Part of what enables one to endure the thirty-three hours of travel time to Kathmandu—the hour wait on the tarmac before takeoff, the airport locator that can’t find your ticket, the mind-numbing experience of sitting for hours in a crowded airport, the endless security checks, sitting in the aisle seat next to people with small bladders, and going through an immigration process that stretches your patience—are the people you meet along the way.
There was Milton, a relatively quiet Ugandan, sitting next to me on the way to Dubai. He was headed back to his country to dig wells. In his lifetime, he has burrowed down some 120 holes in search of water. He is making it possible for people to survive. I love meeting these kinds of people. Oh, and he is an Anglican, concerned for the moral slide in his church. Join the crowd.
On the flight to Kathmandu, there was a young Indian woman across the aisle. She was flying from New Jersey, on a spiritual pilgrimage to Mt. Kailash. It is a mountain in SW Tibet, considered a holy place. Pilgrims come here to walk the 32-mile path around the mountain, hoping to purify the soul. Some prostrate themselves every few steps in order to attain merit. Some hope to make it to nearby Lake Manasarovar. Here, one might receive a blessing, even become a god.
We discussed the importance that life be a spiritual journey. It beats the deep secularization taking hold of our culture, determined to deaden the soul. Much of my summer has been a journey with God, especially in the mornings kayaking on the Pend Oreille River. With my small pocket Bible and my prayer list, God and I have had some interesting conversations. I have expressed to him my fears, my bewilderment at things, my hopes, and my love for him. He has taught me his wisdom, shown me his glory through his creation, rebuked me, comforted me, and directed me—all through his word.
I hope this woman might find something of this experience, but I am skeptical. She loves the idea that there are many gods, and each of us can pursue our own. But this is a lie. She is being naïve. There are many false gods, and they lead only to death. There is only one true God, and he alone will lead us to life.
She asked me about my faith. In our few moments, I shared my conviction that this one, true God is personal, and he alone gives grace and love. He does not demand we fly halfway around the world to find him. We do not need to prostrate ourselves every few steps to gain acceptance by him.
Who knows if God will use these words? I passed her at immigration and wanted to urge her to simply seek Jesus, but then she was gone. I know this—God pursues seekers.
Many seem to come to this part of the world on a Himalayan adventure, or a spiritual pilgrimage. But apart from pursuing the one true God, I believe one gets more deeply wrapped up in self. One might revel in the beauty, but I am guessing he or she will also encounter a dull silence.