Awakenings

Awakened early under a translucent, pearly, opaque, cloudy sky, just off the eastern flank of Faith, Hope, and Charity, the The Three Sisters volcanoes ghostly rising above the eastern edge at the edge of the Cascade Range in Central Oregon.
Wondering as the morning lighted fate as to where my years of wandering would take me? Would, could, “stay” be in my vocabulary once again as I ponder in the sprawling ranch house hewn from the forest into a “tree” house sitting upon the earths floor?
As the snow melts off into the creek below that delivers pressurized irrigation water to the 228 Acre ranch, I surmise is it even possible I could see this spring season again a year hence?
Through Providential happenings scattered throughout the last three years, including dreamings, visions, thoughts, ponderings, and seemingly now as I sit here, even spoken words of my own and others have become powerful reality.
Am I Dreaming, I wonder, as I feel like I have really done nothing to be here in this paradisiacal space?
Is it possible under Heaven and God’s smiling face to call this home, put down roots into deep soil once again, fulfill my lifelong dreams of community in God work and Missions?

It is a Faith Walk

At the end of 2008, the daily devotional scripture reading at the Camp and Conference Center we were working at was handed to Mary-Esther by Moose, a large French Algonquin Indian, stating, ” this is not for me to read, as I only have daughters.” And so she read the devotional out of Hebrews 11 speaking of Abraham, “You will go to lands you do not know, and you and your sons will dwell in tents. imageAnd he went out, not knowing where he was going.” Little did we know, how prophetic that reading became six years later, however it started 3 years sooner with our two sons, as they began living in canvas tents/gers/yurts. And so, here we are living in a land we did not know those six years ago, only God knows how long, living in a tent/ger/yurt. Actually we lived several years ago for 9 months in a 12×12 Alaskan guide tent in Alaska and Idaho. Hmmm, words are powerful, and Moose had no idea, he was led by the Great Spirit to pass the good Book on over, and was part of a Prophetic destiny for us!image   imageIt is also interesting that I was part of SOAP (School of Apostolic Pioneering) a year ago for 3 months as a student, planning and scheming for pioneering a new YWAM Base, with plans and a scale model for building a large Lodge and school facilities for a new initiative in Bend, Oregon. Hmmmm, instead God has transpired us to be in the thick of constructing a rather large two story 4,000 square foot Lodge, Coffee Shop, Community Training Center here in Mongolia. I thought perhaps when we arrived a month ago that I would just be designing and constructing a western style septic system, as several western teams had canceled. Turns out, I am the Western General Contractor after all, and after redesigning somewhat the blueprints, laying out the foundation and pour, now have turned my attention to the electrical and plumbing engineering with western standards. Looks like we will be the plumber and perhaps the electrician as well, as well as overseeing metal work gate and fence building, cabinet building, and coffee shop design.image And so as time is swiftly flying by, and the plot gets thicker, we have decided to stay beyond our 9 week stay, perhaps through September. I’ve heard the Aspens and Birches are gorgeous in the fall. I don’t plan on staying until it’s 50 below! Some Mongols have offered to take me Tiaman fishing in the fall with squirrel tail lures, which have been known to reach two meters (6 feet) and 200 pounds (the fish that is, not the lures). We shall see! Besides living here in our Mongolian tent yurt ( ger), we have lived in Romania forimage

four years, and in a chicken house in Nepal and quite often without electricity, running water, bathroom/showers, heat, or A.C. It’s just a third world problem. Not a big deal. First world problems crack me up.

It is a Faith Walk for sure.

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Mongol Community Centre

We laribbon cutting with familyribbon cutting with Enkushnded roughly smoothly two weeks ago into the remote hinterlands four hours by train north of the most remote capital city in the world, Ulaanbatar, Mongolia. We barely had time to set up our Ger (Russian word for Yurt) and say Hi, before we hit the ground running.shoveling cementYurt being built

Our first two days were spent pouring over the 4000 square foot two story Western designed blueprints, converting to metrics, suggesting some massive changes for better public space, expanding due to less interior space building with thick brick walls rather than stud framing, staking and stringing out the foundation and interior walls square with the property on crooked streets, so all could see the layout for the Grand Ribbon Cutting Celebration 3 days hence.

Digging by hand began the next day, as they decided the backhoe bucket was a hair wide for all the cement pouring later. Two days later with hiring a large crew with shovels it was done. These workers could show American workers a thing or two about a work ethic, often working from sun up till way after sundown. Simultaneously rebar cage building was happening with another crew, and the ladies in between cooking meals for all the workers would create rebar tying wires. Form building began as soon as the trenches were dug and cages were dropped in. Cement pouring by hand and a smallish mixer (no cement trucks here) began two days in to forms being made, making me scramble trying to plan all the plumbing layouts and where to not let them pour concrete where I need pipes to go later, in an otherwise all cement padded and brick building. Normally they just pour the concrete and then try to figure out the plumbing later and put the pipes exposed.

Making rebar cages
Two weeks from hitting the ground, after a first day of concrete pouring being rained out half the day, it was thus decided to go for the gusto, and start at the butt-crack of dawn 4:00 A.M., and go till it was done, which with headlamps ended up being 3:00 A.M. the next morning. Whew, a 23 hour day. Reminded me of my many years of farming and multitudes of sleepless nights baling hay. Needless to say, a two day recovery period was needed. Mongols are tough and they know how to work, and are content with physical exhaustion for $12.00 per day plus food salary. I am quite amazed. Most Americans wouldn’t even take a nap for $12.00 per hour, let alone work all day. Brick wall building starts Monday!
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Old Man Winter

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A very short story.

He came down from the frigid north highlands. His one exposed bony hand with an icy, white grip on his walking stick. He was on the glacier field for the first seven miles. It was steep. He slid more than he walked. The walking stick was a brake. Little good it did. The first night he slept at glaciers bottom edge. At mornings light, he stood, shaking off the accumulated ice balls on his polar bear cloak. He swiftly moved downhill heading for lower warmer ground. His mustache and beard were cloaked in breath-condensated icicles. He could not open his pale-faced mouth as hairs were frozen in place. He looked as though a white chunk of ice, or polar bear was moving off the ice-field.
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He entered the forest of myrtle trees as he dropped in elevation. The sun appeared above the horizon. The warmth enveloped him. He shook his weighted heavy cloak once again, and ice balls, white, covered the earth below him. The forest became white with cold. He dropped lower in the valley, entering an oak forest. His gaze drifted upward, attracted by very small balls in the trees. “That’s nuts,” he said aloud, wondering what they could be. He shook his cloak once again; the ground became white with cold once again. He dropped lower.

Old Man Winter
by spud

Oh India, how we love you.

Aside

Well, it’s been a bit since I pressed out some words on page. In actuality, I haven’t been too inspired to fashion words in this manner, since arriving back on ‘Merican soil from my winter saga in Nepal.

I was asked by one reader, after I had returned, to do a comparison of life in Nepal and what the feelings were about, as becoming normal here once again. The comparison is so stark, and generally after being re-introduced to white-throne-Bemis-seat commodes, electric light switches, hot showers, and sweet-smooth-riding cars and roads, I was quite non-plussed and uninspired to even thinking or writing anything remotely intriguing about America. It is all just too normal when compared to seventy-five percent of the world who don’t live this kind of life of ease. However, I always have more culture shock upon returning from foreign soil, than when I arrive there. I’ve been out and about enough to expect it to be difficult and harsh.

However in fact though, when we have been able to compare, this American heritage, foundation, and the basis of our Constitution, and our founding roots, is quite exceptional to the rest of the world. Our success as a country is quite an exception to all other political and social experiments around the world and through the many centuries of history. Much could be written about this grand-experiment we call America and the freedom we have stood and fought for. Freedom isn’t free, unless it’s fought for, as history has shown us.IMG_4324

Instead, I want to shift back overseas once again. My wife, Mary-Esther, is once again in Asia. This time for two months in Northern India, with a team of 6 and a large mule train packing in to a flood-ravaged cut-off remote village, medical and food and supplies to help stave off the approaching cold winter and the devastating effects it could have on their lives. Latest numbers tell us 10,000 folks died in the latest summer monsoon, when 13 inches of rain fell in a twenty four hour period. Flash floods collapsed entire buildings, mountainsides, roads, bridges, homes, trails of access to remote villages, buried villages, and destroyed food supplies for animals and people that they had stored up for winter survival. This area they trekked 18 kilometers into, is located in the high Himalayas around 9,000 feet in elevation. As we speak, they are doing medical treatments, hygiene teachings, delivering supplies, as well as sharing the good news of Christ to the Hindus, who had placed their hopes and worship into one of their 300 million gods, the “Snake god,” for protection, which incidentally  didn’t work out too well for them.

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After this Himalayan trek, then she is off for Nepal the end of November to teach for two weeks in a Bible School for the Nations,  that our son Zach helped pioneer in 2010.

Pray for her and her sore, swollen-in-the-heat beautiful feet, as she brings the love of Christ in a tangible way to our brothers and sisters on our shared planet who were not fortunate to be born in our exceptional America.

Oh no, Naked White Ankles

We got off the bus, from our 12 day Trek to the 14,000 foot Annapurna Base Camp, back in our home base nearby city. As we walked down the streets a mile or so to another bus stop, people everywhere began staring at us, stopping what they were doing. At first thought, I thought, it was because we were so handsome, my son and I; oh, then maybe it’s because we have fully-loaded backpacks on and black long johns with bright mustard colored hiking shorts and trekking boots.

Then I noticed older ladies began their tongue wagging with other ladies, and young girls staring, and teenage boys doing rubber-necking and smiling. I stopped momentarily to follow their naked eye gazing, to see whence where did they go, as my wife and son kept walking.

What, all the eyes came out of their heads and commenced down low on the street, and did not follow me any longer. What was the object of their gaze? They kept moving, following my wife down the street. Oh, it was her beauty, dressed in her Lungi,(bright-colored wrap around skirt that goes down to shoe height), that caused their attention, as she was trying to impress the folks, which she did all along the trekking trail, where women fawned all over her.

Nope, sorry, that wasn’t it. Their eyes were down low, focused on her ankles. Of course her ankles were showing slightly; the Lungi, was up just a little. Halfway to the next bus stop, we made the decision to pull her off the street into a narrow alley. The shopkeeper lady next to us, left her store, followed her into the alley, and proceeded to yank the Lungi down until it touched her toes. “There now,” she yammered away in Nepali,”that’s much more appropriate.”

Evidently, naked white ankles are, in this culture as my son explained, equivalent to a young woman wearing a string bikini wandering through the streets of New York! What the heck? It apparently was causing lust among the young men as something they never get to see, and much consternation amongst the women and girls! It was no laughing matter to them, but we were howling, thinking it was quite comical. I guess it was quite pornful.

On the ironical and opposite end of the spectrum to our Western minds, showing your belly even up until you are elderly is quite approved. At the far end of extreme, my single son, tells of several occurrences while teaching and preaching in church, of mothers popping out both milk-engorged breasts fully exposed in the front row, to nurse their babies! The first time, brought him to much pause, and, “now where was I in my message?”

Now, as Paul Harvey would say, “you know the rest of the story”. Women, your white naked ankles are quite sexy! However, you may have to come to Nepal, for them to be fully appreciated!

Spud

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Pipes

Well, when I strapped myself to the jet rocket seat and set off in the frigid air at 36,000 feet over the Atlantic, I had a different idee of what my winter stint would be upon parachuting out over the Himalyas and wending my way down through the monkey-filled jungles and landing at the Machapuchre Ranch in central Nepal.

I had had small conversations prior to leaving my wood stove-warmed caboose home, which turned over into my mind and became grand delusions, snuggled into my bed, a few months before Christmas. Those dreams, I wished for reality. I had believed I would be designing kitchens and constructing a huge 2 story heavy rock beautiful fireplace. That really got my juices flowing, and I started perusing fireplace books and magazines. My artistry would be in full swing and in public eye for all to appreciate my handiwork.

Upon arrival, a slap of cold water hit me in the face; a dose of reality. It appeared that my dream was delusional after all. I would instead be doing plumbing. Someone informed the Project Director that I knew plumbing and it wasn’t me; I would be keeping that deep, dark, hidden secret in my pipe skeleton closet. Well, it was out, so I had to come out of the closet and sheepishly admit, yes I had hidden pipes in there.

Once again, I would be doing a hidden work, where no one would see my artistry and craftsmanship forever. It would be hidden for all time. Sometimes God calls us to to do the hidden thing, where no one notices. Scripture says to not let the left hand know what the right hand is doing, and be not as the Pharisees, who wail loudly in public prayers so that all may see their holiness, but the Father sees what we do in secret.

After I fitted (puns intended) my brain around this theology, I came to the conclusion, that as a married man I sort of liked the many female/male bonding connections that I had to begin making. If I could turn it into a sensual experience, I could kind of tap into pipes. I could get into the groove of a tubular masterpiece, so long as I could see light at the end of the tunnel. P-traps became a curvacious sort of art form, as they are not pre-constructed in Nepal. Long sweep bends became the form of a woman’s beautiful sweeping wrapping arm. Long 4 inch vertical tubes became a tall woman’s’ sexy legs. Remember Microsoft’s pipes that graced Windows back in the eighties? That’s what it looks like in a 10 room/bath/ 2 kitchen guest lodge.

I’m used to putting two baths and one kitchen into a house when I build, but this menagerie of pipes is a completely different story and on a whole new level. Actually, technically, a different story and a whole new level, meaning second story, won’t start until I return next fall.

The Norwegian job Director was praying, I take it, for a western code and schematic plumber to show up to do the job. Well, I just fell out of the blue sky, I guess. Seems there is not a home nor lodge nor hotel in most all of Nepal, where it is possible to flush down, a paper we use for wiping clean, called toilet paper in the west! Here, its considered such a waste of money, why of course that’s what God gave you a left hand and water for, with the right one for eating. No need to bother with silverware neither, you’ve got a 4 prong built-in-fork right there in your fingers, and a push off bar called your thumb. Duh, you westerners are so dumb and waste so much money on frivolous and such unnecessary items.

And so, as I install such big 4 inch waste pipes and big sweep bends and P-traps and proper stack pipe ventage, and dig giant holes for pouring cement septic tanks and make my own drain field pipe ( which they don’t have), the locals gather to watch the spectacle, scratch their heads in wonder, and yammer on and on about such waste, and why I am I doing such crazy stuff and spending such ridiculous amounts of money. It was only five years ago I’m told, that the local village leaders put their heads together and decided they had to do something about all the open defecation that they were increasingly smelling and stepping in. Thus, they required all homes to install squatty potty outhouses, that utilizes needing a bucket of water for when you go number two. “If it’s yellow, keep it mellow,” is the motto for number1, which means don’t flush and save water. Oh, and hot water supply pipes, “what the heck?” “For showers and washing hands?” You Americans are redonkulous in your needs for such luxury.

Apparently, that’s what icy cold spring water is for on a frigid January morning, as they bathe half undressed, never uncovered mind you, but keep adjusting their large wrap around sheet skirt, until they’ve somehow manage to accomplish it, all while completely in full view of the naked eye. Some cultures I’ve lived in, if its too cold too bathe, we’ll just wait ’till next month, eventually it’ll warm up, at least by summer. 4 bathings a year, one for each season, how about spring cleaning, folks? But these folks stay clean, no matter the weather; the women in their black, shiny, silky hair, and always, beautiful colored clean clothing that makes westerners dress look like dull colored rags by comparison.

And what, you’re installing plumbing for a washer, dryer, and dishwasher? What is the world coming to?

I will do my work, and then I’ll fade in the distance, and it’ll all get buried and covered, no one will see it, and eventually it’ll be taken for granted and no one will truly appreciate, like a beautiful sculpture or piece of art, or even the beautiful rock work that is beginning to grace the Lodge sides.

Oh, and remember that ginormous rock fireplace I was telling you about?

Hey, that just joggled my mind, about a “fellow” missionary gal here, gave me a Word just three weeks ago, about how it might be hard for me, to seemingly always be doing the hidden things out of the limelight, and maybe frustrated that the things I do go unnoticed, but that the Father sees me as Joseph, Jesus’ father. We never hear any stories about what he did or the things he taught Jesus as a young man growing up; Jesus seems to get all the Glory. And, yet, that Joseph was a good father who poured everything he knew into his son. The word went on, “that the Father sees all that I do, and that He is well pleased.

Pipes are fun and challenging, don’t get me wrong, I’m making awesome connections! My motto is to do “what The Father puts on my plate next.” My plate is full and I’m feasting on His delectable favor flavors! And that, good folks is not a pipe dream.

Spud

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The elderly neighbor lady

Shortly after arriving back to the lower jungles from our high Himalayan 12 day frigid trek, the cold snap moved down into our home village. According to the Nepal rag, the lower freezing temps have caused many deaths in all of Nepal. One morning, I awoke, went outside and saw blue smoke pouring out of my elderly lady neighbors one room shack. I feared the worst, that her house was burning down. Upon closer examination, she was just cooking breakfast on her open 3-rock-on-the- dirt floor- fire in the kitchen apportioned space. I could hardly see inside the darkened room for all the blue smoke filling the entire house and pouring out of every edifice available. She soon came out sputtering, coughing, hacking, spitting, to gulp some fresh air.

I had heard this same noise every morning from my cozy warm bed for months now, and just assumed It was the noise effects of a lifetime of smoking cigs.

I asked my buffalo milk man’s son, who lives down the little winding dirt and rock trail that feeds the village as the main artery from the bus stop, which incidentally is at our house on the ridge top dirt road, what the elderly ladies story was. Evidently, as a young girl, she was placed into a pre-arranged marriage at the age of 8 to a 12 year old boy, as was the custom. I haven’t heard yet how her husband died, but was at the age of 16. And so at the young age of 12 she became a widow! The customs of the day claimed that she would not be allowed to remarry, whether religious beliefs or the fact of a curse upon any subsequent suitor may be had, played into the end result, that she has now lived a single, sad life for the last 60 odd years. Thus, no children, nor grandchildren to play at her knees to bring her joy in her last days on earth.

In her poverty of life’s joys and riches, her village of 40 families I surmise as I count the house roofs that sit below us, came together some time ago, and built her a bamboo post and earth dirt one room dwelling abode that is not more than 60 square feet.

And so, as I surveyed the scene before me of smoke and dirt and open fire and frigid cold and an old bent over woman, I says to meself, “something doesn’t smell, hear, nor look right.”The adages of the New Testament came to mind, “love thy neighbor as thyself”, ” true religion is looking after the orphans and the widows”, and, “when you do to the least of these, you have done unto me.”

I told my wife and son Zach, something needs to be done to remedy this poor woman’s situation. Zach took it to heart as he had a weeks break before leading another 2 week Teaching seminar 20 hours away by bumpy bus. He did some Googling and came up with a perfect cooking, smokeless stove, that utilizes burning twigs and small branches, something an older lady can retrieve from the jungle forest on her own without needing to haul heavy wood and to split firewood. This stove also retains a little heat as its built from clay and helps keep her home warm at night. He then did away with her smoky open fire, and in its place built this rocket stove, that burns so hot under a cooking pot, burns up the smoke as another fuel. We have bigger plans for her, such as incorporating the exhaust, which is then only hot, water producing steam, to heat a rock and clay mass bed so she can stay toasty warm all night from a small fire of several hours, as well as keep her house warm for 12 hours.

However, there is another issue that first needs to be dealt with and so that will have to wait. As Zach and Mary-Esther were working in frigid weather to construct this stove quickly, the old woman in much consternation, took Zach by the hand and led him around to the back side of her tin roofed 5 foot high shack. A visual inspection showed the bottom third of her one wall had decayed to almost open space, save for the small split bamboo wall. The clay wall was gone from monsoon washing rains and then a termite nest was discovered as well, and a section of bamboo was gone, and the corner roof supporting post was eaten off. Her house is in the stage of starting to collapse over her head. We will acquire a new bamboo post, and patch her wall as best we can with slate rock and mud, and hope it will remain standing through the rainy season until next fall, when we can return. We hope to raise the $ 500 dollars or so, whereupon we desire to build her a firm foundation, cinder block with windows one room home, where she can live out her final years in a little more peace and comfort. Oh, and reinstall her smokeless stove, and construct her mass warm heated bed. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for.

I think a wholistic gospel cries out for far more than just an evangelistic save’em quick before they die message and then quick run out of town back to our comfortable western smugness. It demands that we be Jesus’ hands and feet and reach all their needs, even physically. And first we start by developing relationship and be helping hands to those in distress. That’s what opens doors for the message behind our deeds. As James say’s, ” Faith, without works, is dead.” I personally want to show my faith by my works.

And that starts with my closest neighbor. It’s pretty hard though, for every work we do for her, she arrives at our house shortly thereafter, with a gift of her own out of her poverty. So far, it’s been a bag of peanuts, half a head of cauliflower, some crackers, and a few small green tomatoes. I feel guilty for accepting when she has so little, but then I think of the widow who gave her last mite and the one who gave her last meal to Elijah, and then I accept with a smile and Dangubad, which is Thank-you in Nepali.

She is grateful for not having to hack up her lungs every time she cooks her meals, and it gives me a huge sense of satisfaction not to hear it. Incidentally, every Monday morning, she makes her stooped, bent over, from a lifetime of hauling heavy wood on her back, pilgrimage past our house to the Hindu shrine 10 yards hence, to clean out the ashes from her last weeks candles and incense, and then relight them once more, along with a few flowers to make her penance to the god of her beliefs, replete. Evidently, she is the widow of the village commissioned to be the sole janitor and incense burner, for the sins of the village.

Spud