“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
The bus makes a sharp turn, triggering my next round of headaches. I hold my hand to my head in agony, and groan next to the window. The burdensome journey becomes exacerbated by the fact that I am weak, hungry and fighting the onset of another fever.
About 20 hours later, me and my companion, Wilson, arrive in Kathmandu. We hop into a cab, and another 15 minutes later squeeze in between a narrow street; sandwiched between a string of bars, nightclubs, and hotels.
As we get out, a man in a blue cap and professional matching pantsuit offers to assist with our bags. At that moment, another much younger man approaches in a yellow t-shirt. He begins tugging at the lighter backpack I have on me. Confused, I pull my backpack tighter. “No—” I begin to say.
But he cuts me off. “Please, it’s okay. This is my hotel.” He points to the building just in front of us, where we are headed. Once again, I try to tell him no, even as he is working to get it off my back. He continues to insist and tries to reach for my camera bag as well. In that instant, my head begins to throb, as if to remind me of my most urgent mission: To find a hotel room and get sleep fast. Against my initial hesitation, I give over my backpack then proceed to walk in front of him.
We continue walking, as the night closes in on us. I try to keep sleep from taking over my body. Step by step, I urge my feet along the alley that leads to the hotel where we will be staying.
We get there, and I begin to observe my surroundings. The lobby of the hotel is simple and unimpressive. Behind the welcome desk sits a man, who expresses little enthusiasm. A clock is behind him, but doesn’t seem to tell the right time. A brown couch with a table devoid of magazines has been placed to the left of the welcome desk. The man in the blue cap, places our bags in front of this desk. I look around for the second man; he is nowhere to be found. An uneasy feeling forms in the pit of my stomach.
I turn to Wilson. “Where is the second guy with my bag?” I ask.
The response I receive is less than reassuring: “…Were you not watching him?”
“No…” My voice breaks, as more alarm rises inside of me.
This is when I realize that my bag has been stolen. At once, I think about my passport. Then, my debit card, credit cards, and all the cash I had on me come to mind.
While Wilson and the man in the cap run outside to look for the young man, I wait behind. I stare at the empty table, and toss a few secret glances at the happy-tourist couple beside me. For some reason, I think I hear the silent clock tick. I get up, and sit back down. Then, I strain my eyes to look out into the overwhelming darkness — No sign of either my friend or the “real” hotel bellman, and of course, no sign of the other man with my bag.
Both men arrive much later, and still, they are empty-handed. This gives me all the information I need to know. It especially confirms my deepest fears, when the bellman tells us he will take our bags up to our rooms, and we can file a police report in the morning. In the morning? It will be too late by then…He could be halfway to India by now. (which was a real possibility as Nepal borders India).
Despite the chorus of thoughts going through my head I keep silent. The eager-to-please bellman reaches for my hand, and tells me that he promises he will help me get my bag back — the western equivalent to “You have my word”. Back home, words like these are never really honoured, so hearing them now does little to comfort me. Any hope I had left dies in the pit of my stomach. Still, I try to meet his eyes and smile. “Okay,” I say.
I never hear from him again.
“Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him…” – (Psalm 37:7)
In the morning, we eat breakfast and head out to file the police report. After a bit of maneuvering around, we finally locate the tourism police building. A lady officer directs us to the back, where I am instructed to fill out a form. After I complete it, the officer in charge tells me to come back tomorrow without offering any kind of reassurance. I quickly get the idea that I couldn’t count on any of them to help get my bag back.
Disappointed by another unsuccessful attempt, I leave the station. Next, Wilson and I work to find the Canadian Embassy. What we find instead is the office for the Canadian Consulate General.
When we step inside, the Nepalese man behind the desk takes one look at us, then motions for us to have a seat and wait. It seems as if we are sitting there forever, before he finally looks up. Feeling as if I have to make up for lost time, I explain the situation, making sure to emphasize the urgency of my request. After I am done, the man asks me when my flight is. I tell him.
He shakes his head right away upon hearing my answer. “There is no way we can have the documentation ready by then.” He proceeds to tell me why. “There is no embassy here. The application for a replacement passport must go through New Delhi, India. For a regular passport it will take four weeks…” He pauses for breath. “However there is another option. You can apply for an emergency passport, which will take about ten days to process…”
I stop listening after hearing his response. He can’t be serious? I have a flight this week! I don’t have time to wait. Silence fills the room, as my mind tries to grapple with the hard information he gives me.
The passport application process sounds overwhelming, and as I try to take it all in, my head begins to hurt again. I plead in my mind for him to stop talking, and actually visualize him doing so. But then reality hits, and I notice he hasn’t. The more he continues to open his mouth, the more I find my spirit withdrawing further within me, in defeat.
That night, I let out a torrent of cries and screams. I could not understand why any of this was happening. I had plans back in Canada, and now they were all ruined. As I call to mind the consulate’s words, I begin to grow doubtful. How can they expect me to complete this application? And how will I get back home? I can’t miss my flight…I don’t have enough money to book another one. There is no way I can manage another two weeks here with no money and no place to stay…The longer I keep this up, the more I find bitterness creeping into my soul, and the saddest part is, I am helpless to fight it.
A Flight of Grace
“And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.” – (Genesis 28:15)
As the days go by, I begin the process of preparing the application for a replacement passport. I decide to apply for the emergency passport, which once received would require me to travel within three days of it being issued. This passport also had its limitations, in that we were told not all airlines would accept it. I changed my original plan to travel through Doha, Qatar after being told by the Canadian Consulate General that Doha had a history of rejecting emergency passports with previous passengers. I decided instead to fly through Dubai.
Eager to go home, I patiently submit to every step of the application. Passport Photos: Check. References: Check. ID: Check (Though, at one point, I was unsure whether or not my mother would succeed in finding my birth certificate). Application Fee (I didn’t have the funds for this, but Wilson graciously paid it).
Soon, it was was time to hand in my completed application. At my Friday morning appointment, I placed the entire application on the Canadian Consulate General’s desk. Stage one was now complete.
“…In the silence that came from no Wi-Fi and no lights, I poured out my heart to God. The air was weighty, as if charged with some strong force; I pressed close to hear His voice…”
Through a mutual friend of Wilson, I was able to get a room in the office of a charitable organization in Banepa. Although I was grateful for the place to stay, as the days went by, I found it more difficult than ever to suppress my true feelings. There were frequent power outages, so sometimes in the silence that came from no Wi-Fi and no lights, I poured out my heart to God. The air was weighty, as if charged with some strong force; I pressed close to hear His voice. I wanted desperately the peace He promised to give me.
Despite the bleakness of the situation, I felt God showing me more of His light. After expressing my situation to a friend back home, members of her church all pitched in and helped me with money to go towards my expenses. Another friend of my mother’s booked my flight to come home, a total owing over a thousand dollars. I was touched beyond words.
In times when I was feeling especially discouraged, it was my family that offered me words of encouragement. I spent many nights before bed reciting Psalms and singing inspirational songs. I knew that it could only have been the Lord Almighty that uplifted my spirits.
Ten days later, I left for Canada. It was a Thursday night, and my connecting flight was set to leave from Dubai. This was another step of faith, or should I say, a flight of grace. This is because I had found out prior to leaving Nepal, that there was a great chance that Dubai customs would not accept my emergency passport either. I had already booked my flight by this point, and didn’t want to cough up money to re-book another flight. I was determined to get home one way or another. After correspondence with both airlines and much prayer, an exception was made for me. I was able to board with no problems.
Many questioned me on my decision to come to Nepal of all places. After the experience that night, it was hard to remember why. Then I thought about the people I had met, and the stories I had heard and I grew more convicted in my God-given purpose. It was His hand that guided me in Nepal, and it was His words of love that consoled me all those dark nights.
Now back in Canada, I find myself slowly trying to piece myself together, after a tough ordeal. More and more, I am learning this simple truth: God’s plans will always triumph over any ill-conceived plans we may create for ourselves. We may not always understand them, but we have to trust Him all the same.
So no matter what challenges I have faced, I am determined to follow God wherever He may lead me. That night I may have boarded two airplanes from Nepal, but I was comforted in knowing that it was the Lord’s wings that carried me home.