Graduates

When I graduated from Spurgeon’s College I was 33, it was my second degree, I’d worked as a teacher and had four years experience in full time christian work. Through the Baptist structures I had been called to serve as pastor in a church and could look forward to being provided with a house, a salary and even a book allowance.

It was a treat (3 hours long!) to be invited to the Baptist Bible College Graduation at the weekend.There is a great love of ceremony and dressing up (one way in which I don’t naturally fit into the culture!). Tassles are ceremonially moved from one side of the mortar board to the other on being presented with the certificate. And there is a feast at the end, fitting as families and friends have often travelled for many hours to attend.

The B.Th graduates were students I first met nearly 4 years ago and it was wonderful to see the huge progress they had made. 4 years ago some could hardly put together a sentence in English and most had never sat down to read a whole book apart from the Bible. Now they graduate with a heart and competence to minister in the church.

However, what a contrast to my graduation! All are under 26, their degree is not recognised by the government and very few will have a salaried post to go to. Most of the boys will have to plant a church or build up a small fellowship if they are to be pastors and for the girls there are even less formal opportunities. The Baptist denomination does have some funds to help church planters but there certainly won’t be a book allowance! Amazingly though about 90% of graduates do continue in full time ministry. I wonder what the percentage was from my year at Spurgeons?!

Other news: We have our visas – great rejoicing! Jenny has started work on her dissertation. The monsoon should be ariving any day soon.

What do the following have in common?

What do the following have in common: a carrot, a walking stick, a toothy grin and a shuttle cock? Answer: they are all symbols used by parties or individuals standing in the forthcoming local elections in Nepal. Other symbols include a tiger, a pair of feet and a kangaroo! There are a lot of political parties in Nepal. I counted 90 different symbols, and people vote for seven separate posts.

The Ballot Paper

These are the first local elections to be held for 20 years due to the civil war and the length of time it took to write the constitution following the advent of democracy. There is a lot of excitement and anticipation around the election of mayors and local leaders. People hope that locally elected leaders will be more accountable and more visionary than government appointees.

The UK has recently had local elections. We notice a number of differences here:

There are flags everywhere. On cars, motorbikes, houses, shops, buses and in gatherings and processions you see flags bearing the symbols of the major political parties.

Posters are placed in prominent places guiding people through the election process. This includes times, dates and places to vote, the procedure that will be followed on entering the polling station and reminders that weapons and fights are not allowed, and neither is offering food for people’s votes.

People vote, not by making a tick or a cross, but by making a swastika. In Nepal the swastika has, of course, no overtones of nazism but is a symbol of good luck and often found adorning people’s homes.

The staff of authority

Volunteers who will staff the polling stations are each issued with a bamboo staff to deal with anyone who causes trouble on the day of the elections.

There has been some doubt about whether these elections would be held because of continued political instability, particularly over the demarkation of boundaries as Nepal becomes a federal republic. It is a very hopeful sign that the elections are going ahead. They will be held on 2 different dates in separate parts of the country, May 14th and June 14th.

It’s great to see that in Kathmandu they seem to be very well organised and we are all hoping they will go off peacefully.

Other news: There is at last some movement re Jenny’s research visa. We’ll find out whether we can move to the next stage tomorrow.

 

Pollution Pradushan

The Nepali word for pollution is ‘pradushan’ which is easy to remember because Kathmandu produshes a lot of pollution.

The government has recently clamped down on noise pollution by banning the use of horns by all vehicles except in emergencies. I laughed when I heard that because most drivers use their horn more often than their brakes. I thought it would be impossible to change the habit of a lifetime.

However, two weeks of spot fines later, the noise level on the roads is transformed! Cyclists no longer have to wear ear plugs. Even traffic jams are quiet. Travel around the city is more relaxed.

Noise pollution is much easier to deal with than air pollution. The visible signs of pollution are obvious, with so many road works the city is incredibly dusty. However the pollution we don’t see is more dangerous to health. Newspapers publish daily pollution levels which helps to keep attention on the matter.

The government has recently produced a plan to alleviate air pollution. We’re all hoping it will be effective, Kathmandu could be such a beautiful city.

ps. still waiting for news re our visas.

 

Fire

We were woken by an explosion at 3am on Tuesday morning. From our bedroom we could see toxic black smoke rising from the Catholic Church which is about 50m from our house. There were a further 2 smaller explosions and we heard the firebrigade arriving.

It was reported in the press the next day that an arsonist had climbed over the compound wall and set fire to a car and two motor bikes in an open garage.

There is speculation amongst the christian community here that the size of the Easter rally in Kathmandu (an event that was televised) had stoked fears by others that christians were growing too quickly and were a threat to Nepali culture and traditions. Ironically the Catholics are often not considered to be bona fide christians by other denominations in Nepal and probably weren’t involved in the rally. But their building is one of the most identifiable christian landmarks in the city.

Such events, aimed at christians, seem to me to be quite rare here but it is a reminder of the tensions that can easily arise during a time of change and uncertainty. Nepal is heading towards local elections in May, the first for many years, and that is also exacerbating tensions between various communities in the wonderful diverse mix of people who make up Nepal. Christian and political leaders in Nepal need great wisdom at this time.

Wish I Was Here

Image result for gokyo ri

I should have been walking up to Gokyo Ri today. Because of our changed circumstances it gave me the chance to book on a trek in the Everest area. After reading books about Everest expeditions for many years I was finally going to see the great ‘Chomolunga’ myself. But it was not to be. A couple of weeks ago I found out I had shingles and then got a vicious cold on top of that and had to pull out of the trek.

I hung on for as long as possible, hoping I might improve enough to go for it but in the end knew I was going to be a liability to the rest of the team if I tried to brave it out. It was the right decision but every day I mentally trace the journey I should have been doing.

The Nepalese put virtually all sickness down to changes in the weather and as the weather has indeed been changing lately and has been much colder than usual for March I’ve lost count of how many times this explanation has been proferred and have given up explaining about our visit to a friend’s house who had exactly the same type of cold.

If you’ve been following our story then you will know that such changes of plans have been the story of our last year. Jenny is currently applying for a research visa and if successful then we will at least have stability for one year ahead. The research fits really well with the work she hopes to be able to do here in the future. Having got all the paperwork together, in triplicate, Jenny delivered it to the office only to be told that she needed a transcript of her Uni results and not just her degree certificate. We had no idea such a thing existed from our studies 30 years ago. We’re hoping that Royal Holloway can supply one or otherwise it will be all change again……

Image from: By AceNotorious (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

The day the pastor came back

Last Saturday we met our church pastor for the first time. We’ve been going to the little church 2 minutes walk from our house for over 3 years. He started the church, built it up and then went to study in India. This was followed by further studies in Australia where he is currently working. He’s back for 6 weeks and there has been much expectancy about his visit.

We immediately noticed lots of differences. The service started on time, there was a board up displaying hymn/chorus numbers (invaluable for those struggling with Nepali still), there was a proper musician, the guitar was in tune (hooray!), attendance was higher and there was more passion and higher volume in the open, everyone-prays-at-once-times.

One of the problems the church has had is that the lady who used to fund the building rental pulled out of that 2 years ago. Later she gave orders to all her contacts that they should stop coming to the church and worship somewhere else. So I was impressed that last week they had invited the husband of this lady to preach. Hopefully it will lead towards better a more trusting relationship.

We are gradually understanding more of what is said but still probably only get about 20%. However the impression we have is that the church, without a pastor in the same continent, has not had very clear leadership. We’re interested to see what happens when the pastor goes back ……..

Snippets

P1010611I dropped in on old friends at the Bible College today and had a number of encouraging/interesting conversations:

One student had just tried out narrative preaching following my encouragement to have a go at it last year. Nepal is still a story telling culture rather than a book culture so it makes sense here. I need to give it a go myself!

Another student told me how on his 6 month internship he taught for 8 hours every day in a boarding school alongside his church work. When he asked the head for work he was asked how much salary he would need. He replied that he couldn’t say, he didn’t want to work for money, he just wanted to serve and the head could pay him what he wanted. In a school where the teachers were always asking for more the head was stunned at his attitude, gave him a job and they became good friends. (He was paid £50/month.)

Talking about the genealogy at the beginning of Matthew’s gospel I learned that many people groups in Nepal keep extremely careful records of their clan’s family ties. The elders meet together every year to update these records and the Dean’s people group goes back more than 30 generations in a continual account. The lists only record male members. Nepali culture is much closer to biblical culture than the UK.