Pete from the C4C team is a children's pastor and he did a great job sharing the Gospel. Three soldiers attended and later in the day we saw one intently reading his new Bible while leaning on a Buddhist stupa (shrine). Many red-robed Buddhist nuns attended from a nearby monastery. The nuns invited both teams to visit after the clinic. We hiked up a hill and toured their new building under construction, which featured carved wood being painted with bright colors. We all sat shoeless in their worship center and ate tea and cookies. A spokeswoman thanked us for all the care at the clinic. She said they all felt our love. We thanked them for their hospitality and told them our love for them comes from Jesus. They declined our offer to pray for them. Much ground was softened and seeds sown as many nuns were presented with the Gospel story for the first time. They were profuse in thanks and invitations to return.
This is as high as the medical mission team is going so we said our goodbyes. They headed back down to Namche and we continued up. We both marveled at how our God had brought us together. The C4C team learned from Dr. Sullivan, Nepali evangelist Megh, and Pastor Robby. The entire medical team provided encouragement and fellowship.
The hike to Thamo had been through thick pine forests, blades of blooming rhododendrons, and occasional small villages. As we hiked up to Thame, we left most pines behind. Small junipers and small rhododendrons predominated. We are at or near treeline now.
Jerry gave us two pillars of faith to consider and reflect on in a devo tonight: 1. We are fully known by God, and 2. We are fully loved by God. In this way Christianity is unique among religions. Psalm 139 shows we are fully known and John 3:16 shows we are fully loved. When we fight either 1 or 2 we limit the Holy Spirit.
As we bed down a light and steady rain is falling. The sound on the tent is very relaxing. Praise God.
Saturday, April 26
The medical clinic set up next to the Buddhist gompa (even some monks were treated for various ailments) in Namche, where we've been since Thursday. The C4C team again contributed in many ways: prayer warriors, interpreters, and Gospel presenters. Praise God that 47 people received Christ and made confessions of faith! All glory and honor to Him.
Our days with the medical mission team have been good reminders of the inherent simplicity of the Gospel. We do not need to be highly trained theologians to share Christ, and help people make a decision. All one need do is create an encounter with Jesus; that is the heart of conversion. God did not give us a Spirit of timidity, but a Spirit of power and love (2 Timothy 1:7).
In all, 119 people received medical attention today. The medical mission team distributed large amounts of very needed medications (along with instructions). C4C also contributed the use of our pulse oximeter and some of our medications.
The medical team is buying all of us dinner tonight at the best restaurant in Namche. We have become good friends. Tomorrow morning we will worship together, with Jim N. leading music and Jason bringing one of the messages. Then the C4C team will trek to Thame and begin to move into an area of the Khumbu not as often visited by tourists, or The Word.
Please pray for those who accepted Christ today: that these conversions stick, that these people will be protected from persecution and evil, and that will find other believers to fellowship with. There is no church nearby for these new Christians to get plugged into, so please pray that God would plant a church here in Namche. Masonga prathna garnu hos (please pray with me).
Friday, April 25 (late P.M.)
After our wonderful Spirit-filled combined worship dozens of red-robed monks burst out of the gompa next to where we were meeting. (A gompa is a small monastery.) Each carrying candles and chanting in unison, they made there way to the center of town. Apparently it was an anti-Chinese protest. Flyers handed out by the monks (printed in English) explained that Chinese had kidnapped a young boy; the boy is the “11th Panchen Lama.” (The Dalai Lama is not the only reincarnate lama.) Thankfully, the local soldiers took no action. We pray for peace.
Friday, April 25 (P.M.)
Jaymassi! This is the greeting Nepali Christians give to one another. It means “victory to the Messiah.” It is a bit of a code word, since most Nepalese have never heard the word. The standard greeting is “namaste,” which we say many times each day.
After a late breakfast I encouraged the team to hike with Kami to the nearby villages of Khunde and Khumjung above Namche. I visited there 8 years ago and it is the heart of Sherpa country. We will try to visit there again later in our trip. It would also be good acclimatization to spend time higher.
Here are notes from Pastor Erica about the recon to Khunde and Kumjung:
While the rest of the team went up, Kyle, Pete, and I went way down to help the medical team. We planned to drop down the trail and surprise them with candy bars, sport drink, and carry their packs. To our surprise we met all but two of them before we got below the village. They had gotten an early start and made good time. We told Dr. Sullivan about the farmers market; he sent some of his team to post notices where it is held. C4C will assist his team tomorrow morning.
“Eight of us (Brian, Jim N., Jason, Jerry, Dan, Todd, Becca, and I) hiked with Kami and Tashi to Khumjung. We spent time in the Hillary School (started by the late Sir Edmund), where we were allowed to go in to one of the classrooms. Jason gave a quick geography lesson in Nepali as to where we were from and then we sang them a song and they sang us a song. While we were in Khumjung, Kami invited us into his house where his wife and daughter prepared tea and fried dough for us. We also spent time in the Khumjung monastery, which was empty except for one man who is a caretaker. We got to see a purported yeti head kept in a glass case while there. The next stop on our loop was Khunde, where the Hillary Hospital is. We weren't able to talk with anyone because they were at lunch and in a meeting. We came back to Namche through Syangboche where the trail led us back to the top of the Namche bowl.”
The three of us descended all the way to the Dudh Kosi, but did not see the two from the medical team said to be well behind. We waited before making the ascent back to Namche where we found the two at their lodge. They had stepped in a structure to rest and we missed them. They appreciated the effort, and we got a workout.
This evening the team will gather with the medical team for a time of informal praise worship. Praise man parcha! (I like to praise)
Friday, April 25, 2008 (A.M.)
Before breakfast the team hiked to a coffee shop on a military base built recently on a hill overlooking Namche. We walked by foxholes, razor wire, sandbagged emplacements, and said namates (greetings) to many of the armed soldiers. The morning clouds and fog lifted periodically revealing incredible mountains all around us, and our first view of Everest in the distance. I shared Psalm 121:1-3, Amos 4:13 and briefly spoke of Biblical mountain climbers: Moses responding to God's call, and the disciples responding to the call of Jesus (see Mark 3 and Luke 5). All believers are called to climb up from a life of sin, and respond to the call of God on their lives. From the highpoint in the middle of the base we prayed that there would someday be a light on a hill. We prayed for peace, and for the salvation of the soldiers.
We have again changed our itinerary. In hopes of helping the medical team again — this time in Namche — we will spend another night here. The farmer’s market tomorrow provides an opportunity to reach more people here. Unlike our team, people on the medical mission team are not hikers and mountaineers. The climb to Namche will be very difficult for some of them. Three of our team will drop back down to encourage and carry their packs. This morning seven others will trek through the nearby villages of Kunde and Kumjung (the principal Sherpa villages) with Kami Sherpa, who lives there. Kami is our sirdar, and I learned that he has been to Colorado twice and will be coming again next summer. Our whole team will help and encourage the medical team reach the lodge they will be staying at, which is located on the high side of town. Staying here another day means less time at EBC, but we cannot camp there now due to the complete lack of space caused by extreme numbers of climbers this year. We will still try to visit EBC by “commuting” from the closest available place to camp — about a 2-to-3 hour hike each way.
Thursday, April 24
Today the team moved up to Namche, located in a natural bowl at about 11,500 feet. It is the center of commerce for the Khumbu. On Saturdays people walk from all over the Khumbu to attend a Sherpa version of a farmers market. We will spend two nights so we have an acclimatization day here on Friday. We thank God that everyone on our team and our support crew are healthy.
The day began with photos of the combined C4C and medical mission teams. We may see them again on Friday as they hope to go to Namche, too.
Nawang, a Sherpa who is one of our kitchen staff, went to the clinic yesterday and later prayed his first prayer to Jesus. I had prayed with him that God would take the pain he has around the side of his jaw and ear. This morning I asked him, “Sanchai?” (“How are you?”) He speaks very little English, but with a big smile told me he had no pain. God heals.
Before the very steep ascent to Namche we followed the Dudh Kosi up valley. The valley floor is forested with blue pine, a graceful tree that looks like White Pine in the U.S. Wood is still the principal fuel source in the Khumbu. There are also hemlocks, birches, and many rhododendrons with crimson red, pink, or white flowers. There is a constant roar from the river — with the distinctive pale green of glacier melt water — and the songs of birds. There are more species of feathered friends in Nepal than in all of the U.S. and Canada combined.
Along the small valley floor and on terraced slopes, Sherpa grow potatoes, wheat, cabbage, barley, and other crops. Everywhere there are rock walls, and most homes are made of very tightly joined hand-cut stones, hand-planed beams around the windows and doors, and tin roofs. The Sherpa's masonry skills are extraordinary. The raw materials (boulders) are transported on the backs of porters. The trail from Lukla to Namche passes over very little level ground; there were lots of ups and downs. We enjoyed the many swaying suspension bridges over the river.
Signs of Tibetan Buddhism are common sights along the trails here. In contrast to the U.S., religion is practiced very publicly here. Sherpa use inanimate objects to send “prayers” to impersonal gods. Prayer flags are inscribed with mantras — repetitive prayers — believed to be activated by the wind. Such prayers are believed to gain people merit in this life, so the more the better. Chat dar are tall poles with a long prayer flag down on side; they are commonly placed in the trail. Prayer wheels contain paper inscribed with mantras that are believed to be activated as the wheel turns. Prayer wheels vary from small hand-held models to large wheels mounted along the trail, to water powered wheels near streams that perpetually turn. Mani stones are boulders — some in the middle of the trail and others the size of a house — with mantras carved into the stone and often painted. Of course, all this contrasts with Christian Truth, wherein prayer is direct communication between people and God. Our team is being respectful of local custom by always walking to the left of chat dar and mani stones.
Soldiers checked our trekking permit and searched our packs. They were very friendly. There were several checkpoints before reaching Namche. One climber has been evicted from Everest Base Camp (EBC), where a police search found a “Free Tibet” banner in one of his bags. [CLICK HERE to read “Mount Everest Closed.”] Despite the heavy police and army presence this year, there are record numbers of climbing teams at EBC. Last year a record-high 32 teams came. There are 52 there now. The increase is because the Chinese government has shut down the Tibetan side of Everest to all climbing. Despite the increase in Everest climbers, there is big decrease in trekkers this year and local shops and lodges are not faring well.
After dinner, Jason used Judges 17 (Micah's Idols) to kick-off a devo. In western society — including the church — many people believe the chief aim of man is to be happy. Instead, the highest calling and purpose of every believer should be to bring glory and honor to God. Yes, we should and will serve the poor, but missionaries and churches too often focus on meeting the needs of man, rather than seeking first to glorify God — from which all other priorities will fall into proper place and perspective.
Wednesday, April 23
Morning broke clear, revealing towering peaks soaring over Phakding on both sides of this narrow, steep-walled valley. The mountain peaks belong to Him and now many Sherpa people do, too.
At 7:30 a.m. our team began the day by joining Dr. Sullivan's team for a worship service in a nearby lodge where they are staying. (We sleep in tents.) A great start to a great day. Jim Nowlin of our team led praise singing with his backpack guitar to the combined team of 30-plus. Dr. Sullivan brought a message, and all prayed. Many Sherpa and trekkers stopped and gawked as we praised God.
There must be many praying for us back in our hometowns because God's power and Spirit were evident today. Eighty-one local Nepali accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior at the outdoor medical clinic! All glory and honor to God. About 130 local people received needed medications — such as antibiotics, deworming, and anti-inflammatory drugs. One boy's life may have been saved when advanced TB was diagnosed and his father was instructed to take him to a hospital immediately (a long journey). One man arrived shaking with tremors, but after some mild medication and strong prayer left completely healed.
Jason and Kyle served as much-needed and much-appreciated translators for the doctor, nurses, and pharmacists. Other C4C members helped present the Gospel message; offered healing prayer and laying on of hands; lifted, girded, and protected the clinic in prayer throughout the day; and put up flyers around area trails. The Holy Spirit was at work, and it was wonderful to be used. The two mission teams exhibited the unity of the Body that we had prayed for.
With the clinic and Gospel presentations in full swing, three heavily armed soldiers approached. With anxiety rising, prayers quickened. And, oh, how those prayers were answered. After being treated for minor food problems, two the soldiers were presented with God's plan for salvation, responded to the call of Jesus, and made their confessions of faith! The third soldier was already a believer and he took some Bibles to share with other soldiers. C4C gave out 40 Nepali New Testaments and books about the life of Jesus. We also provided 20 books explaining the Bible (also in Nepali) to be delivered to the local church members and other more mature area Christians.
Each new believer met the local pastor, who got their contact info to begin making follow-up visits. Pastor Reuben Sherpa has his hands full with his flock of baby Christians! Please pray for him. I also was able to interview Pastor Reuben, who leads the small fledgling churches here and in Lukla. I also spoke with Dr. Sullivan about medical problems and underlying causes of disease and injury among the Sherpa. He said it was the most successful clinic he had ever done (as measured by patients treated and number of people saved.)
Erica gave a devo after dinner based on Romans 10:10 and 1 Corinthians 3:5. We must use words to share Jesus, but we don't have to be eloquent speakers to share the Gospel. She reminded us of the role of prayer warriors in preparing soil. We are seed planters; we may not always see the fruit of our labor.
The variety of gifts present in our team were used today. Praise God. The entire team thanks you for your prayers!
Tuesday, April 22
We flew to Lukla where we met Brian and our 24-person trek support staff. Our crew includes a sirdar (boss Sherpa), cook, kitchen staff, yak driver, and porters. Landing the twin-prop plane on the tiny air strip on the side of a mountain was exciting. We trekked up the Duhd Kiosi (Milk River) valley to the village of Phakding. Smoke from forest fires down valley combined with clouds to hide the towering peaks around us. The team neither noticed nor cared, as we fellowshipped along the trail and rejoiced at God's provision that became so apparent. We all feel we have indeed been blessed — to be a blessing.
We found a tiny church above a store in Lukla, and met with and prayed for three Sherpa believers. Jason's excellent Nepali language skills allowed us to learn much during our visit. God has a strong beachhead here in the lower Khumbu. Started by a Nepali evangelist three years ago, at first police pressured the young Christians to stop the church. But they persevered and now number about 15 believers and 35-to-40 for worship. Half the team prayed for our new friends: for protection from persecution and continued favor from God. We left buoyant, after making plans to see them and other church members at the end of our trek.
Once in Phakding, a man came to my tent. It was Dr. Sullivan, whom I met in the Bangkok airport! His medical mission team will hold a clinic and share Jesus here on Wednesday. He invited the C4C team to assist and work with his team. Divine appointments have a purpose of course, and we look forward to tomorrow, as we had already changed our itinerary yesterday in hopes of finding and encouraging the small handful of Christians here, witnessing, and acclimatizing to the altitude before heading up valley.
Pete gave a devo on spiritual warfare: the reality of what it is, the role of every Christian, the need for balance, and making ourselves bulletproof. We must be aware of the devil, but only impressed with God. We are learning to move from being a soldier for Christ to a prayer warrior. The war is already won, but there will be many battles. Using prayer, we will come against the schemes of the devil and break their hold.
The team was reminded to be careful with our use of certain words in public (e.g. “missionary”). YWAM and Wycliffe teams were recently expelled from Nepal due to their carelessness. It is still illegal to live here as a missionary. Those that do have a cover.
Before the team arrived in Lukla, Brian - who spent more than a week trekking up and down over 20,000 vertical feet on trails throughout the Khumbu - saw a heavily armed group of soldiers holding a group of people who did not have trekking permits. The increased security in the area is all because of Chinese fears concerning protests about their Olympic torch climb of Mount Everest.
We are just beginning to get to know our Sherpa support staff, and we are looking forward to tomorrow.
Saturday, April 19 and Sunday, April 20
Dave and Josh Lesh, Climbing For Christ members who served on Mission: Kilimanjaro 2007, came to the airport in L.A. to encourage the seven of us during the layover before the flight overseas. In a devo to the group Dave recounted the presence of evil outside a Hindu temple in Nepal during a trip we shared in 2000. Dave reminded the team of the spiritual warfare that awaits us, and read Ephesians 6:10-18 (“The Armor of God”). A sword in an unpracticed hand can do more damage than good; we must use our Bibles, not just carry them. Dave prayed for us.
The Associated Press reported that Nepalese soldiers guarding Mount Everest are authorized to use deadly force to stop any protesters while the Chinese attempt to take the Olympic torch to the summit. Nepal has 25 soldiers camped on the mountain to prevent climbers from ascending past Camp 2 while the torch goes up. We will do our own torch relay — bringing the Light of Life into darkness (John 8:12).
I gave a devo in the Bangkok airport on unity of the Body and its witness (see John 17:20-232). Using a devo by the late Lygon Stevens, I also challenged the team: the time to learn who you are and live abundantly for Him is now!
After praying as a group in the terminal, God blessed us with Divine appointments: a retired pastor from Colorado and a Filipino doctor leading a medical mission team on their way to the Khumbu! I learned much about the Sherpa's needs from this pastor who is doing his 16th
trip to Nepal.
Once we finally arrived in the capital, Katmandu, the team met up with Jason, Kyle, and Jerry. After a team-orientation meeting and dinner we heard Pacchang's testimony; he is a Christian Sherpa who had just come off a guided trek in the Khumbu. Todd closed a long day with prayer. Tomorrow we fly to the Khumbu and start walking. The team is jet-lagged, but excited.
Friday, April 18
The preparation is over and now the mission will begin. Eleven members of Climbing For Christ (C4C) are gathering to serve on high in Nepal. Seven team members will meet tonight at the airport in L.A. (me, Jim N., Erica, Rebecca, Todd, Dan, and Pete); this group will fly together to Katmandu, the capital of Nepal. We will be transporting donated outdoor gear (boots, coats, etc) and water purification for poor people who work as porters. On Monday we will join the two team members currently living in Nepal (Jason and Brian), and two others who will be there soon (Kyle and Jerry).
Team members span six decades in age, hail from coast to coast, and have a wide variety of church backgrounds: Assemblies of God, Baptist, Disciples of Christ, Wesleyan, and non-denominational. This diversity is typical of C4C mission teams, and like all others, we will be united in Christ just as Jesus prayed for in John 17:20-23 (The Message):
I'm praying not only for them
But also for those who will believe in me
Because of them and their witness about me.
The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind –
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
So they might be one heart and mind with us.
Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.
The same glory you gave me, I gave them,
So they'll be as unified and together as we are –
I in them and you in me.
Then they'll be mature in this oneness,
And give the godless world evidence That you've sent me and loved them,
In the same way you've loved me.
This is a recon trip, as we discern how God might use C4C to serve people in the mountains of Nepal. We will be united in our desire to pursue these challenging and worthy goals with a boldness balanced by humility and steeped in kindness:
- Learn about Sherpa culture in the Khumbu region.
- Be a catalyst for Christ in seeking to lay the beginnings of the first church in the Khumbu.
- Prayer walk at Buddhist sites in the Khumbu and at Hindu sites in Katmandu to battle darkness and claim territory for our Lord.
- Share the love and proclaim the truth of Christ wherever we go.
And while we have plans, we will also be flexible, let the Lord determine our steps (Proverbs 16:9), and follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
Thank you for your prayers! It is the very work of missions. We can do nothing without.
- CLICK HERE to read “Everest and the One True God,” a story about this mission trip.
- CLICK HERE to read our Team Biographies.