OKEECHOBEE — Jamie and Luke K. (name withheld for safety reasons), along with their five children, serve as missionaries in Nepal. Jamie was born and raised in Okeechobee, and in 2006, she married Luke, who lived in Arcadia. Less than a year after their marriage, Luke began pastoring a small church in Lake Placid and served there for four years. Jamie said she was happy with the situation and was excited about setting down roots and buying a home of their own, but one day, Luke came in and told her he felt God wanted them to become missionaries. She was not happy at all. She did not want to leave her family in Okeechobee and Luke’s family in Arcadia. Luke said he felt a call to go to the foreign mission field as a young teen, but didn’t know where God wanted him to go. “There are a lot of people without access to churches or the Bible. I knew I was called to give my life for this.” It took a while, Jamie said, but God changed her heart, and they moved out to Texas to go to a training school and not long after, they moved to Kathmandu, Nepal, in Asia. Luke knew Nepal was the place they were supposed to go when he heard about unreached people groups in Asia. He learned there was a group called the Amdo Tibetans, and you could walk among them for weeks and weeks without ever meeting a person who has heard the name of Jesus Christ.
They have been there since 2014. They have five children, and everyone always asks Jamie what she does with her time. She always replies, “I have five kids. I’m a mom. I stay home and take care of the kids.”
In Nepal, their focus is on the Tibetan people of Nepal, and they live their lives pretty much the same way Americans do. They get up, eat breakfast, wash the dishes and send the kids to school. They meet their neighbors and talk to them, invite them over to have dinner and play games. They do this so the people realize they aren’t just interested in numbers. “We want them to know we truly care about them,” she said. They do this by making true friendships and then telling their friends about why Jesus came to Earth and the true meaning of Christmas.
In Nepal, people are free to worship any way they choose, said Luke, but it is illegal to evangelize and lead someone from a Hindu or Buddhist background to become a Christian. If caught doing that, they could be imprisoned for up to five years and fined $5,000, but in their case, they would more likely be deported and blacklisted from the country. They have had the opportunity to go into a Buddhist monastery and teach English for a semester. Luke made it clear in advance that he is a Christian and would teach using Bible stories. Typically, when someone is interested, they seek Jamie or Luke out secretly so their friends do not know what they are doing. When people ask them questions, they can share the gospel with them. Last Christmas, they hosted a Christmas party and invited the monks from the monastery, and they had more than 30 monks attend. They gave them socks and hats, fed them a meal, played games together and told them the Christmas story.
Nepal is a third-world country, and for the first four and a half years they were there, they had electricity just a few hours a day. This made it very complicated to cook or do laundry, especially when they often did not have water either. This year, the electricity and the water situation has gotten a little better.
There are monkeys everywhere in Nepal, and Jamie said one time she was even bitten by one. Jamie drives a scooter with one child sitting in front of her and another strapped to her back. Luke drives a motorcycle, usually with one child in front of him and one behind. When their fifth child was born, they finally gave in and bought a car, because they were out of places to put the children, but they still use the scooter and motorcycle regularly. The traffic is crazy over there, she explained. There are no traffic rules, and she has fallen on her scooter twice but had no major injuries.
The medical care is pretty good, she said. She had her appendix removed four days before her flight back to the U.S. for a visit. A few months ago, Luke was in the ICU with a blood clot, and they were satisfied with the care. Jamie even had a baby there. She had laser eye surgery a couple years ago as well. Not only is the medical care decent, it is also inexpensive. Luke was in ICU for a couple days and then in a regular room another few days, and the bill was only a little over $4,000. Jamie’s appendectomy surgery and hospital stay cost $3,000, and having a baby cost them about $1,000. Lasik type surgery was $800. One thing that is different in their hospitals though is that families are expected to provide a caregiver for the patient. They do not have nurses and aides like hospitals do here.
Vegetables are very cheap there. She can buy 30-40 pounds of vegetables for about $10. Fruits are a little more expensive but still very reasonable. On the other hand, a normal size turkey or ham would cost about $80. They eat buffalo meat because it is hard to find beef, and they eat a lot of chicken there. Many people are vegetarians. The main meal in Nepal is called Dhal Bhat. Dhal means lentils, and bhat means rice. The people eat that twice a day, usually around 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. They usually eat something simple for lunch, like plain rice.
They have a lady who watches their five children when they are going out, and she speaks only Nepali to the baby, who is almost 2 years old. He speaks more Nepali than he does English. His first sentence was in Nepali. He said, “Hot deu” which means “give me your hands,” and he understands everything they say in Nepali.
They are surrounded by every type of religion, and there are little idols on every street corner. There are many Hindu priests dressed head to toe in orange, who go around in the middle of the night blowing a conch shell to ward off the evil spirits. The next day, they come back and ask for money, because of the work they did in the middle of the night.
There are people who go around the streets of Nepal and yell, “apples and bananas,” and the next guy will be clanging metal tools together. He would be the one who can fix your pressure cooker. When the man comes to collect trash, he blows a whistle. You have to listen for these sounds so you know when to go fix your pots and pans or buy fruit or take out your trash.
Toilets in Nepal are typically “squatty potties.” It is a hole in the ground, and you squat down above it to use it. People there do not typically use toilet paper to wipe — They use their left hand. For this reason, they do everything with their right hand, shaking hands, handing someone something, etc. The left hand is considered dirty. Some restrooms have a sprayer they can use to rinse themselves off, but even then, Luke said, “wouldn’t you be soaking wet?” Visitors to Nepal carry their own toilet paper everywhere they go. If they don’t, they are in for an unpleasant surprise when they need to use a public restroom.
When Nepali people nod their heads, they don’t do it the way we do here. They bobble their heads from side to side. When they point, they don’t use a finger, but instead, they use their lips.
Jamie, Luke and family try to come back to Okeechobee every other Christmas. This year they are only here for six weeks, but next time they come, they plan to stay a couple months so they can visit their supporting churches around the country and give an update on how things are going. They send out a monthly prayer letter, but they do not have a family website anymore for security purposes. Several people have been deported in the last year because they were caught being missionaries there. Luke is there on a student visa, and plays his guitar at a school twice a week. Both he and Jamie teach classes at a college over there. They teach in English and Nepali which he said is challenging but very rewarding. He maintains an evangelistic website called pilgrimoftruth.com. It’s in English and Nepali, and they have several videos, because many of the people of Nepal cannot read. He said they are really burdened about the need for prayer for the people of Nepal and have been establishing a prayer band. There are over 20 different ethnic Tibetan groups living in the Himalayan Mountains of Nepal and many more throughout Asia. There is a huge need for laborers and church planters over there, said Luke. “For those reading this story, please consider making it part of your 2020 to be our prayer partner and commit to pray 20 minutes a week for the people of Nepal and for our family,” said Luke.