Life in Nepal, Previously Published

taking out the trash

The bulging files of yellowed, mildewed papers screamed for archival. So I sat to sift and sort through stuff that went back more than 15 years. The more I sorted, the more disgusted I became. Not with the dust and mildew, but with the trash I found.

Resham and his wife Jumuna have been working at Scheer about 15 years. We may have the truth. Ours may be the better way. But it didn’t really make a difference to them, or to the 145 other Hindu employees. It didn’t make a difference because Jesus was buried beneath our trash.

Trash littered the files: letters of slander, memos of self-righteous finger pointing, proof of polarity among workers. One document, secretly coded “purge,” was a petition, in the most unchristian verbiage, from one faction of SDA employees to terminate another faction of SDA employees. Over the years so much was added to the pile of trash that rumors evolved into truths. Some wafted our way even before we left for Nepal.

“There’s been a history of feuds,” informed a church leader, speaking of the strained relationship between ADRA and Scheer Memorial Hospital. So from afar we placed the ADRA director and his wife under the microscope, watching their every move, dissecting every insinuation behind every word. But found nothing. Slowly, we edged towards their open friendliness and were surprised to discover genuine Christianity.

“She’s always looking for trouble,” warned another describing the woman identified as the primary instigator of trouble. Our first meal in Nepal was in the home of the instigator. The whole time we were fidgety and nervous. Surprisingly she was wonderful—and without a pitchfork or horns.

We were told: “You’re new. Give yourself two years and you’ll be right where the rest of us are.” Not a very encouraging prediction—especially at the beginning of what seemed like a very long six-year term. This was “the Siberia for errant missionaries,” pointed a frustrated missionary on the way out.

Life can be testing when the people you work with are the same that you worship with, socialize with, and from whom you live a mere coughing distance away. Add to that, differences in personality, working styles, culture, and priorities!

“Something’s got to change. I don’t want us to end up fighting with everyone. Neither do I want to give up and leave in two years,” I said to Roy, frustrated and not really expecting a profound response. But he gave me one anyway: “Everyone needs to realize that no one is indispensable. Only God is indispensable.” Somewhere along the way, God’s role was minimized and self had taken priority.

While the hospital had a good name, Adventism within its walls was one of contradictions. Our lives did not reflect our beliefs. It was like Christian brotherhood had upped and left. Power struggles and self-interest had taken priority and it had become almost impossible for people to work together

By presenting a picture of strife, we had lost at least 147 opportunities to witness. An Adventist Hospital in which more than 97% of the employees are Hindu, the front door to evangelism has to be our lifestyle. What people see peeking into our lives is what will bring them in or turn them away.  At Scheer it had been a long time since anyone wanted to come in for a better look.

We needed a good spiritual cleansing. Some left, some stayed on. New families joined us. Maybe it was a better mix of personalities, maybe it was the stirring of the Spirit. Maybe it was a mixture of the two, but together we cleaned up our act. Could we end up back at square one? Perhaps. But for now we are where every Adventist community should be – focused on living for God and not for ourselves.

The Kline family has successfully crossed the two-year mark.* Other families are also here for the long haul. ADRA and Scheer are working side by side. Now when people take a peek, they see something worth having.

The trash has been taken out. And Jesus is being seen. After all these years, Resham and Jamuna joined the pastor’s Bible Study group this year. So have three others.

*This was published in 2003

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