January 2013 – Kathmandu Nepal
It was a different type of mission trip. It was not one where we talked. It was one where we painted, splashed colour onto lifeless walls, and handed our paintbrushes to any passers-by who wanted to help.
We had been tasked to paint a cafe owned by a Christian. The cafe had been painted before but due to the road-widening project conducted by the government (which they apparently stopped soon after because they ran out of funds!), the wall had to be tore down and rebuilt. So this time, we had the privilege on repainting it.
Many think of Nepal as a bustling city of colour and life. It was indeed one of colour and life, but when we visited Kathmandu (capital of Nepal), we realised it was a city of saffron robes worn by monks and bright specks of orange, yellow and white on their local hindu leaders. It was a dusty, traffic congested city screaming with life, yet yearning for something more than the life they were living.
Nepal is a deeply religious place. There was an altar placed under any tree. Where there was life, it was worshipped as god. There was a fear of the afterlife, and yet the fear of what the next day would bring.
I recall my brother sharing about an old woman he saw in the market selling strawberries. ‘She lives from day to day. She sells strawberries so she can have enough for the day. If she is worried about today, why would she be concerned with the eternity that we want to share with her?’
As much as we did not actively go out to preach, it was obvious that Nepal was a spiritually difficult place to share God’s word. Hinduism and Buddhism had deep roots here. People lived from day to day. Even if we did try to spread the gospel, people would just accept it as just another god – not the one God.
However, when we finally finished painting the wall. We saw God’s purpose in our task. The cafe was situated in an grey, dusty alley. Our wall stood out, it was bright, colourful and creative. So many people stopped by to see, a few Nepali asked what ‘Jays of Clay’ meant, and a few even offered to paint!
And I remember clearly that one of my friends felt very led to pray for one of the men who helped to paint. A group gathered around him and prayed for him. He did not understand English, but he felt the love that had been shown to him, a stranger undeserving of a prayer. In many asian religions, a blessing is given once you have given a sacrifice or offering to the gods. Yet, here we were, giving ‘free prayers’, giving love and concern.
Looking back, I’ve learned a few things. In fact, the whole mission team learned a few things.
Nepal may be very hard spiritual ground, but it is still God’s place. God loves Nepal and He always will.
And sometimes, God does not ask us to open our mouths and spread the word immediately. He wants us to reflect Him through our actions – sometimes through the simple acts of painting. And when we do God’s task, we begin to stand out and we shine bright in the darkness and dust. Furthermore, God asks us to work as a church. Many of us were not painters, but when each of us took up a brush to fill in the different colours and spots, it slowly revealed a marvellous painting of God’s love and plan.
And yes, we did paint Nyan cat.