Nepal journey halted but not all is lost
A journey to the Himalayas that was nearly eight months in the making was abruptly halted this last March as eight of our Prineville's own endeavored to make what would have been Calvary Prineville's sixth trip to Nepal. As disappointing as the withdrawal was, the team was able to see God's hand of providence in the cancelation, and so what would have normally been a devastating blow was met with praise and thanksgiving.
Our Nepal Trips are no easy excursions to prepare for. Once teammates are chosen months in advance, they must submit physical fitness times on the front end of our training. Each person must step up 700 times on a 16-inch bench with a 25-pound pack within 35 minutes, two days in a row. Many of our initial times were very poor but over the months we practiced hard and learned technique making us able to land our times way below the requirement. We also would team train at the stadium multiple times a week with heavily loaded packs, often pressing through pain, discomfort and even mental and spiritual discouragement. We raised financial support, worked extra hours, sold possessions, acquired the necessary gear, and began fasting, praying and studying for the task at hand. This year's teammates were Mark McKinnon and his daughter Jenny, Clay McCarty, Jonny Oelkers, Shiloh Binder, Kortni Papineau, Michelle Munck and me.
In the weeks leading up to our Sunday March 15 journey, news of Covid-19 had been getting more and more frequent, but the situation seemed like something that was very distant and not anything we needed to really concern ourselves with. Encroaching within the week of our departure countries were beginning to close their borders and the US was ending passage from Europe and China. Our trip was to go through Qatar to Kathmandu and at that point Qatar had ceased entry into the country itself but was still open as a transit point between airlines and countries. Nepal itself was still open with only one known case of Coronavirus and our organization in country was open for us joining them having no apprehensions of us doing so.
At the same time, these days of increased closures, shutdowns as well as medical and scientific concerns began to raise caution among some of our team members, specifically those with science and medical backgrounds. On the Wednesday (four days) before our journey, we had a team meeting discussing the wisdom of going forward with our plans. Would we be transmitting COVID-19 to people in the Himalayan villages and putting them in danger? Would we end up stuck in Nepal at the end of our time there? Our team usually comes down with some form of food or water born illness while there, accompanied by fever. Would the result of such illness be quarantining for nearly two weeks? The tension on the other end of the argument was moving forward with our plans with courage and boldness knowing that pioneers of our movements have often faced situations like these and met them head on with faith and awareness of the big picture. This has often led to great movements of fruit of their labor. It seemed in the midst of the encroaching fog of closed countries and travel restrictions, there was still an avenue to Nepal through Qatar that had been kept open for us by the hand of God.
Now, it "happened" that the team was fasting on Wednesdays, and we knew that this dilemma was something under the umbrella of God's sovereignty. We took the next day to fast and pray and make a final decision on if we should abandon trip plans. The next day while seeking the Lord, each team member would go back and forth reasoning and praying, while keeping an eye on the news. The hour before this important meeting came, the Kathmandu times released a news article that the Nepali government had closed its country to all spring tourist visas (a significant if not devastating hit to an economy supported by the pillar of tourism). Nearly each one of us gasped with shock, and then rejoiced at the clear and present answer to our question. We cheered with joy that our cries for wisdom, leading and for open and shut doors was heard by our almighty, personal God just an hour before this difficult decision had to be made. This is true to Sir William Temple's experience, "when I pray (and in this case, fast) coincidences happen, and when I don't, they don't!"
Our team gathered together that evening for a time of processing. Many of us were weeping at the close of an exciting adventure for Christ, but relieved that His protection and providence were clearly known. Months of training, planning, praying and gearing up were over, but not all was lost. We were each taught significant lessons of discipline, perseverance, faithfulness, prayer, God's plan, and the value of friendship and teamwork.
The following week we took a team hike out at the Shotgun Ranch near Post. We began the trek at teammate Kortni Papineau's house and made the journey up in elevation to the ranch fire tower where we unpacked a picnic of Nepali Dahl bat (lentil soup and rice), Masala tea, and chocolate chip cookies (not a Nepali staple). We spent time in prayer for the Nepali people and the difficult conditions in the Mountains, for the enormous struggles that will face the nation as they go into lockdown and feel the pinch of a year without tourism. After that refreshing time, we are looking forward to next season's opportunity, and are partially prepared for the training and preparation that awaits us for that important and exciting trek.
Rory Rodgers is the pastor at Calvary Chapel of Crook County. He can be reached at 541-416-9009.
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