Category Archives: Nepal

Thank You

Thank you to all of you for praying for those of us that traveled to Nepal, the people of Nepal, the doctors and nurses, and the missionaries we came into contact with.

This trip challenged all of us, especially the students as they seek  and/or reflect on God’s calling for their future vocation, to understand what is it like to serve overseas and the joys and challenges that comes with it, and to develop a deeper appreciation for the work of the Holy Spirit in lands as far as Nepal.

Please continue to pray for the students as they adjust back to life at Calvin, and for the upcoming semester, and that they will not forget the lessons learned from this trip to Nepal.

–The Team Leaders (Prof. Sinniah, Dr. Beels, and Mrs. Beels)

Here are a few photos:

On the way down from the World Renew sites at Manakamana
Eating dal bath at the World Renew site
A view from Manakamana
On the way to the World Renew site
The bus got stuck on the way to Manakamana village
The bus that carried us to the village at the top of a mountain (World Renew site)
Our lovely host and Mrs. Beels during our visit to the WR site
An appealing new method for a sun tan – Kayla
A group sun tan
A view from Lig lig
The group at Lig Lig
A group pix
Kayla
A view of houses in Amp Pipal
Kids we met on the way back from Amp Pipal Bazaar
At Amp Pipal Bazaar
Dr. Pauvdel (left), the inspiring physician at Amp Pipal Hospital
A street view in Amp Pipal
Getting ready to drive up to Amp Pipal from Pokhara
At Sri Jana farms
Rachel Moods and the billy goat
Chill Rachel and the billy goat
Dancing to K-Pop
More food at Sri Jana farms
Dinner at Amrita’s home
Group dancing at Tansen Nursing School Cultural Event
Cold evenings
At the Mental Rehabilitation Center at Tansen with some of the patients and administrators
At the Patan Durbar Museum
Shopping at Beauty for Ashes
Jacob trying on clothes at Beauty for Ashes
Being comfy at Goshen guest house
At Patan Durbar Square
Washing the feet of a homeless person

Beginning to say our goodbyes..

Today marked our last full day in Nepal. It is so hard to believe that these 3.5 weeks are already done and we are soon headed back home. Thankfully, today was a wonderful last full day. We spent the morning hearing the testimony and life stories of Miriam Krantz. This wonderful lady of God has been in Nepal for 53 years and once she opens her mouth and begins to tell us her stories, it is very evident. We listened to her tell us her stories for over two hours in utter amazement. She grew up in Pennsylvania and at a young age of 16 felt called to serve in a Hindu country. Within three years, Miriam found herself on a boat to Nepal. Miriam told us about her beginning in Nepal, the struggles but also the many joys and laughter that surrounded her. Miriam then transitioned into many miraculous events she has seen happen and was a part of during her time in Nepal. One of the stories included her own road of health difficulties she endured just a few years ago. Miriam was very close to suffering a heart attack and thus underwent a high risk procedure. During the procedure, Miriam began hemorrhaging, turned very white, and no pulse could be felt. However, with the intervention of God’s hand, she stands before us this day to tell these stories. In all, we all thought it was very fitting and moving to hear from Miriam on our last day in Nepal. She beautifully summarized so much of what we experienced and also what we came to learn on this trip.

After our time with Miriam Krantz, we went to have lunch at Top of the World Coffee Shop. This coffee shop is owned by Dale Nafciger who is from Eastern Pennsylvania. He is a retired engineer who worked for United Missions and came to Nepal in 1979. He now runs this coffee shop with his family. The food there was delicious (dal bhat!! Momos, chowmein, etc.) and we all enjoyed wonderful drinks such as mocha freezes. Some of us also bought small bags of coffee from his shop to go back home with.

Our next stop was some shopping. Mrs. Beels expertly directed us to some beautiful craft stores in Kathmandu. These stores were 3 stories tall, with many different beautiful crafts available. Unlike the very touristy shops in Jamal, these shops sold their goods for a fixed price so no haggling happened. Many of us walked away with quality crafts such as singing bowls. We then made our back to the Goshen House to rest and refresh before our dinner.

We took off for dinner shortly around 6pm, a little saddened that this was our last dinner in Nepal. We went to Red Mud Coffee Shop and ordered various types of foods such as curies with naan or biryani. Many of us also couldn’t pass up the opportunity to order another cup of Nepali tea, something that many of us will miss back in the States. After our dinner we headed back to the Goshen House to get ready and enjoy the special and meaningful night that the students had planned for our last night in Nepal.

For our special night, we all gathered in one of the girl’s rooms and started with singing songs. We then went around a circle and shared the highs and lows/ joys and challenges of the trip together. The challenges some mentioned was adjusting to the cold/no heat in buildings and the different way of living over here as well as seeing the many trials and tears of the Nepali men and women that were suffering. The joys that were mentioned was this amazing group that we got to spend 3.5 weeks with and how everyone complimented each other so well and how there was so much laughter and essentially no conflict. Also, many mentioned joys of meeting the doctors at Tansen and Amp Pipal and being inspired by their work and wisdom and seeing the generosity of the Nepali people over and over again. We then prayed over our leaders and thanked them for their generosity, wisdom, leadership, and time on this trip and the planning leading up to the trip. Then followed chocolate cake (!!) with a slideshow of pictures and videos from our trip. Jacob lead us in a game and we then ended the night holding hands and singing the doxology together.

I can speak for all of us that this trip has been nothing short of amazing. We have all learned so much about the country of Nepal, the struggles of living here and practicing medicine, the people, ourselves, and what a great great and glorious God we have. It’s a bittersweet moment to pack up and get ready to board the plane home to the States where we all face another busy semester. Prayers for smooth and safe travel will be needed, and we hope to see many of our loved family and friends soon!

Our last cup of tea near the shopping area
The student led event on the last night in Nepal

Our last dinner in Nepal

Our last dinner in Nepal
Waiting to board the flight in Nepal

Pictures from Pokhara, Amp Pipal, Nuwakot, and Kathmandu

Pokhara – These are pictures taken from the guest house at the Green Pastures Hospital

Annapurna Mountain Range
Rachel H trying to get a photo of the mountains
The Annapurna Mountain Range
Annapurna Mountain Range

On the Way to Amp Pipal Hospital

On our journey to Amp Pipal, we stopped on the way to take these pictures.

Rachel H
Maddie, Rachel H, Gabby
Partial group pix
All smiles for the camera..
Ready to Jump
Jump
Rachel H, Prof. Sinniah, Maddie
The Sinniah Research Group
The very soon to be Nurses
Kayla
The Sophomores
The sophomores – 1
The Sisters
Jacob – Ready to Dance
Jacob
Seniors
Moods
Maddie
Sam
Rachel S
Hannah
Ellie
Gabby
The Nepal Team

In Amp Pipal

 

In front of the Amp Pipal Hospital Guest House where we stayed
Across the guest house in Amp Pipal
Amp Pipal Guest House – Waiting for the plan to take place
Mountains from the guesthouse in Amp Pipal
A close up of the mountains
The mountain range over the hills

Rachel H  – on our way to the Amp Pipal bazaar
Rachel H and Natalie

A local flower in Amp Pipal

A view of the mountains while walking..
On a trek to the Amp Pipal bazaar

The Hills of Amp Pipal
Walk from the Bazaar

At Pastor Druba’s Home in Amp Pipal
Dr. Beels and Natalie
Chill Rachel
Sam
Hannah
Ellie
Rachel H
Dr. Beels from a distance – trying to capture a photo
The evening sunlight on the mountains

The Amp Pipal Guest House at the Hospital
A view of the mountains in the evening
Gabby on our hike to Lig Lig mountain
Rachel S on our way to Lig Lig
Rachel H on our way to Lig Lig
Maddie at the top of Lig Lig mountain
Sam on top of Lig Lig mountain
The group
Hannah and Ellie on Lig Lig
Hannah and Ellie
The mountain view from Lig Lig

Sam
The hills below

More pix to follow

Manakamana VDC (a village on a hill top)
We visited Manakamana vdc to see the reconstruction/rehabilitation work done by World Renew after the major earthquake in Nepal in 2015.  These are pictures from Manakamana area.  We took a 2-hour wild bus ride from Nuwakot to Manakamana.

Attending a ceremony in a village on a top of a hill

The ceremony was held to handover 6 model houses built by World Renew

Our bus got stuck in the mud on the way to Manakamana

In front of a model home

World Renew is ahead of its construction schedule and have over 40% of the 280+ homes currently under construction

Nuwakot – the group visited an old palace in the Nuwakot area that was damaged by the 2015 earthquake in Nepal

A palace in Nuwakot damaged from the earthquake
Sam helping to hold up the palace

 

 

 

 

“Okay Troops, Let’s Mosey!”

We have heard the above line – “okay troops, let’s mosey!” – countless numbers of times on this trip thanks to Dr. Beels. He uses it when we need to hurry up and go somewhere, which is funny, because “mosey” actually means “to walk or move in a leisurely manner.” There is nothing leisurely about the way Dr. Beels walks! 🙂 But we are so thankful he always gets us where we need to be on time.

Dr. Beels (red backpack) mosey-ing us along yesterday at the World Renew project 🙂

I bring all this up because unfortunately, we will soon be “mosey-ing” out of Nepal. For better or worse, the time is fast approaching. In Nepal, you know you’re nearing the end of your journey when your driver starts pulling over and asking for directions over and over again. This seems backwards to Westerners – wouldn’t you look up your directions beforehand? – but in a place with no street names or home addresses, you just drive in the general direction and then ask the locals what to do next.

This is strangely wise when you think about it in the context of the end of our trip. Rather than putting an end to our questions and open-mindedness, now is the time to bring our questions before God! It is our prayer that this trip continues to influence our worldview and actions, and that we never stop “pulling over” to ask those around us for their point of view, or to genuinely wonder how they are doing, or get their advice. There is so much to be learned from each proverbial corner of God’s kingdom, especially when you take the time to build relationships with the people in it.

Anyways, you’re probably still wondering what we actually did today 🙂 So here goes: we had a wonderfully slow morning (no commitments until NOON!) so we slept in and enjoyed the comforts of the now-familiar Goshen guest house (including homemade guava jam!). Some of us caught up on our blog reflections while others of us explored around the neighborhood with a map and the directionally-gifted Jacob.

Team building efforts from our time in Nuwakot 🙂

At noon we met Arbin and Bimala at their coffee shop, Higher Ground. Arbin is a Dordt and Calvin Seminary grad, and Bimala a Calvin and Calvin Seminary grad. He works as a pastor and focuses on church planting and evangelism; Bimala helps others through the triple Higher Ground ministries of the Bakery Cafe, Handicraft Store, and Community Development program. These programs provide jobs and opportunities for women and children who were trafficked or at risk for being trafficked. Not only was it great to hear their stories, but we also had excellent food, specialty coffee drinks, and even dessert!!

At Higher Ground Handicrafts with Bimala

In the afternoon we saw the Swayambhunath stupa, a Buddhist structure that many Buddhist and Hindhu people make a pilgrimage to see. It’s a large dome with eyes and a peaked top, strewn with Tibetan prayer flags. Buddha was rumored to have meditated here. It was also surrounded by tourist booths, pigeons, and monkeys!

https://asiavacations.biz/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/swayambhunath-stupa-kathmandu-nepal.jpg

The stupa (photo credit to Google :))

The day ended with a dinner with Erika from Beauty for Ashes, the lovely former nurse we met with both in Grand Rapids and during our first few days in Kathmandu. It was good to share our experience with her and talk with her now that we are not so jet lagged and culture shocked!

Tomorrow is our last full day here in Nepal, and then we will be well on our way to jet lag and culture shock all over again (get ready). Prayers for peace, smooth adjustment, rest, and a good start to second semester would be wonderful. Thanks so much for reading the blog and praying for us on our journey! Keep the beautiful people of Nepal in your prayers.

A reminder of how beautiful and diverse God’s creation is!

Better Late Than Never

We, the little troupe of American students, are taking a tour of Nepal to check out what’s there. In fact, we are under strict instructions to just observe for much of the time we are here. So if all we are allowed to do is come in, look around, and then leave, how are we anything more than tourists? Sure, we gave a few plates of food to the homeless, we heard the stories of some people who have been working in Nepal in various ministries, but it’s hard to choose a place where we really made a lasting impact. Nepal will go on as it was before we arrived. So I ask again, how are we anything more than glorified tourists?

Well, one way we can go beyond tourism is right here, in simple reflections on our time in Nepal. That will help determine what exactly we take home with us, and will help us to be able to follow through in the future in such a way that this experience is more meaningful. As far as what we bring home, it’s easy for tourists to come back with some simple observations. For example, they might notice the beautiful mountains or the crazy traffic. They could see lots of Hindu or Buddhist symbols, and notice a lot of friendly people in a more community-oriented culture. But Nepal is a lot more than that.

While these observations in themselves are not wrong, the act of going beyond tourism must necessarily go beyond these simple statements. These observations are things you can come away with after being in Nepal for 48 hours, or probably even less. So what difference does it make being here for 4 weeks in a course on medical missions?

I’d propose that there is in fact a distinct advantage to being in a country for more time than a quick tour, and with a focus besides sight-seeing: extra time allows you to finish examining the other country from your native perspective, and actually begin to examine your own country (and yourself) from a foreign standpoint. I suggest that this is the point at which we can go beyond tourism. So, to continue, what can Nepal teach us about us in the US?

To focus on the medical aspect first, I think we can learn that in some cases, American medicine can do too much. I found in the Nepali hospital that in a number of situations, there is a sense of relief and peace in being able to say that there is nothing more to be done. It is time for the patient to go home and be with family for the end. In America, our tendency is to test our patients to death, and try out new and expensive treatments that can wear out the patient, all for only marginal improvements to the outcomes. In the meantime, we can bankrupt the patient’s family with massive medical bills because we couldn’t let go. With the amount of testing we do, and the uniqueness of every human body, testing abnormalities are bound to happen even when they don’t indicate anything being wrong. But under the threat of lawsuit, we continue our testing, maybe even chasing ghost illnesses, all at the patients’ (or taxpayers’) expense. It could be time for us to figure out when to expect a little bit less of Western medicine. Or we can at least ensure that the patient and family honestly know what the outcome of significant interventions might hold so they can make an informed decision on their own treatment. We don’t yet have a medical cure for death, so maybe the best medicine is just a little bit more quality time with family and friends, rather than a few more months as a medical experiment.

Something else I have come to appreciate about medicine in Nepal is the attention the doctors give to their patients’ financial well-being. There’s not much point to leaving the hospital physically healthy if, when you get home, you don’t even have money to eat. The doctors here in Nepal, from what I’ve seen, are always balancing effective treatment with its cost, being sure to find the least expensive way to give the patient quality treatment. This is not to say that no American doctors are also considerate of their patients’ finances. I have had personal experience with doctors that have demonstrated such concern, but it is always healthy to remember that good medicine should care for the whole person. This includes a consideration of their economic well-being.

A final lesson that I think Nepal teaches me about America, and about myself, involves the importance of people. The increased value that Nepal (among many other nations around the world) places on people and social connection is something that the US can certainly learn from. In fact, it could even make us healthier. The US tends to be a pretty lonely place, which might stem from the fact we have a cultural emphasis on hard work and productivity, often at the expense of social connection and friendship. Now to argue for the more Nepali approach in a very American way, research has shown that social connection carries tangible health benefits. Friendship is a great drug- it can carry some side effects of vulnerability and even occasional heartbreak, but it brings broad benefits that make the risk worth it. For example, psychology focused “rat park” experiments suggest that social interaction could play a role in preventing or treating addiction. The “nun study” on Alzheimer’s also highlights the centrality of social networks in developing a sort of psychological resilience against disease. This particular study suggests that social connection is a key factor in tolerating the histopathology (brain tissue patterns) of Alzheimer’s without experiencing the related psychopathological symptoms (forgetfulness, progressive cognitive deficits). My scope here is obviously limited, but I believe the principle holds true through many situations– quality friendships are beneficial to our health. So, would you rather give all your extra time to your job, or spend that time at coffee developing or maintaining a friendship that could improve and/or prolong your life? Would it be better to go to bed on time every night, or sacrifice a little sleep to be with people you care about? Science is saying the health benefits are there, we just have to take advantage.

Considering the limits on time and on my own mind, I couldn’t possibly write everything here. There is much more that I’ve learned from Nepal than just what is expressed above; these are just some select takeaways that I have thus far. Now to end, I’d like to give one suggestion: if you want to ask us about Nepal when we are back, it means a lot if you are willing to hear more than a two statement response. What we are experiencing here can’t be truly communicated in a couple comments and photo captions. So if you want to hear about it, let us know! We can meet for coffee, or I think I speak for any of us in saying a dinner invitation is always welcome. (I’m looking at all the parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, 1st/2nd/3rd cousins, or even a family of a sister-in-law that live in West Michigan and care about us enough to read our blog) We’ll trade our stories for a meal any time. Thanks!

 

 

P.S.

All these observations, like any coin, have two sides. I assure you that I have thought about both sides of the coin, and I am not just trying to be hyper critical of the US (i.e. medical experiments are part of advancing modern medicine, and thus are not just negative things). I am simply writing in such a way that I focus on the side of the coin that I feel to be more often neglected.

God Is Calling

I have to admit, my expectations for Nepal were somewhat misguided. I was excited to see the mission work in the country, both within the healthcare system and outside of it. I expected to see the joys of the work these people were doing. Even within the first few days after arrival in Kathmandu, Nepal surprised me with the joy and graciousness of its people. On the surface, Nepal can appear to be a desolate place with due to clearly visible poverty, but the setting only provides a greater contrast for the treasure that is to be found in the hearts of the Nepali people. Never before have I met a people so gracious and welcoming, even towards complete strangers. Family is the core unit that is protected above all else, and relationships are cherished. These people are resilient, yet giving, and I feel so blessed to have met even a small number of them. Quite simply, they bring joy to my heart.

This is not to say, however, that I didn’t expect any hardship at all. I knew many of the people were impoverished and malnourished; daily life was difficult. I knew the Nepali government was not always friendly towards the Christian missionary organizations and their intended work in Nepal. I knew all of these things, but they were thoughts that slipped through my mind like a passing breeze. After all, no one likes to think about the sadness of a coming trip, but rather the potential excitements that await. And I definitely was not prepared for what I was going to witness.

It hits you hard when you see a man crying openly in pain and desperation because he has a problem you don’t have the resources to fix. It makes your heart bleed to see a small child, only 5 years old, covered with burns over 40% of her body, especially when she cries in such fear and anticipation when she sees the doctor approaching. It renders you speechless when you see women quivering in hospital beds with devastating sari burns over the back of their legs. Or consider so many of the young men, women, and children wasting away because they simply can’t get enough food to eat at home. I mourn for the sufferings of these people, and it hurts to see them in such pain. Sometimes, there is no way out for them. In some cases, people are simply sent home to be with their families before they die because nothing more can be done for them. As a future healthcare professional, how was I to find a way to care for these people in a meaningful way? From where was I to find the courage to pursue a career in medicine if such helplessness, and even hopelessness, remained waiting and looming?

I’ve taken the time on this trip to puzzle my way through some of these experiences and ensuing questions. One of the great blessings of this trip, however, is that it focuses on healthcare in a Christian context. I don’t have to do this work and shoulder the burden alone. Not only is there a community of believers and other healthcare workers standing by my side, but I can always lean upon the healing power and presence of Jesus Christ. When I see patients that I can’t help due to limited resources or a lack of worldly means, I can call on our Father in heaven with my petitions. When the difficulties of this life weigh upon my heart, I can ask Jesus to relieve the burden while keeping me compassionate and loving. It was refreshing to see this prayerful reliance reflected in the structure and work ethic of places like United Mission Hospital in Tansen or Green Pastures’ rehabilitation facilities.

That being said, I think it is important to mention that reliance on Christ does not guarantee a smooth path or easy life. Challenges are still ahead, and success at every endeavor is not guaranteed. However, now my eyes have been open to the kind of work that needs to be done to continue to further the Kingdom of God. Considering I have been blessed with the opportunity for a good education and an aspiration to work as a physician, the tough question now arises: What am I going to do about it?

I could leave this entire Nepal experience behind and keep only the fond memories. I could smoothly transition back into my life in the United States where I worry about seemingly trivial things like my next exam score instead of making sure my family is able to see the next sunrise. I could ignore the tugs on my heartstrings, and compartmentalize this experience so I can reflect on it only when convenient. I could do any or all of these things, but the reality remains that God is calling and I need to answer.

Of course I will cherish all of my fond memories of this place and the group I shared it with, but the emotionally-difficult memories must become my driving force. Some may be uncomfortable to consider, but they are the most formative and compel me to think critically. They are pushing me to honestly consider the motivation behind my desire to become a physician. It must be because I want to serve, to help people, and ease their suffering, either emotional or physical. My motivation cannot be seated purely in my own gain, or I will lose myself. I have not yet come to any definite conclusions about how or where I want to practice medicine, but I now know I want to use it for the glory of God to further his Kingdom. And I trust he will lead me on from there.

Peace and blessings everyone.

Reflections on Nepal

As I prepared to embark on this trip, I thought of Nepal in a very abstract way. I had no idea what kind of conditions I would face and live in for the next month. I also thought of the people I would meet as one large, unknown group, not as unique individuals who would make me laugh and inspire me with their strong faith in the Lord. However, during this trip I have learned and relearned that people are people, no matter where you go. They have their own passions, senses of humor, and sorrows, regardless of where they come from. As far as I can tell, the best way of defeating prejudice and pride is to travel and explore new cultures. It is humbling to confront your own ignorance and admit that your way of life is not the only way to live, nor is it the best.

Having immersed myself in a different culture, I have felt silly many times during this trip. In particular, my worries seem so trivial compared to the controversies that people in Nepal face every day. While I stress out about a particularly confusing assignment or what I should wear when I’m at home, many Nepalese confront issues such as water shortages and malnutrition in their children. After witnessing such struggles, I can’t help but feel quite sheepish when I think about what occupies my thoughts at home.

In general, life is much more “intense” in Nepal than it is in the U.S. It does not involve the superficial complexities of daily life back home, and nothing is diluted here. The sights don’t just catch your eye, they capture your awe and your attention. For example, the mountains leave me speechless – and that is saying something, since I grew up in Colorado. The Himalayas look as if God took the Rocky Mountains and stacked yet another mountain range directly on top of them – it is absolutely breathtaking. The smells are also more striking in Nepal than in the U.S. Both pleasant and unpleasant smells waft and mix together in the streets, putting your nose on high alert because so much is going on. Most noticeably, the struggles and problems that you encounter are impossible to ignore. A lack of infrastructure becomes a very personal concern when you spend 17 hours on a bus ride that was only supposed to be eight hours long due to accidents and road construction. The issue of poverty becomes very real when you watch patients suffer from illnesses and complications that could easily be treated if they simply had more resources available.

In the face of such immense problems like corruption, poor infrastructure, and poverty, I feel very small. I want to become a physician to help ease some of the suffering these injustices cause, but sheer determination is nowhere near enough to solve predicaments that affect the lives of millions of people. During this trip, I did my best to observe what motivates the physicians I met as they confront these seemingly insurmountable issues. To be sure, they all possess impressive determination: many of them feel obligated to help ease the suffering they see, regardless of whether they are from Nepal or from another country. Others went into medicine to fulfill the wishes of their parents, which I do not think is an invalid reason, even though such reasons are rare in American culture. In the United Mission Hospital in Tansen in particular, the physicians possess a God-given compassion and love for the Nepalese people. Without the faith that Christ is with you every step of the way, it is easy to become cynical in the face of corruption, unnecessary suffering, your own fatigue, and the frustrations of limited resources. It is the love of Jesus that enables doctors to show compassion to their patients, yet avoid being crushed by the suffering they see. Christ takes on both our joys and our sorrows and sets us free.

This trip has humbled me in many ways. The people of Nepal possess a compassion and generosity that I lack. The Christians that I have met here have inspired me with their commitment to follow God’s calling, even though they face far greater obstacles because of their faith than I do in the U.S. I have always felt called to serve the vulnerable because we are all equal before Christ and deserve equal access to medical treatment, regardless of our background. At this point, I’m not sure if I will end up serving abroad or within the U.S. To be sure, living abroad would force me to trust and talk to the Lord much more because life would be more difficult, but it would also contain fewer distractions. There is much work to be done in developing countries, and any medical assistance has a huge positive impact on many people. However, I do not know if I have what it takes to be so far away from my friends and family. Regardless, the experiences that I have had on this trip have shown me how I can live a rich life by serving God and others through a career in medicine.

The City of God

Howdy again, everybody!

Last time you heard from me it was a blog update of day-happenings; now it’s time for my blog reflection a.k.a. some musings on the country of Nepal and the impact this experience has had on me. Let’s dive in!

I’ve been thinking a lot about cities on this trip.

The concept of “city” really hit me after landing Day 1 in Kathmandu. And by “hit me”, I mean an “up-and-smashed-me-in-the-face-repeatedly” kind of experience. The sights, sounds, smells (yes, especially the smells!), tastes, and sensations of Nepal’s capital city were overwhelming! Here’s Kathmandu in a sound-byte:

Bustling, busy, smelly, dirty, dusty, noisy, crowded, buying, selling, speedy, flowing, cheerful, standing-around, sprawling, always-going, always-waiting, stopping, starting, driving, staring, heart-pound, swirling, honk!, shaken, exposed, murky, greeting, smiling, hauling, screech!, chatting, eyes-open, ears-open, lungfuls of mmm and woah! and [cough], skipping, hand-in-hand, clinging, rattled, swerving, clunk!, dancing, singing, hollering, building, rebuilding, offering, seeking, up-at-dawn, winding, old, ancient, white-knuckle riding, new, colorful, plastered, crumbly, worn-out, polished, shiny, cracked, social….

Now say all those words at max volume, backwards, at double-speed, while crossing your eyes… and THAT is what Kathmandu is. At least a taste of it.

So that was my first city experience. A place of contrasts – of fast and slow, of coming and going, of up and down, of rich and poor, of friendly and wary, of young and old, of ends and beginnings. And a place of life. Absolutely brimming – more than that, overflowing – with life. That’s really what makes a city a city: Life. Not clumps of buildings or jumbled streets or stone or brick or wood or what-have-you on the materials science side of things. Cities are clumps of people and the words they share, jumbled or not, and the things they do with or for or against one another. Cities are places of life.

And where there is life there is God. Cities are places where God is at work.

It comes as no surprise, then, that the story of the Bible is also the story of a city. The City of God. It comes in four parts: the perfect, the old, the now, and the new.

The perfect City was the Garden of Eden. God walked the earth with His people.

The old City was the historical city of Jerusalem and its inhabitants, the Israelites (i.e., the Old Testament). A people and a place set apart by God to witness to the surrounding nations. God dwelt in the Temple of Jerusalem.

The City now is the body of believers: the church (i.e. the New Testament). Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross tore the curtain of the Temple in two: the presence of God now dwells with and within all who call on the name of Jesus.

The new City will be “the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God… [in which] there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Rev. 21). God will once again walk the earth with His people “from every nation, tribe, people and language” (Rev. 7). That is the glorious day we ache for – when all things will be made new and the City of God will be firmly established forever and ever.

But that will be then; we still live in the City of God now.

The question that confronts me now, as a 20-year-old Pre-Med student, is this: as a citizen in the City of God (the church), in what way will I join in the work God is doing in His Kingdom – that is, the entire world?

Matthew 5:14, 16 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden… In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”.

The goal is to expand the City until it encompasses all of God’s Kingdom – so that one day “every knee will bow and every tongue confess”. In the words of Jesus: “Go forth and make disciples of all nations”. Given my career plans for the future, my calling will be to expand the City by “shining my light” before others as a Christian physician in such a way that people will “glorify my Father in heaven”.

What difference will faith in Jesus (vs. a secular approach) make in my career in medicine? Two things this trip in Nepal has shown me: healing and hope.

When a diagnosis is impossible or no treatment is viable, then Christian physicians can, by prayer, call upon the Great Physician, God, to work His healing power. The mission statement on the wall of the United Mission Hospital in Tansen (where we spent a week shadowing) acknowledged this very clearly: “We Serve. Jesus Heals”. This concept of healing prayer is very new to me, and has been my food for thought while on this trip in Nepal. It is not something that I am very comfortable with, truth be told, but it is very real – as I have been persuaded by the testimonies and personal experiences of both group members and people we have met. I will continue struggling with this concept of healing prayer – and difficult questions like “why doesn’t it work every time?” – as I mature in my faith and prepare for a career in medicine.

The other thing that will mark me as a Christian physician is hope. Confronted by the misery, suffering, and seemingly pointless sickness in the world, I will fall back on God as “my refuge and strength”. I will have to let God carry all the hurt and the pain so that I don’t have to – just as Jesus bore the cross and the burden of all sin so that I don’t have to. Otherwise, I will inevitably burn out. I firmly believe this is what has allowed the doctors at the United Mission Hospital to carry on so strongly and consistently. Their trust in the Lord. Relying on Him instead of their own knowledge or fortitude.

So there you go. How will I serve in the City of God now, in this present age? By being a Christian physician who facilitates healing, by medicine and by prayer, and who carries hope (to share) with him wherever he goes. Where will I go? This trip has greatly opened my eyes to the joys and sorrows of medical missions. While I may not end up overseas, I do certainly feel a stronger calling to serve those in rural or impoverished areas lacking adequate medical resources. Right now, thanks to some words of wisdom from a doctor in Amp Pipal, I’m leaning heavily toward a career in primary care (pediatrics, family medicine, or internal medicine).

But only God truly knows the future that lies in store for me. So I’ll do my best to follow His lead, wherever that takes me. Whatever city here on Earth that I end up in, I know He will have a purpose for me there. Because God is at work in every city – in every community, in every family, in every person, in all the places of life.

No matter where. No matter what.

God is at work.

In Nepal. In the United States. Everywhere else, too.

Hallelujah! Amen.

Goodbye to Amp Pipal and Hello to Nuwakot

The past three days were spent in Amp Pipal, a remote area in Nepal that does not yet have good wifi capabilities. We were hoping to see what happens to a hospital when the missionaries leave.

One of the advantages of going to Amp Pipal is that the parent of the Nepali student living with the Beels family in Grand Rapids is from Amp Pipal.  Druba and his wife Dhana greeted us in Amp Pipal and helped us around this small town situated on a hill top.

We visited the hospital which is being renovated with assistance from a German group, and met with a very bright, and forward thinking Nepali physician, Dr,. Paudel. He has single handedly made many changes to the hospital, and is trying to lower the barrier for other Nepali physicians to come and serve at Amp Pipal.  He had lots of good career advice for students, especially for those going into Medicine.

We hiked the Lig Lig mountain early next morning to view the snow capped mountains,  attended a Nepali church service and had a wonderful meal at Druba’s home.  In between our treks, we visited Druba’s home several times for tea.

Early this morning, we left Amp Pipal to Nuwakot to see what World Renew is doing with rehabilitation/reconstruction work in Nepal.  This afternoon we visited a Kings palace on top of a mountain, which was damaged significantly by the earthquake.  Tomorrow, we will visit one of the World Renew sites and also possibly attend a function where about 6 newly built homes will be handed back to families.  These homes have been built according to earthquake code. World Renew in partnership with the Nepali government hopes to build 200+ such homes in the near future.

Please pray for safe travel in Nuwakot and back to Kathmandu by tomorrow evening. Nuwakot is about 2.5 to 3 hours away from Kathmandu, but traffic jams could delay us from getting into Kathmandu on time.