Stepping Out on Faith

Written by  Suzanne Uhl -- Los Angeles, CA, USA Wednesday, 15 February 2017 00:00

During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." "Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water." "Come," he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!" Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God." -- Matthew 14:25-33 (NIV)

suzanne uhl nepal"I'm not dead yet." As bizarre as that sounds, that sentence sums up my decision to sign up for a HOPE Youth Corps trip. Not the most inspiring motivation, I know, but that's where I was at. I'm a 53-year-old college professor, and a married mom of two HYC veterans (Jud is 16 & Shane is 20). I don't exactly fit the HYC mold, but I traveled to Kathmandu, Nepal, in December 2016 and that trip forever changed me.

Initially, the plan was to simply be the chaperone for my son during a summer international HYC. My job allows me the freedom of summers off so it seemed perfect. Long story made short, he was accepted in the Scotland HYC with another chaperone and I wasn't technically needed. So, there I was: hopes up, hopes dashed. That's when it occurred to me: "I'm not dead yet." Being a chaperone wasn't my only HYC option. So, I signed up for the December Nepal trip. My boys were excited see mom go on an adventure, and my husband was happy to let me chase a dream—even though it meant I'd be gone over Christmas.

Kathmandu is an amazing place of simplicity, profound poverty, enormous smiles, crazy drivers, unending kindness, lousy water, and staggering beauty. It is a paradox in so many ways and it just might be the most captivating place on the planet.

In the end, there were over 50 of us from all around the world. We served at the HOPE School in Kathmandu for a week or so. Much of our time was spent playing with the kids: jump rope, basketball, clapping games, Ninja, lots of hugs, all while they attempted to teach us some Nepali! Most of us worked: sweeping, painting, organizing, cleaning, constructing, and sewing. I was in a small group that helped to train and teach, both teachers and parents. I was blessed to take over the fifth grade class for a day and model some different approaches to teaching. The teachers are wonderful and they give their hearts to the kids they teach. However most of them have had little teacher training and they were eager to learn. What I do in a high-tech, comfy, heated college classroom on the other side of the world, they do with a broken piece of whiteboard in a cement room with no heat. They educate. I am so inspired. It was an amazing experience that is hard to confine to words. In the end, the kids just invade your heart.

Beyond serving at the school we did a little sightseeing, joined a church retreat, and most epically, hiked 26.5 miles through the lower mountains of the Himalayas. The lessons learned on that journey are hard to learn any other way. Here's a few of my trek take-aways: "When you think you can't, you must"; "The most important part of the journey is the step right in front of you"' "Sometimes you journey up, sometimes down, sometimes you walk alone, sometimes you walk in a crowd, sometimes you are thrilled by an indescribable view, sometimes you are brought down by personal aches and pains, but no matter what, you journey onward"; and, lastly, "you are far more capable than you think you are." The trek taught me deep, personal lessons about my walk with my God; things I couldn't have learned any other way.

I learned so much from those who journeyed with me and those relationships are God's precious gifts to me. The laughter, tears, talks, prayers and hugs bind you together in special ways.
I went to Nepal not really knowing if God could use me, doubting that I would be of value, and fearful of not fitting in. But I was determined to "step out of the boat," to make decisions based on faith, not on fear. And he blessed that choice. I still don't know what God has in store for me, but I am renewed, revived, and refreshed for whatever it is. He knows "I ain't dead yet" and he has a purpose for me. I am forever grateful for HYC Kathmandu 2016.

Adventure is not just for the young in years, it is for the young in heart. God can transform hearts at any stage in life. And the needs of a hurting world don't care a bit about the age of the hands that reach out to help.

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