By being challenged physically and spiritually, the Nepal VASE trip members were able to widen their world views and strengthen relationships.
Part of training for the trip to Nepal involved lots of hiking in Korea. “We have climbed some of the hills in the surroundings of the school,” said Mr. Laroche a week before Spring break. Training sessions also involved lengthy devotions in which Mr. Laroche aimed to “help them [the students] seek God.”
Diana Kim, a freshman, decided to join the Nepal team after her brother, junior Troy Kim, told her of how nice his trip was last year. “It was kind of like a competition,” she added. However, with this competitive approach, Diana had not anticipated the trip’s high level of physical fatigue and mental perseverance. On the first day of hiking, Diana required assistance in carrying her backpack from the Nepali supervisors who travelled with the team. Knowing she was unprepared physically, she sought to prepare mentally throughout the trip. She told her mind to “follow the reality of hiking in the rough conditions of the Nepali hills.”
“She thought it would be easy because I had done it last year,” commented Troy who went to Nepal for the second time this break. He explained that he didn’t like his sister’s initial condescending attitude, but “was proud she finished in the end.”
Moreover, as the only girl on the team, Diana worried that she would not fit in with the rest of the upperclassmen students and unfamiliar teachers. “It was hard but I think God didn’t bring other girls on the trip for a reason.” She admitted, “if there was a girl, I probably wouldn’t have hung out with the guys as much.” But with the support of her brother, she opened up to the rest of the team, “Getting to know them was really fun.”
For brother Troy, the trip was “a chance to reconnect to God and Christianity.” He recounted, “It was interesting to visit some places we visited last year and seeing the same people.” It is rare to see Christians in the Nepali villages so Troy did not think they were “strangers but like someone in my neighborhood.”
Previously, junior Ben Shin never wholly believed in the supposed Christian stories, but with the consistent leadership of Mr. Lee’s prayers, Ben reconnected with God. “I thought the studies of Jesus and God were things of the past. I heard the miracle stories of the Nepali believers and started to believe he exists in this modern world.”
Ben described an incident that made him reflect on the kind character of the Nepali people. “A construction driver told us to hop on and he took us to our next village. Unlike in Korea, all Nepali people say ‘hi’ first and offer rides. I liked that they don’t feel awkward talking with strangers.”
When asked about a special memory they held, all participants responded with an anecdote of Mr. Lee’s prank before the start of their first hike. Junior Paul Lee said, “He put bricks inside our bags to make them heavier!” Some students did not take all the bricks out to realize during the middle of their hike that their backpacks were unusually heavy. Paul was a victim of this unfortunate incident, “We climbed the mountains, we reached the village, and I found out that I had four more bricks in my bag even after taking some out already.”
Ben remembered another one of Mr. Lee’s jokes. “He put a band-aid on Justin’s stomach, saying it would heal his stomachache.”
Although Mr. Lee became infamously known as the trip ‘clown’ because of his playful nature, he “always reminded me that I was sent to Nepal for a reason. Whenever he had the chance, he always prayed for me and taught me lessons from the Bible,” shared junior Justin [Wonjun] Lee.
Similarly, Ben was surprised that his JV basketball coach, Mr. Anderson was so approachable. “I thought he was strict, but once at the hotel, he started singing a country song!”
Strengthening relationships did not happen just within the team but with the Nepali people as well. “Last year I met Sujan, who was our guide from Mountain Child. I wanted to reconnect with him this year,” said Junior Ben Shin.
It was hard for Justin to see the poor living conditions of the villagers, especially of the children. “This trip allowed me to become much more reflective and thankful for my own possessions.” And despite the poverty he observed that “the Nepalis who live in the villages of the mountains tend to always smile.”
Diana reflected in general, “I would say that being away from family, friends, and females made me a different person. I learned to get to know new people and try to do things alone.”
Paul advised those interested in the Nepal VASE trip for next year, “If you want to challenge yourself and go on VASE for the spiritual journey, it will be really memorable and unforgettable experience to go to Nepal.”
No showers, drinking filtered water, and uncomfortable sleeping arrangements are only a portion of the Nepal VASE experience. “But as the days go on, we do not concentrate on those things and are reminded of the reason we came here: to tell the unreached people who God is,” said Diana.
Since the VASE trip, Nepal has been hit with two devastating earthquakes which have injured more than 18,000 people and killed more than 8,000. GSIS has continued partnership with Mountain Child as they carry hope to the unreached people groups of Nepal through medical, food, shelter, and water. Please visithttp://www.mountainchild.org for more information.