posted May 1st
As you may have read in our recent blogs, Sue & I are in Malaysia where we’ll be spending most of 2015. I’m recovering from major surgery & need quite a long time to recuperate & get back to normal life. Please keep me in your prayers as the physical pain & stress from before & after the operation has led to me contracting gastritis & losing a lot of weight: down from 80 kgs to only 70 at the moment!
During this time of convalescence, we intend to keep up with our monthly blog but it’s likely that our posts will be ‘inspirational’ rather than accounts of recent book & clothes distributions to the poor & needy that we usually write about.
This time around, we decided to write about Nepal, as it’s been in the news a lot recently with the huge earthquake. I lived in this mountain kingdom for 5 years, from 1979 to 1984 & it’s been heartbreaking to see on the TV news the huge loss of life, along with the destruction of so any historic monuments that I used to walk or cycle past every day!
In 2013, I was asked to contribute some ‘live’ missionary stories for a Christian publication in Australia, & so sent in the following article. As it’s quite long, we’ll divide it into 2 parts.
Adventures in Nepal!
Nepal is a country with about 16 million people, divided up into different tribes & language groups—from the hardy Sherpas of the mountainous far north, close to the Tibetan border, down to those in the southern plains that look much more Indian. Very few Nepalese speak English, but we really wanted to reach them all & so the Lord led me to learn the national language of Nepali. Heidi came from a place in India where Nepali is spoken, so she had a head start, but I needed to completely begin from scratch!
As tourist visas in Nepal only lasted a few months & were difficult to renew, the Lord led me to join a teacher’s training college & apply for a student visa. As this was the late 1970s, there was no internet & consequently no online applications, & so everything had to be done on foot: either walking or cycling to different government offices over a period of 2 months before the treasured visa was finally granted!
I remember my first day at my new college: I’m not sure what I was expecting but it was quite a culture shock! I was the only foreigner in a campus of several hundred Nepalese & every word of every class was in Nepali! I had been studying a teach-yourself Nepali book, but because everyone seemed to speak so fast, I couldn’t understand a word of what was being said. I’m happy to say that as time went on though, I found I could understand the first & last word of every sentence. A few months later I could understand some of the words in between, & by the end of the year I was just about fluent!
Around this time in our missionary organization, there was a great emphasis on reaching people with ‘True Komix’–illustrated tracts that usually finished with a salvation message & an invitation for people to receive Jesus as their Saviour. They were wonderfully simple & were exactly what was needed to reach the Nepalese population—the trouble was that they were all in English. The Lord showed me to translate them into the local language & distribute them widely all over the country. Slowly but surely, we translated the first few, adding a new one every month or so, while a faithful American friend & co-worker called Pat wrote the Nepali script. He was amazingly gifted for this job, as Nepalese often commented that his writing was the best they’d ever seen! Every speech bubble & piece of text had to be written by hand & then carefully glued on the original English version. In the same way, we had to glue on letraset shading to make the characters look more Asian & less European.
In the early 1980s, printing in Nepal was still the very old-fashioned type where the printer actually inserts every letter individually into a wooden block by hand. All the pictures would also have to be photographed & then etched onto wooden blocks in the same way, making the task of printing a 4-page comic much too burdensome. For this reason, apart from one simple salvation tract that we did locally, we decided to print in India. This involved very long overland journeys to places as far away as Madras, (Chennai) to take advantage of the more modern offset printing presses that were used there. Bringing the literature back was also a huge challenge, involving train & bus journeys lasting several days. I remember one time loading a large amount of packets of comics & tracts into a cycle rickshaw (three wheel cycle taxi), while my wife & I climbed into another cycle rickshaw. The rickshaw with all the literature was supposed to follow us to a transport company that would take the consignment from this dusty north Indian town of Muzaffarpur to the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu. However, Indian traffic is chaotic & so somehow the second rickshaw got separated…..we waited at the transport office for a long, long time & with each minute that passed, it looked more & more likely that the rickshaw driver had probably sold the literature as paper for making paper bags. We were on our way out when suddenly the rickshaw turned up out of the blue: apparently he had gotten lost & wanted to be paid a much higher price for his blunder! I don’t remember how much of a ‘tip’ we gave him, but we sure were happy to recover our precious load!
to be continued……