Short term mission in Nepal: a reflection

I’m back in the UK after completing a short mission trip with Interserve in Nepal for just over 2 weeks. What a complicated, adrenaline filled, wonderful, frustrating, inspiring, delicious experience it was! This is a whistle stop tour, so please bare with me cos its pretty long!

This past April the country suffered an earthquake that left thousands and dead and even more homeless. Interserve had planned to go to Nepal prior to the earthquake, but as I witnessed the ongoing media coverage, I felt compassion and wonder at a country determined to ‘get back to normal’ even after such a life changing event. The earthquake made Nepal even more vulnerable, and as a country rife with injustice, it gave those willing to exploit an even larger opportunity to carry out their exploitation.

My expectations before travelling were simply this: I am not going to change the world in 2 and half weeks, contrary to popular belief! I am going to learn and witness first hand work that is being done to prevent exploitation and bring about justice through sustainable social business. I had not even contemplated the concept that Nepal has the fastest growing church in the world. And that the government is on the verge of releasing a constitution focusing mainly on religion which has spun the country into political rife and uncertainty! How influential those latter events had been in our trip!

There is a heck of a lot of stuff going on Nepal at this moment in time. Then our team of 8 white, fairly middle class, foreign Christian tourist missionaries showed up….

We arrived in Kathmandu to a hearty welcome from the staff at the Interserve mission partner we would be working alongside. The company exists to encourage transformation through justice and adventure tourism with 3 social businesses: a B&B, cafe, and adventure tours. Bonus is, they are Christians! What is genius and got me totally buzzing when I got there was that actually, the company is completely accessible for non-christians as a tourism company and their passion for christians and non-christians is shared across the board!

The B&B business is superb. Its friendly and cosy and employs women at risk of exploitation to work in all aspects of the business. They have a ton of activities to choose from – adventure tours, prayer walks, scavenger hunts and they really made us feel welcome when we touched down. It was on a justice tour that this issue of exploitation in Kathmandu and Nepal in general really started to impact me, and the team. We visited cabin restaurants, observed massage parlours and discussed the history of the sex industry with the in country staff. It was an eye opening experience, setting the scene for our trip as we prepared to leave Kathmandu and head for Nepalgunj, where we would be completing most of our mission work. Although this justice tour was hard going, nothing inspired hope more than arriving back at the B&B. There was an overwhelming light that exudes from the house and its staff and the presence of God is wholly real and prevalent there!

Whilst I believe the Holy Spirit has claimed the B&B I was reminded that when you feel like you make headway with Christ and proclaim the gospel, the enemy finds a way to infiltrate forcing you backwards. Our time in Kathmandu set our scene for injustice but also allowed our feelings of spiritual battle to surface also. Members of the team struggled with illness, sleep deprivation and had concerning dreams in those first few days in Nepal which really put our trip in perspective. We committed to praying hard each day, for the staff and for the community work we would accomplish and the political situation, willing God to influence the constitution and quiet fears of protest and anger.

Before we knew it, it was time to hop on a plane to Nepalgunj, the second biggest city in Nepal which is right on the Nepal/India border. Now the reason Nepalgunj was on our radar was for that very reason – the border. It has recently been encouraging more exploitation to take place with girls being taken for sex and migrant workers taken for labour. We visited the border and spoke with police officers. The relationships between the partner and the police were incredible to see! Usually some of the in country staff and/partners are allowed to work with the police to interview potential exploiters and observe those at risk of exploitation. As we listened we prayed, aware that the border was in fact quieter than normal due to political unrest – more police were on duty – and we were assured that it can be quite easy for those at risk of exploitation to be moved across the border into India with no hope for returning.

Our guide and translator and overall hero took us to a bunch of his friends’ houses, where we were able to listen and pray into their stories of how they committed themselves to Christ and the persecutions they were receiving as a result of it. One lady shared that she was the only Christian in her village, and that the rest of her community disliked her because they believed she had annoyed the Hindu Gods by accepting Jesus and not serving the other Gods. I had never heard a story like that before, and truthfully, I was really shocked.

As we hung out in Nepalunj, we noticed more and more the affect the government was having on the political situation. Cars were prohibited on the roads, shops and businesses were closed and schools stopped classes for days on end. Local people got restless and countless police stood on street corners with riot shields ready to intervene if anything got serious. I am reminded of one experience we had at the end of our trip when we stopped for lunch in a little shop in the central market. It was our last day in Nepalgunj and we entered the shop to eat. Before we knew it the first shutter on the window was down and we could hear voices on a loud speaker just outside the shop. It was clear that this shop had been feeding the incoming protesters and then before he knew it the shop keeper had 8 foreigners sat cautiously at the back of his shop waiting to be served. People in Nepal are scared Christians are going to convert them. They believe most white people are Christians – hence our caution whilst travelling around Nepalgunj! So we are in this shop, drinking our cokes and snacking on our samosas, when a group of at least 50 or so march past the shop, shouting, chanting and waving sticks and machetes. Our shop keeper lowers the second shutter and we down our cokes and quietly get moving. It was a scary moment. The local people have such pent up anger and frustration – anything small could have set them off – including our white tourist faces!

During our time in Nepalgunj we were scheduled to visit some different community groups to deliver some basic teaching on multiple subjects. We presented a lot, to bible school students, women in credit groups, and then a specific community group called the Badi. They are deemed to be the lowest Hindu caste group of Nepal suffering much discrimination from other Nepali people groups and are known quite consciously as the prostitute community. Parents raise their children to become prostitutes, encouraging them never to marry and to aspire to this profession much like their ancestors. The prostitution of the community emerged from a livelihood of dancing and entertainment, and now the community people maintain this worldview to outsiders. We were to visit this community on two occasions but due to lack of transport were unable to. One of these communities also cancelled on us because they were paid to protest in the upcoming political marches in Nepalgunj! When we did visit a Badi community closer to where we were staying, it was a total highlight for me. The village leader was ballsy and welcoming and we delivered our program on a communal rooftop in the sweltering sun to around 50 women and children! It was chaos! We sang songs and taught some basic hygiene principles in hand washing and tooth brushing. We painted hands and invited the women to do a hand print on paper, so that they could practice washing their hands afterwards in a nearby bucket of water. After hand washing we wanted to encourage a practice of gratefulness and thankfulness – something we believed and prayed the Badi could have more of, especially in their current situation, so invited the women to write their thanks on strips of paper that we then made into one long paper chain. It was a short and sweet day of working with the community and allowed us a team to start to understand the complexity of this people group. For so long they have not cared what anyone has thought of them and they have been proud of their profession as they follow on from their ancestors. We may not have inspired them to give up their profession, but I firmly believe our work that day encouraged the relationship the partners have with the community to help further future development, so that an ultimate worldview shift can take place in their minds, bodies and hearts.

On multiple occasions we had the opportunity to meet and pray with women who had been loaned funds from the partner to start their own business. We met M, an ex prostitute who was now working as a tailor to support her young daughter. She was incredibly kind and generous to us and our translators and partners sung her praises exclaiming her gift of hospitality and hardworking spirit. She wasn’t a Christian, but wanted us to pray and keep praying for her and our translators sister who works closely with M and other women, mentioned that they had been reading the bible together and learning more about God, which was really exciting to hear!

P borrowed some money to complete a training course in the production of shoes. She has a small shop in Nepalgunj that sells school shoes, smart black shoes for men, and sandals for women. The shop had only been open for a couple of weeks and we were delighted to meet her and her two children and see the amazing handicraft that was her shoe collection! A few of our team bought some of her shoes, which I’m pretty sure counted as her first couple of customers! We learnt of her story and how she came to train, own and now run her business. She had been in a couple of abusive relationships, with husbands promising her goodwill and treating her appalling, as well as some domestic exploitation that occurred during the Civil war where she was forced to leave her village in search of work. Now she says her husband lives abroad, and that she is fearful of his return and what he will make of her new skills and success. When she shared this story with us she said that only the day before a Muslim man had asked her to be his wife in return for her working for him using the skills she had developed in shoe making and running her business. I felt such awe at P’s ability to continue working and providing for her family, and although she mentioned she is still worried about money I believe and pray that she will experience tremendous favour as she continues to attend the local church affiliated and learns more about Jesus.

After some fun in Bardia National Park at the end of our trip in Nepalgunj, we made it safely back to Kathmandu to the B&B to catch up with the staff and complete our shopping and preparations for going home. Once back in Kathmandu, we learnt that 24 hours after we had left Nepalgunj, 8 police officers had been killed and a 9pm to 9am curfew had been put in place to protect the local people. It is only now that I reflect on our experience that I realised how much God protected us in Nepalgunj! I have never known anything like the protection and provision felt in Nepalgunj on the days we were there. I still feel connected to the spiritual battle in Nepal and believe that prayer for the country and Christians that live there is a priority right now! Blessings and proclamations are what protected us in Nepalgunj and that is what I will continue to do as I return to my life here in Manchester. The people I met, the stories I heard and the actions I witnessed have greatly impacted my life, and I urge you to pray for Nepal as a country at the moment as the government works out its constitution and the local people work out where they fit into it.

 

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”

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Drafts

I have started so many blogs this year. I just haven’t really had the time to finish them. I was going to talk about truth, heartbreak, theatre i’ve seen, Manchester nuggets i’ve experienced, love, travelling, charities, home, the fact that blogging is so 2013, belonging, community, and so on… the list is endless.

Today, on Tuesday 16th September 2014 at 18:59pm I am (just about) certain of the following things:

1. Social media is actually a form of torture. TAKE A BREAK. (Yeah yeah, I know i’m blogging but i’m going away soon so you wont hear nothing!)

2. Manchester is my home and the community I have built here are not worth giving up for anything.

3. Having a ‘career’, a relationship, money, an iPhone, a clean house, a routine & a perfect family doesn’t mean you have it ‘sorted’. The world is bigger. I know God is bigger, even when I don’t feel it. It doesn’t mean you are a better person or more attractive for having those things or more mature. No-one has it ‘sorted’. Everyone is just trying to survive.

4. One Tree Hill, cheese, red wine, The OC, gin, John Legend, Cineworld, and salt & vinegar pringles doesn’t make the shit go away. I’ve enjoyed more than enough of this all summer and it just delays all the ick. Embrace the ick. Everyone gets it at some point.

5. Laughing is better than crying, but crying is not a sign of weakness. I wish laughter made us fly.

6. Provision has been put in place because we are part of a PLAN. Some people just don’t quite know it yet. I forget sometimes.

7. Honesty is important. Sometimes i’m a little bit brutal. I’m working on it.

8. Gossip is never okay. Hiding behind a ‘caring and accountable’ acquaintance is not acceptable. In AND outside the church.

9. Travelling isn’t always about running away. GO SEE STUFF.

10. Anger should be dealt with by focusing on what makes God angry in the world. He does not take every personal offence that we throw at him literally does he! Volunteer. Go hang out with your neighbours.

11. I know myself. I always try to communicate from a place of love. I want the best for people, but situations, moments and people influence how I get there and often my reactions suck.

12. Open Mic Nights are brilliant.

13. I’m going to hang out in Bangladesh for 10 weeks with Tearfund and i’m cacking my pants. But, you totally have to go and do stuff that scares you in your twenties, right?

14. We screw each other over, again and again and again and again. We just need to learn a little bit each time. Lower them expectations peeps.

15. Elderflower cordial is an excellent addition to a Gin and Tonic.

16:

be still

The Mooch

So, I started a new job recently. Its relevant to my career, worthwhile, and challenges me on a day to day basis.  I love it. I want to do so well in 2014, so that I can live comfortably and give generously.

Anyone who is unwilling to work shall not eat. I never want to be a mooch. In the most gracious and loving way, idleness really pisses me off. Get up off your butt and go contribute to the world!

2-Thessalonians_988

(I found this typography a couple of years ago. Thank you Jim LePage!
There’s one for every book of the bible so go take a peek!)
http://jimlepage.com/word-designs/

Babble

When I took a year out before University, I discovered that there are some Christians who fluff up their religion with bright lights, fancy names and well-to-do salaries. Lately I have been reminded that people choose to represent the Kingdom of God in this way, AGAIN. I dont think it provides the best family for people that don’t know Jesus to be a part of. I’m sick of selfish, gossip-fuelled, single-obsessive relationships that only exist because you are part of the church.

Often churches provide a space for the social outcasts of society to be themselves. Call me harsh, but its true. The awkward nerdy lot are on one side of the worship area trying their hardest not to make eye contact with intimidating coolness that stares back at them. We find ourselves making the effort with people we would never usually spend time with, all for the sake of sharing one thing in common, Jesus. I think this effort can quickly turn to fakeness. Fake families that take each other for a ride, all for the sake of the church. Can you just do this little job for me? Its for the church. IF your going to do something, regardless of being in a church circle or not, I’ve always thought you should do it well. Whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. Paul’s totally right. Its simple. You are loved by Jesus regardless, why bother with the receipt of OTHER people’s love in the church, when Jesus’s love is enough to sustain you. It wont stab you in the back, make you feel inferior, guilty, or alone.

Choosing to know Jesus is about taking part in a love story. Meetings, worship nights, curry evenings, clubs, evangelistic events, all come second. And when you feel like you want to be involved in these events, be mindful of the people you’re doing it with. We’re all sinners, we all screw up. But faith is a vulnerable part of my life that affects my heart. SO: Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.

Oh my gosh and if you need a Sunday off, take it. Jesus won’t love you any less, I guarantee it.  I also think this started out as a bit of a rant, a rant that I think ends up a similar conclusion that lots of people feel in the church. Overcomplicated Christianity, AGAIN.

Grace

CondemnedWeb

Unconditional love is an overwhelming concept. Its a love that comes from a creator that knows your heart. Your hopes, your dreams, your failures, your anxieties, your hurts, your joys, your everything.

The story of Jesus’ crucifixion is heart breaking. At eye level with the crowd he was put up on a cross, naked, and ridiculed. He was taunted and humiliated, but with dutiful obedience, he followed his father’s wishes.

In the beginning, God knew that mankind would fail. He gave us the choice in the way to live, and we royally mucked it up. He knew we would SIN. He knew that the ONLY way in which mankind would survive and live the best possible lives on earth and in heaven, was if he sacrificed something so special and wonderful as his only SON. God sacrificed his son so that our SIN may be destroyed. WHAT! A gift! A free gift.

I cannot believe my God made that sacrifice for me. My God that shares deep relationships with so many others, made the universe, and listens to so many other prayers, made the sacrifice of his son for ME. I owe him. I owe him big time. Best thing about this? I want to owe him. I want to give him everything. He has saved me from a lifetime of anger, jealousy, betrayal, lust. But are these things really that hurtful? Yes. I’ve seen families destroyed through jealousy and anger, and I’ve seen women’s esteem crumble through lust and greed. I choose to live a life whereby I am SAVED from all this ick. And its absolutely free. Once you’ve experienced God’s Holy Spirit, you cannot but choose to live your life differently, saved by a maker who gave up everything for you.

Tomorrow is the day. Tomorrow we celebrate having hope again. It is a proclamation that Jesus is Lord on HIGH! He will live.

Now is a time to remember. Remember the sacrifice. The gift. The freedom. His name is Jesus. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, and whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Amen.

In his name the nations will put their HOPE.

thisisivyfallowfield

It’s taken me a while to find a community of people that are truly committed to transformational love in the name of Jesus. To me, that’s what 21st century church looks like. Unconditional, overwhelming, life-consuming love. This group of people are desperate to share the love they receive from Jesus with the people that surround them. We do not judge, or boast, or condemn those that are different from us. We are insignificant significance. Known and loved by Jesus freely and absolutely. This is Ivy Fallowfield.

Its easy for religious groups to say these things, and then act in another way. The church has an incomprehensible amount to answer for over the last 2000 years, and to all the people I have met who feel despondent and bored of church, I’m truly sorry for the pain that we have caused you. Its not on. Jesus would be livid. Actually he probably wouldn’t because he has the largest capacity to love those that have hurt him, or appear to have hurt him according to our world.

I took a year out before University to serve a church. It broke me. I was undermined, patronised, over-worked and at the end of the year, a burnout. Unfortunately I experienced people that were not in it for the long haul. Their serving and their praying and their studying fit into their own little boxes in their own little world. It was fake, fashionable and flashy. Practically, I learnt a lot about secular youth work, funding applications, working for a NGO, and professional networking meetings. This had nothing to do with God though, or so I thought.

The God of the Universe – the creator of nitrogen and pine needles, galaxies and e-minor – loves us with a radical unconditional, self sacrificing love. And what is our typical response? We go to church sing songs, and try not to cuss.

Francis Chan, Crazy Love.

I was completely lost at the end of my gap year. Due to start University and quite ready to pack it all in. Jesus came to SEEK and SAVE the LOST. I was lost, and he saved me. Again. Meaning and love and people and generosity and joy returned to my life and I found a community that makes it their life’s mission to deliver this to those that are lost. We’re all lost at some point in our lives. For a day, a year, 10 years. Why continue to be lost when you can be found, and cherished by a glorious creator. THAT is my prayer for all those that have yet to hear the name Jesus. I’ve been a bit slack on those kinds of prayers lately, but I trust in a God that can deliver ALL sin and replace it with love and mercy. So of course, people will know Him, in time, when their hearts are ready.

Crazy Love is a great book by Francis Chan, it just got rid of all of the liturgical crap I was experiencing and filled my heart with an approach to Jesus that was completely filled with love. It’s easy to read and there are some great YouTube clips as an accompaniment.

Crazy Love – Francis Chan