Today’s post is a guest contribution from Beth. She’s been to Nepal twice, and left part of her heart there permanently. In this post she takes us along for a quiet moment in her travels.
Nepal is not a country that is very well known to Westerners.
Most Americans know Nepal’s a country, but, if asked, couldn’t place it on a map. Some might associate it with the Yeti or Mt. Everest. Avid readers might draw connections with The Snow Leopard or The Jungle Book. Those interested in religion would be able to tell you that Nepal, like India, is primarily a Hindu culture. They might also be able to reference Buddhism because Tibetans are more known than the Nepalese, and Nepal claims part of Tibet.
Nepal is situated south of China and north of India along the highest ranges of the Himalayan mountains. One of those ranges is the Annapurna Range. A few hours outside of Kathmandu there is a point that overlooks the Annapurna Range known as “The Top of the World.” Standing there, on that lookout point, you can see the Annapurna Range stretching as far as the eye can see. Starting from just below the lookout rises the foothills. Those green, smaller mountains are layered in front of their bigger sisters. Nestled in them, on ridges or between valleys are homes tiny enough to be toys for fairies. Roads are light-colored lines as thin as a blonde hair.
Before reaching their bigger sisters, though, the foothills become almost invisible. Clouds have settled upon them creating an illusion of a deep, blue sky out of which rises gleaming sharp, jagged peaks reaching for the lighter blue of the actual sky. Hues of blue reflect off the white peaks in the ever-changing light. Look to the west as far as you can. And then to the east where Everest lies, looking quite insignificant in relation to her closer, though smaller kin.
And settled in the mountains, the valleys, the plains surrounding the mountains, and in the jungles is a people, even less known than their country, who reflect the beauty of the mountains, though with humility instead of grandeur.
Let me take you to a village.
This village rests outside the third-largest city in Nepal: Pokhara. The Annapurna Range laces its northern side. Up into those foothills is where we are headed. Up a windy, pitted dirt road. Up, for miles.
Until we reach a large concrete house painted a faded lime green. It sits about eight feet below the road. Take the stone path down—each flat stone set horizontally into the side of the hill, like a stair. You’ll skip a few because they’re too close together for your larger American feet. A tiny old lady will emerge from a small side room on the house. She will greet you with the biggest smile you have ever seen. Tears will come to her eyes as she waves you closer, closer.
She has an old, faded scarf around her head. It is impossible to tell what color it might have been. Her face is brown, wrinkled with wisdom and age. Her eyes are almost swallowed up in that big, wide smile that is still beckoning, beckoning. Closer, closer she waves you. That brown hand, just as wrinkled as her face, is cupped, sweeping the air. Pulling you toward her.
Her feet are bare, hardened. They resemble hard-packed clay. Her clothes consists of washed-out red fabrics—red, symbolic of marriage, though you will learn later that she was married at twelve and widowed at fourteen and these last fifty-plus years she has spent alone. Widows are bad luck.
But her eyes are not faded. They are bright, glistening with tears. She is saying “Khana kayo” in her gruff, low, unused voice, Nepali for “Have you eaten?” She is making signs of eating with her hand.
You give her a hug. Her head barely reaches your chest. She holds onto your hand. You try to tell her you’re waiting for the bus. It will be here soon. No time to eat, but thank you. She doesn’t understand. You hug her again. You smile at each other, saying things that don’t need a verbal language. She pats your arm.
She says something else and you look to your friend who knows more Nepali than you. “She says the other grandma died last winter.”
Your face falls. You make sounds of grief. The lady pats your arm again and speaks once more. Your friend says, “She had no place to stay so the landlord gave her this room to live in for the winter.”
You smile at the little lady who is, again, smiling up at you. She steps backward toward her little room and beckons you closer. You look inside. In one corner sits a clay pit where a fire smolders weakly. An old tin pot and a battered pan lie on the floor next to it. In another corner, across from the door, is a small bed with a few tattered blankets crumpled on it. That is all.
You tell the dear lady that you are so happy she has a place to stay. So happy. You smile. She pats your hand, “Khana kayo?”
The trill of an Asian bus horn blasts down the mountains. You have only minutes left. You point to where the bus is. The lady understands. You hug goodbye. There are tears on the lady’s face as she smiles and smiles.
You have come to visit her. Not for the first time. But for the second.
* * *
A few months after my second visit to Nepal, an earthquake churned through the nation killing thousands and leaving at least a million people homeless and more than a million children in need. This country, built on idols and Bhuddist and Hindu temples and beliefs, saw them shaken to the ground in a matter of days as major aftershocks kept sweeping through.
Would you pray with me? This country has a new chance to be built on the Bible and maybe we’ll see this beautiful people rise up. The church in Nepal is growing stronger and stronger.
Lord, let them rise to the task at hand and shine your light, proclaim Your glory throughout this nation. Give them Your strength and your passion to rebuild their country on your principles.
Thank you, Beth!
If you’re reading this and interested in supporting a local Nepali aid organization, we highly commend Bridge to Nepal. They’ve been working to set slaves free (literally) and enable sustainable aid since 1999. They are currently reaching remote villages – like the one Beth describes – with emergency aid. These villages are not being reached by other groups at this time. They are also partnering with Water Missions International to provide water treatment systems which will be in place for years to come. Please do visit their website, donate, and pray!