A few years ago and a few mountains east of us, Kathmandu University began felling trees. The first phase of a mammoth educational center to accommodate a kindergartener straight through medical school.
While construction progressed, paperwork for the medical school crawled its way from one government office to another. In Nepal, it isn’t unusual for government approvals to take years. But for some strange reason, this one came through quickly, way before the campus was ready. So there they were—approval in hand to begin their medical school, but without a building to house it.
Meanwhile Scheer Memorial Hospital was studying its large unfinished third floor. Handicap inaccessible, it couldn’t be used for patients. One thought was to convert it into an educational complex to generate income. But there was no money to build.
Hearing of both predicaments, a mutual friend of the hospital and the university suggested collaboration. Business-wise, it made sense: The university was even willing to bear 50% of the building cost, making the balance an amount we could afford. But Adventist-wise, it was taboo: One well-meaning missionary was livid. The voice of traditional church structure, he thought it preposterous that a solid Seventh-day Adventist hospital would consider doing business with a Hindu government institution. It was a compromise of values. It was a proposition to be unequally yoked. It was sleeping with the enemy!
Were we really headed towards debauchery? Much prayer and discussion followed. An official letter from the church cautioned us of problems that could arise; an unofficial letter from the same office commended the hospital for this innovative business venture. So with some anxiety, we hitched ourselves to our Hindu neighbors.
It’s been a good relationship. Besides sharing construction costs, the hospital gets to conduct educational programs of its own and gets 10 admissions into the medical school over 10 years. (This year a Nepali Adventist joined the medical school as its first Christian student)
The university has adapted well to our no-drinking-no-smoking, closed-during-Sabbath-hours lifestyle. In turn, even the most conservative SDA’s have accepted our strange bedfellows with grace.
As for me, the day the University moved in, I asked the Holy Spirit to be loud and specific about when I should unleash my witnessing zeal and about when I should shut up. The first few months, all He said was “Shut up and share your cake. Do nothing more.” I obeyed. Opportunities to share Jesus came my way, but the Spirit zipped my lips! Then one day, I heard Him say “Drop off Jesus CEO (a book by Laurie Beth Jones) at Dr. Shrestha’s* (the director) office.” As I dashed out with the book, Roy shouted, “He’ll never read the book. Shrestha’s not the type.” I didn’t care. I was moving past the stage of sharing desserts and smiles.
Months went by. More gestures of friendliness; but no comments about the book. Finally I gave up, crediting my wild imagination for the voice of the Spirit and putting up with Roy’s “I told you so’s.” In defeat, I asked for my book back. No one in the office could find it. Great! Now I lost a soul and a book.
More months went by. It was Christmastime when I got an email from Dr. Tamrakar,* a prominent Hindu doctor and CEO of a large hospital in Kathmandu, and who is also a professor at Kathmandu University Medical School. The message read: “Best wishes of the Christmas season. I took the book Jesus CEO from Dr. Shrestha’s office. It has made me read the Holy Bible to find out more about Jesus. I am enjoying the book and the Bible. Thank you.”
I had underestimated the Spirit—again. I guess the book’s lost (I couldn’t possibly ask for it now); but not the soul. The Holy Spirit is at work. And from my experience, He can be pretty loud and forceful.
As for “sleeping with the enemy”—at least in this case, it’s been a gratifying experience!
*Fictitious names used