Life in Nepal, Personal Ramblings

jisty, jona and the komodo dragon

Jisty and Jona (Jonathan) were quite the pair. They were as best of friends as eight-year-olds could be. They always got the highest marks and the most smiley faces in class. They spent every minute they could with each other. But, most impressive was what happened when their imaginations joined forces.

Jisty and Jona could be found everywhere on campus, always engrossed in whispers of conspiracy or adventure. The adults humored them; the other children had long learned to simply let them be. As a result, tales of tigers in the backyard and purple ants were generally ignored with a good portion of humor.

So when stories about a Komodo dragon lurking around campus surfaced, everyone smiled, nodded, ruffled their hair and said “uh-huh.” Only this time the Komodo dragon lingered on, his antics getting wilder by the day. One day, Jisty and Jona can running into my office yelling, “Aunty Fylvia, the Komodo dragon is chasing a snake in your backyard. You better keep the cat indoors or he’ll eat him up.” Like everyone else, I listened, nodded and smiled. I even asked them to describe the dragon to me.  “It’s brown and as tall as you, Aunty Fylvia,” they insisted.

A couple of days later, there was a big commotion by the entrance to the in-patient area. A crowd had gathered, and there was a lot of hand gesturing and concerned murmuring. There were even some hurriedly creating makeshift weapons out of the fresh bamboo stalks nearby. Getting closer, here’s what we saw. (When you figure that each tile is a square foot, I guess Jisty and Jona weren’t imagining it to be about as tall as Aunty Fylvia). And no, the “komodo dragon” was not harmed. He managed to get away and was never seen again.

Feature image by Kalle Kortelainen on Unsplash

Life in Nepal, Personal Ramblings, Places

neither shockers nor surprises

There’s so such thing as quality assurance or JCAHO certification in many hospitals overseas. So, after being shocked by things around Scheer Memorial Hospital for the first three months, we became immuned to pretty much everything. You would also be if you were witness to bricks used as weights for traction; sleeping bags strewn in the hallways for patients when the beds were full; the surgeon walking out of surgery to the maintenance shed so he could retro fit a cranial brace to fit a leg; or a child scream through stitches across his face for lack of anesthesia.

Yeah, you pretty much have to be ready for anything to survive. That’s why when we thought we heard some kind of bleating sound coming from the X-Ray department as we were walking across the hospital courtyard, from home to work one morning, Roy pulled me by the elbow saying, “Just keep walking. It’s way too early in the morning to wonder what that could be. Just keep walking.”

About an hour later, I saw Dr. Rick saying goodbye to his patient. There he was–affluent surgeon, who once lived in the same neighborhood as Tom Hanks, now turned missionary–taking care of the goat of a friend of friend of someone he barely knew. A couple hours of hospital time, x-rays, an orthopedic consult, follow up visit, medical supplies–all pro bono.

Yeah, we saw a lot of strange stuff in that hospital that one would never see in the Western world. And all that we saw made every day so fulfilling and meaningful.

Feature image by Tobias Federle on Unsplash

Personal Ramblings, Places

grandpa’s influence

I found this email from my father to my daughter when she was 11 years old. So glad I saved it–It reminds of all things about him that have influenced her: His encouraging spirit, his dry sense of humor, his interest in history and trivia, his respect for and love of people and cultures, and his astute sense of finances (Well, that last one might just be an Indian thing!)


To: The Residents of the Administrator’s home at Scheer Memorial Hospital, Banepa, Nepal, particularly to one named Sky

From: The Residents of **** Athey Road, Burtonsville, MD 20866, particularly from one called grandpa

Dearest Sky:

Thank you for the lovely card you sent from Bali, and especially for the beautiful, well crafted, letter sent to all of us. Your language was not only perfect, but it tells me that you could turn out to be a better writer than your mom, your uncle, and most definitely your grandpa. And your handwriting is beautiful–not as beautiful as you are, but quite admirable. Keep up those skills.

God has blessed you with so many talents–singing, speaking with choice words, writing, great brains to study, good humor, and so on. With all these, and with the help of God and your parents and the rest of us who love you the most, you cannot but succeed well in life.

Yes, Bali is a nice place. I was three some four years ago, and stayed in a large hotel on the beach somewhat outside the town. I used to go into town almost daily to watch the lovely handicrafts being made. I am not sure if you know it, but Bali and Tamil Nadu (ie., Southern part of India) had great trade links for centuries, beginning some 2500 years ago. That’s why the architecture, the names, and even the use of coconut reflect the style of the Tamil people (ie., me). Even the Hindu religion has had its impact on Bali and the western coast of Java. I am glad you are getting to see so much of the world at this young age, and this should help you appreciate better the cultures and the problems of other people groups.

I know you are studying well. Keep up the good work, and keep prodding your brother to do his studies just as well.

Have you started saving toward a car fund. In another few years, you will be driving, and as I said before, I will match whatever you save.

Love to you and other residents in the administrator’s house, from all of us here.

Feature image by Jara Lenz on Unsplash

Life in Nepal, Places

remembering those 13-course meals

One of our favorite places to eat in Kathmandu was Nepali Chulo. We made sure every volunteer group that visited us experienced  it. For $7, you got a 13-course dinner that included folk dances and raksi on fire.

The food was always so good that I stopped taking pictures once I was served. These were taken on Roy’s birthday. The Klines and the Forbes spent the day shopping, had dinner at the Chulo and pampered ourselves with a night at the Soaltee Crowne Plaza.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Feature image by Tiago Rosado on Unsplash

Personal Ramblings, Places, Previously Published, Reading Life Between the Lines

The Woman in the Trunk

My most memorable journeys have been those punctuated by stories of people I’ve met along the way. This one happened at It’s a Burl in Kerby.

I almost drove right by the hodgepodge of wood carvings piled along the roadside and the tall strange structure that spewed purple waters into a frothy pool. But I’m glad I didn’t. It was a treasure-trove of art and artists, one of whom was Robert Marconkowski.

Oblivious to the people milling around him and the giant fly buzzing in his ear, Robert buried his head in the cloud of sawdust billowing from his chainsaw. Peering into the trunk of a dead cedar, he was looking at something. Moving closer, I hovered.

He was carving out a woman who stretched from the trunk. Slender yet voluptuous, the woman seemed to rise out of the wood — tall and confident, looking upward, letting her curls fall toward her hips.

Robert didn’t see me. It was more his need for a cigarette than my breath on his neck that finally had him turning off his saw and noticing me.

“How do you do that freestyle?” I asked.

“It’s not me. It’s her,” he said, waving his saw toward the trunk. “She’s been in there all (the) time. I’m just letting her out.”

When I asked him to tell me about her, he set down the chainsaw, lit a cigarette and told me a story that went like this:

“The story doesn’t start with her,” he said. “It begins with her friend.

“The friend is walking through the woods one day. She is thinking, meditating, praying “… whatever “… for her friend. They’ve been friends a long time.

“And then she sees this dead tree in the middle of a forest full of live trees. ‘Not fair,’ she thinks. ‘All these beautiful trees continue to live, but not this one? Not fair.’

“The tree reminds her of the friend for whom she’s been sending up good thoughts. It’s not fair. When everyone around her is alive, why should her friend be dying? Life is not fair.

“The friend circles the dead tree, thinking angry thoughts about life, about cancer, about death. And then she notices what used to be the joint where a strong limb grew out of the trunk. The joint is now a gnarly, empty socket; no strong limb there anymore. But there was something else: a tiny green sapling, stubbornly holding onto life, refusing to give into death.

“The woman’s despair turned to hope. It happened in that one moment. So she brings the trunk to me and says, ‘Make something for my friend.’

“So I looked very hard and very deep inside this trunk. I looked for a very long time, trying to see her, to listen to her. The more I looked, the clearer I could see her. She was in there, struggling to come out and say something. She wanted to say something to this cancer that was trying to kill her.

“Look at her! Can you hear her? She’s looking up, head held high in confidence, breasts anew in victory. And she’s yelling out, as loud as she can: ‘#%@!# cancer! You may kill my body, but not my spirit!’ “

Taking one last puff, Robert put out his cigarette and picked up his saw.

“The best part of the story,” he said, “is that the friend went into remission while I’ve been working on this.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

_(This one was published in the November 16, 2011 issue of the Mail Tribune’s Joy magazine.)

Feature image by Katie Musial on Unsplash

Personal Ramblings, Reading Life Between the Lines

lessons from thatha

On the shores of the Arabian Sea, the little village sits, tucked at India’s side.  To the north of the common well live the fishermen, to the south the weavers.  Thatha* lived on the south side, on Weavers’ Street. Neither a fisherman nor a weaver, he technically didn’t belong.

He lived there though, for more than 40 years, until he died at the age of 82. Listening to the annoying, monotonous clackety clak of the looms, smelling  the pungent odor of yarn marinating in starch turned sour. Why did he choose to live where he didn’t belong?  An aspiration, that’s why. An aspiration to share his HOPE in Jesus with the fishermen and the weavers.

Thatha was a pastor. A very effective pastor: His churches thrived. The baptisms were many. But more than bringing in new members into his church, Thatha yearned to bring his neighbors to Jesus. And so he lived a hot, dusty, bumpety, hour-long bus ride away from the churches he pastored, away from the luxury of plumbing and electricity.

40 years and more, Thatha awakened every morning at five o’clock, opened his windows wide and sang.  Totally out of tune, he would sing hymns of hope, of God’s love, of Jesus’ soon coming. And then he’d kneel by the open window and pray aloud for the drunken neighbor who mercilessly beat his beautiful wife the night before, for the money lender who charged an exorbitant interest rate to the young widow, for the young boy trying so hard to get through high school, for the fishermen who had a bad night at sea . . . . All day long, he would help, share, counsel. He chose to reflect Jesus and speak of hope to those not just in his village but also in the villages around and in-between. Thatha even built a chapel that shared a wall with his  home– a wall and the same blue trim on the doors and windows. He held prayer meetings and vespers, Sabbath School and divine service. Always with the doors wide open. Sometimes he would have a visitor or two. Most often, there were none.

You’d think that in 40 years he would have established a solid congregation in his chapel. No! All he had to show for 40 years of exemplary Christian living was one baptism. That too, not in his village, but in another far away. All in vain? A life of disappointment and discouragement? On the contrary, his was a life of hope.

Thatha died in his bed, by the open window, content. And outside that open window, stood fishermen and weavers–two, three, and four generations of them. They came to say goodbye to the man they loved.

20 years and more later, they still speak of the man who prayed, who encouraged, who loved–while asking nothing in return. And in the other village, where the lone man was baptized, are many, many more Seventh-day Adventists.

Sometimes I wish Thatha had lived to see his aspiration take on wings. But the fact that he didn’t says so much more. His life was like a clear spring in a forest. A spring that gives and gives of itself, enriching some, quenching the thirst of others. A spring that doesn’t dry up just to measure how much it is needed.

From Thatha I’ve learnt not to ask why, not to tally my little victories. From Thatha, I’ve learnt to rejoice that God wants me for who I am, to share Him and His love just by being His child–always. I’ve learnt that sharing the Hope of Jesus is my responsibility. But more importantly, I’ve learnt that

1.  I don’t need to see the difference I make. It is not my glory but His.

2.  I don’t need to wait for the right occasion. Every moment I breath is an opportunity.

3.  I don’t need to possess special gifts. I have all it takes. I am, after all, His child


Feature image by Tejj on Unsplash

Personal Ramblings

fortune just when i need it

I’m pretty optimistic most of the time. But yesterday was a really, really bad day. I was beginning to feel my positive attitude turn sour . . . that is, until I opened my fortune cookie.

I’m grateful for the little things that make life memorable. And a little guilty for letting a tough day almost get the better of me.

Feature image by Meritt Thomas on Unsplash

devotion, Previously Published

a study on stewardship

Key Text: Matthew 25:29


1. Know: That stewardship is a lifestyle.

2. Feel: Joy by living a life of stewardship.

3. Do: Maintain a balance in your life and manage the resources with which God has entrusted you.

Lesson Outline:

I. A Life of Stewardship (Luke 16:1-12)

A. This passage is one of the most cited parables when discussing stewardship and in which talents are equated with money. But stewardship is more than a prudent use of money; stewardship is about making God a priority over everything else in life. What are some aspects in your life of which you can be a better steward?

B. Jesus accomplished so much in his three years of ministry, balancing ministry with family, friends and personal spiritual growth. In what ways can you emulate Jesus’ stewardship in your life?

II. The Joys of Stewardship (Romans 12:1)

A. Paul urges us to become living sacrifices, dedicated to pleasing God. A life of stewardship is a continuous state of worship. What joys do you get from knowing that you are worshipping God through your actions?

III. The Balance of Stewardship (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

A. The Bible teaches that there is a time for everything. This suggests a life of balance. We must strive to achieve a balance in all we do. How did Jesus live a balanced life? How can you achieve the same balance?


Stewardship is vital to discipleship. Prioritize life and live in accordance with God’s plan.