Welcome to our 6th blog post! As we are hastening towards Christmas, read on to find an ‘advent calendar’ of our last couple of weeks.
The last day before Advent was spent at Beauty for Ashes, where we started a devotion series on the people of the Nativity, and Rachel reflected on the obedience and courage of Mary. Most of the women at BfA are relatively young Christians, and it is a challenge to us to know how we can bless them through our leading of morning devotions. At the moment, we are writing our own reflections, but if anyone has any ideas of published devotionals which are relatively simple and easy to understand but might encourage these women and build them up, please do let us know!
We were also delighted to be asked to put up the Christmas tree, and then use scraps of beautiful, sari material to make a garland to decorate the stairways. It was so much fun to do something creative that wasn’t preparing crafts for children (which is also fun, but less novel for us now!).
On the first day of December, we made our third visit to the Prayer Tower. We know that many of you have been praying over communication issues, and we did have the opportunity to chat with one of the ladies whose English is actually very good, and to just sit and spend a little time with a couple of the others, whose English is less good. We find ourselves learning from them about how to express love, care, and concern without using words; it seems to come very naturally to Nepali Christians to love others without needing to whip out their English!
Last Saturday, we were pleased to meet Roger Pierce, the new regional director for BMS in Asia, who is currently making a visit to personnel in Nepal; and to find our way with him to Swayambhu, which is an ancient Buddhist temple on the edge of the city and a major tourist attraction. Also called ‘Monkey Temple’, it is home to hundreds of monkeys… of which we snapped almost the same number of photos!
So we made it to our first ever Nepali wedding! We are assured that our wedding ‘invitation’ was a very standard one in Nepal: told we would be welcome by absolutely everyone, it seemed, other than the bride herself, whom we know (a little but not that much!) through one of our projects! However, it was wonderful to see the generous delight on her face when we turned up. We were pleased to get to know some of the ladies we work with, better, and to begin to be seen as friends, not just teachers. Now, we can only hope that Rachel may stop joking about marrying one of Rach or Rebekah ‘off’ just so that she can go to a wedding in Nepal…
As many of you know, the 4th of December was Rebekah’s 19th birthday. We were at Baal Bagaan, telling the children the nativity story (from the donkey’s perspective, of course!) and making decorations to adorn a paper-plate Christmas tree. The preschool teachers then surprised us all by having ordered a chocolate gateau-birthday cake for Rebekah. She faced the difficult task of cutting the cake into 40 slices, with the children all trying to stick their fingers in it. It was an amusing thing to watch!
We were interested to have a tour of and learn more about the Early Childhood Education Centre (ECEC), from whose shop we have been buying all of our craft materials – there are very few stationary/craft shops in Kathmandu so we are fortunate that ECEC is only a few doors away! It was established in 2001 to improve the quality of preschool and primary school teaching in Nepal – which is still very poor, with children as young as two and three expected to sit at desks, pass exams, and do several hours of homework each night. Our morning at ECEC helps us to contextualise our volunteering at Baal Bagaan, which was itself set up, just last year, to be a model for a gentler mode of preschool teaching.
On Tuesday we also succeeded in making our first batch of mince pies, with homemade mincemeat… and we plan to make many more.
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week have been days off, due to the Nepal general election being held on Thursday, shutting ABBS and all public transport. On Wednesday, we put our Christmas decorations up. What with Rachel’s 3ft Christmas tree – which took her over the luggage weight allowance at Heathrow but was very much worth it – our flat looks pretty fab! Even the bathroom has some very tasteful snowmen made out of toilet rolls (see the photo at the top of this blog)… this is what happens when you’re overseas for Christmas!
You may have heard about the election which was held on the 7th – we believe that it, being the country’s first general election since civil war ended in 2006, made the news in the UK. It was interesting to see how everything went quiet and still, with shops closed and no vehicles allowed to be on the roads. Rach and Rachel went on a bike ride around the Ring Road – impossible on every other day of the year – and saw people playing football, beating cotton, taking selfies and even just sitting in the road.
We are also grateful to have spent Thursday morning with BMS’ lovely Jenny Saunders, who led a retreat for us. She introduced us to some tools for spending quiet time with God and letting Him speak to us through Scripture. It is a joy to learn in ways that are growing our faith, from those we are living alongside in Nepal.
Pray that Rebekah would recover from her illness. And for Rachel, and her UCAS application: that she would get it completed and sent off, and that it would get her to where God wants her to be.
For Nepal, that there would be peace in the aftermath of the general election; and that the results would be as God wills.
For the church in Nepal. It seems that because the church is growing rapidly, it is seen as a threat, and resistance to Christianity is also growing.