Nepal 2018_Day 1_Friday
Last night the team was split into 2, construction and medical. Both teams were assigned our tasks, schedules and duties. For the construction team, a bright and early 9:00am departure to the church brother’s site. If you’d thought the exhausting exercise starts at the actual labour work, you would be wrong. To get to the location itself took about 45mins of trekking up steep slopes. For us who were unfamiliar with the terrain, it was more like an hour. Although I must say, the conversation and scenery were captivating, that the hour passed by in no time.
Along the way, walking into a clearing, a brilliantly pink house came into view. Jonny then proceeded to explain that this house was previously sponsored by BLi and the team from 2 years ago who had the opportunity to contribute efforts in laying the foundations of the structure (see the full story HERE). As we surveyed the house, something else came into view and pulled our attention instantly. A young boy came walking towards us unattended, carrying an absent expression. He was walking around bottom half naked, oblivious and uninterested in our presence. The child most likely has some sort of mental disability. Thoughts of where the parents were, what happens if this child gets injured or lost were shared silently in everyone’s minds, but it didn’t take long for the unsettling reality to bring us into perspective.
Amidst the awkwardness, the youngest member of the BLi group voiced up saying he felt compassion for the kid and wanted to pray for the child. Loving the passion and enthusiasm, we jumped on that opportunity. Pastor NP laid hands and led us as we spoke out prayers for this young boy.
Arriving at the site, we found out that our task was to help clear the area and have it ready and suitable for laying the foundations of the house. The plot of land was separated into 2 tiers and our aim was to average out an area sufficiently sized for a house (roughly 10m x 5m) for the laying of the foundations. This involved shifting dirt from the upper tier down to the lower tier to make level ground. Tedious as it sounds the team went into it with all heart and continued to work at it throughout the rest of the morning into the early afternoon.
Before and After…
Being completely honest, I don’t think we actually did much work in the 2 to 3 hour window, definitely not to warrant the host to treat us all to lunch. Internally I said prayers after prayers of blessings on this household. Pastor NP must have read my mind through my expressions and reassured me that our presence there was encouragement itself. We were greeted by warm, satisfying smiles and food outside of a small brick house with a corrugated steel sheet roof. The shelter was rough around the edges and it was what the church brother and his family were living in whilst his house was under construction.
A neighbour there was part of a community project we sponsored not too long ago and we were able to see the results and the effects of the goat breeding program.
As the sun began to make its way back down towards the horizon, so did we. The man walked a partial way to see us off, carrying the gift of crop harvest for the church. As we walked the dusty, rock-filled path down the mountain side, this left one of the deepest impressions of the trip in my heart. The man was walking bare foot down this path, that even the most nimble of us in shoes would slip and trip, whilst carrying a gift for the church. A man, allegorically and literally, walking a hard and tough road completely raw, gladly treated guests with the best he could afford, and gave wholeheartedly towards the church. This generous heart moved me in my branded, cushioned and ankle supported lifestyle in the sense of generosity and giving.
On the way down, the views were most spectacular as we were facing the valley this time. (Belly out for Banepa, right Ben 😉???)
As we near the church vicinity, the hustle and chatter of the medical clinics can be heard. Held at a school, children and adults alike were lined up ready and waiting to see the doctors, dentists and opticians, with passers-by peeking in to see what the noise was all about. With the clinics running at full steam ahead and not to cause extra confusion, half the construction team retired back to the church whilst the other half stayed at the church as moral support.
Being that this was a school, there were plenty of children around the waiting area, either children from the school itself or kids who came with their parents. We later found out this school was one for the deaf, which was just as well, as we couldn’t communicate in Nepalese to them. And with children, it's funny how the smallest things can trigger the biggest changes. One of the girls from our team, through playing with simple hand sanitiser, opened the kids to us. And soon enough, all the kids were dragging us by the wrists to play Ninja or clambering on and over us as if we’re jungle gyms. So may our short interactions and memories of love we left here with these little children multiply into big and life altering changes! In Jesus’ name.
This was only our first day, but by now, the team has been thoroughly tired out. Onwards to more experiences and more pouring out...tomorrow.
We begin our first day being woken up by loud Nepali music playing from somewhere around the neighbourhood at 5am, not a pleasant way to wake up. However, it did give us an early start for the day ahead. God reminded me of the verse that precedes the great commission.
‘Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”‘ Matthew 28:18
As I was assigned to coordinate the medics, Dr. Mike from Kathmandu, Dr. Edwina and I headed over to the venue for the clinics first thing in the morning to do some space planning and work out how our clinics were going to work. What’s amazing is that Banepa Rofecca Church (Pastor NP’s church) has been building a relationship with the local deaf school right opposite the road. So, the school, not affiliated with the church nor the Christian faith, was kind enough to host us and provide us with the space to run the clinics. Once the clinic was roughly put in place, we headed back to join the rest in morning devotion and breakfast.
It was a bit of a bummer that I missed most of the spiritual breakfast, I only caught the last song when I got back. On the bright side, I got my physical breakfast and energy for the morning. After committing the day to our Lord in prayer, the medics team sent off the construction team, then headed over to the deaf school – now to get started with clinics.
What was different from my previous trips with BLi is that this time, we had an optometrist from the Australian team. I was excited to see them in practice and just how the clinic would run with three types of services: optometry, dental and medical. And what’s unchanged is my love-hate relationship with crowd control. Being particularly keen on not sitting in one place, I naturally enjoyed crowd control, but the crowd can get a bit difficult at times.
When we arrived at the clinic, all the benches that we’d set up earlier in the morning were occupied by patients. It was quite a challenge with the language barrier to get the crowd to understand that we needed to set things up before we could see any patients, nevertheless we got there in the end. The next challenge was to learn what needed to be done for eye screening, as this was completely new to us and we already had 30 people queued up to come through. Pei-Ling did an amazing job at learning quickly and started screening the patient’s eyesight. As soon as everything seemed like it was up and running, I could just roam around and take pictures. Pei-Ling disappeared along with her translator! The queue for eye screening was piling up and I had to grab our optometrist to teach me and Tina how to do screening, while figuring out what had happened to Pei-Ling. I subbed in for eye screening and just trusted that the crowd control would work itself out fine. Soon we learned that Pei-Ling was ill and so we carried on until lunch time.
After lunch, clinics resumed. Again, the initial backlog of patients made it quite stressful at the start, also knowing that while we were on lunch break, the triage translators kept distributing numbers out to more patients. So, it took us an hour or so trying to work out who had been triaged and eye screened, slowly working through the backlog. But we pulled through in the end, and half way through Pei-Ling was alive and healthy and back in action! She jumped into medical triaging, while Tina and I continued to quiz people on their eyesight.
Then noticing that there was a huge crowd outside the dental room, I left eye screening in the capable hands of Tina and went over to see what I could do. It suddenly dawned on me the harsh truths of reality, because we were running the clinic in the deaf school, we asked the teachers to bring the children to be treated, and I noticed that half of the crowd that were pushed to the back of the queue were the deaf children. ‘How absent minded of us, of course! Calling out patient numbers doesn’t work for the deaf, duh!’ I conveyed my concern to the dental team, hoping they could somehow fast track the children, or at least keep an eye out for them because they can easily be neglected in the waiting area because they did not respond to sound.
Due to the more complex dental services that Pastor John was offering for this trip, it meant that he needed more time to treat each patient. We all know that queuing for a long time causes frustration and distress. So we asked the dentists what we could do to help. One of the dentists, Preston came out from the dental room trying to filter which patients needed complex dental treatment and who could be fast-tracked. We were soon instructed to apply fluoride to the children’s teeth, to give them some protection to their teeth, and also relieve the distress from the long wait. It’s amazing how children have this magical power in making the most serious things in life fun. After being checked by Preston, those who didn’t need major dental treatment ran over and lined up smiling one-by-one, I smiled back, feeling honoured and privileged that I could serve them by rubbing some toothpaste over their teeth. For me it was a special moment of connection, there were no language barriers, I opened my mouth, making the ‘Ah’ sound, silly me, forgetting that they couldn’t hear and I was wearing a face mask. But for some reason they understood and opened their mouths to be treated.
Gradually we treated all the patients, the children who stayed in the school remained and the clinic waiting area was transformed into a playground. The construction team saw us on their way back to Banepa Church and those of us who still had energy to spare offered it unto the Lord in bringing joy and attention to these children. We played and played until it was dark, no speech was needed, we signed, motioned or wrote what was on our mind to communicate with them. I was so touched by how pure and simple they are in experiencing happiness and joy.
‘Jesus said “let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these”’ Matthew 19:14
I praised God for Pastor Prashant’s heart and vision in reaching out to their local deaf school, building this bridge by teaching English. After everything was packed up, we visited the headmaster’s office to check out some of the crafts the children had made, then we went home (Banepa Church) for dinner and rest.