Life in Nepal, Previously Published

what’s in a name?

His first day on the job, Roy’s CEO-eye, with years of experience in the for-profit industry, scanned this modest, not-at-all-for-profit, mission hospital, looking for its “assets.” There were old beds and even older equipment; crowded rooms with paint peeling off the walls; ledgers revealing an average 20% deficit every year. “Every place has something to build itself on. It’s just a matter of finding it,” he repeated as he acquainted himself with the history and works of the hospital.

It wasn’t long before he found the asset: The hospital’s good name. For over 42 years Scheer Memorial has been a stable Adventist presence in a country where less than 1% is Christian. Patients come in baskets and on stretchers, carried by barefooted relatives for days over mountains. And they return home with stories of Scheer, where no one is turned away for lack of money, where the nurses care so much that they often share their lunches with patients, where an invisible God does wondrous things. Their stories of our reflection of Jesus give us our good name.

I discovered how far a good name travels one day in Kusma, a little village in Western Nepal. Sixteen hours from home and very late in the day, we checked into Kusma’s best hotel—it had neither flush toilets nor towels. So stepping over puddles, dodging pigs and ducks, we went in search of towels. Flanking a narrow street were stalls, many selling towels; but one glimpse of Roy’s American face, and the price of towels rose as high as the mountains around us! Indignant, I was ready to go without washing. But Roy urged me to try a few more stores. So I kept walking, getting angrier at each response.

A woman leaned against her store watching, amused at my predicament. When I got closer, she handed me a stack of towels, “Pick a towel. 75 Rupees each.” Shocked at her fair price, I loudly proclaimed her to be the only honest person in Kusma. She laughed, apologizing for the others, explaining how times were tough, and that foreigners were easy prey. She continued making casual conversation as I selected my towels. When I told her I was from a small hospital in Banepa far, far away, she called for her husband in excitement.

20 years earlier she was very sick and without money. Having heard of Scheer, her family took her half way across the country—part way by foot, part by bus. She stayed at the hospital for three months and got more than medical care. She got a different perspective of life. On this Adventist campus she learned what it meant to share the little you have, to be honest in your dealings, to treat everyone equally, to have respect for other religions, to be positive about life. A wife and mother now, she claimed that her life was full and meaningful because of her Adventist experience.

“I don’t have anything to remind me of that good place,” she said wistfully. “Do you have a picture or brochure?” I had nothing except my business card. Tucking it in her blouse, she said, “I’ll keep this always. May the gods take the hospital’s good name everywhere.”

In Nepal, where the government looks for opportunities to shut down organizations even remotely connected to Christianity and where the press slanders missionaries and their mission, Scheer Memorial Hospital has earned the acceptance, the respect, and the friendship of the majority. In the two years we’ve been here, Roy has strategically been building on the hospital’s biggest asset, its good name. And when things get tough, its good name rises to deflect the situation.

Seventh-day Adventists. In some places it’s a good name; in others it’s an ambiguous word shrouded by misconceptions. Our responsibility is to reflect Christ, to enlighten the world of who we really are, to make known His good name.

For His name is our name.

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