Questions > Closure

I have yet to completely sort through my time in Nepal. Actually, the reality is that I’ve barely processed anything at all. Sure, sure, we went over patients every night and had plenty of time to think while at Sri Jana Farms, but that doesn’t make it easy.

I recognize the importance of reflection, I really do, it just is so hard for me to do. I’ve identified two reasons I believe this to be true: a) it takes a lot of focus, and my ADD brain often doesn’t afford me such a luxury, and b) it forces me to come to grips that a season in my life is ending or fundamentally changing.

Before we left, I started writing a blog post about how much I hate packing. Here is an excerpt:

Anyone who knows me knows I hate packing. Least-favorite activities can often be ranked on a scale of “one to packing,” with “unpacking” butted up snugly against its infamous neighbor. As with any trip, traveling to Nepal involves packing and planning for the days ahead. Even with a list of what and what not to bring, doing final loads of laundry, deciding which outfits can be worn three days in a row, and making sure I have all my paperwork never fails to make me feel like I’m trying to finish a 10-page research paper that was due yesterday. I’ve asked myself a thousand times, “Kaitlyn, why do you hate packing so much? This means you’ve been blessed with an opportunity to travel!” And to be honest, I don’t think I’ve figured out the answer.

The more I think about why I feel so burdened by reflection, the more I’m connecting it to how I feel about packing. I hate packing because it involves so much planning and signifies a sort of uprooting. I had to pick myself up out of Chillicothe, IL, my beloved hometown, in order to plant myself in Tansen, Palpa. I’ve never been one for homesickness, but saying goodbye is never necessarily easy. The same sort of reasoning accompanies my dismay for reflection; it involves a lot of planning and forces me to recognize that something significant is ending. There is hope of something new beginning, but that doesn’t necessarily make saying goodbye to a season any easier.

Maybe I hate the question “what has this trip meant to you?” because it makes me feel like I need to neatly package my experience in a sentence or two and leave it at that– a sentence or two. How can I articulate how watching a father grieve his son’s immanent death changes me? How can I articulate how being given hot water (a precious resources in many ways) to wash my hands by a family whose entire home is smaller than my dorm room changes me? How can I articulate how listening to a new friend’s testimony about being thrown in jail for his faith changes me?

It might just be an inadequate vocabulary that is so detrimentally affecting my ability to articulate meaning from such an experience, or it just might be that I haven’t seen the fruit yet. Sure, maybe my compassion grew or my sense of urgency for the Gospel grew, but seeing the true fruit of how this interim shifted something fundamental in my life will not be seen until ‘normal’ life resumes.

Maybe I think the question “what has this trip meant to you?” is so incredulous because it makes me feel as if I sort through everything now, I will leave all my thoughts in a heap and no longer have to think about them. If I process and reflect now, then I can live the rest of my semester in ignorance of a profoundly moving experience.

Unlike my dilemma with packing, I think I may have come up with a solution to help me reflect and transition: turn my thoughts into questions. If I am adamant to not leave my experience of Nepal behind, and if I truly learned anything, I must change something, or lots of things, in my everyday life. It’s like reading the Bible– if your behavior doesn’t change from reading it, did you actually learn anything? It’s the same sort of concept. So, to help you understand what I’ve been thinking about/what I’ve learned/what this trip has meant to me, I will leave you with a few questions that I will continue to ask once I am home:

  • What does it mean to follow world news and pray fervently for situations that don’t affect my normal life, but deeply impact the lives of my brothers and sisters? (border blockade, specifically)
  • What does it mean to conserve the resource of water, even when I have plenty of it?
  • How do I reconcile a clinical attitude and compassion?
  • How can I strive to serve ‘the least of these’ in an environment where I’m not surrounded by physical poverty at all times?
  • What does it mean to give thanks in all circumstances, instead of use my tongue to complain?

I am leaving Nepal with more questions than what I came with. For this, I am thankful.

As I return to my West Michigan lifestyle, full of supermarkets, white people, and indoor heating, I must strive to fight resentment towards the ignorance of my culture and of my friends. Instead, when asked about my ‘trip to Nepal’ (this experience is worth far more to me than the title of ‘trip’), I must give grace over other’s understanding, because even my own understanding isn’t complete. Instead of becoming outraged that I have a hot shower and many Nepalis never will, I must ask myself if I am truly thankful, and I must always be conscience of conserving such a resource. Instead of lecturing my friends about my experiences, why don’t I ask them the same questions I ask myself?

If I truly don’t want to leave Nepal behind, then I won’t. I just wont.

Instead of packing it away, uprooting myself and flying back home to Chicago, where I could continue living an overwhelmingly comfortable life, I’ll leave my thoughts unkempt and scattered all over the room.

Instead of packing Nepal away, I’ll leave a trail of questions.

Instead of packing Nepal away, I’ll let my carry-on of thoughts seep into the rest of my life.

With these thoughts, I leave you. Please continue to pray for our team, and our transition back home and to school. Please, PLEASE, continue to ask us questions, especially months from now, when it’s easier to forget what we’ve learned. Continue to pray that we will have attitudes like Christ, and continue to learn what that looks like. Continue to pray that our experiences will not have been in vain, and that we will make changes in our daily lives and spiritual walks.

May I never hate reflection as much as packing again!

With the biggest of loves and the most of grace,

Kaitlyn

Arrived in Istanbul

We arrived in Istanbul by 7 pm.  We didn’t get to our hotel until 10 pm.  We have  a tired bunch of students who were glad to stay the night at the Marriott.   We are thankful that the airline did put us up at a very nice hotel.  Off to sleep now.  We plan to headout to the airport by 10 am or so.

Please pray for our journey from Istanbul to Chicago and the bus ride from Chicago to Grand Rapids.

 

Leaving Nepal

We are just about getting ready this morning to head out to the airport.  Our vehicle will arrive at 9:30 to pack our luggage.  The flight is scheduled to take off at 12:45 pm.   Due to the fuel shortage all outbound flights stop over in Delhi for refueling.

Please pray for a safe flight back to the U.S.  and we all stay healthy.

See you all soon.

Seeing a Different Side of Nepal

Good Evening Family & Friends!

This chilly Monday morning in Kathmandu started with a yummy breakfast at the Goshen Guesthouse (shoutout to Professor Sinniah for frying eggs for his favorite girls) followed by a bus ride to Grande International Hospital (GIH), located in Dhapasi, Kathmandu. When we arrived, we were all astonished at the size of this building. It isn’t often you see a 14 story building in Nepal..

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Although under construction due to lasting effects from the semi-recent earthquake in Nepal, we were guided on a tour by Dr. Abish, an oncologist at GIH. He informed us that this private facility is only three years old, and therefore they are still learning. Each day, this hospital only has 100 patients admitted on average with around 300 patients seen in the various out-patient departments.

Just a bit of the construction on the outside of the building
Just a bit of the construction on the outside of the building
Inside construction on nearly every floor
Inside construction on nearly every floor
Just one of the rooms for OPD + Kaitlyn (this one happened to be Dr. Abish's)
Just one of the rooms for OPD + Kaitlyn (this one happened to be Dr. Abish’s)

Within GIH, there is a 24-hour emergency center, with all the ventilators and monitors needed. An ambulance can pull right up to the door and patients are admitted upon arrival. This service is very similar to the US, but very uncommon for Nepal.

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GIH also holds the 1st immediate report CT scanner in Nepal, and all reports are digitized from these machines. Further, although the Nepali doctors are still used to writing down medical records for their patients, all are being scanned into a database so they can be kept for easy access by physicians.

Dr. Abish told us that a hospital in Bangkok provided strict guidelines for this hospital to follow to improve itself. An example of this is hygiene. The hospital makes its own hand sanitizer and is using it more frequently. There are “secret monitors” in each department that are watching for other employees hand-washing habits and reporting back. Another example of Western influence in GIH is that antibiotics are not immediately prescribed to patients who may need them. There are forms that must be filled out, requiring physicians to take more time to evaluate patients and give them proper care.

Although there are 14 floors at GIH, we saw only about half due to earthquake damage, mainly on the middle floors. Fun Tidbit: they skipped naming and using the 13th floor because someone told them it was bad luck!

The 9th floor was home to a bare kidney and liver transplantation ward. These services are not legal for private hospitals, but GIH is still holding out on the government to change their minds.

Finally, we saw the helicopter landing pad on the roof of the building. For someone who doesn’t like heights, climbing the stairs to the top of this building that’s been shaken by the earthquake is quite the experience…

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The group on top of the helicopter landing area with Dr. Abish

The differences of this facility compared to others we have seen in Nepal were incredibly evident. Although compared to other Nepalese hospitals GIH is much more luxurious, the price to see a physician (just to put things into perspective) is 500 rupees (~$5). For a full panel of lab tests to be done, it’s 1000 rupees (~$10). Overnight stay pricing depend on the floor and the “extras” included with the stay, such as couches and private bathrooms, but the amount of care from the physicians and nursing staff is equal throughout the facility. On a more positive note, there is charity available for those who cannot pay. Unlike UMHT, however, the free or discounted healthcare is not advertised or highly known about in Nepal.

VIP Room Pt. 1 - Runs for ~$200 a night
VIP Room Pt. 1 – Runs for ~$200 a night
VIP Room Pt. 2
VIP Room Pt. 2
VIP Room Pt. 3
VIP Room Pt. 3

Another difference I personally noticed were handicap ramps around the hospital. No where in Nepal were these in abundance. Nursing stations were also everywhere! Nursing in Nepal is considered a dirty job and only the lowest people perform these jobs, but in GIH nursing was taken at a much higher standard and the nurses performed the duties seen in Western hospitals. This has been a hard change for some Nepalis because the family used to be the primary caregivers, even when in the hospital. Having a nurse to do these jobs for the patient is a big difference.

What is a little concerning about GIH is its sustainability. No room in the building was full or anywhere near capacity. Most rooms were completely empty. Whether this is due to price, location or the effects of the earthquake is unsure, but the sheer size of this facility is a bit concerning.

We discussed the events of the morning at the Fud Cafe, where we enjoyed pastries and cappuccinos. Soon after, we were taken to lunch at Synako, a tiny little restaurant near our next stop of the day. We enjoyed ginormous kattis, which are similar to a crepe, filled with chicken, veggies and eggs.

* * * * * * * * *

The second half of the day was at United Mission Nepal (UMN – http://www.umn.org.np), where we were guided on a brief tour and history of the organization by Lynn, one of the communication directors.
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Thanks for modeling, Lauren
Thanks for modeling, Lauren
The group signing into the UMN Headquarters, and receiving visitors passes secure with earthquake whistles
The group signing into the UMN Headquarters, and receiving visitors passes secure with earthquake whistles

To give the history in the shortest manner possible, Bob Fleming was a school teacher in the mid-1940s and was obsessed with birds. He traveled the world seeing birds, and heard about the birds in Nepal and wanted to see them. After years of asking for permission to enter the closed country of Nepal, he was finally granted permission in 1947. He went to Tansen because of the great things he heard about the area. When he returned, he was overwhelmed by the situation there and decided he needed to return. His wife, Bethel, was a medical doctor, and so were some friends, the Frederick’s, so he took them with. While there, they held clinics and did some minor operations.

The first operation done was a bladder stone removal. Everyone was watching, but when Dr. Frederick found the stone, everyone cheered and went on with tea time.

Both couples eventually went back to Missouri but felt called to go back to Nepal on a more permanent basis. Neither of their individual missions organizations would help them alone, but they finally got 8 mission organizations to help them all together. After approval from the Nepali government, they had permission to open clinics in Kathmandu and Tansen.

Gradually the work of UMN has spread into the western parts of Nepal, including work in the schools and communities. Rather than changing completely what is already in these places, UMN has devoted its efforts to helping what is already there improve while maintaining cultural standards.

2nd Fun Tidbit: the first clinic Dr. Bethel Fleming opened eventually turned into Patan Hospital, the first hospital we visited in Kathmandu!

UMN uses the Fullness of Life Model to better serve Nepal. These include:

  • Hope & Freedom
  • Justice & Equality
  • Peace & Reconciliation
  • Dignity & Respect
  • Well-Being & Security
  • Environmental Sustainability

The Strategic Plan of UMN for 2015-2020 is community transformation by especially working for

  • Women
  • Children
  • Dalits (low caste community)
  • Disabled

while considering

  • Conflict Sensitivity
  • Gender
  • Environment

and working in

  • Sustainability
  • Peace Building
  • Health
  • Integral Mission
  • Education
  • Good Governance

 

When we asked what we could especially pray for when thinking of UMN, Lynn told us that disaster response work because of the political situation in Nepal has been difficult. They have the funding to set up a shelter for those who don’t have a safe place to stay, but UMN cannot get agreement from the government to set it up. Furthermore, the government is trying to take over the compound headquarters. The trial is three weeks from today, but the situation has been going on for years but keeps getting postponed.

After seeing UMN, we took a few taxis back to Goshen. A few people went to a coffee shop while others shopped around for a bit, meeting back at 5:30 to head to our next adventure of the day with Riann.

We were blessed with a tour of the Early Childhood Education Center that Riann is a teaching trainer at and with a delicious meal of Malaysian takeout in one of the training classrooms. This building was also gorgeous, with multiple floors of training classrooms and playrooms and the like. We also had a chance to hear about Riann and her sister Anga’s time in Bhutan.

Finally, we ended the night with devotions from Johan and a few worship songs.

Please keep Lydia and Dr. Beels in your prayers today, as neither of them are feeling well. Lydia took the day off today. Furthermore, we are keeping Emily’s sister in our prayers as she has been admitted into the hospital. Thanks for your continued support and for reading up on the blog today. Peace and blessings to all, and we’ll see you all very soon!

 

Love,

Regan

Sunday in Kathmandu

Woof.

Every day is so hard to synthesize into something anybody outside this experience can understand, let alone into a tiny blog post!

Our morning started off with toast (yay electricity!), homemade plum jam, muesli, and instant coffee. Before we went to ex-pat worship, Trent started our day with devotions focusing on trusting in the Lord. He also shared a bit about how this trip has solidified his goal of becoming a dentist, and how service is much more at the forefront of his mind. See his latest post to learn more about Trenten’s heart for the Lord and for others. Our quick 15 minute walk took us through a familiar part of town, around a few new corners, and then to Kathmandu International Christian Church where we worshiped in English. Although worshiping anywhere is an incredible experience, there is nothing quite as refreshing as worshiping in a tongue you call your own. After service, we enjoyed hot chia with congregants from all over the world. I never cease to feel small in situations like these; being surrounded by cultures and languages other than my own reminds me that God speaks these languages, too, and he knows these cultures inside and out. I am reminded of a line in a song I love: “People from every nation and tongue… we worship You!” As any honorable Calvin student might say, this is evidence of God’s sovereignty over “every square inch” of his earth.

We then met Bimala Pokharel, a ’00 Calvin College graduate, for lunch at Higher Ground Cafe and Bakery, a business  that is part of Higher Ground Nepal, an NGO that Bimala founded. We were warmly welcomed into her home, where we first began to hear about Higher Ground, how it came to be, and what it’s doing now. It was also funny to hear Bimala and Professor Sinniah talk about when she was a student of his! that oughtta make Dr. Sinniah feel young at heart (our team has decided to use this phrase instead of ‘old’). There are so many incredible things I could say about this woman and about Higher Ground Nepal, but instead of doing that now, I encourage you to check out their work here. Listening to Bimala talk about the Lord’s leading was equal parts exciting, hopeful, and encouraging. She entered Calvin with a Hindu background, medical school in mind, and a desire to serve Nepali women and at-risk youth. In short, she now serves Jesus, isn’t a doctor, and has a ministry based on caring for Nepali women and at-risk youth. Although my desire to serve through medicine has been strengthened, I was comforted in knowing that powerful work can still be done without an M.D. Of course I knew this, but the pressure and pride involved in even just pre-med courses often blinds one from seeing such an important truth. I turned to Emily and said, “This might be me in a few years.” Yes, I am adamant about medicine, but regardless of how I feel, God’s plan is always bigger and always better.

The team in front of Higher Ground Bakery & Cafe.
The team and Bimala in front of Higher Ground Bakery & Cafe.

After lunch, a few of us tried going to the zoo and the rest of us went along with Dr. Beels and Professor Sinniah to meet one of Dr. Beel’s old medical residents for coffee. After the zoo crew realized that they’d only have access for about 45 minutes before closing, some went back to Goshen House for Skip-Bo and naps while the others hunted for snow globes.

For dinner, our team met Manju, a palliative care nurse. She used to teach at United Mission Hospital in Tansen, where we were just a week before. The field of palliative/hospice care is relatively nonexistent in Nepal, which makes Manju a sort of pioneer. She is currently in Kathmandu for an 18-month training program that will certify her to then teach palliative nursing skills to future students. I cannot imagine working alongside grief and mortality the way she does. Hearing her speak about how she must hold her faith close in order to remain sane was occasionally interrupted by our waiters bringing delicious Chinese food to our table. Lauren had a few logistic questions for our new nursing friend, and we all listened to Manju talk about the stigmas against palliative care in Nepal. We finished our meal, asked a few more questions, and prayed a blessing over her before heading back to Goshen for the night.

My reflection will come tomorrow morning– late-night brains aren’t good for focusing on such important blogs!

Kaitlyn

On Activism and Jesus.

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The boy on the ventilator was thirteen years old. He had come to the hospital with the complaint of a painful right hip. He was taken to the OR to drain any fluid that may have built up around his inflamed joint. Several hours later, he was lying in the HDU (high dependency unit) strung up to a ventilator and heart monitor. It was suspected that he had septic arthritis- an infection in his hip joint- but physicians were unsure if his current state could be traced back to that sore hip. He was running a high fever and needed to be medically paralyzed in order for him to be intubated. Numerous tests were run but they all came out negative. So much of what was going on in his body was unknown to the physicians.

The man looked to be about 40 years old. He was lying on his hospital bed breathing heavily and slurring words. He had a high fever and a stiff neck- all possible indicators of meningitis. The physicians suspected tuberculosis meningitis because of the state of his breathing and his past medical history with TB. I watched as one of the physicians performed a spinal tap on him to extract some of his cerebrospinal fluid-a protective cushion surrounding the brain and spinal cord. The extract would then be sent into the lab and tested for bacteria that may have been replicating in this previously sterile fluid and causing such an increase in pressure that the brain could be compressed.

I trailed after the physicians like a duckling as they wove through the busy wards on morning rounds. Over the course of my time at Calvin, I have learned about and developed an interest for infectious diseases and internal medicine. I am both frustrated by the injustice in the fact that there are still so many people today who have communicable diseases that are entirely preventable and treatable and fascinated by the world of microbes- organisms that cannot be seen by our naked eye but are so central to our health and illnesses. This is precisely why shadowing in the medical ward was my favorite part of the weeklong rotation at United Mission Hospital. Something about putting together the missing pieces of a puzzle to understand what is really going on was hugely attractive to me. I was impressed by the amount of teamwork and educated guesswork that was required for the job. Even more impressive was the level of compassion that many of the physicians showed their patients. A gentle hand on the shoulder while talking to the patient. Taking time to joke with a spunky elderly lady who is excited to be discharged. An extra five minutes to stop and provide a more detailed explanation for the worried caregivers. These were the physicians that left the biggest impression on me.

My time in Nepal, especially our stay in Tansen, has both taken me back into my childhood and propelled me forward into my future. What a privilege it is to be back in a place that is so much like my home in India and to once again feel wholly myself. My love for South-East Asian culture and its people has intensified with every cup of chai and every warm meal of dahl-bhat shared with a Nepali family. And yet this time it is different. This time, my world in Grand Rapids has come along for the journey. Although the collision of my two worlds- both such key players in making me who I am today- has sometimes been difficult to comprehend, it has made me reflect deeper on God’s calling on my life.

“Activism that matters to the kingdom is always rooted in prayer. If we want to join God in changing the world, the place to begin is on our knees before the cross.” This was a segment from the Common Book of Prayer that I had read back in September last year. It struck me deeply when I first read it and has recently come back to me as I have listened to the stories of the many missionaries we have met on this trip. There are many people in this world who are doing good things and physicians working in underserved areas are one of them. What makes the ones we met on this trip any different? The answer is the same one that my Sunday school kids back in Grand Rapids are familiar with- Jesus! In Tansen hospital, Jesus was the center of the hustle and bustle. In the five minute devotions during morning report, in the way that the physicians and nurses tend to the patients, in the conversations over hot chia during morning tea break. The more conversations we have with missionaries in Nepal, the more I realize that because Jesus is the common thread connecting each of their stories, their lives have far greater meaning than any activism absent of the cross can bring about. This trip has been a strong reminder for me that God’s vision is far greater and far better than our own.

Medicine has undoubtedly improved the quality and length of life for humans and is an incredibly rewarding field. It requires clinical expertise and professional judgment that comes from years of studies and practice. And yet, medicine cannot solve every physiological problem nor is it absolute science. During our time at United Missions hospital, I found that there was often only so much medicine could do for the patients. The boy in the HDU was given the best care that the hospital could provide and yet nobody was a hundred percent sure about what was going on within his small body. The spinal tap performed on the man carried a risk, albeit small, of increased intracranial pressure leading to brainstem herniation. This risk was increased by the fact that the luxury of CT scans or MRIs were unavailable. There is rarely absolute surety in medicine because, especially in rural settings, we cannot test and know for sure everything that is going on to our patients- we can just make educated guesses and utilize a good dose of intuition. In addition to the fact that there is only so much medicine can do for physical ailments, we know that medicine’s reach is further limited when it comes to emotional and spiritual hurts. Physicians, after all, are still mere humans at the end of day. For me, it is a great relief and encouragement to know that, although I have been called to be a physician, the Ultimate Healer can only be the Lord, not me. It is not about my achievements nor the quantitative results that come from my success. No, it is about God’s greater vision for His Kingdom. It gives me great hope to know and trust in that vision. How exciting and humbling it is to be able to play a small part in His kingdom work and to “join God in changing the world”.

 

 

PS: Good news about the boy in HDU. He was extubated a couple days ago, is responding to words, and is starting to move his arms and legs. We still don’t quite know what had happened to him, but we do know the God that we were praying to on behalf of him. We are all thankful.

Trekking in the Himalayas: Day 2

Hello everyone,

This is Trenten writing to you after finishing up our amazing hike to the Australian Camp near the Annapurna mountain range. We started the day hoping to see a beautiful sunrise from the top of the mountain, and we woke up around 6:30am to a very foggy morning. While it was a bit of a disappointment that we weren’t able to see the sunrise, we were greeted later on in the morning by a stunning view of the mountain range in the distance. Everyone was very excited for the view we were blessed with and many pictures were taken. Being able to see such large mountains that close to you really reminds you just how great our God in and puts you in a state of complete awe. I cannot speak for the entire group, but hiking for almost six hours up a mountain to see the beautiful view is well worth the pain and soreness.

After a nice hearty breakfast of Tibetan bread and eggs, and a view of the magnificent mountains, we were off once again on our trek. Unlike the previous day, this hike was mostly downhill. The views we saw, however, were not any less breathtaking than before. Many times during the hike we were able to look to the side and still see the mountain range in the distance – although at time went on the fog seemed to want to warm the mountains with a nice blanket.

Many times throughout the hike we were able to see many different animals, and pet them too if we so desired. We even happened to pass a lady and her daughter who owned a pet monkey. The woman graciously allowed us to pet and feed the monkey – an experience we will never forget.

Towards the end of our journey we stumbled upon a group of kids partaking in YWAM (youth with a mission) and we chatted with them a little about what they are doing in the country and how they have been liking it thus far. Grace even happened to know one of the girls that was part of the group!

The last 20 or so minutes of our journey was graced with the presence of a dog, whom we named Chuck. Chuck was one of the most loyal dogs someone could ask for, and even helped lead the way for where we needed to head next. We were all quite sad when it was time for us to part ways and say our goodbyes.

All in all the day was wonderful. We were able to see the wonderful views of the mountains and the countryside, and to be in awe of the creation God has blessed us with. We are so thankful that we were able to have this opportunity to trek through the mountains for two days.

(Pictures will be uploaded at a future date. You will want to come back to see them, trust me)

Trenten

 

Personal Reflection:

To be honest, when coming on this trip I was much more excited for the medical aspect than the missions aspect. I had thought a little bit about missions before coming on this trip, but I wasn’t really sure what role I would ever play in it. I really liked the idea of this trip because it would allow me the opportunity to learn more about dentistry and to get a closer look at how a lot of different things work within dental care. Little did I know that God would show me a lot during the three weeks I spent in Nepal.

Initially I was very anxious about coming on this trip. I am fairly introverted, meaning I get my energy from having time to myself and not by being with a bunch of people all day (don’t get me wrong, I love hanging out with people, it can simply be exhausting after a time and I need a place to recharge in order to be able to spend more time with others). I knew that on this trip I would be spending a lot of time surrounded by others and probably not have a whole lot of time to myself to recharge. While I have often been “socially exhausted” these past couple of weeks, I am glad that I was put in a situation that has taken me out of my comfort zone. I have been able to meet so many wonderful new people and to hear all of their faith journeys and what they have learned throughout their life.

I have been blessed to have many great talks with the other people on this trip, and through those conversations I have better been able to process everything that we have experienced and to see how all of our experiences have impacted those around me. While it may not have been the most comfortable three weeks for me (due to the fact that I was constantly in social situations and felt like I was never able to fully recharge), looking back I wouldn’t give up the opportunity I was given to come here.

Shadowing Dr. Roshan during out stay at Tansen was probably one of the experiences that impacted me most. It was so clear to me how much Dr. Roshan cared about his patients and wanted the best for them. I remember a couple came into the clinic one day and the woman complained about a pain in her upper jaw. I immediately assumed it had something to do with a tooth and was curious as to what could be happening in the mouth to create this pain. Dr. Roshan, however, pointed out that this pain can be caused by more than just a toothache. Many people can feel a pain in their upper jaw due to marital problems or a high amount of stress in their life. Before even looking at her mouth, Dr. Roshan invited the couple into his office and had a 30 minute conversation to learn more about who they were and their situation in life.

Seeing how Dr. Roshan treated his patients made me rethink about what being a dentist, or anyone in a healthcare field, means. You should want to be a dentist because you care about helping those around you, not because you know it is a high-paying field and you can live a comfortable life. I think that the way Dr. Roshan manages the dental clinic sums up very well what dentistry is all about, and why I want to enter the field. When watching Dr. Roshan, you can tell that he understands that he is part of a team. He knows that he is not able to do everything on his own, but in order for him to best treat the patient, he needs to have help from the others working alongside him. You can also clearly see that Dr. Roshan cares about the patient as a whole and really wants the best possible outcome for them.

Many times Dr. Roshan will invite the patient into his office to talk with them and get a better understanding of what is going on in their life so that he can better create a treatment plan for them. He also takes the time to explain exactly what he is doing in terms that the patient can understand to reduce their fear and help them see what caused the problem they are having now so that they can avoid it in the future.

From this trip I have been able to better explain why I want to go into the dental profession. I don’t want to be a dentist just because I like helping people, but because I want to use the opportunity and gifts I have been given to create a better life for those around me. I learned from Dr. Roshan that an important motivation for going into dentistry shouldn’t be to better yourself, but to give service to others (by helping to fix their pain and to improve their oral health), to educate others so that they better understand what oral health is and how to live out correct oral care, and to create lasting relationships with the people of the community and to want the best for them to the point that you are willing to give up some of your own comforts in order that others may have the opportunity to live a happier life.

Through this trip I also learned a lot more about missions. Before coming on this trip I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with missions or really seeing myself much in the mission field. However, talking to a lot of different missionaries and hearing their stories has shown me a lot. Due to this trip I am able to see myself as someone who wants to be involved in missions in one way or another. I do not know that plans that God has for my future or where he will call me (whether that be in another country for a time or staying where I am in the US serving the people around me).

After being here for some time and learning about missions work overseas, I have begun to feel a bit guilty about liking the idea of living in the US in a nice comfortable house – hearing all these stories about missionaries begins to make you feel that in order to really serve the least of these in the world we need to abandon our luxuries and serve those in countries that don’t have much. I do not yet know where God has called me to serve, however, and wherever he does call me I know that he will use me in amazing ways – whether that be in another country for a month each year, or for a year or two, or even right back at home.

I know that I need to put all my trust in the Lord and to know that he has plans for me and he knows exactly where I need to be. I am scared about what the future holds, but I also know that I need to be all my trust in the Lord, for he alone knows what my future holds. No matter where I end up I  know that wherever I am, I will be able to serve God through the work that I do, and to be able to serve the people around me. I need not fear about the future, for God holds my future and will use me for what he needs me to do.

We shouldn’t feel guilty just because we live in the US with many luxuries that many people in other parts of the whole do not enjoy. That doesn’t mean we can just sit back and do whatever we want either. We should live our lives in such a way that we honor God in all that we do and say, and be willing to put all of our trust in the Lord and see where his plans lead us.

 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” – Proverbs 3:5-6

Mourning the end of a journey as we complete our circuit back in Kathmandu

Greetings from Kathmandu,

The team is now settled in the guesthouse in Kathmandu and are working on getting back on track with blog updates—thank you for your flexibility.

This morning, after a leisurely and filling breakfast in Pokhara, the crew piled into a tourbus and began the 6h jaunt back to the capital. Despite serving as the country’s day off, Saturday morning in Pokhrara was bustling with life. Thousands of cars and motorbikes lined the streets awaiting access to petrol stations guarded by uniformed soldiers. Dr. Beels estimated the waiting time of these lines to be around 3 or 4 days. As an American in Nepal, it is easy to feel disconnected from the culture around you. However, there is nothing more isolating than zipping past never-ending lines of lifelines vehicles—trotted forward at rates of feet by the hour—in a silver van with a full tank and the words “Tourists Only” plastered across the top. Many of us had difficulty expressing our feelings at the sight of this injustice and the most heard phrases leaving Pokhara certainly followed a script of disbelief.

With the memories of the nauseating journey from Tansen to Pohkara still fresh in our minds, the bus ride this morning came as pleasant reprieve. Dramamine was taken prophylactically, spirits were kept high, and many naps were had. In fact, this travel came at the perfect time as not a single person was spared from soreness that follows a two-day trek through the Himalayas.

We were blessed with outstanding views of gorgeous gorges and low (but still flowing) rivers for much of the journey. We made a stop for tea and later for a quick lunch before returning to the familiar dusty landscape of the city.

We arrived and got settled back in the guesthouse around 4pm and the students got some time to relax while Dr. Beels and Prof. Sinniah socialized with the parents of a current exchange student and a new friend—a Swedish doctor in medical missions. With the new company, we walked down the main drag to a precious little restaurant where we enjoyed a traditional meal of dal bhat.

Kaitlyn shared some words of wisdom as she led devotions with a focus on what it means to resemble Christ as return to the US this week with radically different worldviews than when we left.

Peace

 

Personal reflection:

My conception of what missionary work looks like has changed dramatically during this trip. Prior to coming to Nepal, I thought mission work was dominated by evangelism. While liberation of the spirit is something I value, a focus on “salvation” rather than restoration never appealed to me. Thus, due to the concept of mission work I already constructed, I figured a secular setting was the only way place I’d feel at home in if doing humanitarian work abroad was my future.

Due to Dr. Beels’ connections and his enthusiasm to immerse us in missionary settings, I’ve had innumerable opportunities to engage with current missionaries (medical and otherwise) and hear about the paths that led them to the they do. What I’ve found is an overwhelming spirit of love. Each missionary we’ve spoken with shared testimonies saturated with compassion toward the people they serve.

Each morning, we recite a declaration of faith—the same one read in the schools of Jos, Nigeria—and each morning I find something new within it to celebrate. However,  in my first days of reading it, I stuck conflict with the passage reading “we declare that unity in Christ bridges all differences. We are one in Christ!” As a universalist, I experienced dismay that a  highly specific entity such as Jesus Christ might be the only unifier for the diverse population of humanity. There are more people in the world than Christians and I felt this passage left out a huge number of equally valuable individuals. As I felt love bridges all differences, I found more peace when replacing “Christ” with “love.”

What I’ve come to understand from the testimonies of my peers, Dr. Beels, and other current missionaries is that maybe the image of Christ is, in fact, the ideal I’ve been seeking. Perhaps what I’d been missing up until this trip is that the savior everyone’s talking about is actually just the personified symbol of love—maybe with Christ, we’re all each others’ savior.

Trekking in the Himalayas: Day 1

Hey all,

This is Johan, writing to you after an immensely exhilarating and satisfying trek up to Australian Camp in the foothills of the Annapurna mountains. As a reminder, I’d like to tell you that due to the lack of internet at the camp, I am writing this after we returned to Pokhara.

After a satisfying breakfast of eggs, toast, bacon, and coffee provided to us by the hotel, we loaded up the van and headed off on our journey, with everything that we were going to use to live for the next two days either on our bodies or on our backs. When we arrived at the drop off location, we jumped out of the vehicle, energized by the thought of a long hike ahead of us and completely oblivious to the fact that the hike was going to be 10 miles primarily uphill. This oblivion was shed 20 minutes into the hike. While the views were indescribable, the chatter that bubbled forth on the road halted as soon as we hit the trail.

One might say it was because the hike was… breathtaking. 😉

In all seriousness, the mountains provided a picture perfect backdrop to the beginning of our adventure, and we stopped countless times to sneak a picture. The sun playing peek-a-boo in the cloud speckled sky gave us all great reasons to smile, even while our legs were not having nearly the same amount of fun. As we traveled, we got a thorough sampling of the landscape, as we hiked through desert-like dry areas, humid jungle areas, flat farmland, and rocky mountainside. The village where we ate lunch at was so pretty that looked like it had been plucked out of an Italian oil painting, while the misty forest along the crest of the mountain felt straight out of Indiana Jones.The sun was great, but the weather turned dramatically in the post-lunch leg of the hike, providing us with a valuable (and extraordinary) experience of the weather in the foothills. Luckily, this was also the most “off-road” portion of our little stroll, and the rain/hail mixture plummeting at us from the previously benign clouds fueled our intensity and adventurous spirits. At least, for most of us. (Lauren claims that, as we were scaling a particularly raw stone path, Professor Sinniah was praying under his breath, “O Lord, what have I done to deserve this punishment?” While Professor Sinniah claims that it was a joke, we all want to believe it was an honest prayer.)

Nevertheless, we all made to the Australian Camp with minimal spillage, and we all thoroughly enjoyed the process of getting there. Our guide, Krishna, was beyond helpful in leading us, and the location was jaw-droppingly gorgeous (as we would discover the next morning). We’ve all heard the proverb, “Its about the journey, not the destination”, but this was a case where it was about the journey AND the destination. Strangely enough, that destination just so happened to have a Korean restaurant (who would’ve thunk) so a few of us, after getting settled in our rooms and warmed up by the communal furnace, gave it a shot. We proceeded to indulge in traditional Korean fare (bibimbap, Kimchi pancakes, ramyun, etc.) and more than compensated for the massive amount of calories we had burned that day.

All in all, it was a fantastic day. Good friends, amazing views, great conversation, delicious food, and the satisfaction of accomplishing our goal. What more could we ask for?

(Pictures will definitely be uploaded later, and you’re gonna want to see these. Trust me.)

Blessings,

Johan

 

Personal Reflection:

I am going to be completely honest here. Coming in to the trip, I was focused much more heavily on the “Medical” part of the title than the “Missions” or “Nepal” parts, and that’s just what I was expecting the trip to be like. Heavy emphasis on medicine, with a little bit of missions and culture sprinkled on top. I didn’t expect inspirational missionaries. I didn’t expect good friends. I didn’t expect beauty. Most importantly, I didn’t expect God’s voice.

Boy, am I sure glad to be wrong.

Not only have I experienced more in regards to medicine than I possibly could have in the States, the people that we have met with are some of the most awe-inspiring characters I have ever and will ever meet, the friendships I have formed on this trip have shaped me as an individual, and the natural beauty of the landscape is so amazing that its incomprehensible. God speaks and acts in many ways, and these are simply a few.

What has impacted me most, however, is also what scares me most. I want to use a different word, but “scared” is simply how I feel. I have held a dream of becoming a pediatric neurologist (specific, I know, long story) ever since 8th grade, but I never put it in a missions context. I was 99% sure I wanted to root myself in the States and do the best that I possibly could for the kids in the USA, while still providing a comfortable life for my future family.

Now, I’m not so sure.

I still passionately desire to become a pediatric neurologist, and this trip has only reinforced that goal. WHERE I would practice is now completely  in the air.

During  a relatively lengthy conversation with Dr. Beels, I asked him if it is okay to want to be comfortable and where he thinks I should serve. Following the testimonies of the ex-pat doctors currently serving in Tansen Mission Hospital, I was beginning to feel guilty about enjoying nice things and was starting to get the feeling that mission work is the highest level of Kingdom work that one can do, and anything back in the plush USA is ineffectively spent time and effort. Dr. Beels, in all of his wisdom, simply  replied “I don’t know. Its simply where God calls you to be.”

Jesus tells us that “whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” -Matthew 25:40. This verse has been rattling around in my head for the past week now, and I don’t know why. Could it be God’s voice? I have no idea. Regardless, here, I have seen some of the true “least of these”, and it has been an experience that has shaped the way that I view the world. These experiences have been burned into my memory. I’m now worried that the people I would be serving in the USA (if I decide to stay there) aren’t the least of these, and that I would be missing Jesus’ very clear command.

This is why I am scared.

I have been praying for God to give me the wisdom, patience, and foresight to understand his plan for me, but frankly, it has been difficult. This trip has impacted me in ways that I did not know were possible, and has shifted the fundamentals of my thinking. It has challenged me, shaped me, and forced me to grow. But the more I think, the more i learn, and the more I observe, the more I realize that I really don’t know anything and that I really need God to help me do the heavy lifting.

You could say I’m scared in the best possible way. I am still very naive. But I strongly believe that, through this trip, God is scaring me back to him, so that I realize that my plans are but dust and that I need to reorient myself from God’s eyes. Yes, I’m scared by what the future holds, but I’m also at peace. God’s got this. He’s already proven it to me once, and has again with this trip. Through this trip, these people, these experiences, this natural beauty, and these friends, I remembered why I am a Christian and that, my friends, is what matters most.

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31.

 

 

In Green Pastures

“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green pastures; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.” Psalm 23:1-3

You could smell it from a mile away: eggs, potatoes and freshly washed hair. After “roughing it” at Sri Jana farms for the past two nights many of us were happy that we had access to short, hot showers and beds where our bodies sank right in. We were all well rested after our first night in Pokhara and were ready for the daily adventure. On the docket today was a brief tour of Green Pastures Hospital and Rehabilitation facility. We should have learned by now that brief is an operative word in Nepali, as the people here are much more giving of their time. Because of that we enjoyed a wonderful five hour tour.

The hospital’s main goal is to provide service to those suffering from leprosy, spinal cord injuries or those in need of orthopedic services. They have also recently built a brand new ear care center where they are able to treat patients with numerous auditory problems. I was amazed that the hospital builds all the prosthesis that they provide patients! We were shown how the limbs are made especially for every patient and the process that goes into making them.

What I was most amazed by was the large farm that sits on the back of the hospital property. There were numerous buffalo, ferocious pigs, attack chickens, turkeys, and organic vegetables. The hospital uses the farm not only to sustain the canteen that helps feed the staff and patients, but they sell the products and make money in order to support the hospital. As Kaitlyn would say “This hospital is an international development student’s dream!”

Pictures to be uploaded later!!!

Reflection:
The thought of going into missions was something that has always been lurking in the back of my mind. I knew very few missionaries and the ones that I did know seemed way more Godly than I am. My sophomore year at Calvin I attended the Global Health Missions Conference in Lousiville, Kentucky and there the desire to serve people in remote areas of the world was planted in my head. During the conference my eyes were opened to the necessity of health care workers in parts of the world that I had never even heard of. Since the conference, I have been looking for ways to get my feet wet in missions.

This January my plan was to stay at home and work on my medical school application, but as I am beginning to learn more and more in life, God seems to always take me in directions I never intend to go in the first place. One night I found myself scrolling through all the Interim classes that were offered this year and I stumbled upon a medical mission trip to Nepal. After reading the class description and becoming very excited, I wanted to know two things. One: how do I apply? Two: where in the world is Nepal?

This trip was just the water I needed for the seed that had been planted over one year ago at the conference. Before coming on this trip I had many questions about whether or not it was practical to have a family and serve overseas, but after meeting with so many different people, some who come with their spouses and children and some who come alone, all of my worries have subsided. I have learned that if I follow where the Lord has called me, there is no other place I should be. The Lord always has and always will provide me with everything that I need. Throughout this trip I have learned that God calls people to do His work in all different ways. It has always been hard for me to imagine that God has such big life plans for a girl that comes from such a small place, but you cannot really say no to God.

Throughout the trip my eyes have been opened to a culture that is completely different from my own and I am incredibly grateful for that. Living in Grand Rapids it becomes very easy to become caught up in life and forget that there is so much more to the world that what we can see. Being completely immersed in Nepali culture has taught me that there is so much more to the world than anything I thought I knew. I have grown so fond of the people here and how they so gracefully and lovingly will invite twelve people into their homes. It is definitely one of the things that I want to start doing more of when I get home. I think being able to build a community with the people around you is one of the things that God intends for us to do as Christians. I have also seen more compassion in Nepal that I have anywhere else at home. Throughout this trip I have learned the true meaning of caring for the least of these. After spending numerous days in the hospital I have watched doctors, nurses and pastoral care team members show the love of Christ through the way that they treat patients. My time in United Mission Hospital taught me what it means to truly listen and communicate with patients and what personality traits are essential to becoming one of God’s physician.

Before this trip I had never seen small mountains, let alone the ginormous mountains that surround this amazing country. The breath taking landscape of Nepal never ceases to make me feel so small in God’s vast world. Every time I look at the mountains the song How Deep the Father’s Love for Us always plays in my head. Over and over again I hear “How deep the Father’s love for us. How vast beyond all measure.” I think that it perfectly describes the awe that I have begun to feel towards God on this trip. God’s love for us is deeper than the sea and higher than the mountains. This trip has brought me back to a more raw relationship with Christ. One where I feel that I don’t need to prove my worth in order to gain His love. One where I can put my trust in Him that all my future plans are in His hands. One where there is no worry about tomorrow, because today is a gift from God and we should cherish it. I believe that God gave us the mountains as reminders that He is a powerful, strong, big God who is our rock and salvation.

Finally, this trip has provided me with friendships that I hope will continue long after we return to Calvin. We have all experienced the same joy and the same sorrow that comes from being in a place like Nepal and I think that it has helped to deeply root our friendships. We have grown together in many ways and I am so blessed to have spent the past 18 days with people who make me laugh until I cry, hold me close when times get tough and build me up when I feel weak.

Nepal has taught me to try everything once, to always clean my plate, that water is a precious resource and that if you provoke a goat it will chase you down a mountain, and for that I will forever be grateful. God is doing incredible things in Nepal and I hope to come back again so that I can experience more of God’s work in this amazing country!

Thanks for all the support back home from our family and friends! It means a lot to us!!

Gods Peace,
Terryce