The local Nepalese call it Jomolungma, which means “mother goddess of the world.” To us it is the most revered of all mountain peaks. At 29,029 feet above sea level, no mountain competes with the grandeur and majesty that is Mount Everest. Beckoning adventurers from around the world, six Christians embarked on an incredible and life changing journey to reach the base camp of Mt. Everest. Available now on DVD, Journey to Everest is a film chronicling the travelers as they have a close encounter with death, learn about the Hindu/Buddhist world of Kathmandu and meet a Christian Nepali pastor who inspired them and touched their hearts. Although their goal began as a treacherous physical journey to reach the elusive 17,400 foot-elevation Everest Base Camp, the mountain was merely a catalyst that embarked them on a spiritual trek to help a people that were geographically and culturally far removed from their own.
Boarding a plane from Nashville, TN to the ancient city of Katmandu, Nepal, the six travelers were greeted by Pastor Bishwa Kharmacharya from Transformation Nepal, a Christian Life helping the poor. One of the most interesting parts of the film was learning about the uniqueness of Nepal’s varied religious cultures. From the sacredness of cows to the worshiping of 300 million gods and goddesses, Bishwa takes them on a journey to two holy temples. One is an example of their views on spiritual redemption, the other on the afterlife. Witnessing a body being cremated on an altar and its remains dumped into the adjacent river, they learn that drinking and bathing out of the river purifies them of their sins. At another sacred temple, the Nepalese believe their observances there release them from the binds of reincarnation.
When the group converges at the airport to begin the last flight of their journey to Lukla, they soon find out that their flight has been bumped. Another group from Germany takes their place instead. Later that day they receive word that the plane crashed, killing all sixteen onboard except the pilot. Shocked at what could have been their own fate, the group contemplates whether or not to continue on their quest. Although many have died on the journey to Everest Base Camp they agree to continue. Climbing the rigorous terrain on foot, acclimating to the heightening elevation and breathing with a 20 percent lower oxygen level proves very trying for all the members – and not all of them make it. One of my favorite moments is the selfless act made by leader Ed Smith. When a struggling member can no longer continue on, he stays behind with her enabling her spouse to finish. At 16,000 feet God blesses those who continue on with the gift of a crystal clear night where the moonlight reflects off the snow causing the mountain to light up and look “plugged in.” Humbled by the awesome majesty of God’s creation before them, a desire begins to form in each of their hearts to help meet the needs of the Nepalese people.
When they make it to Everest Base Camp the moment is almost anticlimactic. You celebrate their success but you are left wanting more…as if the journey alone were not enough to satisfy. What makes this movie complete, however, is how the story continued even after filming wrapped. In the ten months before the film’s release, a series of events began to unfold. While the film was being edited, Ed Smith began telling people in the U.S. about what Bishwa’s Life was doing in Nepal.
In another twist of fate, a refugee camp of 12,000 people lost everything and was displaced by a fire in their village. When Bishwa came to Nashville to share about their Life the filmmakers showed the local community a sneak preview of the unfinished film. The audience was so moved that they donated a staggering $30,000 for missions overseas. When the United Nations stepped in to resettle the Nepalese refugees, some of them were relocated to Nashville. Suddenly, there were a host of needs to be met right in their own backyard.
On the day of the movie’s world premier, the refugees were given an honorary preview seating. As the general audience began to arrive for the sold out second showing, all 200 refugees lined the hallways of the theatre to greet them. For many movie goers, the warmness of the Nepalese people was their favorite experience of the night. The successful premier raised much needed funds for the displaced Nepalese community and opened the door to the film being screened in 300 theatres and churches all over the world. Through its showing, much support has been raised for Christian Life in Nepal. Journey to Everest may have started as a film about an exciting journey undertaken by six Christians but ultimately that was only part of the adventure. God used the great mountain as a “hook” to open up a new avenue of service they never would have thought possible.
For more information on the film and to host a viewing, visit Journeytoeverest.com. Lisette Frevola can be reached at [email protected]