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 ……..


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.

What are we doing here?

p1060961Re-entry was tough. The flight included a 10 hour layover. Our flat was disorganised with utensils all over the floor. We had got soft in the UK and missed central heating. Many of the good local roads had been dug up for water pipes and it was so dusty. ‘What are we doing here?’ crossed our minds several times the first 48 hours.

The answer is kind of obvious but it came into focus for me (Andy) in a tiny tea shop while out cycling. The owner gave me tea and in broken English/Nepali we spoke together for 15 minutes. His family lost 2 houses in the earthquake so they have built a small shack with add-on tea shop to try and make a little money. His brother, who I remember from before cooked amazing noodles, had gone to Bahrain to work as a chef and send money home, leaving his wife and children behind.

Needing to head on up the trail I resolved to generously give him 15p instead of the usual price of 7/8p. He refused to take anything from me and I could tell from the look in his eyes that it was important to his dignity and our friendship that I accept his offer.

So what are we here for? In part to offer whatever help we can to the lovely but often hard pressed people of Nepal. But also we are here to be changed by the encounter with these same people who often seem to offer us more than we give them.

On a more down to earh level I am also here this next few months to explore what kind of role I could have in the future. Not being allowed to work, it needs to be informal but meaningful. ‘What am I here for?’ is a question that will be with me for the next few months. But its not a bad question to ask myself regularly anyway!

Those Evenings of the Brain

p1060820Its been a long time since the darkness of uncertainty descended. It is one year since our Nepali visas ran out. This poem captures something of the ongoing experience for me (Andy).



We grow accustomed to the Dark –
When light is put away –
As when the Neighbor holds the Lamp
To witness her Goodbye –

A Moment – We uncertain step
For newness of the night –
Then – fit our Vision to the Dark –
And meet the Road – erect –

And so of larger – Darknesses –
Those Evenings of the Brain –
When not a Moon disclose a sign –
Or Star – come out – within –

The Bravest – grope a little –
And sometimes hit a Tree
Directly in the Forehead –
But as they learn to see –

Either the Darkness alters –
Or something in the sight
Adjusts itself to Midnight –
And Life steps almost straight.

The growing accustomed: living with uncertainty has become something of a way of life but at times I just want to know what is going to happen so I can make plans one way or the other. But we have –
Fit our vision to the dark: and there have been many wonderful things about the last few months. The sea, Britain’s green and pleasant land, colours of Autumn, crisp mornings, rediscovering tennis, family, friends. But also there have been –
Those evenings of the Brain: most of the time I think I’ve coped better than I would have imagined but their have been one or two periods where I have indeed –
Hit a tree directly in the forehead: like the day I heard that I would be unlikely to continue helping at the bible college. It left me reeling, dizzy, for 2 weeks. But –
Either the Darkness alters or something in the sight adjusts itself to midnight and life steps almost straight. We will return to Nepal on a tourist visa for 4 months in January. Jenny will continue with her masters and I will explore future possibilities. The uncertainty is still there but it will be a little bit more like ‘normal’.
My apologies for not having sent news for so long. Will try to resume normal service.Thank you for your patience.
Thoughts and prayers are with those who through illness, depression, job insecurity etc are grappling with much greater darkness than this;
May some Star light your way this Christmas.

Moving swiftly on to Plan B…. — nepaljennyji

Jenny posted the following update on our adventures and it is much more upbeat and amusing than mine would have been (because she is more upbeat and amusing than me and also I had started to look forward to Kolkata more than her):

We’d had both sets of parents to stay, said goodbye, checked on vaccinations, bought strong insect repellant, carbon monoxide alarms and water filter bottles. We’d just got back from an afternoon with Katie finding cool cotton clothes in charity shops. There was an email from Nepal. It said that the Social Welfare Council were not […]

via Moving swiftly on to Plan B…. — nepaljennyji

The long and the short of it have a plan! Its still full of uncertainties but it is a plan that we feel happy with and includes short and long term elements.

So we will fly to Kolkata (I’ve learned this is the way you spell Calcutta!) on September 8th and stay in the BMS Guest House. Everyone who has visited this center tells us it is an oasis in the middle of the general chaos and madness of city life. While we are there Jenny will start studying for a Masters and Andy will generally make himself useful and have some cultural experiences, (have you seen the programme ‘An Idiot Abroad’?).

Then there are two possible directions forward. If we hear that Jenny’s visa application is likely to be approved then we will wait in Kolkata until it is ready for collection (probably 6-8 weeks) and then fly direct to Kathmandu and return to normal life. If the application is unsuccessful then we will return to the UK and be based at IMC in Birmingham and hope to return to Nepal after Christmas.

Under the first option above Jenny will do her distance learning course in 2 years, under the second she will try and complete it in 1 year. Hopefully having a Masters will then mean we won’t face similar problems in the future. In the past it has been recognised that for some kinds of work, like Counselling, a Masters is not the best means of establishing expertise but that experience is a better guide. It seems though that the paper qualification is becoming all important.

Having been nomads all summer it is hard to continue this lifestyle for another indeterminate period however its good to see a way forward and we’re sure Kolkata will be fascinating. Andy is likely to end up doing some preaching, visiting local churches and pastors and visiting local projects (we know of one working to set free women who have been traffiked and one planting house churches in rural areas).

Jenny has just applied for the Masters course so we hope very much she will be accepted! It has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster over the last couple of weeks but BMS have been great and we are relieved to be able to move forward positively. Thanks for your support through it all!



Birmingham flat

Still no concrete developments re returning to Nepal. The visa process has hit a significant hurdle so there is a major re-evaluation of what to do next. We are still in the UK and are based in Birmingham for a period but may be sent to Calcutta for a while! The uncertainty is hard but for this blog I didn’t want to focus on that but the generosity people have shown us during our time in the UK.


IMC Birmingham

Over the last 3 months families, friends and even strangers have given us wonderful meals, open hospitality, interest and encouragement. They have lent us cars, holiday cottages, cd’s, videos, books. We have shared their wine, cheese, chocolate, lamb, fish and beer, (all things not available in Nepal in the quality and variety we have here). As nomadic wanderers we have been well cared for and looked after.

Renewal, Yorkshire

Renewal, Yorkshire

We are trying to see this delay through the eyes of a generous God. Not being able to return at the expected time makes us realise what a precious gift the 3 years we have had in Nepal has been. At the end of our official home assignment we were quite drained and the last month has been a gift of time for restoration and renewal. We have had more time to catch up with family than expected. We have time for the kind of quality preparation of materials we rarely have in Nepal.

It is a frustrating and worrying time but it has also been a good time. Even learning again that not all of life is in our control is a helpful lesson. Still, we hope for news of a way forward before too long.