By now, most of you who have followed our journey have learned of the news of our difficult decision to move back to the US. There are a lot of emotions, reflection, and plans all wrapped up in that decision that will take a long time to sort through. I have yet to receive a negative comment on our choice and most of the feedback has been met with compassion and encouragement. Having almost 6 weeks pass now from the time I knew we needed to make the decision until present has left me in a different spot. I know the chapter is done. The decision is final. It is the right thing to do. Now comes the joyful and challenging task of abiding in Jesus and allowing Him to push us toward whatever is next. Sure we both have those days where we are left saying, “What on earth was that last 2 years all about? What just happened?”. . . but most of the time we have increasing resolve about moving forward.

Transparency and Courage

The stream of comments and encouragement that have poured in have revolved around the themes of courage and authenticity. Generally people have stated that they really appreciate our transparency about our lives and especially about this difficult decision. I guess for us it is simply who we are. I can’t pretend to throw things out there before people that are half-truths or tinted with rose-colored glasses. This is simply the journey. No one did anything wrong here. Life just happened. Mom died. Dad is alone. We didn’t make it in the villageRaising a newborn in never-ever land wasn’t what we bargained for. . Blindness happened. The majority world didn’t create a space for my personal dignity and independence as a blind person. So now we regroup. Our story isn’t unique in the big scheme of things as people have to make these sorts of decisions all the time. It is unique though because it is our story that God has crafted.

These weeks have been very peculiar as you can easily understand your utter dependence on God when you’re in the valley. Abiding in Jesus isn’t too difficult in those moments. So while we walk through these challenging days the lyrics to the worship music and the red ink words of Jesus in His Word become a bit more clear. You realize that the confidence you have must be again realigned with the King. So we’re doing our best to remain in Him.

Research and Multi-ethnic Ministry

I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t researching next steps like a mad man. I have read and read, networked and networked with Bhutanese Nepali friends and ministry partners across the US. I have looked at demographic articles, sifted through newspapers, and fired off a lot of emails to learn about where exactly Bhutanese Nepalis are in the US and what would be the most strategic spot for us to live. There are all kinds of factors in regard to finding a good network, utilizing our rare language and culture skills, and good access to public transportation that inform our thinking. I have enjoyed immensely having Skype, phone, and email conversations with many in the US.

And because you will probably ask, I have looked mostly at Atlanta, Syracuse, Columbus, OH, Pittsburgh, and Minneapolis-St. Paul. Some leads are a lot more exciting than others. Some are much more strategic. We will likely be taking a trip to a few of these spots to discern what it is the Lord has for us in the coming months.

I think the thing that has struck me strongest in my research is the huge vacuum that I am observing in multiethnic ministry. What I am finding is ministries and churches who are active in communities of diverse populations (as they well should be) with an emphasis on welcoming folks new to our country. There is also an emphasis on ethnic 1st generation immigrant churches with ethnic leadership. I would say on the average, in cities with 10,000 plus Bhutanese Nepali, there are often less than 2 or 3 individuals working full-time with this group of folks (not including the amazing work of indigenous leaders themselves). Further, because of circumstance and mission strategy, few if any can speak the language. It has caused me to see even more clearly than ever that our multi-ethnic efforts in ministry must be balanced with specialized ministries to focus on people groups and language groups within our own country. Without the releasing of 1st generation immigrants themselves and native-born folks who are mission trained and linguistically capable to interact, we will probably just remain a mixed bag of cultures that stay at surface levels of relationship. We need cross-cultural missionaries working alongside first generation immigrants who speak the language of the elderly in the community and who can be a bridge between generations.

So, the combination of multi-ethnic ministry with both ethnic churches/leadership and cross cultural missionaries has to be the goal in our urban centers. While we aim for the color of heaven in seeing integration and multi-ethnic ministries established, the vacuum remains for native-born Americans who can converse with the community and have the cultural sensitivity to be effective. Am I saying that if you are not working with a particular people group in the US you can’t be effective? Sort of. I knew far before coming to Nepal that our effectiveness among Bhutanese was limited because we had not obtained fluency in the language. While you can make an impact, I kind of think you can’t even understand the complexities of culture, adjustment, and worldview without the heart language of the folks you are serving. This is why part of my research is to find those ministries and churches who are striving toward multi-ethnic ministry and come alongside offering the laser focus that is so desperately needed. These things are simple, but not simplistic. Without intentionality, prayer, hard work, and devotion true Kingdom transformation will not take place.

Our cities in the US sometimes have as many as 25,000 people from a certain people group. With the exception of the Spanish crowd often these groups don’t even have a handful of Americans attempting to serve the m ((and I have seen few doing this in a Spanish speaking context either – props to Chris and Krista Ophus living it up in Little Village Chicago). This is further compounded by the fact that 90% of folks new to our country will never be invited into an Americans home. The task before us is massive and my clarion call is for people group focused ministry to come alongside and march to the rhythm of the Kingdom.

Thanks for letting me unload all the thinking and research I’ve been doing lately. If you or someone you know is interested in focusing exclusively on Bhutanese Nepali work in the US, I’d love to talk with you. And if there is a certain people that you are drawn to, I encourage you to follow your heart in that. Some people like to tangle with lots of cultures all mixed together but for some of us there is a specific call, a specific spot with specific people God has for us. If that is you, run after it.