The Big Shake

After nearly a month in Nepal, I am now safely back in Arkansas. I didn’t plan on waiting this long to post another blog update, and I definitely didn’t plan on making it about this. But here it is… the part of the earthquake story that I can post on the internet…

In Nepal, Saturday is the one day that people are off from work and school, therefore it’s also the day that Nepali Christians go to church. The Saturday of the earthquake seemed like a normal Nepali Saturday morning. I headed to church with my sister, we arrived, slipped off our shoes at the door, and found a spot to sit on the floor of a small garage-like building with about 50 other people.

I didn’t understand anything that was being sung or said during the church service. My sister and I were crammed in the front of the room and I was trying my best to act like I was following along so that I wouldn’t be a distraction to everyone else behind me. I simply tried to clap on beat with the music and entertained myself by trying to perfectly time my “amen”s with the rest of the congregation during the pastor’s sermon.

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Outside New Revival Church in Bidur, Nuwakot, Nepal

Then everyone started getting anxious and saying something, I simply thought that the sermon was finished and everyone was praying (in Nepali churches everyone prays out loud at the same time). Suddenly my sister looked at me with fear in her eyes and translated, “Earthquake!”. The small earth rumbles that everyone had heard approaching quickly turned into one of the most violent experiences of my life. It was as if the entire world was riding inside the back of a bobsled. In an instant, I grabbed my sister by the arm and began to sprint through the people toward the exit of the building. When we got to the back of the building the sliding garage-like door was falling shut and a few people were trying to crawl under it, kind of like something Indiana Jones would do. But, in perfect unison, my sister and I grabbed the door and pulled it up over our heads.

Then, just when I thought I had rescued my sister to safety, I saw her bolt back inside of the building. Most of the people were frozen with fear, and not moving. Simply sitting and screaming praises to Jesus! But my sister started yelling for all of them to get out of the building and started grabbing very elderly ladies and leading them outside. So there we were, I was holding up a falling sliding door as my sister herded people outside under neath it, and all I could hear were people screaming “hallelujah Jesus” amongst the loud devastation happening all around us. That 30 seconds felt like an eternity.

Praise God, no one in the church was injured. In fact, it’s an absolute miracle that the building was not even damaged. When the earth finally stopped shaking there was a wave of dust filling the air. Many buildings had collapsed and landslides had occurred. We would later find out that we were located only about 20 miles from the epicenter of the 7.8 magnitude quake that shifted the entire Kathmandu Valley 3 meters south.

I’m not telling you that story to make me and my sister sound like heroes who rescued people from a building – we were far from that. The building and people were fine, and would’ve been fine without us, all because God was a hero. That building could’ve easily collapsed, as many around it did. As we ran outside into the narrow street, debris from other buildings could’ve easily hit us, as it did to many others around the country. We could’ve been in one of the remote villages that was completely wiped out, as we had considered visiting that day. But for some reason, God decided to have tremendous grace on us amongst the devastation of that moment, and I am so thankful for that grace from the real Hero who saved the day.

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A collapsed building near my sisters house. At this point 3 people were still trapped inside.

Over the next several days, the question became, “what do we do?”. Resources were thin before the earthquake, and they became even more scarce after the quake. My sister and her teammate were not in Nepal as natural disaster relief workers. They didn’t have stock piles of rice and tents. They can no longer live in their own house. They became victims of this earthquake just like everyone else. We helped out where we could and met with several relief organizations.

After six days living in post-earthquake Nepal, I am now back in America. Many people have been surprised to hear that I actually got on my plane and returned. Trust me, I thought about staying in Nepal, and I’m a little surprised that I came back as well. A few of the main reasons that I returned are that resources are thin right now in Nepal, and I was an extra mouth to feed. I have no medical training. I also only speak about 10 words of Nepali, so I am no help at translating for doctors and relief workers.

My sister is still in Nepal. Desperately trying to get relief to her friends. I will update on more of that at a later time. For now, please pray that the relief aid will get to those who need it, especially my sisters friends in remote villages.

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My sister and her teammate working with a relief organization, mapping out villages, and trying to contact people in those villages.

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#LIKEAGIRL

I can’t believe that I have been in the wonderful country of Nepal for nearly two weeks now. Time has flown by, and I am so thankful that I still have a little over a week and a half remaining here. Everyday I experience new amazing things and “fascinating” has quickly became the most used word in my vocabulary.

Quick update:

It took 49 hours to get from my house in Arkansas to my sister’s friend’s house in Kathmandu. My sister lived in the crazy busy capitol city of Kathmandu for about 2 years, but now lives in a town that is an additional 3 hour bus ride from the city. We spent a couple of days hanging out with all of her friends in Kathmandu and seeing some of the local sites.

From Kathmandu we traveled to the town of Pokhara where we would begin a several day trek through the mountains. It was so fascinating to visit remote villages that are only accessible by foot and see the Himalayan mountain range. The pinnacle of our trek was in the village of Ghorepani which is a 2 day hike from the nearest road. After the trek, we traveled to my sisters town in the Nuwakot region of Nepal (which is where high numbers of people have been taken advantage of for the human trafficking industry). It’s been awesome to hang out with her and see the fascinating life she lives.

Like a girl: 

Like a girl is a trending hash tag and saying, especially in the sports world right now… and I’m guilty as charged for using it. In fact, we even chanted it at the start line of our historic 4-woman bobsled race (which is a story for another day that I still need to blog about). I absolutely love this #likeagirl commercial:

One of the things I am most fascinated with in Nepal is the hard work ethic amongst the people, especially the women. In my culture (the American Bobsled culture) we pride ourselves in being some of the biggest, toughest, hardest working people in the world… or so I thought. I still think we are pretty darn tough, but I’ve meet some women who may have us beat.

The housekeeper’s story-  

When I was in Kathmandu I had the privilege of having tea with one of my sister’s friends. She lives with her husband, children, and her husband’s parents. In this culture it is expected that the daughter-in-law will move in with her husbands family and then she becomes responsible for taking care of everyone. Every morning she wakes up and walks to gather water for her family – and that big jug is crazy heavy! Then she takes care of her house (cooking, cleaning, children, ect) and then leaves to housekeep for another wealthier family for very very little pay. Only to return to have to do the same for her own family… #likeagirl 

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My sister and some rad kids washing their hands for breakfast at water container that the families must re-fill.

The porter’s story- 

On our trek, I loved sitting around the fire with the porters and hearing their stories. You may have heard of the famous Nepali Sherpas, but they are actually called porters. Sherpa is just the last name of a people group that became famous for their work as porters on Mt. Everest. Not all porters carry bags for tourist trekkers, only the lucky ones. Some actually carry food and supplies to the remote villages that are only accessible by foot, and some of the supply porters are women! I was struggling with my little backpack on the trek, but these ladies carry heavier loads up and down the mountain everyday! Some of these loads even get up in the neighborhood of 35 to 50 kilograms… #likeagirl 

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#LIKEAGIRL

This is a video of a male supply porter that we talked to along the trail. He was on his way down the mountain with an empty load. He had just delivered fresh vegetables to a village:  

The cement laborer’s story- 

Currently, I am sitting on my sisters roof, soaking up some much needed post-bobsed season sunshine. I feel absolutely ridiculous relaxing (as if my life is so hard that I need to relax) because I am watching women and children work their tails off as cement laborers at a nearby building. Check out the video below to see for yourself…

#likeagirl Here’s the most insane part. I said in the above video that they are working for “$80 a month, if they are lucky”, unfortunately these ladies are not that lucky. I just found out that they are doing this constant labor for no where near that amount! $80/month is the minimum wage in Nepal. However, in a country with a corrupt government and people who are living in desperation for work, they will rarely receive wages close to that amount. I also counted at least 5 school aged boys who should be getting an education, instead they are working to help provide for their families. 

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#LIKEAGIRL

I feel completely insufficient, sitting here relaxing in the sun on my vacation, while unjust labor is literally happening all around me. I’ve always wondered what I would’ve done if I lived during the African-slave trade, how would I have helped? But the reality is that there is more un-justice, currently happening all over the world, than any other time in history, and I’m not doing anything to stop it. Something has to be done, something has to change.

To be continued…

Goodbye America!

I haven’t seen my little sister in nearly three years. She lives in Nepal. Yes, I said lives. Shes not visiting the country,  she’s not on a trip, she lives there… indefinitely. She’s practically Asian now. She decided to give up her comfortable American lifestyle along time ago and start a new life in a new country. It all began when she started getting real serious with this guy. Can you believe that she literally dropped everything and moved across the world for this dude?! But, not just any dude. Not the Hindu gods who are worshiped in Nepal, not Buddha (who was born in Nepal), He’s actually this real rad guy (who’s actually from the middle-east) named Jesus. So, I refer to my sister as my little modern day Mother Teresa or Momma B!

Beth Neapl
Well, GUESS WHAT?! I’m going to see my sister! I’m going to Nepal! And I’m going for nearly an entire month! I’m flying out in less than 48 hours, this Easter Sunday!

I’m real excited! But, the fact that I’m actually going hasn’t sunk in yet. I simply feel like I’m going to see my sister as if she still lives in California. But to be honest, I need Nepal, and I need Nepal bad. My goal is not to go over there and think that I am some awesome American who is going to change the life of every Nepali that I come in contact with. Not even close. I’m going over there to learn from every person I come in contact with so that they can change my life. (Except there is one person who I plan to inspire with a big dose of my American awesomeness – my sister!)

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Every bobsledder knows that if you stay in our crazy sport long enough it will change your life. The question is, how is it going to change you? Positive or Negative? I’ve learned a lot of good things and have been blessed with a lot of insane opportunities through bobsledding, but unfortunately it has also changed me in some bad ways. Competition is a fierce thing and it’s brought out the worst in me. It’s shown me sin that I didn’t even know existed inside of me. It’s been hard not to buy into the elite-athlete religion. The religion teaches you to do whatever (and I mean whatever) it takes to win and to give your life to a nearly impossible goal. It causes you to see life through this narrow lens, because if you don’t reach the Olympic Games or obtain Olympic Gold, you are a failure. I know those are lies, but I’m beginning to question if I live like I believe they are lies. The biggest thing I’m starting to notice is that the sport has begun to numb me to a lot of important things. A lot of things that God really seems to care about. Like in the Old Testament when Micah said that God has already shown us what what the definition of good is. Therefore He wants us to fight for justice, to love compassion, and to walk humbly with God [Micah 6:8]. Wow! Justice, Compassion, and Humility are three very foreign concepts in bobsled. Concepts that I fear I am beginning to loose and concepts that I’m going to Nepal to find.

I think that numbness is why my trip hasn’t even sunk in yet. I’m honestly numb to the fact that I’m even going. Obviously I’m really excited to hang out with my sister and go on some crazy adventures that National Geographic will probably even be jealous of. But I also need to see the hard stuff. I need it to slap me in the face and wake me up from the false-reality I’ve been living in. I need to learn from the families who live inside a one room house with a dirt floor, I need to learn from the corruption of the Hindu Cast system and Nepali government, I need to learn from the villages that don’t have a single teenage girl because they’ve all been sold into the human trafficking industry, I need to look the traffickers in the eye and learn what I really need to be fighting for, and I need to feel the sorrow of lands where people have never even heard the name of Jesus.

Stay tuned….

Home

I’m currently on a plane… again. This time I’m headed “home” for Christmas, and after 5 months on the road, I couldn’t be happier. There’s a difference between traveling and doing what ever it is that I do. I don’t know the exact word choice to describe my current lifestyle, but something along the lines of a  nomadic bobsled gypsy would probably do the trick.

When people ask me where I’m from or where I live, I really do not have any answer better than – my suitcase. You see travelers just take a few items on a trip and then return sometime later. When I travel, I’m usually not coming back to that same location for a very long time, so everything I need for a bobsled season must come along with me.

It reminds me of something I learned from my students back when I was teaching and coaching at Augusta Public schools in the Arkansas delta. Most of the staff in the school district commuted in from other areas, so when I first started working there the students would always ask, “Coach, R- where do you stay?” I always responded, “I live in Searcy.”

That simple repetitive conversation taught so much about life. You see they never asked where I “lived”, they always asked where I “stayed”. Most of my students spent their entire lives bouncing around between the projects, or section 8 housing, or from one mom’s boyfriends house to the next. They simply “stayed”.

At first I didn’t understand why they asked where I stayed. Now, I understand. Thankfully I’m under a little different circumstances than my students, but I simply “stay” non the less. I honestly can’t remember the last time I spent more than 2 weeks on the same bed, air mattress, couch, ect.  And it seems I spend most of my free time plotting out where my next dorm room, condo, hostel, or church floor will be and how I’m going to get there.

The cool thing is that there is a much bigger picture here. I now comprehend that heaven truly is my home. Every time I pack up my bags, and I pack them often, I’m reminded that I don’t live here, I don’t live anywhere. I stay different places around the world but my citizenship is in Heaven.

It’s a joy to fully embrace this concept. I don’t feel the need to make a home here on earth -to give everything I have to own a nice house, with a cute dog, and a rad car all in the pursuit of the American Dream. Sure I will most likely have all of those things some day, but that’s not the goal. The goal is to live a life that allows me to experience my true home – heaven. I’m just afraid that we get so distracted by trying to turn the place we stay into a home that we may miss out on our real home. I guess sometimes it just takes innocent children’s questions and life as a nomadic bobsled gypsy to teach us the important things in life.

“For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” -Hebrews 13:14

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” -Phillipians 3:20

Pinky

It’s official. I’m horrible at keeping my blog updated… but have no fear, me and pinky have plenty of stories to share. Who is Pinky? She’s my wonderful sled! Pinky was apart of the Bo-dyne bobsled project. Several years ago, NASCAR extraordinaire, Geoff Bodine, built the U.S. Bobsled Team a bunch of bobsleds to help the team become more competitive internationally. Now I’m privileged to get to compete in one of those sleds.

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Standing with Geoff Bodine

You may have seen my sled Pinky before. She won a Bronze medal in the 2010 Olympics with Erin Pac and Elana Meyers. Erin Pac named the sled (for the pink flames that it had at one point) and once a sled wins an Olympic medal, it keeps it’s name forever. Therefore, I still call her Pinky. Erin and Elana also had a tradition that you had to wear something pink on race day. I’m happy to be keeping the tradition alive as well.

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Erin Pac, Elana Meyers, and Pinky at the 2010 Olympics

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Bronze Medal finish!

A year after watching the 2010 Olympics on T.V.,  I went to Lake Placid to try out the sport of bobsled. Guess what sled I hopped in for my very first trip?! Yep – Pinky! Better yet, the driver of that sled was Elana Meyers (who won a Bronze medal in Pinky the year before)!

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First day bobsledding… ever!

Then the next season, I made the U.S. National Bobsled Team. Guess what sled I competed in for my very first race?! You got it- Pinky, again!

Team Competition...

Igls Austria World Cup Team Competition with Jazmine Fenlator and Pinky

The coaches decided to let me drive Pinky at the very end of last season (I had only been a brakemen in Pinky up to this point). Go figure, my first trip driving her was on the 3 year anniversary of my very first day bobsledding with her. Moral of the story – I’m crazy excited to be racing with Pinky this season. I don’t know about you, but I feel like its pure destiny.

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Driving Pinkie down the Lake Placid track

The will of God?

It’s been a while friends…. so long that my old blog went out of style. So I decided to start this new blog site and I hope you enjoy it!

So much has happened since my  last blog post . Funny thing is that as cool stuff was happening over the past spring and summer, I didn’t think it was anything worth writing about. Life is funny like that. We get so caught up in a routine that we forget to look around and see how awesome that routine is.

And that is why I haven’t been blogging. I’ve been in a routine and gradually became numb to the awesomeness of it. I’m still addicted to spending all day everyday training to be the very best bobsledder that I can be. Although, I have to confess, I’ve let the politics of my bobsled life get the best of me lately. Even the awesomest routines have gloomy days and gloomy seasons. I’m learning that if life isn’t hard, you’re doing something wrong. Life is going to be hard no matter what you choose to do, but it’s how you handle and react to the hard that can change the world.

But maybe I was actually correct earlier, maybe all my awesome adventures really aren’t worth writing about. I’m convinced that it doesn’t really matter so much what you do in life, it’s more about how you do it.

Let me explain, I know so many people who are stressing out about what they are supposed to do with their lives and the decisions they are supposed to make. These people seem to want to know the will of God for their life, but just can’t seem to figure it out. I’ve been there. It’s hard. But what if I told you exactly where you could find the will of God for your life? Would you believe it? Would you be willing to rise up and accept the challenge to live it out?

I believe the Bible is clear. His will is for us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). And we do that by “presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” and by “renewing our mind”. Once we do that we will truly be able to “discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12). But please ask yourself…. are you willing to do that? Are you willing to love God with everything you have? If you answered yes, then do it. I know it’s risky. I know it requires sacrifice. But go crazy for Jesus! That is the true will of God. (If you want to know more specifics on what exactly that looks like, keep reading on in Romans 12 – or any book of the Bible).

You see, I’m convinced that God doesn’t really care if I am the fastest bobsledder in the world. He cares if I go crazy for him with every ounce of energy I’ve got. He cares that once the pressure strikes I don’t give in, but that I stand firm in my joy for Him. And who knows, maybe He will call me to live out my dreams as a champion bobsledder in the process.

The point is this: God wants to take your average everyday life routine and make it extraordinarily awesome! You don’t have to drive bobsleds or write blogs to be awesome (which is why writing about my adventures is totally over-rated). You simply have to be crazy in love with Jesus as you do whatever it is that you do. Be a teacher, be a mom, be a CEO, be a fireman. It doesn’t really matter, just make sure that you love Jesus. Like really love Him.  He doesn’t say that it will be easy, He doesn’t guarantee that you won’t mess up, but He does promise that it will all be worth it.