Radford Bagby* has long heard mountaineering referred to as a “selfish” sport – it can be risky and expensive, and climbers tend to like to keep to themselves.
But Radford found the more he got into it, the more God put a passion for other people on his heart.
International Mission Board short-term workers hike a Himalayan peak nearly 15,000 feet in elevation. It takes multiple weeks just to access many Tibetan villages from the capital city of Kathmandu.
“I got my bachelor’s in sports education, and we watched a lot of mountaineering documentaries,” he said. “The people interviewed in the films kept talking about how the mountains represented certain gods to them, and I kept thinking somebody needs to go and share truth with these guys.”
So Radford, his wife, Sarah*, and their children have planted their lives in Nepal to take the hope they have to the hard-to-reach people of the mountains.
Getting to the 28 people groups in their country – each group with its own language and culture and separated from the next group by a massive mountain – takes a journey of weeks. For the closest village, it’s a three- or four-day trip, partly by car and partly by trekking on foot.
For the farthest one away, best-case scenario, it’s a 14-day journey one way.
“If everything goes right, and you were to just go to their village, snap a picture, turn around and come right back, you’re still gone from home 28 days. Stay there for any length of time to establish relationships, and we’re talking a long, long trip,” Radford says.
It’s a long-term type of work, he said, slow and largely thankless. “I do think we will see a lot of progress in our lifetime; it’s just very slow. The fields are hard.”
But the Bagbys have watched God use two things to open hearts – a major earthquake and their children. The couple has trekked for days at a time uphill with toddlers, even while Sarah was pregnant. The children got dirty, played with yaks, met strangers and people warmed up to them.
“People see our kids, and they open up about their lives and about the children they lost in the earthquake,” Sarah said. “For them to see us cry with them is a big deal.”
In one particular village, a rockslide from the earthquake came roaring down the mountain, burying a whole group of people underneath. “It’s been more than a year since the earthquake, and people in that village would start crying like it had just happened. It’s still very fresh,” Radford said. “It means the world to them that we came to hear their stories.”
It’s in those moments that they get to share the hope that they have and pray God softens the rocky soil.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This year’s Week of Prayer for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention is Dec. 3-10. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, in tandem with Cooperative Program gifts from Southern Baptist churches, supports international workers in seeking to fulfill the Great Commission. Gifts to the Lottie Moon offering are received through local Southern Baptist churches or online at IMB.org/lmco, where there are resources to promote the offering. This year’s goal is $160 million.)