Imagine yourself on a journey with me...
We venture halfway across the world to a remote township nestled in the beautiful hill-country of Nepal. To reach this hidden place, we travel, first, by plane from Kathmandu, and then by all-terrain SUV up a very long, bumpy, and dangerous 6-hour route through what the local Nepali people call “hills.” You think to yourself: “These ‘hills’ are more like mountains for us.”
As we travel, you take in all the sights: Men and women carry crops and goods on their backs into nearby towns where they hope to make a day’s earnings. Children play in the streets and walk to school, sometimes trying to sell you trinkets as you pass by. Armed guards monitor road checkpoints. You notice new combinations of smells and occasionally have to squint through the dust from broken, unpaved roads hanging in the air. And although it’s all new and completely different than what you are accustomed to, you are overwhelmed by how much you feel at peace. This place doesn’t really feel as foreign as you expected.
We finally arrive at our destination—a small village compound that serves as both church and school. Our hosts welcome you with a slight bow, hands pressed together, and a warm “Jaimashi”—a greeting only Christian believers use with one another, meaning “I salute the One True God within you.” Instantly, your hearts connect. Despite language barriers and cultural differences, you are brothers and sisters in Christ.
We tour the small school grounds and humble church facilities, as the pastor, his wife, and several others happily tell you how God is using this little place to spread the gospel to their neighboring Hindu and Buddhist families. You are invited into the pastor’s home, and they serve you “a snack.” This snack actually turns out to be their best multi-course meal, and you choose to be hungry again even though you’re quite full from trail mix and granola bars already. As we eat with them, huddled together in their small sitting room, you listen and learn about their way of life. A few hours pass, and before we leave to check into our hotel, you notice women are already arriving for the women’s conference planned for the next day. As we prepare to rest for the night, you look over your notes, a little nervous, wondering what these women will receive when you speak to them the next day and how the interpretation will go. All the while, you still feel in awe that you are finally here.
The next morning is slow to start, as most of this part of the world is, but you don’t mind. You sip your milk tea and greet the women as they begin to gather in the church building. The walls are brightly colored with many banners and flags hanging from the ceiling—a beautiful representation of the colorful Nepali culture. The service begins with upbeat songs of worship, and the women and young girls dance and perform hand motions to some parts of the songs. It feels simple and joyful, and you find yourself compelled to sing along, even though you don’t know the language.
Sometime later, worship ends. To your surprise, you are then summoned to the front of the room, where you are honored by their “Ama,” the oldest mother in the church. With the eyes of nearly a hundred women watching, she greets you with “Jaimashi” and drapes over you a lovely lay of pink flowers. You learn later that the women in the town picked and sewed these flowers together themselves to honor you. But before knowing even that much, your heart is stirred by this beautiful tradition, feeling overwhelmed by the love and honor shown to you, their special guest.
The women’s conference commences. When your turn to teach arrives, you step onto the stage feeling at peace, sensing that the Father is saying to you, “There is no need to perform. Just be yourself.” You speak from your heart, sharing the story of Esther, drawing out points that you believe can relate to these women. You remind them, that although she became a Queen, Esther’s journey was difficult, and she took many risks to obey God’s will.
During lunch, you hear a few stories about the women attending this conference. Their stories help you realize something you hadn’t yet thought of: many of these women traveled day and night just to attend our women’s conference—some even more than that. They did whatever it took to be here, sacrificing time, a day’s or more work, sleeping on the church’s concrete floors, and possibly facing persecution from family or their communities who do not believe in Jesus.
After lunch, everyone returns for the second half of the conference where there are more teaching sessions and worship. At the end of the afternoon, the Pastor’s wife (a servant-hearted but fiery leader, you notice) calls the women to prayer. Following her prompting, you begin to pray for the women, one by one, trusting that the Father is speaking to their hearts even though you can’t pray for them in their own language. 45 minutes or so pass, and you begin to think the service is ending. But, to your surprise again, the women just stay there. They remain. They continue to pray passionately, seeming to be unaware that anyone else is around. They stay and weep.
You take a seat nearby, honestly feeling guilty that you are tired. You observe how beautiful their hunger for the Father is and ask yourself, “Jesus, do I really love you like these women love you?”
Suddenly, you sense the Father speak to you:
At that moment you remember a verse in Jeremiah that says, “Consider now! Call for the wailing women to come; send for the most skillful of them.”
And although the context of this verse is specifically talking about the women wailing for the nation of Israel and for the people to turn back to the Father, you can’t help but wonder, “What is it that these women wail for?” Maybe it is for their nation to know the One True Savior. Or maybe it is simply a cry that is full of pain and suffering from the abuse some of them have experienced at the hands of their families, their communities, or their nation. Or maybe it’s both.
And despite feeling a bit uncertain, a bit convicted, a bit insecure, you realize that, somehow, this small event was exactly what these women needed. A reprieve from their normal hardships, a time of healing and comforting that lights their hearts again. And far more than that, this moment—that will forever be engrained in your memory—gave you more than you could have ever given them.