During one of our recent missions in Nepal, God gave us supernatural protection and mercy during a treacherous uphill trek in the Himalayas.
After our youth camp in Pokhara, we received our dear friend Kaley from the USA and prepared to head deep into Dhading District to strengthen some of the most remote, invisible, and important churches in the world. The trip would be intense, so we geared up and mentally prepared ourselves for a long and rough drive followed by days of trekking in the Himalayas.
We were very excited, to say the least, but then something happened that would sober us up.
Far in the remote parts of the Dhading district of central Nepal, a small bus filled with around sixty people got stuck on the side of the mountain. The driver began rocking back and forth, but as he did, the dirt road beneath the bus collapsed, and the bus rolled down a nearly thousand foot slope. As the bus fell, it broke into three pieces, tossing its helpless passengers in every direction.
In a moment, over twenty people were killed.
This was the road we were going to be traveling on.
I often try to explain to people how treacherous and dangerous travel can be over here (Nepal), but I think it is nearly impossible for most people in developed or non-mountainous countries to comprehend. There are many times where we get out and walk (if they let us) because the roads are so dangerously unsteady and often teetering on the side of a mountain. Because of monsoon, the roads are incredibly, incredibly, unstable, and more often than not the good parts of these roads are nothing more than a mud pit that the jeeps and land rovers plow through until they get stuck. When they get stuck, they stop and ask other travelers from the other stuck vehicles to help, and together they push and pull and rock until the vehicle can pass through the mud pit.
We are careful who we invite on these remote trips because most people would quit a few hours in.
It is that rough; I’m not just being dramatic. Almost never are you relaxed while riding the six or seven hours to the walking paths.
When we heard the news of the bus crash, we prayed, and we knew that the Lord had preplanned for us to go. The villages we were planning on visiting were where some of the victims called home, and since so many people had died, they would need encouragement and love from every direction.
After much research and talk, we planned a different route, double checked for safety, and set off.
Now please listen, we don’t take these trips lightly. We listen to the Holy Spirit. We listen to the locals. We listen to each other. We listen to the weather. We listen to the government warnings… then we make our decisions. In this case, all agreed that we should press on. Each person, Nepali and American alike, chose for themselves after much research, talk and prayer.
The plan was to hire a jeep (beast mode jeep!) to take us as far as the road would allow. From there we would walk.
We piled into the vehicle and for the next five hours, we took a beating. Multiple times we got stuck and had to push either our jeep or other buses out of the muddy roads.
Eventually, we reached a rocky area where our driver, after crossing many places just like this, suddenly stopped. He refused to go further.
Okay then. Time to lace the trekking shoes.
The early stop was unexpected and added an additional three-hour climb to our trip. But hey, that’s life in Nepal. As the Nepali so often say, “What to do?”
So we walked….
At first, it was a road, then it turned into a steep rocky staircase, then a leech infested steep rocky staircase, then a dark jungle-ridden leech infested steep rocky staircase on the edge of cliffs hundreds of feet high.
I took a deep breath. Welcome back to Nepal.
As we went, one of our teammates had forgotten to eat, and she had forgotten to mention she was hypoglycemic. It was accidental because in America food is abundant, but it’s a different story out in these Nepali mountains. Carrying a bag straight up a mountain for hours has a way of zapping the extra sugar from your blood and liver. In the middle of the climb, our friend’s sugar dropped and made continuing extremely hard. This team member is really fit, so at first, we were confused, but then she remembered…
“I forgot to tell you guys… I have been borderline hypoglycemic in the past. I had forgotten myself because back home I eat steady meals every day,” she said, leaning on her walking stick.
We tried to get her to eat, to suck on a piece of candy, anything, but the trek ahead kept pulling at her sugar.
My job as the leader is to make sure whoever may be struggling at the moment makes it. Because of this, I am very often at the back of the line (and many times it’s because others are faster than me on these climbs), so I hung back, helping our friend along.
Up and up we went. How she found the strength to continue, confounds me. One step after the next she climbed. Up and around the edges of cliffs and up some more.
One. Step. At. A. Time.
Then something incredible happened, something I don’t think I will ever forget. And I use the word incredible on purpose, cause some people may not believe it.
Before she, or we, realized what was happening, in her weakened state, our dear friend slipped on the edge of a cliff. A rock teetered and slipped beneath her and she partially blacked out at the same time. Her feet went right out from under her.
To the right, was a long drop into solid darkness, hundreds of feet down.
To my amazement, as I realized what was happening, I also realized that I had a firm grip of the back handle of her backpack (she had harshly refused to let anyone carry it – which, by the way – and you know I love you – is a stupid move).
A moment before she fell, I, unknowingly, had reached up and grabbed her bag. She slipped, slid toward the ledge, and then my grip stopped her. Then our Nepali friend, Matti, grabbed me by the arm, and stopped me from sliding.
Now, it would feel good to say that I saved her life, or that I heard the Holy Spirit tell me to grab her bag, but it was not like that at all. I do feel it was the Lord that made me reach out, but (and this may bother some of you) I can’t take credit for even hearing and obeying the Lord. It was like, for a moment, He took over. I grabbed her bag BEFORE she fell.
For a second before she slipped, I didn’t think or realize what I was doing. My hand lifted and grabbed the luggage handle of her backpack. It gripped and held on, then she slipped. It was like I was a puppet or something, taken over – a truly supernatural experience for which and I am so thankful.
By the grace of God we avoided a disaster that is too horrible to even think about. Again, my hand lifted BEFORE she slipped. The Lord did this. There was no way for me to know.
Amazing. All Glory goes to God. It had to be an angel or something. I’ve only had one or two other experiences like this in my life.
Once we passed that section, our friend forced down another granola bar, and with courage, she finished the climb. I was amazed at her resilience. Once we made it to the top, we cleaned all the leeches from our legs (I hate those things!), and helped our friend fully recover with a glass of OJ someone had carried up before us.
Out here, there are no superstars; there are no individuals. A team must communicate and help each other. We can never make someone feel bad for feeling weakness. We can never try to PROVE that we are stronger than those around us. That is how people get hurt. When there is true danger, where lives could be lost with a wrong step, we must hold each other close and depend on one another and on God.
As I told one of our team members, “I will never work with people who always try to show the rest of the team how much stronger they are than the rest. I will never be friends with people who make me feel terrible for a weakness I am working to overcome.”
We are the BODY of Christ. When our knee hurts we use our hands and arms to hold a walking stick to relieve the pain from the knee. When one of us hurts, we should all work hard to relieve the struggle. When one of us falls, we all fall. When one of us weeps, we all weep. When one of us wins, we all win. When one church dies, all of us hurt. When one Christian falls away, we are less than we were before.
When we reached the top, we helped each other recover while we prepared to sleep in the tiny wooden houses that have been built since the earthquake completely destroyed all of these villages just over a year ago.
When I looked at my phone, we had taken 33,000 steps that day, mostly straight up!
Incredible. Only by the Grace of God!
The next morning we woke and prepared to serve our first village church. The church building was built by the Jesus Saves Network and planted by our good friends in the mountains. When we arrived, as is the custom, they welcomed us with a garland of flowers. That morning, sitting in a small a-frame cinder block church, we worshiped the Lord with our brothers and sisters. Then I spoke on the most powerful of all of God’s tools, love.
Love never fails. Love overcomes evil. Love is not for our families alone or our tribes alone, it is for all tribes and tongues. Jesus gives us love for the lost and for the brethren. It was a wonderful time. One year ago there were almost zero believers in this village, but on this day nearly fifty new believers filled the floor.
Please pray for this church and its leaders, that they may continue to shine in the midst of persecution. They suffer often, and when they suffer, we all suffer. Pray that they may join together and never feel alone in Jesus. Pray that we all can be God’s arm to reach out and help them in persecution.