In July, Erica Sahm traveled to Nepal with a team from Indiana to lead a teachers’ conference. She took the time to reflect on how she experienced God through the journey.
MOVED TO GO
God had been tugging at my heartstrings for a long time. In fact, I’d been feeling his gentle urging to serve for at least a decade. Help out with the high school youth group. Visit the elderly. Rake leaves for those who can’t rake leaves. God knows my strengths. But I didn’t do any of those things, and I hadn’t really felt the urge to go. Missionaries came to our church, and it was easy to write a check. It got me off the hook. I didn’t have to go anywhere. Do anything. I did my part. Until, I ran out of excuses. Until I matured enough to not try and make excuses anymore. Until I ran out of money and couldn’t write any more checks. Until I boldly challenged God to make me part of his adventure, to give him the control I thought I had over my life.
I even prayed for a sign. Yeah.
The sign landed in my inbox: Educational Mission Opportunity. Okay. Turns out, it was scheduled for this summer, and it was for teachers. Immediately the old excuses began to surface: How would I raise the money? Would I get sick from the samosas? What if I didn’t know anyone who was going? I’m not as young as I used to be…
But God, in all His gentle, loving, insistence, took care of all my concerns. Even when I wasn’t going to let him. Even when roadblocks fell square in my path: my husband lost his job, I didn’t know anyone who was going, my body was beginning to feel my lack of an exercise regimen – was I physically up to the challenge? It was especially then that He led me by His path. And so, I was going to Nepal.
ON THE GROUND
Fast-forward a few months to the day we landed in Kathmandu. I had the privilege of accompanying Ruth, a fourth-grade teacher, and her husband Steven on this trip. ServLife Director Adam Nevins met us at the airport, and we were off.
We spent the first few days in the grimy, smoggy-yet-breathtakingly-beautiful city of Kathmandu getting acclimated to the time zone, the language, the culture, and the curry. We prepared our minds and our hearts with devotions about rest, trusting God, and the sufficiency of Christ. My senses were thrilled with stray cows and monkeys, mounds of trash, exotic flowers, and spicy samosas. I could get used to this.
And I could get used to the people – they were all so kind! Ambica and Prim’s girls – rescued from the sex trade, from child slavery – those girls captured my heart with their songs about Jesus they sang to us in English. With their Nepali folk songs. With their choreographed dances. With their wide eyes and shy smiles. That family encompassed what it means to have the heart of a servant. The heart of Jesus.
Over the next few weeks my life would be forever changed. Cliché, isn’t it? But it’s so true! God was planting seeds and showing me beautiful life lessons. But can’t that happen here at home? Does one have to travel to Nepal just to have their eyes opened? No. One does not. But I did. I needed perspective. Humility. I needed to need God. And boy did I ever.
I’m not proud to admit that my comfort zone was pushed on this trip. I even had a mini-meltdown via text to my husband. Can you imagine being on the receiving end of that when your spouse is a world away? But in those moments when I couldn’t reach out to him because the wi-fi was out. When I couldn’t get comfortable because the electric outage also took out my motel room unit air conditioner. When I was faced with a Nepali toilet (Heaven help me) in the pitch dark. That’s when I had no choice but to lean on God. And yes, for me, it did take jet setting across the Atlantic to learn these lessons. To give up control over my life. Control over my surroundings. Control over my ordinarily climate-regulated life. Control over getting sick from the samosas. But enough about me. God was making beautiful things happen all around.
THE WORK OF GOD
The teachers we met were astounding. ServLife wants to meet the needs of the poor, the needs of orphans, and the needs of widows, just like we are instructed to do in Gospel of Matthew. So when the teachers in West Nepal were asked how ServLife could best support them, they responded by saying that they needed some formal training. Many of these educators traveled over crowded, crater-laden roads, through the haze and humidity of monsoon season, just to acquire some training from us so they could more positively impact the lives of their students. They were dressed in their finest, and we heard not a peep about the heat or their long drive.
I learned that it is common for Nepalese teachers to go to school through tenth grade, then college in eleventh and twelfth, where they may take some electives in areas of discipline where they want to teach. There is a real need for child psychology, classroom management, and higher-order thinking skills in order to teach students how to become critical thinkers and problem solvers.
These enchanting men and women were attentive, respectful, and eager for information. They participated in discussions and asked a lot of questions. They reflected on our time together with praise and with critique. They asked for more next year. Whether they knew it or not, God was working in their lives to impact the orphans supported by ServLife. And it was a beautiful thing to watch that unfold.
God was there in the Nepalese teacher who asked if American students believe in ghosts, which sparked a conversation… about… God! God was there in the men and women who prepared our samosas. God was there in the children who played with our camera phones and eagerly slurped on mints and who practiced their English by saying, “Hello, how are you?” God was there in the old man on the street who shyly sidled up to me asking where I was from, then bowed his goodbye following my response. God was in the mountains. The trash-piled streets. The muddy watering hole where children swam, livestock drank, and clothes were washed. God was in the Daya Girls Home where eighteen children are taken care of by one couple in four rooms. God was there in our translators. God was in the one-room schoolhouses with nothing but cushions on the floor and maybe a blackboard if you’re lucky. God was there with our ServLife team. God IS there.
And I am just blessed to have been a small part of it. To have a seed planted that will not let me ignore the needs. To have a seed planted that insists I go back. To have a seed planted that ensures I’m involved in training the group of teachers to go back next summer. That ensures I take a vested interest in the language, the culture, the people. Before the trip, I was merely interested in God’s work in Nepal. Now, I am completely invested in it.
Do you want to use your gifts to serve in India or Nepal? Contact us for more information on upcoming trips and how you can be involved.
Your story reminds me of the summer of 1992 when I taught English in southwestern China. Only I was not young, in my 60’s, and we were teaching college student and professionals. Having taught preschool and second grade, I really felt so inadequate and had to depend entirely on God’s help. We were given an additional Beatitude before we went–“blessed are the flexible, for they shall bend but not break.” We needed that: no hot water, then no cold water, no air conditioning, humidity 99%, officials wanting us to change classes everyday ( They didn’t want us to get close to the students.), and we could not talk to anyone about God unless they asked about God. The students were the most loving and caring and so helpful. Most wonderful experience I’ve ever had and, yes, there was many opportunities to talk about God!! God bless you for serving.
Thank you so much Pat, and thank you for sharing your story. We are truly blessed!