July 3-10 was spent in Pittsburgh seeing if this is for sure the spot God has for us during the next phase of our lives. Many were fasting and praying during our visit and that was surely felt. We could have not planned a better visit and walked away with more confirmation than we did. We have submitted a proposal to International teams to launch a team focused on serving Bhutanese-Nepali there and if all goes smoothly in the approval process, we will arrive in early September.

We were able to stay with good friends of ours from Minnesota who originally came to the US as refugees from eastern Nepal. The mother and father of 3 girls in their 20s have all moved to Pittsburgh and two of the daughters reside there with their family. We had a fun time of eating goat meat for the 4th of July and watching fireworks from our friends’ first home (a non-rental). We had such a great time catching up, talking about Nepal, and they taught us loads about Pittsburgh as well. Pictured below is Amos with our friends’ kiddos.

Amos and Durga's kids (1)

Much of our time was spent walking through the hilly, but quite compact neighborhood of Carrick in south Pittsburgh. It definitely has the layout of an eastern city with narrow streets, houses very close together, and lots of storefronts. Brownsville Rd., the main corridor in the neighborhood has 4 or so Nepali businesses and you can find Nepalis almost everywhere you look on this main thoroughfare. One of our first interactions was with an older Bhutanese lady and her younger relative. We greeted them in Nepali and struck up a 5 minute conversation or so about what we were doing in the neighborhood. There is nothing like halting city hurry with the slow Nepali lifestyle. We later saw this same woman at an ESL class in the neighborhood.

Storefronts

A shot from the streets where upwards of 80% of Nepalis live above small store front businesses.

Zion Christian Church is a Pentecostal church right in the heart of Carrick and has seen Nepalis move in all around its building. You would have to be blind (no pun intended) to ignore this major demographic change in the area. You can see a Nepali jewelery store from the front door of the church and more than 80% of the storefronts have Nepali folks living atop in apartments. Less than a block to the south is a fairly large Nepali store. Across the street from that store is an apartment complex with more than 30 Nepali families making it almost 100% Nepali. These sort of nooks and crannies could be told of over and over again throughout the Carrick neighborhood

C building
Here is the notorious “C Building” where Pastor Dan Cramer of Zion Christian spends a lot of his time and where we were able to meet several families. It is a 1 minute walk from the front door of the church.

Gorkhali store

The Gorkali Store is a nice size Nepali grocery store that is just directly across from the C building. Dozens of folks can be found shopping and congregating here.

Zion Christian Church

Zion Christian Church is located in the middle of so many things Nepali. Built in 1926, Zion began meeting here in the early 1990s. A food pantry, ESL/citizenship classes, children/youth programs, a dance ministry, furniture provision, and home visitations are just some of the practical ways Zion has chosen to welcome Nepalis as they’ve moved to Pittsburgh.

Perhaps most significant to our trip was the way that God began to speak specifically about the Carrick neighborhood, confirmed as we walked around and prayed, smelled the Nepali spices wafting from storefronts, and heard the bells ringing off to Hindu gods. We both just had this overwhelming sense that this particular neighborhood was the spot to which we are to give our lives. Though there is a buzz of excitement around Zion and the vibe you get from the Nepali community is extremely exciting in such a concentrated area, I don’t think either of us have ever felt the level of lost-ness that we felt as we visited folks. Kind, welcoming, and extremely easy to talk to were the new neighbors we met, but ripples of idol-worship, fear, and hopelessness abounded.

I remember walking outside our friends house towards the end of our trip where I was just pretty emotional over the Hindu worship that was happening where we were staying. I had just talked with a recent high school grad who said she had never really been to any church since coming to America. As we talked I realized she knew next to nothing about Jesus. Jesus came. He lived a perfect, awesome life, so that our potential new neighbors would live. As we pray and prepare for what is most likely our next step we are gripped with the incredible responsibility to take the Gospel where it has never been Though this is geographically as far as you could possibly get from the foothills of Nepal, we find ourselves whispering the same prayer that we have prayed amongst ourselves and Nepali neighbors over the last 7 years – ? Jesus come. Come in power. Use us, as messed up as we are.”

So there is a snapshot. The Lord used many of you in simple, amazing ways to stir things in our hearts and confirm what the Lord has for us. Stay tuned for the details and keep praying. Can you believe we get to do this?

Oh yeah. . . huge side note. . . having Nepali language skills in an American Nepali neighborhood was sort of like the weirdest, coolest, most peculiar thing ever. It has turned the tide for us in our ability to talk about most things Nepali and really understand this story of uprootedness and new Nepali life on a deep level. We can’t communicate how blessed we are to have had the time over the last several years to give to this. It will be such a gift and honor to converse with elders, those who didn’t get much of a chance to have an education, and those who simply don’t want to have to worry about parsing every verb as they struggle with life in a new land.

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