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. “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 one 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.
“I do think we will see a lot of progress in our lifetime; it’s just very slow. The fields are hard.”
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, and 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.
- barriers to be removed as the Bagbys hike in to access unreached people groups.
- hearts to continue to be opened in Nepal and national believers raised up who will boldly take the gospel to other villages.
Grace Thornton is the author of the book I Don’t Wait Anymore: Letting Go of Expectations and Grasping God’s Adventure for You. She writes for the International Mission Board, Baptist Press and other Southern Baptist ministries and blogs at gracefortheroad.com.