Six years ago, I was in a tent in a Tibetan village in East Asia and wrote the following in my journal:
I’ve never hated East Asia more in my whole life. I’m robbed of all joy and sick of who I am. I’m angry at my own life. God’s mercies don’t seem new every morning. God, I’m really angry and my heart is sick. I don’t feel full of love and I don’t feel your presence. I want Jesus; I want to see His face. I’m angry at missions, and I never want to see another Tibetan.
I had been married for a month and a half, was taking a full load of classes at Southern Seminary while working a job I wasn’t crazy about, and was now leading a short-term missions group. I was wearing several hats, and was trying to wear them perfectly. But I had slowly isolated myself and become afraid of my inability to continue any longer. I buckled under the weight of the expectations I had for myself.
Since then I haven’t spoken a word of Mandarin to anyone (except in a sarcastic way, and would become angry if someone asked me to translate, saying, “This isn’t a performance”), sold my missions books and missionary biographies, daydreamed through Missiology 101, poked fun of my caricatures of “missions people,” and put relationships with missionary friends on hold. I retracted into cynicism, bitterness, anger, and burnout, attempting to protect myself from further pain.
Fast forward six years and I’m packing my bags to go to Nepal with Sojourn International. After Pastor Nathan heard some of my story, he thought it would be beneficial for me to go on the trip. The objective for this trip was twofold: 1. Encourage believers from a church planting movement in rural western Nepal and teach them basic Bible interpretation, under the leadership of Sojourn’s Nepali partner; 2. Mentorship resulting in personal transformation of team members.
You better believe I tried to get out of it—“But my wife and son can’t go! I’ll miss work, etc.” I was afraid of what I would learn about myself, and honestly was afraid of what God would do. “God, you broke me on the last trip. I don’t think I can handle it again. If I’m overwhelmed by anxiety, will you still love me?” I prayed.
We arrived in Kathmandu at 10 p.m. The airport smelled like gasoline and wet carpet; there were crowds of men trying to get us in their taxis. Dust, smog, horns. Though the training was a two-day drive from Kathmandu, on either side of that training we would spend two days in a guesthouse in the Boudha district of Kathmandu. Boudha is a holy site in Tibetan Buddhism and has one of the highest concentrations of Tibetans outside of Tibet proper.
Upon walking out of our guesthouse the next day, I had to squint from the morning sun reflecting off the giant white stupa. There were hundreds of people performing their daily rituals, walking several laps around the stupa. Some were thumbing prayer beads, some were spinning prayer wheels, some were even lying prostrate on the ground in a prolonged series choreographed bows. Thousands of pigeons were eating the rice offerings. Dogs were lapping up the milk offerings. Cedar incense burned my nostrils. The collective mumbling of om mani padme hum sounded like a swarm of bumblebees in a thicket of wisteria.
With every Tibetan I saw, I was reminded of my words six years prior, “I never want to see another Tibetan.”
God is so good that not only did my raging against His plan not scare Him away, but it prompted Him to draw closer. God wasn’t neutral towards me, but had been speaking through the Scripture and my inconsistent prayers, my wife and son, my family and friends, pastors, community group, and coworkers. Because I am adopted into God’s family, God never quits or holds back His gentle hand of forgiveness. God’s Spirit is really working. Jesus loves Tibetans, and He loves me.