Life in Nepal

Here is a quick update on our life in Nepal!

In case you missed it, we are having another baby! Our little guy will be joining the team sometime close to Christmas. We are excited and trying to prepare ourselves for the changes of a bigger family. 

IMG_20170713_123712273.jpg

We also wrote an article for our local paper in Pueblo, CO over the summer. If you missed that, here is a link: http://www.chieftain.com/life/religion/exclusive-pueblo-native-discusses-christian-work-in-nepal/article_6eef23f5-52f0-5fe2-b7a3-66af126b94ec.html

 

There's not much new happening with the business yet. We have been working on getting the last bit of the official registration completed as well as some accounting/auditing work for the last fiscal year which ended in July.  We painted the walls in the workshop (special thanks to Aunt Bobbie and Uncle Rod!), I am almost done building the kiln, I picked up another potter's wheel today, and spent most of the day in Thimi, the village where most of the Nepali potters are from, getting supplies and spending time with some of my connections from the area. 

Please continue to pray for provision as we run with the vision He's given us. As we continue working with the poor at Banquet House I am constantly reminded of the urgent needs of these people and more and more excited for the opportunities that this business will provide!

Here is the Workshop!

Here is the Workshop!

With Odella's help...the kiln will soon be ready for its first fire!

Thimi, Nepal

 

We recently had a short term team come from the Iris Harvest School in Mozambique. We helped to lead their outreach while our leaders were out of the country. Of the many testimonies I could share, here is one of my favorites:

 When we have a team come to serve with us, we do our best to help facilitate their trip while encouraging them to pray and get their own leading and direction from God. So at the beginning of their trip we spent a morning praying and asking God for words and pictures to direct their time here. One of the guys from the team, who has never been to Nepal, heard God say to go to a place called Kalipur. Another member of the team felt there was another village we were meant to go to starting with an "S" and ending with an "A". None of us had heard of a Kalipur but after some research we found a small place in the south near a village we had gone to before. The pastors in that village were able to connect us with some pastors nearby Kalipur. When we arrived, the pastor told me that many people in this region have never even heard the name of Jesus and that all the churches in that district have come together to work to bring the gospel to their whole region. Just as in Luke 10, he said that the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. They had been praying for laborers to come to share the gospel in this region and even more specifically, in Kalipur! We spent a day in Kalipur, sharing the goodness of Jesus with many and praying for the sick. The following day we went to a village by their church named Sakuwa (S.....A)! God was clearly moving and drawing many people to Himself throughout our time near Kalipur. I was especially encouraged by the faith, unity, and boldness of the pastors in the area. 

Thank you for all of your prayers and support. We still have a long way to go with getting the business up and running. Click here to find out how to financially support what we're doing in Nepal.

I wish I could share all the amazing stories of God's goodness with you, but for now, here are a few photos from the last few weeks. Enjoy!

One very small section of Kathmandu.

One very small section of Kathmandu.

The Workshop Training Center

In the last couple of updates we've talked about the Pottery House. It is a vision that has been growing in our hearts over the past year - to build a creativity workspace for the Banquet House community. It will be a place where people can come to, create, have fun, learn new skills,  and build deeper relationships. Every step we've taken so far has caused this vision to grow, and excitement to increase as we see the great need for this type of ministry. Over the past few months things have been quickly gaining momentum and I am happy to announce that it is now an officially registered vocational training center!

  We were not initially planning to pursue an official business registration, but we feel that God is leading us on this route. Since we plan to invest our time and resources in this work anyway, making it a registered business will allow us to obtain long term business visas. It will also help us to focus our efforts and I believe that it will create more opportunity for the people we are serving. Most of the people we plan to work with have very little work experience and face enormous obstacles in every area of their lives. Our hope is that we will be able to create an environment where, through to power of God in the context of creativity and relationship, people will be trained and empowered to overcome the challenges they face and live free, whole, and dignified lives.

"He who gives the most hope has the most influence."    -   Kris Vallotton

Practical training is a definite need, but our desire is to give more than training. We want to see hope restored, lives transformed, and joy made new. The people we hope to serve have been told that because of karma, they deserve to be poor, homeless, handicapped or alone. They have had to learn how to fight and beg in order to survive. For many, it's not a matter of being stuck in a bad place, it's all they know. They don't know how to imagine anything else. They lack many of the basic skills necessary to obtain, or keep, proper jobs. The need is far beyond our ability to meet, but I am confident in the love of Jesus for these and know that His desire to touch and restore is greater than mine. He has led us into this, and I know that He will sustain and breathe His life into the work that He started.

Starting a business in Nepal takes a lot of finances and work. We have almost finished the legal registration process, which is a huge hurdle. We will have the next two years to invest about $50,000. With money that we have already spent and items that we will be able to write off, it seems that we are about halfway to the goal. We would be honored if you would like to help us make this dream a reality. To find out how to contribute financially, click here

  

Encounter Space - Pottery and Freedom

Just as the clay is transformed into something new, our hope is that lives will be transformed as well! 

Over the last year, a vision has been growing in our hearts... 

The Banquet House is our ministry to the poor and homeless in Kathmandu. Many of the people who come live in extreme poverty, sleep on the streets, and fight various addictions. It has been amazing to serve them and we are always learning more from them about Christ's amazing love. We have seen God do some amazing things in their lives but we are believing for even more breakthrough and lasting freedom.

So, in an effort to be a greater blessing to them and to provide more avenues for the Holy Spirit to touch their lives, we plan to start a creativity workspace. I have already got my first potters wheel made a few weeks ago and am working on designing and building a kiln (that will run on waste cooking oil!). I am excited and feel like God is leading in this and believe that through engaging creatively with people at the Banquet House, God is going to bring more freedom to their lives. It will also provide time to connect in new and deeper ways with these people that I know Jesus loves deeply. 

We are at the beginning of this and feel that there is a lot of potential, and many different directions we could go with it (vocational training, business, etc). We want and need people to partner with us in this vision. There are a lot of challenges in Nepal (electricity is only on part of the day, water shortages, lack of supplies) that make this project much more difficult than it would be in the West. Please pray for wisdom and favor for us as we research and try different things to get equipment up and running. We also need financial support as many of these things are quite expensive. Below is a rough estimate for some of the upfront costs:

Pottery Wheels (I am hoping to get a few more)..............$200 each

Kiln................................................$2,000

Supplies/tools...........................$500

      (clay, glaze, tools, tables, shelves, etc.)

Banquet House building expansion......$3,000

Monthly Rent...........up to $250/month

If you would like to partner with us financially in this vision, click here and follow the instructions. If you would like to give towards a specific item email us once you have given with the details of where you would like the money to go. 

Thanks for taking the time to read this and take part in our lives here in Nepal. We're excited to see what God does through this and will be keeping you updated on stories of freedom and hope! 

A few shots from Thimi where I have been building relationships and getting information about ceramics in Nepal. 

Snapshots of the last couple months

Shortly after we returned from our visit to the States we went on an outreach with a team from the Harvest School in Mozambique. We went to bring encouragement and share the love of Jesus with the people in the mountain villages near Pokhara. The scenery was amazing, Odella enjoyed her first outreach, and we got to see God touch many people with His love and healing!

We partnered again with Watts of Love. We had a great time with the people from a leprosy colony near our Children's Home.  Watts of Love gave solar lights to these amazing people. It was amazing to see God show up in that place with incredible joy and healing. Several deaf ears were healed and we all encountered God in a new way as we shared in His joy and hope and love for all of us. Check out the video that Watts of Love put together for the trip!

A few weeks ago, we returned to the village where we worked to provide earthquake relief last summer. Part of our relief efforts was providing the village with a band saw that would serve to help them rebuild as well as be a long term blessing to their community. The mill was running well and has turned into quite the workshop. They were building doors and windows for the school while we were there.

We celebrated Children's Day at the Iris Children's School. Instead of their normal uniforms, the kids wear their traditional dress and perform songs and dances. We all had a blast!

The biggest holiday of the year, Dashain, just finished. All the kids were off of school and we hoped to leave the city to go camping, but were unable to for a number of reasons. So instead we camped out at the school for a few days. We had a lot of fun as a family, played lots of games, and enjoyed the break!

It's Good To Be Back!

Hello!

Wow, it's been awhile since our last update! Within that time, we got to spend a few months in America visiting family and friends. It was SO good and refreshing to spend time with loved ones, introduce Odella to family, and simply enjoy some of the comforts of being home. We felt really refreshed by the end of our trip and were ready to come back to Nepal.

I almost can't believe it but we've been back for about a month now. Time has flown by! For the last two weeks, our team has spent a lot of time move all of our kids into a new house. As you can imagine, moving 27 kids comes with a lot of packing, cleaning, and painting. It's been a joy to watch the kids settle in and be excited about the newness that comes with a different place. 

When we first arrived though we hit the ground running and joined a short term Iris team to some villages surrounding Pokhara. It was our first outreach as a family and definitely stretching, but something we'll be happy to do again one day. The people we met were so excited to see Odella but seriously questioned our parenting skills - they were certain that she would get cold and sick because she wasn't wearing enough clothes (even though she was sweating). 

One of the days, we hiked up to a Buddhist stupa meant to bring peace to all who prayed there. While the views were stunning and there was obviously a lot of work put into building the stupda, no one we spoke to had experienced the peace they were looking for. We offered to pray for them and a few let us, but others weren't quite open to it yet. At first, I was discouraged that I couldn't see more happening. But, while praying, the Lord gave me hope by reminding me of a promise mentioned several times in scripture:

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened."     Luke 11:9-10

There were so many people seeking peace that day. What they don't know yet is that peace doesn't exist outside the person of Jesus. And that is what filled me with hope - whether they know it or not, the people of Nepal are looking for Him, the Prince of Peace. As they continue to seek Peace, He continues to be found. These are exciting times in Nepal, please keep praying for hearts to soften and open up to true love and freedom.

We are so excited to be back and to take part in what God wants to do here. He's placed some things on our hearts so look for another post soon with details about what we want to go after in this next season.

Much love from our family to yours,

Gwen

Springtime - Joy and Mourning

Life can be really crazy sometimes. Full of ups and downs, surprises, transitions, tragedy, and joy all crammed into one week! When so much is always happening, it can be tempting to either numb yourself to circumstance or become completely overwhelmed by it all. We have seen so much happen in Nepal lately and are always faced with the choice to laugh or cry.

A couple weeks ago we had one of the most powerful moments at church that I have seen when one of our friends who had left his wife and daughter about five months ago returned. We all prayed and rejoiced with them and now have the joy of seeing complete restoration come to their family. A few days ago we spent some time ministering to a single mom whose husband left her and her daughter a couple years ago. She cannot find work right now and is faced with a terrible decision of leaving her daughter to work overseas (usually in very bad conditions). A couple weeks ago we were able to spend time with some women who work in a "massage parlor" (brothel) and pray with them for healing, freedom from addiction, and for new work. A few weeks ago some from our family prayed for a man whose arm was completely paralyzed and Jesus healed him. He literally danced for joy! We've also experienced the joy of expanding the school, the frustration of corrupt government leaders, and even more than I can list here. 

There is so much more to each of these stories, and many many more that I haven't mentioned. In the midst of life in Nepal, one thing that I have learned is to keep my eyes fixed on what does not change. In the face of great need, terrible tragedy, constant chaos, ecstatic joy and awesome miracles I have become more convinced than ever of the goodness of God. He does not change. Some may ask why bad things happen if He is so good? Not completely sure, but He does tell us to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. And in those moments his love is tangible. From His side, unaffected by time, He does not change. From our side, life is dynamic, not static. Snapshots don't show the whole truth. So as for me, I am learning to fix my eyes on the One who does not change, and learning to love like Him. 

 

In other news:

Iris Children's School: We have built 2 new class rooms, and are in the process of getting the government approval to extend the school up to grade 6. This has been quite a challenge, but are believing it will go through. Part of the new building additions included wheelchair accessible rooms and toilet. Schools in Kathmandu are not usually handicap-friendly and we have recently had the privilege of taking in many handicap children, some of whom lost limbs as a result of last year's earthquake.

Kids home: The kids home remains one of our favorite things about life in Nepal. They are currently going through some really big transitions. please continue to pray for them during this time.

Camping trip: Last month was a the holiday between school years. All the girls had a fun time in Kathmandu and all the boys went camping! It was a blast! Check out more of the photos here.

Chitlang and Janakpur Outreach: We had an amazing outreach to a nearby village where we were able to encourage some believers from a local church and saw God move in peoples lives in a powerful way. We saw God restore people eyesight, hearing , and also heal many other issues! In a few days we will be going on another outreach to the southern region of Nepal. Please pray for us!

Miscellaneous: We are praying a lot about the upcoming year. There could be lots of changes coming and we are seeking God for His vision for this time. Gwen's involvement with BFA will be changing in the near future, we will also be focusing on providing pastoral care to our team, and we will be visiting the U.S. this summer!

 

Thank you for your continued support and relationship!

Benj and Gwen.  

 

 

Happy New Year

Happy New Year from Nepal!

We have a lot going on and it is difficult to share everything with you, but here are a few galleries that I hope will give you a glimpse of what our life and ministry look like in Nepal. We have had an amazing year in Nepal and are always learning more of what love looks like. I hope you are blessed and encouraged by these pictures! 

Christmas in Nepal

Banquet House

Beauty For Ashes

Family

Iris Nepal Children's School

Earthquake Relief

Food and Culture

Janakpur

 This was our first Christmas away from family, but celebrating the birth of Jesus with the kids was a blast!!!

Thank you to all who have prayed and supported us financially. If you would like to partner with us you can visit the "Give" to find out more.

 

Benj and Gwen

Gratefulness

"It's easier with gratefulness..."

Every Wednesday we gather as a family to pray for each other and for Nepal. During our last meeting, my awesome wife Gwen shared a picture that God was showing her. She saw all of us walking through deep snow. We were wearing snowshoes. She felt God saying that the snow shoes were like gratefulness. You can trudge through the snow without them, but it is a lot of work and not very enjoyable. But the snowshoes keep you on the surface and make it much easier to continue on in joy. 

This is a timely word of encouragement for us, and I believe that it is for you as well! In Nepal we are facing the aftermath of earthquakes and landslides, fuel shortages, strikes, and corruption. Many people who were affected by the earthquake fear freezing to death as winter is approaching. Relief efforts have been drastically hindered by the "unofficial trade embargo" imposed by India, making it near impossible to get supplies, let alone getting them to those who need them. The southern region of Nepal has been imposing a strike for the last 3+ months in protest of Nepal's new constitution, closing schools, businesses, and has turned violent on many occasions.

On November 14th alone there were earthquakes in Japan and Mexico, suicide bombings in Beirut, Baghdad and Lebanon, and another terrorist attack in Paris. Unfortunately, there in an abundance of chaos in the world right now. But even in the face of all of this, I believe that there is so much to be grateful for, and walking with gratefulness empowers us to not only stay on the surface of it all, but to remain focused on what truly matters and ultimately make a difference in the midst of it all. I believe that being grateful is like a key that opens the door to being a people that carry the the fullness of joy, hope, freedom, and peace of heaven. 

I believe that even in the face of all that is going on, God is still in control and He is calling us to walk with an attitude that befits His children. Instead of standing by arguing or getting overwhelmed by the weight of it all, let our lives be good news to those in need. Let Him empower us to love perfectly and hope incessantly. Let us begin to love or neighbor, those in need, and even our enemy with extravagance. Let God fill us with His unshakable hope and joy and  then carry that light to the darkness. This is the gospel. It's good news to the needy. 

Someone recently told me that "more is caught than taught." That statement has reverberated in my heart over the past few months. Let us truly carry something that is infectious. Let us be a people who carry substance not empty teaching or theology or arguments. Let the way we love define us more than anything. It's a hefty calling, but I think that a great place to start is with gratefulness. Take a moment and direct your heart towards all the things you are grateful for. Let God breathe life over your situation and give you His perspective.  It is much more fun walking on top of the snow, and the abundance of heaven is sufficient for anything you face today!

Thank you to all of you who pray for us and support us financially. If you would like to learn more about how to partner with us check out the GIVE tab, or message us if you want to learn more about our life in Nepal!

-Benj

Beauty for Ashes

This post has been a long time coming, but here's what I've been up to for the past six-ish months!

About eight years ago, two American girls living in Nepal were broken over the lack of opportunity and rights for women here. They saw how many ended up trafficked or in prostitution and felt the burden to do something about it. God led them to the verses in Isaiah 61 that promise His beauty for our ashes. They knew what they were to do to help.

They started a business called Beauty for Ashes to employ women who have come out of the sex industry or are at risk and in vulnerable situations. It started out very small, but it made a difference and is continuing to grow today.

Shortly before the earthquake, Benj and I helped them build a wall in their new building. In the process, we discovered that they had a visa slot opening up and that my background in the apparel industry made me a pretty good fit. At first, it was a struggle for me to commit. God had called me to be a missionary and I intended to do the hardest things possible, especially the things I didn't want to do (funny how different our plans are from His sometimes). Here was this opportunity to do the things that I love - be creative, help design some jewelry and accessories, help with admin and organizing, and work with incredible women that are being empowered to live independently and discover who they really are and how much they are worth. It sounded amazing, and a little too good to be true. Yes, it would be a huge time commitment, but it would be doing something I was already passionate about. And that's what I almost missed out on. But God wrecked me with His love for them, and His love for me. I'm realizing more and more that passion is a key element of enjoying life, and that's the kind of life He has for us:

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." John 10:10

Right now, I'm there eight hours a day four days a week and I'm loving it. One of the most common questions I get is,

"What does your day usually look like?"

I'm still trying to figure out the answer to that ;) It really depends on what's needed at the moment. Regardless of what I'm doing most of the day, it usually starts with leading a short devotion with the ladies. It's been a privilege to study with them and see things from a new perspective! Some of the general things I get to do are: keep track of our raw materials and buy more when we run low, create new designs, work a bit with our customers overseas, and lately help work on our upcoming website. 

As soon as the website is finished, I'll send out a link and update you a bit more on what's going on with us. Its been a beautiful journey so far and I'm really looking forward to what's ahead!

Love,

Gwen

Solar project

As most of you know, I worked for SolarCity before moving to Nepal. During that time I was able to be part of their first trip to Nicaragua as part of their GivePower initiative where they are installing solar panels on schools in the developing world. Their most recent trip was in Nepal and I had the privilege to join them for part of the project. I had a blast installing solar, spending time with their team and the people from the village of Raaghabpur. In their area, there is no access to power. No grid. The system we installed will power their school and the new computers that SolarCity donated as well. Here are a few pictures and a video from the trip!