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Nepal Newsletter

posted:
May 10, 2010

May 10, 2010

NSI, Box 8975 , EPC 1813,
Kathmandu , Nepal

Dear friends,

“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness”
1 Timothy 2.1&2

Easter weekend was a noisy affair this year, starting at 5am on the Saturday before Easter.  For weeks we had been anticipating a huge party to be held at our house for the 84th birthday of the landlord’s mother.  A highly auspicious occasion in Hindu culture, the day would be marked with a morning of Hindu worship followed by the arrival and feeding of 600 family, friends, local shopkeepers and other acquaintances.  Empty lots near the house were cleared of debris and covered with large marquee-type tents; carpets and chairs had been set out, and a large team of cooks, waiters and dish-washers (the human kind) assembled by a local catering company.  With final preparations being made as the sun rose, the neighbourhood was woken by sacred Hindu songs being blasted out from a speaker on the second floor balcony.  In this tolerant and early-rising society, we were probably the only ones who wasted energy thinking about how to sabotage the speakers without getting caught.  Before long, seven Hindu priests were installed around a specially-constructed sacred fireplace in the parking garage, where they conducted several hours of Hindu chanting and rituals.   These were offered in thanks for the lady reaching such a ‘grand old’ age, and to seek her continued welfare in the coming years.  One of the notable events of the morning was the weighing of her on a massive scale, constructed on the 10-foot high A-frame of our boys’ swing set!  She was ‘balanced’ by an equivalent weight of ‘gold’ (golden one- and two-rupee coins) provided by her son and subsequently distributed to guests by the handful.  Our family of four netted 138 coins with a total value of 181 rupees, allowing us to later calculate that her 68 kilos (150lb) cost our landlord around 250 dollars!

Having made an escape to our usual Saturday morning church service, we returned in time to see the elderly lady in her traditional attire clamber up into the landlord’s all-terrain vehicle to be escorted by a band of traditional musicians to the local temple for some final Hindu worship.  By this time, crowds of guests had gathered in the baking tents, working hard on the elaborate snacks and free-flowing drinks as they waited impatiently for the buffet meal to be opened on her return.  Unfortunately, her morning fast, the heat of the day, the motion of the vehicle (and perhaps her age!) brought the poor woman to a state of collapse and, while guests lined up for their rice and curry, she retreated to a bedroom where she was treated with a glucose-saline intravenous drip! It is customary at these events to socialize early on, then eat and leave immediately, so before long the crowds began to thin out.  However, close family and friends remained and the party was rejuvenated with the re-appearance of ‘granny’, who was sufficiently revived to take the lead on the dance floor!  Fuelled by generous supplies of whisky, their dancing encouraged the band to play on…and on, and on.  Competing with a variety of horns and trumpets, backed up by several drums, conversation in our apartment proved impossible, and we were forced to close our windows despite the heat of the evening.

Thankfully, these events rarely last late into the night, and around 8 pm the band started to pack up…which was about the time when we began to hear strains of singing from our neighbour, the Catholic church.  Designed with a large spacious interior, the church is frequently filled with Christian singing which echoes across their courtyard into our apartment.  In this country where many homes are disturbed by the ringing of Hindu temple bells, we greatly appreciate this beautiful music.  However, our Christian appreciation and patience had severely diminished by 3 am as fervent charismatic singing accompanied by wild drumming continued to reverberate through our darkened rooms where we lay tossing on our beds.  Protestant churches here celebrate Easter Sunday with sunrise services, partly to accommodate those working on the day (it is not a holiday in this Hindu society) and also to allow for a mass rally later in the morning.    With our service starting at 5 am , it was hard to appreciate our Catholic brothers’ and sisters’ joyful all-night Easter vigil!  This year, our church had decided to have a team of women conduct the service in recognition of the primary role of women at the resurrection, and I had been asked to cover the sermon slot.  In the end, we slept through our 4.30am alarm and cycled urgently through the grey dawn to arrive in a harried daze at about 5.30, just a short while before I was due to take my place at the lectern!

The service was fairly brief by Nepali standards (an hour and a half) and was followed by a shared breakfast standing around the church yard.  Fortified by sweet milky tea, a boiled egg, unsweetened doughnuts and some fried savoury snacks, the congregation regrouped into a double file to set out for the Easter rally.  Marching half an hour to a local meeting point, we joined hundreds of other Christians, waving banners and singing joyfully.  Setting off again, we streamed together into a huge parade, with more and more church groups joining us, making our way down the major thoroughfares into the city centre where our numbers swelled into the thousands.  It was truly a moving sight and sound, to behold our joyful, praising crowd stretching out as far as the eye could see as the rush-hour traffic ground by.  Christian tracts were handed out to the many commuters, shopkeepers and businesses along the route, until 3 miles and 2 hours later we reached the city’s central park where a huge open-air celebration was held…a wonderful tangible expression of God’s kingdom come in this country deeply bound in Hindu and Buddhist tradition.

Since then, many Christians in the city have been praying for the political situation here.  With all hope gone of concluding the peace process and finalizing a new constitution by the May 28 deadline, the Maoists bussed thousands of ‘supporters’ into the city to enforce a tight nationwide strike demanding that they be given the prime-minister position and control of the government.  God answered our prayers when the strike weakened and was suddenly called off without any serious outbreak of violence (as was feared).  However we ask you to join Nepalis in their continued prayers for their country, their political leaders and their fellow-citizens.

Sincerely,
Mark, Deirdre, Zachary & Benjamin.

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