Returning From Nepal
It was a very strange thing to be in a third world country and hear Jesus call us back to a first world city. Christine had been in Nepal for four years already, working with people living with HIV and AIDS. I had been there two years, spending my time trekking to remote villages to share the Gospel, and writing stories of what God was doing in Nepal. Life was tough for us. The people we were ministering to had hearts hardened by centuries of Hinduism, the weather was either unbearably hot and rainy in the summer or extremely cold in the winter. I had suffered from many illnesses, I contracted Hepatitis E during my first five months in the country and I came down with Typhoid when I was in a remote village, hours away from the closest hospital.
But we were happy.
We were living in God’s will and we felt it. Joy was palpable in our lives despite the hardness of our situation and the persecution we faced from the very people we were trying to love. But we were where God had led each of us individually, and then eventually, together.
I arrived in Nepal when Christine had already been there for almost two years. I came ready to change the country for Jesus. I had no idea how much He would use the country to change me. Christine and I served on the same team but in different ministries, and it wasn’t until seven months into my commitment that we started being around each other on a consistent basis. We were randomly put in the same Bible study and started getting to know each other. When I started to like her I couldn’t tell her. The rules about dating teammates were very strict, and I had to tell my leaders that I wanted to date her. They prayed about it in order to discern if it was the Lord’s will for us to date. I wasn’t worried; I knew she would be my wife before I asked my leader’s permission to date her. After I had been in Nepal for one year, our leaders gave me their permission and I finally was able to meet with Christine. Only then, after five months of waiting, did I discover that my feelings were mutual. We started dating, both of us knowing it was the beginning of the rest of our lives together. But we had no idea what that would look like. I still had a year left in my commitment, and Christine had three.
We started dating in February, by July I came to my senses and finally proposed. During this time the Lord spoke to me about the Next Generation. About young boys and girls growing up in broken, hopeless families who desperately need to hear about Jesus and be discipled in following him. This was a strange calling for me, for most of my training and experience was in the Journalism world. But when you hear a calling from the Lord, it is a constant, steady tug on your heart. It’s a gentle force that pulls you through doubt, fear, anxiety and any other thing that makes it seem impossible. I told Christine that after Nepal I wanted to serve in youth ministry somewhere, to love and care for middle schoolers and high schoolers. We did the only thing we could do at the time. We started to pray.
A few months later we felt that the Lord was leading us to live in Columbus when we came home to get married. Our leaders gave Christine permission to end her commitment in Nepal early and to come home with me when my two years of service were complete. Around this time Christine Skyped with Courtney Snyder and told her about our desire to work with youth after Nepal. Brad Snyder overheard this part of their conversation, and shared about his desire to have someone reach out to the Next Generation through the Tri-Village congregation. Sensing that the Lord was introducing us to a new piece of his plan, we Skyped Brad and Courtney a few weeks later.
We told them we were coming back to the States and were going to live in Columbus, and asked them if we could get married at Veritas. Brad assured us we could and even agreed to be the one to marry us. Then we started talking about what we would be doing.
“We have been praying about working in youth ministry and really feel called to it,” I remember saying. “Do you know of any ways I can serve in this area?”
He offered me a potential internship with Veritas: Tri-Village.
Christine and I were amazed. We both came to Nepal single. I had no idea what I would do after my commitment, and she had already signed up for an additional 3 years before we even met each other. But God had been authoring our story before we even knew each other existed. He spoke to us and we only needed to obey.
We came back to the States in January 2014 and spent some time getting to know one another’s family. In March we moved to Columbus to prepare for the wedding and find an apartment. We got married on March 29th, went on our honeymoon, and moved into our place together once we were married. I started my internship at Veritas, and she started a new job as an administrator at a small company in the city. Her work largely supports my youth ministry and enables me to raise support and spend my energy ministering to the students of Columbus, specifically in the Tri- Village area.
Before I met Christine I had never been to Columbus before. Now here we are, members of the church that sent her to Nepal five years ago and welcomed her (and me) back on her return. God has humbled us so very much by providing for our every need, leading us to a church that loves and serves us.
But it hasn’t all been easy. I am still suffering from the effects of Typhoid and Hepatitis, and it seems like I schedule more meetings with doctors than youth. Culture shock and re-entry has led us through several struggles with depression, and being in a new city has been very lonely at times. We’ve held each other as we’ve cried, doubting why we’re in Columbus and wondering if we’re doing something wrong because everything is just so hard. But then the Spirit stirs, reminding us of the Gospel as we speak it to each other in our darkest moments. We remind each other that our God is a good God, and has only ever been faithful to us. We are inspired to be faithful to Him.
For now we are thrilled to be living in Columbus, working with Veritas and being a part of its vision to transform this city with the Gospel. We are dedicated to seeing a youth ministry thrive at the Tri-Village congregation, and hope to start our family here, founded on the Gospel that has saved us.
One day we both desire to return to the mission field. We have been called to be missionaries for the rest of our lives, and whether that’s in a third world country or a first world city, we just need only to obey His calling.
by Mark Ferch
Deacon of Missions
Veritas Communnity Church