Arriving in Pokhara and lifting up my eyes to the majestic Annapurna range, awestruck by the beauty and majesty of God’s creation, brought a new meaning to the verse “I lift my eyes up to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121.1). This verse proved key to our family throughout our time in Nepal as we were constantly reminded to look to God for our strength and support. That was the start of a journey in which my eyes were increasingly opened to a new appreciation and understanding of God’s word.

We read scripture through the lens of our own experience. Those issues which are particularly pertinent and relevant to us, because of what we are living through jump out at us and give new meaning to our situation and deepen our understanding of God’s purposes through His word. This is perhaps partly what the writer of the Hebrews means by the phrase ‘….the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword’ (Hebrews 4:12.). One of the privileges of spending time in another culture is that your eyes are opened by the new experiences you gain and you read scripture in a different way – familiar stories become resonant with new meaning. Flying through the dramatic terrain of Nepal one monsoon and seeing the scar of a massive new landslide, the reality of the ‘groaning of creation’ (Romans 8.22) became a concept I could understand more clearly. This was one small step on a particular journey I was on in deepening my understanding of the big story  of scripture. Through a combination of these experiences, together with reading, study and discussion with friends and colleagues we developed a brief summary of this overarching story, focusing on the idea of relationships broken through the fall, being restored through Christ’s life, death and resurrection.

The idea of sin breaking the relationship between me and God, and that relationship being restored through Christ’s atoning sacrifice was not new. However the other broken relationships seem to have got left out of that narrative – leading to a rather ego-centric and ‘heaven-focused’ faith which separated out and prioritised the spiritual. This was a gospel that seemed to have little relevance to my life on earth, and the issues of poverty, injustice, conflict and the destruction of creation that we were dealing with as an organisation, and that I saw every day around me.

Coming to understand that the impact of sin also broke the relationships between different parts of humanity (initially Adam & Eve), between humanity and the created world (Gen. 3.17), and also distorted the relationship we have with ourselves (Gen. 3.7), and that all these relationships have been restored through Christ, brought an explanatory power and relevance to the biblical story to the issues that we were dealing with day in and day out. This more holistic understanding which held the spiritual together with the physical, social, economic, political and ecological, was much closer to the way many Nepali’s perceived the world, and closer to an ancient Israelite understanding as well.

No longer was the Gospel story something that we ‘added on to our work when the opportunity arose, but the biblical story as a whole became the story from which ‘we lived and worked and had our being’. The pictures of ‘shalom’ in the new heavens and the new earth painted by the Old Testament prophets where all those relationships are once more restored, gave us hope and confidence that the small steps of progress we could see through our work was not in vain and that one day, when Christ returns, all things would once more be reconciled to God through Christ (Colossians 1:20).

One of the many highlights of my time in Nepal was going through this biblical story with all our staff in UMN during one of our annual gatherings. We explored a phase of the biblical story each day from the Creation story in Genesis 1 & 2, to the renewed Creation in Revelation 21& 22. After a dramatic telling of the relevant part of the story, groups of staff drew a picture of that part of the story, and then cut out and pasted on words and phrases from our core statements of vision, mission, values and our models of poverty and Fullness of life. By the end of the week each group had a string of five flipcharts depicting the biblical story and clearly linking our organisation values and priorities to that story. It proved to be a revelation, and was appreciated by all our staff, both Christian and Hindu, as they more clearly understood the foundation of those statements that they lived out and worked towards day in and day out.

The journey of deepening our understanding of the story of scripture is one that never ends. But among the many competing stories that we are bombarded with, and through which we are urged to live our lives by, the Biblical story is for me the one which gives most truth, most understanding and most hope. I am grateful for the many friendships and experiences, particularly through my time in Nepal, which deepened my understanding of that story – a story which is not only life-changing for me as an individual but life changing for God’s world as a whole.

Breathing the Bible is an INF Australia blog series, exploring how life and service in Nepal influenced the way people read and respond to Scripture.

Mark Galpin, with family, served in various roles with INF Nepal 2000 – 2007 and was UMN Executive Director 2009 – 2016.‘Living in Gods story’ by Mark Galpin is available as an e-book download from Micah Global.

Other posts in the series:
Breathing The Bible: Family
Breathing The Bible: Fellowship
Breathing The Bible: Prayer
Breathing The Bible: Justice
Breathing The Bible: Sacrifice
Breathing The Bible: Kingdom
Breathing The Bible: Wedding
Breathing The Bible: Gain

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