Greetings from Nepal!
Thank you so much for your prayerful support of both us individually and as a team. We truly are experiencing the grace and goodness of God in a multitude of ways and I (Rachael) hope I can share a few of those things with you, our amazing family and friends!
Since being back in Katmandu we have actually been able to have some time to rest and process. Fewf! – because last week was our crazy week of teaching. We have had a few days of visiting children’s homes where we so evidently saw the goodness of God and redemption here on this earth. We were also able to spend time meeting with more of the Tiny Hands staff, learning more about their ministries, and really wrapping up our time here. Throughout our days, many of us have had the opportunity to get to know and share our faith with our new Nepali friends and acquaintances. This time has been such a blessing and such a great time to really experience the hospitality found within the Nepali people and culture.
Finally, yesterday we had a chance to visit Pashupatinath, the largest Hindu temple in the world. At its base, what we saw was thousands of people solemnly worshiping idols and making sacrifices to images they had created. We also saw their cremation ceremonies and learned more about why they do what they do. Today, my task is expressing what this was like. I hope to give you a window into the depth of our experience there, but please realize that everyone is thinking about it in very different ways. I guarantee everyone still has quite a bit to process, and yet has had profound insight into the message of the Gospel and the meaning of hope. I am also in the mist of this processing but I have decided to include a few excerpts from my journal to give you a taste of this place and all the ideas that we are wrestling with. Please continue to pray for wisdom in our discussion and processing, even after we head home tomorrow.
A Window into Hinduism
An overload of sights, smells, and sounds were exuded from the layers of activity below our lookout at Pashupatinath, the largest Hindu temple in the world. The Hindu Mecca of Sorts. A place where every Hindu is to come at least once before their death. Nestled on the edge of the Baghmati River with an outlet leading to the River Ganges, this compound serves as the holy place of sacrifice, worship, hospice, and cremation. Essentially representing an entire cycle of both life and death. An entire cycle void of hope. Significant imagery stuck with me as I sat there, bringing me a rush of emotions but also greater understanding for Hinduism and people. These are the images that will remain etched into my mind and heart:
Coins falling – As people threw coins from the balcony in a desperate attempt for them to land on the lucky Red Stone far below, this sound was the methodic clink of the hopeless in their grappling attempt at salvation.
Water splashing – Water splashed up from the Baghmati as people adorned themselves and the Shiva Lingaa with water meant to cleanse and honor. These repeated splashes struck me as so desperate and so resigned. They were completing a task and a tradition. I didn’t sense any heart behind it all.
Woman Wailing – A woman wailed as she watched their eldest son light a torch in the mouth of his father. An ancient tradition dedicated to the Hindu culture. This woman screamed an inconsolable scream. Mourning as those who have no hope. After these wails came a quiet emptiness that crept in to settle into the air and her heart.
Drum Beating – A solitary drum beat in the background. A heart with no purpose or rhythm
Bells ringing – The quiet deed throated ring of bells sobered the mood rather than lifting it. The sounds of worship to gods so small, self-constructed and unworthy.
Pigeons Spreading – Ever so often, seemingly unprovoked, a flock of pigeons would undo themselves from their unassuming perch on the rocks below. They were the quiet bystanders. No apparent say in what was going on, yet kind of an eerie presence. As if they were the overseers of a dubious plot. As they flew they added a sense of surreal. We were the quiet bystanders as we sat helpless to the reality below us.
Carnations Adorning – Orange carnations. A symbol of peace. The peoples’ prayer for the dead bodies and phallus they adorned.
Smoke Billowing – The smell of smoke rose from the piles, instilling a slight pressure behind the opening in my nose. This smoke is ash. This ash is flesh. Our tissues came away black.
Monkeys Stealing – Set by the water was a basket. In that basket was a banana. The sacrifice of a people grasping at every attempt for a life of Maksha, or heaven. I watched as a monkey stole the banana. What happens when a monkey steals your sacrifice?
Flame Waning – A woman lit a small leaf to place in the holy river. Try and try with all her might she wafted it to enter into the current. Try and try with all her might, this sacrifice would never be enough.
Baby Smiling – A bright and shining face. A ray of joy amidst the pain.
Weight Lifting – A heavy weight seemed to be in the air. And on our hearts. The oppression of these people felt tangible. This weight is the weight lifted by the cross.
Vivid Truth of the Gospel and Hope
While there seemed to be a great darkness in this place, I also felt the Holy Spirit within me like I hadn’t many times before. I realized how lost they were and just the emptiness of it all, but I simultaneously realized the weight of my own sins and true gift of salvation. When Jesus said, “forgive them Father, for they know not what they do” he was talking about me. My sins held him there and I put in that nail. This picture below me, the full cycle of life, death, and cremation without hope is what His death and resurrection saved me from. I was pulled out of the depths of death and despair and eternity in hell. And I have the Holy Spirit within me. Communing with the Father without my help. Seeing these cremations on the piles. Hearing the hopeless wailing. These are tangible representations of their souls which are eternally separated from you and today began their first days in hell. This is reality. This is the world and the result of the fall. The gospel message is one of urgency.
Along with this, I also realized how truly intertwined the hope of salvation is within me. How set apart that is from the world apart from Christ. The power and true gift of salvation and the gospel is so vivid throughout today. I have no fear in death and instead look forward to eternity spent in worship to the one true King. And I know that even if I got to the end of my life and it turned out that eternity was a hoax along with Christianity and God and Jesus, my life spent in worship and dedication of the Lord would be worth it. I life rich in hope, service, love, and security in the Lord is such an unbelievable and truly awesome gift. To be able to celebrate in life and celebrate in death and everything in between is powerful. It is a good and beautiful truth that I firmly believe s only found in the gospel, of Christ.
This was our experience but what do with that?
Dichotomy of Justice and Mercy
Psalm 106 describes this dichotomy between justice and mercy according to what we saw yesterday, or at least begins to. It starts out by declaring the goodness and enduring love of the Lord. This is from a place of praise, gratefulness, and remembrance. It then goes on to describe a portion of the history of Israel where God’s people resorted to worshiping idols. “They exchanged their Glory for an image of a bull, which eats grass (v. 20).” Accordingly, to God’s judgment was threated and he wanted to destroy them. A totally justified act in response to their turning away from him. This both reminds me so vividly of Hinduism and what we saw at Pashupatinath but also of my own heart. A heart so easily ready to “forget the God that saved me (v. 21).” We stand and declare that God is good.
Power of Prayer
That’s not the end, however. Verse 33 goes on to say “so He said he would destroy them – had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him to keep his wrath from destroying them.” Because of my identity with Jesus, I am God’s chosen one, a deeply loved child of God. I can claim my inheritance with boldness and confidence that the Holy Spirit is within me and I have power over temptation and evil. My prayers carry weight. My intercession has power. As I stood over these people sacrificing to and praising imaged of cows and phalluses and so much more, I just begged God to save them from this. What they are doing is such evil in the sight of the Lord. They defined themselves with feeble replacements for the one true God. So lost and with trust so misplaced. I prayed and interceded. I don’t know that power it had but I know that just like Moses, my prayers are heard. I also know, because of my own sin nature and reading God’s word, how stubborn and vile we are as humans. Even after Moses’ intercession in verse 23, the people continued to defile and prostitute themselves. Verse 43 says, “many times he delivered them, but they were bent on rebellion and the wasted away in their sin.”
I think of this Hindu culture and the stagnation and hopeless cycle of fatalism, karma, and unattainable dharma. They strive and try and yet stagnate. They live in fear and sadness in death. I compare it to our culture (which is suffering and broken in so many ways) that is set upon Christian morals and founded in Biblical principles. Many times I forget that but here this stark contrast is apparent. Here there is extreme poverty, economic failure, and extensive governmental corruption. There are so many signs of redemption and God’s work, let that not be minimized. However, when it comes down to it, fatalism and pagan values reign as the large scale influencers. A culture and country resorts to selling their own daughters as sex slaves. In essence, “sacrificing their sons and their daughters to demons (v 37)” This is the harsh and horrible reality. Not one much different than the situation of the Israelites thousands of years prior.
In the case of the Israelites, “But he took note of their distress. He heard their cry. For their sake he remembered his covenant and out of His great love He relented (v. 44)”. Relent Lord that these Nepali people might know and understand your great love!
For His Name’s Sake
“Yet he saved them for His name’s sake, to make His mighty power known (v. 8)”. This saving, this grace, this opportunity for mercy is not about US. It’s not about me or even these millions of lost people. It’s about the Lord. Each act of mercy, love, and grace presented by the Lord is to make His name great and to make His mighty power known. This is not my choice. Nor would I want it to be. This is the nature of justice and who God is. God is a just God. How could God possibly embody love if he just saved even those who don’t ask? Those who continually defile his name, his power, and his might. This is not an easy thing to accept and something I will continue to struggle with because these people are my people. These people are my family. My friends. These are the people who smile at me and that God uses to brighten my day. His image is in them. Such is the nature of the power of God. And yet these same people that reflect Jesus and His image are also rebelling and wasting away. My heart breaks for them. It doesn’t feel fair that I was born in privilege and born loved by my family and with an early knowledge of Jesus and His sacrifice. But this is reality. This is truth. What is my response?
Urgency of the Gospel
This is the urgency of the gospel. That I would feel the weight of injustice that people made in the image of God would be born into bondage both to man and the devil. That their souls, vividly analogous to the cremation piles, are now destined for Hell. This doesn’t feel fair. This is hard to accept. And yet God has decided to bless me as his chosen people to live in love and with urgency.
God is still a good God. If anything, His goodness is made known to me more fully after today. He is a God that deserves our lives and to be worshiped and adored, not defiled and rebelled against. My sins held Him on that cross and it is only by grace that I am made new and made free. This world is not yet complete. May I live in light of my inheritance and broken for the people who spend their entire life in bondage. Set them free.
Children’s Home – A Stark Contrast
After Pashupatinath we went to a children’s home to spend some time with the kids. They sang songs about how they will follow God no matter how high the mountain is they must climb, or how low the valley is that they must stoop. They sang in the most beautiful and pure voices. The kind that only come from children. These children were the body of Christ. This was our encouragement: a new generation of believers. These were children saved from lives on the streets and in prostitution. These children have hope. They have joy. Life. Community. Family. Belonging. Place. Access to truth. They had beautiful smiles showing that they knew their value and dignity. Their smiles showed that they knew they were loved. They were made complete, not by the works of man but of Christ. This is hope. This is this gospel. This is the kingdom here on earth.