NOTES FROM THE FIELD
In this series, thoseinvolved with CLC foreign missions profile one aspect of our overseas endeavors.
It is not always for us to understand or explain why things do not go the way we have planned. These past several months of the coronavirus pandemic have proven this to us in many ways. But this is also true in many areas of life. When earthly explanations fail to materialize, our Savior’s faithfulness is such a comfort! The perfect love and the sacrifice He made for us on the cross is the substance of our faith that provides the resolve to trust and believe what He has promised in His saving Word, for His Word reveals—
“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts . . . . So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.’” (Isaiah 55:8–9,11)
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
After waiting through more than a year of pandemic lockdowns and travel restrictions, I finally had an opportunity to visit Nepal when the Nepali government announced that they would open the country to international visitors beginning in March. I got excited, prayed for the Lord’s blessings, and sent in my visa application. The application took extra time but was finally approved, and the ticket was purchased. My plan was to visit Nepal for about three and a half weeks. This included a mandatory self-quarantine for five days upon arrival. The itinerary would include pastoral training seminars in four districts, congregational visits, and a graduation/ordination service for thirteen students who had been waiting for more than a year for COVID-19 restrictions to be lifted so they could gather for the service.
All seemed to be going according to our plans through the first six days in Nepal as I quarantined and then traveled by car to the west. But as soon as we headed to the Chitwan district for the first two-day seminar and graduation/ordination, we began to hear reports that the government was going to announce new travel restrictions and lockdown measures due to rising COVID-19 cases. By late afternoon, it was clear that all our plans would need to be adjusted because all public transportation would be stopped beginning at 6:00 P.M. the following day, and Kathmandu and several other major cities and towns would be locking down.
It was decided to go ahead with the seminar and graduation but to limit the time from two days to a half-day program so that everyone would be able to travel home before the district borders closed. All visitors coming from a distance to attend the seminar and graduation were told not to come.
The seminar began at 8:00 A.M. and concluded with a brief graduation service just before noon. Everyone quickly gathered their things and said their goodbyes as we prayed together for safe and uneventful travel. Raju and I spent the rest of the day looking at the HCLCN building project and talking to the contractors. We got up early the next morning to travel back to Kathmandu. The typically four-hour trip took more than ten hours due to massive traffic jams on the narrow winding roads that take you through the Himalayan foothills and down into the valley. This was caused by the mass exodus from the Kathmandu valley as everyone was trying to get out of the valley before the lockdown that was to begin that evening.
The government also announced that they would be closing their land borders with India and China soon, and that all international flights would most likely be suspended or canceled within a few days. It took several hours on the phone, but I was able to find a seat on a flight leaving in four days. It seems that I may have gotten one of the last seats available out of Nepal. Two days after I left, the government suspended all international flights in and out of the country. I spent four more days in lock-down in a hotel in Kathmandu waiting for my flight. I returned home a couple of days later, a bit disappointed, but safe and glad to have avoided being stuck in a hotel in Nepal for several weeks.
I spent nearly eighty hours in air travel and layovers, a total of nine days in hotel quarantine, and sixteen hours traveling by car. All of this so that I could teach for about three hours and preach a short graduation/ordination sermon to encourage thirteen newly ordained pastors. Certainly not what I had planned.
Would I change how things went on this visit if I could? Probably, because I have this old sinful flesh that still wants to call the shots. Am I thankful and full of reasons to rejoice to have been a part of those two weeks? Yes, I am! Why? Because
I have experienced the unfurling of God’s plan for me as I was encouraged in my faith, and I was able to encourage others through the truths of His saving Word. Because I am God’s own child, I trust His plans! His plans! Plans that are born of His love for sinners. Through our Savior’s life, death, and resurrection, we are redeemed, restored, and forgiven, and the new heart that our Savior has given to us has replaced that cold, dead heart of sin and unbelief. This new heart, and His love dwelling in us leads us to rejoice always in Him. This new and living heart also finds contentment and purpose in His faithfulness, His plans, His wisdom in all things, and the forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life that only He can and did and does provide. What a privilege we have been given to serve Him wherever, whenever, and however He gives us the opportunity!
“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! . . . Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:4,6)
Todd Ohlmann is a full-time visiting missionary for the Church of the Lutheran Confession.
For additional photos and a more detailed report go to: www.MissionaryOhlmann.BlogSpot.com