Two years later

 

family

First family hike (no carriers) on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar

Today we’re remembering the people of Nepal.  Two years after the earthquake and still many families are waiting for their homes to be rebuilt.  For their lives to be a semblance of what they once knew.  For hope to be real.  Please pray for the people of Nepal today.

Nothing seemed fitting to write after the earthquake. No story can properly bridge the gap between the earth shaking beneath your feet day after day and the normalcy that would come with time.  Our hearts still shudder when we’re near the booms of a construction site or when a fire alarm goes off.  But the intensity of fear has dimmed.  And healing has had time to take root.  God walked with us through that darkness and has brought us into a season of abundance.  We don’t deserve this abundance, but we thank God for it day after day.  Still the words don’t come easily.  I’m not sure this blog will recover.  But for the sake of documenting memories for our kids, here’s our best shot.

I was only eight weeks pregnant when the earthquake struck.  I remember walking around Kathmandu with our two year old Abyala in a baby carrier on my front, and Ahsa and Everest tucked away in my belly.  All three children close.  Wanting to protect them with every fibre of my being.  Knowing that I had no control.  Praying persistently.  Tripping over rubble.  Remaining faithful to God’s ask for us to stay.

But God doesn’t always allow you to take root in a community the way you envision.  For us, staying in Nepal was hard but it was home.  With all the comforts of familiarity and community.  But that was about to end.

Everest and Ahsa were born in Indiana, Pennsylvania on November 2nd.  It was a time of relieving joy.  Relief that everyone was healthy and safe.  Two adjectives that held excessively deep meaning during that time in our lives.  Everest was born first with Phil and my Mom on either side of me, holding my hands, pushing me forward as our amazing baby boy came blaring into the world.  With his sweet cry.  Then, fifteen minutes later came Ahsa.  She was breech.  We knew she would be.  And I was terrified I wouldn’t push strong enough to birth her safely.  Pitocin spiked, my hands still being held tightly, Dr McCoy calmly told me to begin pushing again.  Energy surged through my body that I didn’t know I had.  Two pushes later, I remember watching Ahsa being born with her tiny bottom first.  She greeted us with sweet cries as well.  Then I got to hold my Everest.  The joy and fear of two babies was incomprehensible.  I nursed him and afterwards he simply laid on my chest until the nurses whisked him away to an isolette for the next 24 hours.  He had a minor respiratory issue.  And despite having the normal sadness of a Mom simply wanting to hold her baby, I had a deeper sense of peace.  And our Ahsa who didn’t even weigh 5 lbs yet was strong – thank you Jesus!  Every nurse and doctor was amazed.  She could barely nurse because her mouth was so tiny, but we learned together.  God granted patience.  Finally, after a long first day of updates on Everest’s condition, he was rolled into our room and reunited with his family.  We snuggled the two of them together and thanked God for His blessing of abundance.  We are still in awe.

Phil and I had to endure a heart wrenching separation for three of the four months around their birth.  He had to work in Nepal while we waited for the twins’ arrival.  Only two weeks after they were born, Phil had to go back to Nepal.  We can’t put words to that season.  Then, there were three moves in 5 months (USA- old house in Nepal – new house in Nepal – Mongolia) before we were settled at our new home in Ulaanbaatar.  I think we’re still recovering from that time of uprootedness, uncertainty and sheer exhaustion with three kids under 3.  It’s probably a blessing to everyone that we weren’t blogging at that time.

But now we are living in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.  Two years after the Nepali earthquake that will forever mark our lives.  Phil is leading a team who improves education, healthcare, and protection systems for children throughout Mongolia.  Our purpose goes beyond development –  it’s about the great love of Christ going forth in this beautiful land.  It’s not about the adventure – we’re over that.  But we’ll never be over what Jesus did for us on the Cross.  We want everyone to know the love and hope of Christ.  So we continue to follow Jesus.  To the very ends of the earth.  Even when it trembles.

“May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
may the Lord rejoice in his works—
he who looks at the earth, and it trembles,
who touches the mountains, and they smoke.
I will sing to the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.”

Psalm 104:31-33

The earthquake

earthquakeThe 7.9 magnitude earthquake jolted the earth, our bodies, and spirits on April 25th, 2015.  It’s a day we’ll not forget.  We had our good friends Matt and Cindy visiting.  Cindy was taking a nap.  I was 7 weeks pregnant and happily napping as well.  It was noonday. Phil, Matt and Abyala had left to buy envelopes for our Trade for Freedom shipments.  I didn’t know exactly where they were going, but I wasn’t bothered because I knew they’d be back soon.

Then, the shaking began.  It was like a violent roller coaster.  I woke up to the bed moving harshly back and forth and the alarm sounding.  I began yelling for Cindy, “Come, Cindy!  Come, Cindy!!  It’s an earthquake!”  I was disoriented.  Glass was crashing around me.  Was Abyala home?  I checked her room and remembered she was with Phil.  Was Cindy gone as well?  I continued to yell for her.  Only seconds passed but it felt much too long.  I started into the stairwell still calling for Cindy.  I knew I had to be careful not to fall and injure these precious ones inside of me.  I got down only a few stairs and turned around for our “go-bag” with emergency supplies.  As I started down the three flights of stairs ahead of me again, I saw Cindy and my heart felt a bit of ease.  I continued to yell for her and she was coming quickly but unsteadily.  Every few steps she would lose footing and eventually came down the stairs on her bottom.  I don’t remember how I got down the stairs without falling.  I sincerely believe God carried me and my babies down those three flights of marble.  When we reached the doorway, we heard our neighbors wailing in fear and sadness as they sat in the green field that we were approaching for safety.  The ground continued to shake.  We all sat together, scared.  I began to pray for God to make the shaking stop as I watched buildings swaying and dust rising up where houses had fallen.  After 60 seconds of trepidation, the earth settled.  Temporarily.  We felt some relief.

But where was Phil, Abyala, and Matt?  Were they okay?  I had forgotten my cell phone inside the house.  On the third floor.   I had to go back in.  It was my only chance of reaching them and knowing they were safe.   So I ran back inside, praying every step of the way.  Asking God for his blessing of protection.  Asking Him to show me where my phone was situated.  I am always flighty about my phone.  As I entered our flat I saw complete chaos, but remained focused and immediately God took me to my phone – sitting on top of our dresser – not in my purse where it should have belonged.  But He took me there first.  And I immediately ran back down the stairs as a tremor began.  I held on tightly to the railing and again, God carried us down safely.

I reached the field and Cindy and started to anxiously call Phil without success.  I saw a text message from him that they went to Thakali Kitchen to buy us lunch.  At least they weren’t far.  But were they ok?  I wanted to panic.  I knew our babies couldn’t afford my panic.  God somehow kept me together.  I was crying out to Him inside, wanting to break down, but He was keeping me close to Him.  He was keeping my babies safe.

I continued to call Phil countless times without avail.  My mind wandered where it should not go.  I paced.  I softly cried.  I talked to Cindy.  And after the longest 45 minutes of my life, Phil, Abyala and Matt stood at the top of hill yelling for us!  It was perhaps the best moment of my life.  I saw my two loves and our friend — in wholeness — even smiling!  As I ran towards them, Sweet Abyala started crying and reaching out to get me.  She had been so brave!!  I picked her up with a furry of joy and fear.  I kissed Phil and wouldn’t let him a foot away from me.  I felt God’s lavish love for our family in a way I still can’t describe.  God doesn’t promise us protection, but he blessed us with it that day.  Forever grateful doesn’t even begin to describe the way we feel.

Phil, Abyala and Matt were at Thakali Kitchen waiting for food when the earthquake hit.  They ran outside.  Abyala’s stroller fell down, but Phil had already been holding her, so Matt picked it up and took it outside with them.  (Abyala tells this story to me almost everyday, still.)  All the cars had stopped.  The road was crowded with people, wailing, scared, but mostly safe.  Abyala was safely tucked in her Daddy’s arms.  After the shaking stopped, Phil went back inside the restaurant to ask for his food.  And he got it!  (He amazes me.)  They had to traverse nearly a mile’s worth of rubble to get back to us.  Walls had fallen down all over the road.  The alley to our house couldn’t be passed without climbing, so they climbed over the rubble — lifting Abyala over it in her stroller.  A typical 10 minute walk took them 40 minutes.  If they had been walking on that alley when the earthquake hit, they would have been badly hurt, if not worse.  God protected them.  He poured out blessing upon blessing.

As we all waited for the tremors to cease, our young neighbors began singing praise songs to our Lord — Jesus!  It was the sweetest song of praise.  As we waited, we hoped it would stop.  But it didn’t.  For days, weeks, months, the tremors have continued. The initial shock was life changing.  The tremors following were traumatizing.  But we’re okay now.  There is so much more to say.  I could tell you about sleeping outside with Abyala for a few days.  Seeking out safe places.  Phil leading World Vision in their response.  The pain of being separated from Phil during days when we felt unsafe.  The way by which we’ve been healed, day by day.  I hope to write that down someday. The point is this…God has been good to us.  We are grateful.  Please continue to pray for Nepal as many people are still recovering and rebuilding their lives.

Twins: Babies and Earthquakes

Spring time in Nepal with the Ewerts !

Spring time in Nepal with the Ewerts

It’s been an unbelievable, unimaginable spring.

Our world has been shaken.  Our lives have been changed.  Our hearts have felt overwhelming joy and fear.

And, God has never stopped showing his unfailing love to us.

On April 15th, we went to Ciwec Clinic in Kathmandu for an ultrasound after I had a wonderfully positive pregnancy test!  Also after I suffered from severe food poisoning – nothing new in Nepal – but scary when you’re in the first trimester of your pregnancy.  I asked for an ultrasound, just to make sure our baby was okay.  As my Nepali nurse was giving me the scan, she couldn’t stop smiling.  She was radiating joy.  She asked if we wanted the good news and of course we said yes!  We expected to hear that our baby was healthy.  But instead she told us that our BABIES were healthy!  We are having TWINS!!

I immediately had this beautiful vision of three little ones climbing all over Phil – all of them laughing.  I was so happy!

Phil and I just sat there laughing.  We didn’t know what to say – except that Phil asked her to double check.  (Love him!)  We had talked about twins before – always in awe of those who do it and in mutual admittance that we just weren’t “twins people.”  God has such a sense of humor.

If you would have asked us if we wanted twins, we would have said no way.  But here we are, I am 19 weeks pregnant, and we are simply overjoyed.  Please if you’re reading this and thinking about how hard it’s going to be … just smile and be happy for us because frankly, this is our challenge and our gift.  The best things in life are often the hardest, aren’t they…

So we reveled in this news for one terrifyingly wonderful week, then the earth violently shook beneath us.  On April 25th, Nepal experienced a 7.9 magnitude earthquake which jolted our home and penetrated fear into our hearts.

To be continued…

Into the village

Lamjung

Into the misty Himalayan foothills he goes.  Five hours on a windy, perilous, bumpy road take him to this beautiful town called Lamjung.  Today he journeys beyond this town, deep into the village where he’ll sleep in the same conditions as the people he serves.  A LandRover-style truck and his fearless driver will safely get him across a rushing river without a bridge.  Together they’ll hang off the sides of a few cliffs, leaning to one side of the vehicle because it may help.  Mostly for piece of mind.  Then, he’ll hit the hills on foot and trek the final distance, avoiding leeches where possible.  Finally, he will be greeted by smiling Nepali strangers waiting to welcome him with a lei of marigolds which they’ll place around his neck.  They’ll take him to a community center, probably the local school where they will sit in a circle on cushions on the cold concrete floor to chat about how their children are fairing.  They will drink a delicious spiced milk tea called chia that will warm their hands and insides.  As their tea cups slowly empty, Phil will be hopeful for words of truth.  How are they really doing?

Phil doesn’t come in as their Savior.  He comes in as an encourager.  He visits to grow in understanding, not to provide three step solutions.  He meets with his team who serves in this community daily, to help them grow and to inspire them to carry on. He teaches principles of servant leadership. Reminds them of truth.  He challenges.  Trusts.  And serves them.  Where they are.  Near Everest, literally and figuratively.  Relying on Christ’s strength.  To be a light in the world.  For God’s glory.

Just thought you may like a little glimpse into his world and work.  He’ll bring home photos of his trip soon.  Please pray that we would remain faithful to the work God has for us here and now.  Thank you for caring!

Welcome (five minute friday)

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Welcome to our real life.  It’s full of bustling streets.  Beautifully displayed fruit stands.  Offerings to millions of Gods.  Gorgeous Himalayan views.  Warm, intriguing people.  And shivering cold indoor winters.

Welcome to a life that we never dreamed of living.  I look into the darkness outside my window at 5am, hearing the neighbor’s roosters crow, feeling the sting of winter chill on my fingers as I type and I think about the roosters Abyala would chase around the Island a couple weeks ago.  She was so happy to run free as they were free … they were a literally a bunch of wild ones.  And I think to myself, I need to make sure I welcome this new year in Nepal with an abandoned joy.  As if I were chasing roosters with my daughter.  We choose that type of joy.  So I’m claiming it, and convicted to live it, and giving thanks to God for the sound of roosters that reminds me of my daughter’s joy.  Of His goodness to us.

That’s it – five minutes.  Love a “five minute friday” …

Curly locks blowing

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Just looking at this picture brings a calm to my soul.  A smile to my face.  And joy to my heart.  Abyala gazing over the Pacific in her long, blue dress.  Curly locks blowing in the sea breeze.  Sitting in the sand.  Not afraid.  Just enjoying her moment by the ocean.  I want to look at this in the years to come and remember.  To feel this calm, peace, and joy in my heart.  Eucharisteo.  Thank you, Jesus!

Kauai. Family. Happiness.

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This Christmas my amazing husband gifted us with a trip to Hawaii!  We’re not filthy rich, rather he’s super savvy.  Most of this vacation was “free”, but those details deserve their own post.  Phil flew all of our parents to Kuaui so that we could celebrate the holidays together.  We explored beaches, canyons, and waterfalls.  We ate fish tacos, Bubba’s burgers and shave ice.  Grandparents loved on Abyala, played dolls, built sand castles and chased chickens.  Abyala declared “no ocean” a million times until she finally fell in love and became a fish.  We chit chatted our days away about everything and nothing.  We sang Christmas carols on our “Christmas Eve”, read Luke 2, and opened gifts around our 6″ tree.  It was perfect!   Then, the family left and we galavanted around the islands for a while longer.  Enjoyed a week long pass to the zoo where Abyala fell in love with tigers and the playground, hiked Diamond Head volcano, revered Pearl Harbor, and got our fill of American sandwiches. We had fun!  And we came home feeling somehow refreshed after 2 days of restless flights. Our souls feels rested.  Our hearts are full.  And our minds are fresh.

We didn’t deserve this incredible vacation, but God is simply generous.  His love for us knows no bounds.  And His love endures forever.

It’s easy to count our blessings and recognize God’s beauty and goodness in the paradise of Hawaii.  This year, we’ll be counting blessings, finding beauty, and thanking God for His goodness and grace in Nepal.  Pressing on…