Obedience

Some people have asked me.
Dear Sir they will say.
What fears do you have?
What scares you today?

When you think about moving.
To Nepal of all places.
It’s crazy. It’s silly.
To move. On what basis?

The earth shakes with earthquakes.
There’s landslides on mountainsides.
There’s monsoons from early June
And bumpy, treacherous car rides.

You’ll struggle to breathe
There’s hardly no air
On top of those mountains
And there’s Yetis. BEWARE!!

The food is unsafe.
The water’s not clean.
With lotsa trips to the loo
If you know what I mean.

The government is shaky.
There’s political unrest.
Public transport is dodgy
And their planes aren’t the best.

There are power cuts aplenty.
Crazy cables all around
And hazards are everywhere.
In the air and on the ground.

So tell me again.
Now why would you go?
After all I have told you
With all you now know?

I paused and I waited.
They had a good case.
There still is one answer
So I said it with grace.

“Make disciples of nations”
Is what God commands.
Obedience to Him
Is His only demand.

And Nepal is a country
With needs that are clear
And we’re willing to help
In spite of our fear.

So grant us the wisdom
Dear God we do pray.
To walk as you tell us
Each and every new day.

By Huy

Towards an Unshakeable Kingdom

Towards an Unshakable Kingdom

I am lightly jolted as I kneel at the cupboard in my office in Kathmandu and the earthquake alarm dings briefly. I ignore the aftershock as it is so small but a Nepali colleague starts to yell loudly and rushes outside where she gets on her motor scooter and rides off to her small sons’ school to make sure they are safe. From a nearby college there is a great hubbub as students move outside in response to the slight quake.

It is months since the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that devastated large areas of Nepal on 25 April, and for most people life has now taken on normality, albeit an altered one. However, the emotional scars have not yet healed and some people react badly to even the smallest of the continuing aftershocks, which trigger memories of frightening experiences.

Recently a Nepali man recognised me in the street in Kathmandu and called out. He was someone I had worked with in the hills at Okhaldunga Hospital in 2004. He told me his wife and two daughters had been killed in the earthquake and his 19-year-old son had had both his forearms amputated because of a crush injury. I asked about another man I had worked with at the hospital and whose daughter’s wedding I had attended – he was killed in the earthquake my friend replied. All quite shocking for me.

I work for International Nepal Fellowship (INF) and, although it is not a relief organisation, immediately after the earthquake it quickly formed a disaster response group that organised relief supplies and utilised government and other community contacts to offer medical aid and make distributions of emergency food and shelter to some of the worst hit areas. INF liaised with the Pokhara Christian Community (PCC) and its social welfare arm, Asal Chimekee (meaning ‘good neighbours’). As well as PCC supplying and distributing much aid, it also provided volunteers, mostly from youth groups, who worked tirelessly with INF, packing goods, loading trucks and distributing the relief items. Many local church and para-church organisations were also involved in relief work.

At a feedback meeting in one village, the people told the Asal Chimekee team that they were happy with the quality of food, materials and training that had been given to them. One leader asked if the team were there to convert people to Christianity. The team took the opportunity to explain why they, as Christians, were doing disaster relief and explained how many people around the world loved the villagers and had contributed generously. These misconceptions are not uncommon and it is also frequently assumed that Christian organisations will only help Christians. The media often does not report on what is being achieved by Christian organisations but this does not deter the ongoing work.

The initial relief efforts are over but many in the hilly regions where destruction was worse than in Kathmandu are still suffering badly as whole villages were shattered and the roads needed to bring help are impassable due to landslides and the monsoon rains. A new phase has begun now, one of rebuilding. INF has been allocated an area in Ghorka District by the government to work in; its immediate focus has been the provision of materials for emergency shelters and the building of Temporary Learning Centres to replace the many destroyed schools, as over one million students have not been able to attend school since the earthquake. INF is also working with local churches to respond to community needs.

Likewise, Asal Chimekee is continuing its work and practically providing for people with such things as seed distribution, constructing health posts, schools and toilets and running children’s health camps. It stepped out in faith with $7,000 and God provided one hundred times that in the weeks that followed but future plans require that much again. Please remember the people of Nepal and organisations like INF and Asal Chimekee that are showing Christ’s love under adverse conditions.

Rowan Butler is an Interserve Partner serving with INF's Communications team.

UMN Earthquake response

Everyone who was in Nepal on 25 April 2015 will remember that feeling – the horror of the solid ground beneath you rolling like surf, cries of fear, buildings crumbling, clouds of choking dust, the shock and the confusion that followed.

For villagers near the epicentre, the experience was even more deadly. In some communities, most of the houses were reduced to rubble, the few possessions of families already very poor buried and destroyed, food stocks and precious animals lost, and in some cases, family members lost too.

The United Mission to Nepal has been working in Dhading, one of the most affected districts, for more than 20 years. We have strong relationships there, competent local partners, and a track record of working with the poorest and most disadvantaged. So it made sense to focus our relief activities there, in three Village Development Committee areas (VDCs) in the south and four in the rugged, mountainous north.

The challenges were many. The northern VDCs have little or no road access at the best of times – just narrow walking trails snaking through the Himalayas, crossing steep gullies via sinuous suspension bridges. Landslides and rockfalls made the trails virtually impassable, and broke or damaged the bridges. Getting relief to the villages in the north meant negotiating access to scarce helicopter transport, or long, dangerous road journeys to drop-off points to which affected families walked, sometimes for days. UMN and its partners managed to distribute comprehensive relief packages to more than 12,000 desperate families.

Now the work of reconstruction is beginning. Over the next two years, UMN will be providing training and assistance to communities so that the new houses built will be more earthquake resistant; we'll be providing temporary buildings for schools, repairing damaged water systems and toilets, restoring livelihoods through seed and tool distributions and replacement livestock, training people in disaster preparedness, and helping deal with the psycho-social impacts through trauma counseling groups.

There are huge challenges ahead. Thank you for your prayers and support – they are much needed, and much appreciated!

Lyn Jackson is Communications Director at UMN.

Grace for the long haul: reflections on 13 years o

Grace for the long haul: reflections on 13 years of service

“We don’t see you as a foreigner, we see you as one of us.” I was so stunned to hear those words three times, soon after I reached 10 years of service in my adopted country.

The first hint I got that I might one day have some level of approval in my new culture was when I returned after my first Home Assignment. The local people realised then that I was serious about being in their culture and their acceptance of me began to grow. So when I crossed 10 years and people acknowledged me as one of the team, serving together, my heart was so encouraged. Ten years is considered a long time to serve in cross-cultural work these days but it has some excellent rewards. As I look back I can see how the Grand Weaver has been weaving the threads of my life and experience to bring me to where I am today.

I remember being handed an exercise book with four pages of notes, essentially my first job description as school nurse at an international boarding school. Over the four years there, I found tasks I did not enjoy doing and others I had never been trained to do: making budgets in a currency I didn’t really comprehend and working with children who had suffered sexual abuse are good examples. Even as I struggled with some of those challenges, I also saw how my previous training was used by God in that placement. Being the eldest of eight siblings and working in children’s camp ministry was helpful experience. Working in the Emergency Department in a major Melbourne hospital proved very good training for handling the accidents that occur in a school of 300 children.

I guess in some ways I have done it the hard way with four different placements in three different language areas. I remember a particular time when I felt I was a failure. I had persevered with a placement for five months but it became obvious that it was not going to work out. Eventually, when I was removed from the placement, feelings of failure overwhelmed me. I learned two things from that experience: failure (real or perceived) is not final, and you are not a failure if you have been faithful. I took a month out to recover, then moved on to a placement that was a much better fit and led me to the unique niche I now enjoy.

Teaching and mentoring health care workers to be involved in health research came to me after some years in the country. Despite its challenges, it has been a fulfilling role, teaching people theoretical and practical skills, but also having opportunities to teach life values along the way. I have grown into the role, but God has also brought people across my path who opened doors for me to do this job.

There were a lot of things I wanted to achieve in the early days. I remember the list I kept on my wall of what was still to be done. These days I don’t have such a list but I still have dreams of what I’d like to see done. I now focus a bit less on the tasks and more on relationships with people. We have wanted to do a community survey looking at a local health issue. It has been delayed for two years because I wanted it not to be driven by me alone, but this year I have a local colleague who has a passion to see it done and I am trusting others to work with us will be provided.

I now have more white hairs. Sometimes that is helpful in Asia because people give you more respect. However the respect that comes from the wisdom and experience gained can only come from living each of the 365 days of each year. Someone recently asked me how I learnt resilience. My reply was, “You can’t learn it in a week!” On my wall is drawing of a tree with the words of Jeremiah 17:7–8 (NIV):

But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when the heat comes; its leaves are always green, It has no worries in the year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.

That verse became very precious to me and some of my local colleagues when we faced a difficult time in the leadership in an organisation. Together we dug deep into our relationships with God. Resilience comes from plodding on and remaining calm, through the summers and the droughts.

Luke 10:17–20 tells how the 70 disciples came back to Jesus and reported on their mission. Their highlight was the power they had over Satan but that was not Jesus’ agenda. “All the same, the great triumph is not in your authority over evil but in God’s authority over you and presence in you. Not what you do for God but what God does for you – that’s the agenda for rejoicing.” (The Message) These words have been a strong reminder to me as I prepare for my next Home Assignment that God has taught me much and it’s really important to share what He has done in me.

“For God’s love compels us” is the verse on my prayer card. In recent days God has been teaching me new things about his love, especially from the Servant passages of Isaiah. “Take a good look at my servant, I’m backing him to the hilt. He’s the one I chose, and I couldn’t be more pleased with him” (42:1 TM). It’s been good to be reminded that He is pleased with me because He chose me out of His love and not because of the tasks I do. I can relax in that and then serve freely because I am secure as His child. And His love becomes again my motivation to serve. I am still learning; I wonder what more I will have learned in another 13 years’ time. I do know the loving Weaver will be at work making me a more useful servant in His service.

The author is a Partner in South Asia

Postcards from the Himalayas

Some months back I had the privilege of visiting a leprosy hospital with one of the counsellors, Helen*. I was so moved by meeting these patients that I had to share.

From a Partner in Nepal

Basanta* is a young woman (aged 26) who lives in a very remote part of the hilly western region. She has grossly deformed hands and feet; she had been aware of changes in her limbs for 13 years but did not know where to go for help. She heard on FM radio a description of her disease and a phone number to contact. Not having learned to write, she recorded the number on her phone. When she contacted the number, she learned of a mobile medical camp being held. She was helped to this camp where she was told about leprosy and her need for long-term medication and good care of her limbs to avoid further damage. Leaving her family and all that was familiar, Basanta travelled hours and hours by bus to reach the hospital. That was just a few days ago. Since then, along with medical treatment and care, this beautiful young woman has taken the opportunity to begin to learn to read and write, her pencil held by a stump of a finger. Sometimes a teacher is able to visit the ward. Other times, fellow patients use their spare hours reading to those who cannot read or helping them to learn to write their name and the alphabet. She also is enjoying the fellowship meetings held for patients.

There was another man (aged 53) – I did not catch his name –who also came from a very remote area. He had a below-the-knee amputation due to disease. His three daughters are all married and have left his home; only his wife is waiting for him there. He came seeking help as he realised that although he had only a ‘sore’ on his foot that he continually damaged, it could be leprosy. Even now, in phone calls to his wife explaining that he had an amputation, he did not speak the dreaded word ‘leprosy’ so as to avoid the stigma and exclusion people with this disease still often experience. He smiled gently as he explained that he had some land that he could pay others to work now that he was not able and that he had a hand-turn sewing machine and could earn some income that way. This man’s face beamed as he shared all this with Helen this morning.

Astha* was seated on a wooden stool on wheels from which she was carefully spreading the sheet and folding the quilt as she made her bed. Her leg had been recently amputated below the knee. Wounds and damage, occurred because she had no sensation of pain due to the disease, could not be healed. She was missing her three-year-old daughter, who was being cared for by her sister. How would she cope when she returned to her home in a big town on the plains south of the mountains? It is hot and very wet at this time of monsoon. Her home is a small room and water floods in during storms. Although the family has lived there for a long time, they do not have any paper of ownership. She uses a neighbour’s toilet that is some distance away and the nearest tap is at another neighbour’s. Her husband, also a sufferer of this disease, earns a meagre salary as a rickshaw driver and Astha tends a very small vegetable patch. She related that through all these struggles she has a growing faith in God that gives her great peace. Helen gently placed her hand on the bandaged stump of Astha's leg and prayed for good healing and trust in God to provide for her future.

*Names have been changed

Capturing Nepal

Since 2008 Rowan Butler has worked in Kathmandu as part of the communications team of International Nepal Fellowship (INF), a Christian development organisation. His main work is in photography, promoting INF’s worldwide profile to raise human and financial resources so it can serve the people of Nepal through health and development work. Rowan, who previously worked as an electrical engineer with the United Mission to Nepal, is also occasionally consulted on engineering problems.

These stories recount Rowan’s interaction with two very different Nepali children: one in the course of his normal work, photographing an INF medical camp; and the second in a chance encounter, part of living life together with Nepali friends.

Ram
Eight years old, undernourished at 15kg and sad looking, I met Ram* as he waited on a chair along with his uncle before he went into surgery to remove a bladder stone. No one could cheer him up. The operation was done at an INF medical camp by a surgeon from New Zealand who had volunteered for the medical camp and paid all his own expenses to come to Nepal, travel to a remote location and stay in a local hotel.

This camp had the luxury of being run in a small hospital, but some take place in remote areas in ordinary buildings and without the benefit of wards for patients to recover in. They are run specifically for the poor and sometimes people like Ram walk for days over steep country to get treatment.

Finally, a smile from Ram! He was feeling much better and his mother had bought him a toy digger and he was enjoying playing with it.

The Kumari

She was being carried down the street at night, a small party accompanying her. Ahead walked a man carrying a burning torch and above her was held a large parasol, trimmed in red and gold. This was the Kumari of the Patan area, the living goddess, that Hindus believe is the incarnation of the goddess Durga. She was on her way to visit my friend Ritesh’s relatives, as they are descended from the ancient Malla kings of the Kathmandu Valley. There are a number of Kumaris in the Kathmandu Valley, all representing the same goddess. She remains set apart until she reaches puberty, at which time she returns to normal life and another girl is chosen.

On another occasion, she was in public for a festival and I took pictures of her. Then after she was taken inside and I was packing up my camera, I was asked if I would like to go in and take more photos of her.

On telling one Nepali friend that I had photographed the Kumari in private, he seemed to barely believe it, and Nepali colleagues at INF seemed astounded. Perhaps it is like being invited in to photograph the Queen!

The Kumari’s mother had asked if she could have copies of the pictures, so I went back later with prints and took two items to give the Kumari as a gift; one a game, because she is really just a girl, and the other, a small Nepali book in comic form about the life of Jesus. It's not often that one has the chance to present the gospel to someone who is considered a god.

Rowan is an Australian Presbyterian World Mission missionary with Interserve, which in turn seconds him to the International Nepal Fellowship.

*Names have been changed

Splashing Over

Sometimes discipleship happens in the context of long-term relationships. At other times, brief encounters give us the opportunity to share God’s love in meaningful ways. Being disciples of Jesus means allowing His love to fill up our lives, so that whatever the situation, we are ready to let that love splash over on those around us.

“May God our Father himself and our Master Jesus clear the road to you! And may the Master pour on the love so it fills your lives and splashes over on everyone around you just as it does from us to you.” 1 Thess 3:12,13. The Message.

I see a glass, full of water. As more water is poured in, it splashes over onto the tablecloth, the cutlery, the serviette and whatever else is around. A glass that is empty will not splash over; but a full one can’t help but splash over! The splashed water runs over hard surfaces and it is also absorbed into soft, dry things like cloth, carpet and soil. Its impact can be far-reaching and can bring about change in that which absorbs it.

The part of the country where I work in has less than 0.05% Christians, so this has become my prayer for myself and other staff of the hospital where I work: That the love of God would fill us and splash over to the people around us. Only a few expatriates work with the hospital team. Most of the Christians working here are cross-cultural missionaries within their own country. They come from the south and north-east—the more Christian and richer parts of their country. They leave behind family and well-paying jobs to come and serve in a place that is called ‘backward’ and very poor, so that they might share the love of God with the people in their care.

Government Medical Officers completing extra training in Family Medicine (General Practice) come to our hospital for the clinical part of their course. They stay with us for a period of ten days at a time, three times over two years. They get to see us at work and at home, so they get to observe all the aspects of our lives. They say things like this to us: “Your hospital is different. The hospital is clean”, “The doctors talk nicely to the patients”, “The doctors are willing to share their knowledge with us”. They often ask why we have come to work in this ‘backward’ place, and then we have a chance to share about the love of God that compels us.

Some of our doctors go to visit the Government Medical Colleges in our area. They seek to encourage the Christian medical students and also build relationships with other students there. In the Diwali holidays, the medical students are invited back to our hospital for a retreat. During the day there is a clinical training program to supplement their college training. In the evening there is a spiritual program including testimonies, discussions and messages. Now we have some of these students coming to us on other holidays just because they feel at home with us. They want to learn more about God’s love—the love that they have experienced splashing over to them.

Raj was a 20-year-old young man who came to us after eating rat poison in a suicide attempt. Unfortunately, the rat poison he had eaten was one that we cannot reverse and so this young man would die, probably in the next 24-48 hours. Olem is one of our nurses who has been changed by the love of God. During her duty she was able to share with this young man of the difference God’s love made in her life. Raj’s case is just one of over 400 suicide attempts we see in our hospital each year. Many of them come to our hospital because it is known in the area as a place that deals compassionately for people who attempt suicide. God’s love is splashing over again.

I first saw Beryl when she was left screaming and scantily clad on the ground outside the Outpatient Pharmacy. We guessed she must have been about seven months old but she was just skin and bones unable to sit up. She ended up in our Children’s Ward where the staff gave her the name of this precious jewel. Within a week she was smiling and responding to anyone who came to give her a cuddle. I often finished my ward rounds by going in and playing with her. The hospital carried the cost of caring for her, since her family was never found. Today Beryl is a healthy little girl, thanks to “super flour halva” and the care of the staff in the Children’s Ward. (Super flour halva is a porridge made from local grains and pulses that provides a great source of carbohydrates and proteins). Beryl has also gained the love of a family: in the home of a couple who were not able to have a child of their own but are full of the love of God.

Pari was one of our nurses who came in to visit me and ask for advice with her crocheting. As we worked with the wool, she shared with me the challenges she faced regarding her family who were not following God’s ways and wondered what she should do when she had to leave the hospital and return to her home district. Now I get text messages from her from time to time. She is working in a remote part of the country where she has no phone, no electricity and she is both the doctor and the nurse. I thank God for the chance I had to splash over some of the love of God to her, which she is now splashing over to others.

Some years ago, after facing public transport in the heat and humidity of Darwin, Denise and I bought a big, cold, refreshing milkshake. As Denise sat down, she managed to spill her drink, and what a mess it made! Before it completely spilled, she managed to catch the drink with about three quarters still in the cup. What amazed us was how far the spilled part had spread. It covered a large area of the table and the cleaner had a big mess to clean up on the floor too. And that was just one quarter of the drink!

And so I keep praying: that the love of God would fill my colleagues and me to overflowing. We have seen some of the impact as God’s love has been absorbed into dry and thirsty lives around us—but we long for more. Just like with Denise’s milkshake, sometimes we are amazed at how far the splash spreads. I think that we will be even more amazed when we reach heaven, because God has promised that His love and His Word will not return without making an impact in the world around us.

The author is an Interserve Partner in India

Bright neon flashing signs

Teaching five-year-olds does not often allow for quiet time. They just love to talk! About their families, their friends, their new toys, a wobbly tooth, just about everything! But what I love is when they talk to God. Their prayers are so honest and they are not afraid to ask God to supply their needs and to thank him for what he does for us. I must say it is hard not to smile when they pray for their teacher’s plane to stay away from eagles in the sky, or, “thank you Jesus that it’s summer soon because I can’t wait to have milkshakes.” Their honesty and thankfulness has made me think about prayer and its importance in our mundane day-to-day lives.

Prayer has always been something that I have done, but it wasn’t until coming overseas to serve, that I have found the importance of and daily reliance upon prayer. It started about a year ago when I was devoutly talking to God – nay – pleading with him to show me in “bright neon flashing signs” where on earth I was supposed to go after returning from two years away in an exotic location; England. He had planted Nepal in my heart months before, but I was having an inner wrestling match to properly accept my calling. I think the idea of going appealed to me more than the physical aspect of moving halfway across the world to a foreign, dusty, third world country. However, like many times in my life I have found that when I pray for leading, I imagine him smiling, leaning back and with a flick of his wrist or a blink of his eye, he answers our prayers in mind-bending ways.

So once again at the beginning of 2012, I found myself willing to follow God’s leading but not really sure where that was. But, as in so many instances before, God has allowed these prayers and pleas to be answered when and how he wants them to be. I had been home from London for a few months and things were starting to get a little desperate. I needed an answer, I needed funds, and I wasn’t quite sure which way to turn. However I made a decision to make sure that whatever I decided to do, that I would completely consult God in prayer on every decision I made. So I tried to subside the panic that was slowly brewing inside of me, like a good cup of green tea, and just hand it over to the Big Guy! So I did! And he was faithful.

I remember that day well. I was fiddling on the computer, organising things (not really organising, more agonising over future plans), when my friend Marilyn popped online to answer my questions about Nepal. I had been liaising with Marilyn because she had been in Nepal for two and a half years and it was she who initiated my interest in serving at KISC for the 2012/2013 school year. Marilyn asked if I had done anything in regards to finding funding for the year ahead. I hadn’t. So she said to me, “I will email a couple of my friends because they know how important it is for us to find teachers out here. You can start to write letters to friends and family, and that is at least a start.” We organised to talk again later once her friends had responded.

Not even half an hour later, she called me back and said, “Honey, stop writing those letters; I think you’re covered for the whole year!” A friend of hers had read the email and replied instantly with “I think we should be able to cover that!”

BAM! I was numb with shock, and fear, and disbelief. If that wasn’t a neon flashing sign, then I’m not sure what is! Later, I learned that the staff at the school had gathered to pray for me that very day about my finances and direction for me to come to KISC. My sponsor also informed me much later on that he gets hundreds of emails across his desk every day and doesn’t commit to helping others unless their message speaks out at him. But if he feels led to take it up, he does so without any hesitation and accepts immediately. Even in a season when business was quiet, he still decided to step out in faith and support me financially for the year. God has blessed his faithfulness abundantly with a business year so full that he has had to outsource to meet the demands. I was so humbled to hear this, and grounded in my calling to serve the year at KISC.

Since arriving on the dusty roads of Kathmandu, prayer has been a method of survival, necessity and comfort. Adjusting to a new culture, a new climate and a new school has not always been easy. At the beginning of the school year I had a few significant problems with my class and there are times when the pain of homesickness trickles in and little things like the crazy traffic, or no electricity can almost be the end of you. But I have experienced and witnessed things here that have changed me forever. The school that I have been working at has just finished 40 days of prayer and fasting for the future development of the school and seeking God’s leading. I have enjoyed being a part of a community where if there is a need, a problem, or even success, we turn to God. Sometimes during a lesson or lunchtime, we pray for the needs of a staff member or the school, taking everything to him in prayer.

The mother of one of my students came to me last term to explain her husband’s sudden-onset battle with a brain tumor and to ask if we could pray for healing. After many months of prayer and medical treatment the doctors found no tumor remaining. It was a miracle!
But despite the many miraculous times when he says “Yes”, sometimes God’s answer is “No”, and some sad and disappointing results this year have led me to ask him, “Why?” Yet, despite his occasional “No” answer, I have learned that his plans are bigger, his ways are higher and he is always faithful.

A favorite verse during my time in Nepal is, Phillipians 4:6: “Don’t worry or be anxious about anything, instead pray about everything, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers.”

If you had told me when I was a little girl that in 2013 I will be living in Nepal, working at a mission school and sharing God’s love with the people of Nepal, I would not have believed you.

I am thankful that God had a different plan. Stepping out in faith to follow his calling this year has been one of the most fulfilling experiences, and I will not leave the same person I was when I arrived. I have learned that prayer is not just part of our routine before bed, but a constant source of support and comfort, as God cares for us in every mundane and major detail of our lives.

Tara is an OnTracker serving on a one-year placement in Nepal.

Driving by braille

Ricky always says that it was the food that attracted him to India. He grew up in Mamaku, a small community near Rotorua, and the Indian lady who ran the shop, “made the most delicious curries in the world. She prepared my palate for India long before I knew I was going there.”

Ricky’s first trip to India in 1990 exposed him to biryani, halva and aloo gobi. He also met many Muslims, and enjoyed the ease with which any conversation could turn into a religious discussion: the delicious food and amazing conversations convinced him he had to return to India. Viv’s first visits to India were made in support of a child sponsorship ministry. Her heart went out to the children there, and she, too, knew that she would return.

Prior to becoming Partners, Ricky and Viv studied in India at the South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies (SAIACS) in a village near Bangalore.

“Living on campus at SAIACS eased us gently into aspects of Indian life, such as irregular bus services that were always going to arrive ‘soon’, markets where the buyer truly had to beware, and auto-rickshaw drivers who always knew where to go even if it wasn’t where you needed to be!”

After finishing at SAIACS, Ricky and Viv returned to New Zealand, were accepted as Interserve Partners, and in August 2000 they and their baby daughter, Susie, moved to Delhi. Life in Delhi was very different, and everyday travel included arguments with auto-rickshaw drivers over the fare, and near-death experiences as buses brushed past the flimsy three-wheeled rickshaws.

“We lived on the ground floor of a threestorey house, and our landlord, who lived upstairs, always seemed to be visiting.

We thought he was just exhibiting the extraordinary hospitality that is ingrained into Indian life. But then we learned that he struggled with us allowing Susie to cry herself to sleep – when he heard her cry, he would come downstairs – because in his culture, a baby should never be allowed to cry without being comforted.

“We now live in a four-bedroom apartment, on the third floor of an eight storey building. Viv and I both come from farming backgrounds, so it was a challenge at first to adjust to apartment living. In winter the temperature drops down to 4 degrees Celsius, but in summer it gets up to 45 degrees, and we all camp out in the only room with an air conditioner – our bedroom.”

In order to learn Hindi, Ricky attended a Government-run language school, and both he and Viv went to the Landour Language School in Mussoorie each summer for three years. The challenges of dealing with scorpions in the old cabin and leeches on the tracks made the Hindi lessons seem easy!

“We can really only speak survival Hindi, though, enough to shop, and talk about health and work. English, not Hindi, is the common language in our apartment complex, because the people who live here come from all over India, and therefore speak different languages.

“We tend to eat mainly vegetarian style: rice, dhal (lentils), vegetables, and some chicken. The supply of beef is extremely limited in Delhi as it is illegal, however buffalo meat is allowed. It’s definitely a shock coming back to New Zealand and eating red meat every day.”

After five years of using public transport the family finally bought a car in 2005. For Viv it meant immediate freedom, but Ricky found the transition more of a challenge. He finally came to enjoy driving, though, when he discovered Rule #1: you can do anything as long as you do it slowly enough!

“In India we drive by braille. Everybody has scratch marks on their car, and if you don’t, you have had a shonky panel-beating job. After driving in Delhi, New Zealand roads were a bit of a culture shock: cars are fast, there are so many rules, and drivers seem unforgiving and ill-prepared for anything out of the ordinary. In India we expect everything on the road: cows, elephants, bikes, trucks… going forwards, sideways and backwards. I could be on the motorway, reversing up the fast lane, and that’s okay… People reverse down the flyer because they haven’t taken the right turn-off, and it works, because everything is done at a much slower pace.”

Ricky also found shopping in New Zealand to be a culture shock. “The vast supermarkets and task-oriented shoppers were overwhelming. And I couldn’t get over the enormous range of food to choose from – a whole aisle for breakfast cereals alone!”

Viv is involved in an administrative role at the international school where their children are students. What excites her about the school is the totally Christian culture that honours Jesus, and values each child no matter what So how long will this Kiwi family remain in India? “Every time we come back to New Zealand on Home Assignment, we ask ourselves, ‘Are we being effective?’ and ‘Is it still working for our family?’ And if we can tick those boxes, we return to India.”  Ricky and Viv live near Delhi with their two children, Susie and Thomas. They have been working in India for ten years. their religious beliefs are. About 70 children, from 19 different nationalities, currently attend the school.

Ricky started his own business in 2002, publishing books in both Hindi and English, with a focus on publications written in and for India, and especially on those written from an Indian Christian perspective. Through his business Ricky encounters people from all walks of life. As he lives out his Christian faith, even in small things like paying invoices promptly, people in the business world notice the difference, and opportunities for conversations about faith have opened up as a result.

Ricky is also passionate about empowering Indian Christians to effectively connect with, and minister to, their Muslim friends and neighbours. He thrives on being able to teach believers how to communicate their faith in a way that will be heard, and has helped to develop a module on Islam for SAIACS’ MTh (Religions) programme.

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