I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was afraid. But it’s OK to be afraid. A level of fear in an environment like this is normal, even healthy. But more important is recognising that ‘being a little bit afraid’ of a situation doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go to the place you feel called.
In fact, when that place encompasses for you the following three things – calling, community and commitment – you soon realise there’s no where else you’d rather be!
If you’re ‘new’ to our little journey as a family, my wife and I are both aid workers who have been living and working in Nepal for the past two years. And recently, our ‘two’ became ‘three’ with the arrival of our beautiful daughter Zipporah (this photo of us together was taken just the day before the earthquake in Pokhara).
We were resting at home in Pokhara – a town only one hours drive and 80km West of the epicentre – on that fateful day. After staying and working on the immediate relief effort as first responders in some of the worst hit areas, we returned to Australia with our daughter for a three week holiday to recover, regather and ask, “What next?”
Well today, right now in fact, we are about to board the plane for the final leg ‘back’ to Nepal.
So how am I feeling? Mostly I’m excited and partly relieved to finally be going ‘home’. But of course there is still that little bit of healthy fear inside….
…. The fear that comes when you take your family into a difficult and potentially dangerous situation.
…. And the fear that makes you question as a husband and father; “Am I doing the right thing?”
But then there’s also these 3 reasons below. And as I look back over them, I’m filled with a renewed sense of strength and confidence that for me and my family, this is the right thing.
So why are we going back to Nepal?
To renew your resolve to ‘stay’ in times of struggle it helps to look back on the convictions and ideals that first caused you to ‘go’.
We never went to Nepal because we thought it was going to be easy, comfortable or safe. In fact, quite the opposite. We went because we wanted to serve the poor and to advocate for those in need.
But doesn’t the arrival of a baby daughter change all of that? When where you live and work is inherently more dangerous and risky for your family than if you lived back in a ‘safe’ developed country?
Yes and no.
Well actually, mainly ‘no’, though I feel the need to temper what I’m about to say by clearly stating that I’d never intentionally put my family in the line of harm for reasons that were reckless or ill-considered.
You see we embrace a practical ‘hands-on’ spirituality whereby we take God at his word when he says,
If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:17-18
And as parents, we live with the hope that our daughter will come to embrace the same desire to love and serve others, even when it comes at a price.
If we were to shy away from helping those we’ve come to call our ‘brothers and sisters’ in Nepal at their greatest time of need, what message would we be sending her about the value of those people and the reality of a loving and just God who calls us to act on behalf of those in need?
And so we trust that as our baby daughter becomes a young girl, and then a young women in charge of her own decisions and movements, that she will look back on our decisions as her parents, and not only be understanding that we chose risk and adventure in order to serve those in need, but hopefully proud. And as a result, that she too would want to dedicate her life to doing the same.
Living in community is everything, and for those of you who have experienced its joy and pull, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
At the risk of offending friends and family, for us right now, Australia is not ‘home’. Nepal is.
We believe ‘home’ is where you ‘do life’ with people.
The exciting and the mundane. From weddings, to funerals, meals around the table (or sitting on the floor), swims in the lake and walks through the hills, Nepal is home.
So whilst we’ve enjoyed our time holidaying and visiting with friends and family in Australia, there’s been an ever tangible sense that ‘we need to get back’, and an aching for the pain and anxiety our community in Nepal has continued to experience during our absence over the past few weeks.
Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do, long after the mood you said it in has left you. – Unknown
When we first signed up to serving in Nepal, it wasn’t for a flippant adventure but a decision made with serious intent and for a specific purpose, as all good decisions are.
My wife is currently the Community Health and Development Monitoring and Evaluation Advisor at the International Nepal Fellowship (INF). INF is Nepal’s longest-serving international non-government organisation and helps people affected by tuberculosis, leprosy, disability, HIV / AIDS and drug abuse, as well as facilitating development among poor communities, running medical camps and providing medical training.
Despite INF having played an important and ongoing role in the earthquake relief efforts (you can read more on that here and thanks to many of you who gave financially to INF in the aftermath of the earthquake) it’s really Brittany’s role now to help as the organisation ‘looks beyond’ recent events to ensure the rest of INF’s vital work amongst poor and marginalised communities continues to deliver impressive results and positive outcomes.
My wife and her organisation work in communities where the level of poverty is at unbearable levels, meaning women still die routinely from childbirth and large numbers of children remain malnourished on a day-to-day basis due to a lack of food security.
My wife is contracted to remain in this role until Dec 2015 and has a strong agenda to ensure she ‘finishes well’ by continuing to empower and train local Nepali staff to continue building and implementing a rigorous monitoring and evaluation system of INF’s programs for the sake of their improvement and sustainability.
As for myself, I will continue to play a supporting role, assisting in my wife’s professional role, writing for various NGOs and media outlets, and looking after our baby daughter before returning to Australia and to full-time employment at the end of the year.
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So we’re going back. And hopefully with this clearer picture as to our ‘why’, you’ll not only be able to support us better through the thoughts, prayers and encouragements you send our way, but you’ll also have a framework for thinking through why and whether you’ll choose to ‘go’ to the places and people you feel called to serve even (and especially) when it looks tough and there’s more than one or two people who disagree!