It was a little over a year ago that I was scheduled to make my annual visit to Nepal but as we all now know, nothing about 2020 went as planned. After being detained by India Immigration and eventually having my visa revoked and then deported I returned home for a few weeks before heading to the D.R. Congo in late February. It wasn't long after that the world shut down and Nepal closed its borders to all visitors...the trip was canceled.
Fast forward to today and here I am riding out a mandatory five-day (?) quarantine in Kathmandu. After 40+ hours of air travel and long layovers, a couple of days of quarantine, and lots of sleep, I am more than ready to get things rolling. And it looks like that might happen a couple of days sooner than I had anticipated. Let me explain...before leaving the U.S. I spent a lot of time researching what I needed to do to get my visa, purchase airfare, and actually travel to and be allowed to enter Nepal. It would seem that all of my research has paid some dividends. The official Nepal Covid response website led me to a link that listed all the necessary steps for visiting Nepal. It was only about five weeks ago that they began offering visas again so everything on the website had been updated. Requirements included a negative PCR Covid test no more than 72 hours before departure, a pre-paid reservation at a government quarantine-approved hotel, and I had to fill out an online government Covid 19 health tracking form. This form required proof of a hotel reservation at one of the several hotels listed. The form was to be printed out in duplicate with the barcode clearly displayed. All of this paperwork was verified at check-in in St. Louis and again in Chicago and one more time before I boarded the flight from Doha to KTM. The KTM airport has no jetways so the plane simply parks on the tarmac and the passengers walk from the plane to the terminal and proceed to the immigration hall to begin the chaotic process of obtaining a visa and then being cleared by an immigration officer. I had read that Nepal was not offering visas on arrival due to Covid, I had applied and received my visa through the Nepal Embassy in Washington, DC through the mail. (it took nearly four weeks to process). As I walked from the tarmac to the terminal it became very evident that things were not like they had been the other dozen or so times I have been here. There were two lines of people waiting to get into the terminal. I was seated near the back of the plane so I was one of the last to get off. Most of the passengers seemed to be in the long line and only 5 or 6 were in the short line. In front of these two lines, there was a table with two medical personnel dressed like they were ready to go into surgery...masks, face shields, gloves, gowns, etc. I watched them as I approached and I could see that they were looking at everyone's paperwork and then determining which line they should go to. When I arrived at the table I had all my paperwork in order and the nurse scanned the barcode on the Covid tracking form I had filled out and took a copy and placed it in a big pile, she then looked at my hotel reservation and compared it to the form, and then scanned my Covid vaccine card and sent me to the short line with out asking me anything other than where I was from. I walked straight into the terminal without interruption, made my way to the immigration officer with no one ahead of me in line, and two minutes later I was waiting for my luggage, and a half-hour after that I was headed outside to be met by Raju. Easy Peasy!! Thank you Lord!!!
Now I have been sitting in this government-approved quarantine hotel (pretty nice digs by the way for $23/night) wondering if I am supposed to get a Covid test and if I am really required to stay for the full five days. From what I had read online, I had originally thought that I would be required to get another Covid test on arrival, and then if the results came back negative I would be cleared to go after five days. But once I was told to go to the short line at the airport not one more word about Covid was mentioned to me. I asked the front desk clerk at the hotel who checked me if she knew anything about it and she said that if the government wanted me to get tested they would have given me the paperwork. I think I am in the clear.
With Covid surging in India, the Nepal government has reinstated some lockdowns and restrictions that will prevent live worship here in KTM this weekend. Since broadcasting me preaching live on Facebook would bring unwanted attention and scrutiny to the local congregation, I will not be preaching here this weekend. The plan right now is to head out into the more rural areas of Nepal immediately following Raju's work on Saturday instead of waiting until Monday. This will shorten my quarantine by two days with the hopes that the government doesn't come to check on me.
Our agenda for the next couple of weeks will involve a lot of travel as we make our way out of the Kathmandu Valley and through the Himalayan foothills to visit several different districts of the HCLC-Nepal. We will conduct a pastoral training seminar with the students and graduates of the Himalayan Bible Institute on Tuesday. The next day will be the graduation and ordination service that has been postponed too many times over the past year. Wednesday we will travel to the next seminar location. Then a couple more days of travel as we make our way to the village of Siddi on top of a hill for worship on Saturday. Then another long day of travel to the Dang district for another seminar before we begin to make our way back to Kathmandu so I can get the required Covid test a couple of days before my departure. As usual, here in Nepal, there will be lots of travel as nothing comes easy on the steep and winding roads, trails, and paths that lead to HCLCN congregations.
I am also super excited to see the progress on the new HCLCN/HBI building in the Chitwan area!
|HCLCN/HBI Building Project|
There is some uncertainty about our plans as the government could reinstate travel restrictions between districts at any time if Covid cases begin to rise. One of the ways they have kept it from spreading here is to shut down borders between districts to keep people from passing back and forth. If this happens, I am not sure what we will do. Fortunately, our Savior knows exactly what the future holds and how everything will work out for those He has called. So my confidence is in Him and His perfect plan for my time here among my brothers and sisters of Nepal. Please keep all of this in your prayers, asking our Savior to clear the way of any obstacles in proclaiming the truths of His saving word and that His will be done!
I've met with Raju a couple of times since I have arrived but none of the other family members, friends, or church members yet. The government has limited the number of attendees at religious gatherings so I most likely won't get to see everyone this time around. On Saturday we will have a small gathering after church before we head out. I am excited to see Raju and Sanju's sons and the other kids!
One thing I have learned in my first couple of days here is that quarantine is not conducive to adjusting to a new time zone on the other side of the world. It's just too easy to sleep during the day and be awake all night long when there is nothing of importance going on. Hopefully, tonight is the night I get on track.
Your prayers are requested and much appreciated!