Nepal (RB/HCJB) — Being offered a cup of chai tea is customary in Nepal, but it’s not every day that it’s followed by a hug, especially not from a village elder.
During a recent trip to dedicate a new birthing center in the foothills of the snow-capped Himalayas of Nepal, Ty Stakes, executive director of the Asia Pacific Region for Reach Beyond (formerly HCJB), was struck by an unusual encounter in the community.
“A village elder whom I have seen every time I’ve visited the area came up to me after a short dedication ceremony for the clinic and said one word to me, ‘Chai!’” Stakes related. “He grabbed my arm, and off we went to enjoy a cup of tea. Though we could not converse [due to the language barrier], it was sweet to smile and share a moment.”
Later, Stakes heard from *Sameer, a local partner in Nepal that the village elder had been learning about Jesus from a daily devotional program on the local Christian radio station that the mission helped establish in 2010.
“Finally, as we were saying goodbye to the people in the village, my friend came up and did something I had not seen there before: he gave me a hug,” said Stakes. “I think the hug said it all. Wow! It is so significant that a local elder is showing serious interest in the Lord.”
Stakes was part of the team from Reach Beyond that visited the remote Nepali community to dedicate the birthing clinic–a first for the region that suffers from a high infant mortality rate. The facility was built with the help of a Reach Beyond work team in March, extending the community’s small general clinic to include a delivery room, bathroom, and waiting area.
Sheila Leech, a nurse who serves as vice president of international healthcare, Dr. Tracy Martin and Gabriella Egberth, a midwife from Reach Beyond-Sweden, led the midwifery course Nov. 21-23. Taking the training were 16 volunteer birth attendants and midwives from local villages.
“These women traveled several hours by foot each day for the training and were excited to learn new techniques and protocols that will help their patients give birth more easily and decrease the death rate among mothers and babies,” said Martin.
Topics covered signs and symptoms of pregnancy, how to stay healthy during pregnancy, nutrition, complications and difficult births, as well as care of newborn babies. Martin also taught simple urinalysis, diabetes testing, and how to check hematocrit (volume percentage of red blood cells in blood).
The team donated an International Aid “lab in a suitcase” to the clinic, containing a solar-powered microscope and medical testing equipment.
“The icing on the cake was when three pregnant women from surrounding villages arrived at ‘just the right time’ to be examined with all the new equipment and lab tests,” said Stakes. “We know, of course, that this was orchestrated by the Lord.”
Stakes and Leech also joined mission ambassadors Ron and Barb Cline from California and Derek Kickbush of Reach Beyond-Australia to facilitate a four day leadership training course in Pokhara, Nepal’s second-largest city, with a particular focus on equipping leaders.
The course was part of the mission’s Global Voice Leadership Institute (GVLI), a training program with classes in the spring and fall for leaders and managers, culminating in November with the graduation of 17 students.
The program covered the role and responsibilities of a leader, project management skills, habits and qualities to develop for Christlike leadership, and skills for running a Christian radio station. Between training sessions, the leaders taught what they had learned to others in their communities.
“The high caliber of people we find in the GVLI classroom never fails to impress me,” said Kickbush.”
However, he also underlined the challenge of using critical thinking and teamwork, especially since the students were used to rote learning and top-down, male-dominated management structures. “The training challenged a lot of traditional Nepali paradigms of leadership,” added Stakes.
During the GVLI program, Leech led a session titled, “Beyond the Radio Station.” She challenged the Nepali leaders to think of other practical ways of serving their communities, doing more than just broadcasting the gospel and airing public service announcements.
One person who was already putting that into practice was Sameer. In addition to helping develop a Christian radio ministry, he’s been working to save thousands of women and girls from sex trafficking, providing care and biblical training for them in “safe houses” before they return to their communities.
This included women like *Miriam who came to know Christ during a nine-month period in a “safe house” following her rescue by the Christian group from slavery. “She immersed herself into study of the Word of God, and then she returned to her own village and threw herself into leading the small church there,” explained Leech. “She manages the clean-water projects in the village, runs a savings club for women, and is currently working on getting latrines installed in the community.”
Reach Beyond helped finance clean-water wells in Miriam’s village which administers a monthly 50-cent charge per person to cover maintenance. On Miriam’s initiative, the villages are also putting an additional 50 cents per person monthly into a micro-finance savings program, enabling some of the women to start up small businesses such as selling snacks off the backs of bicycles.
“As I reflect on that last trip to Nepal, I feel blessed and so encouraged,” concluded Leech. “I feel humbled by the fact that God in His magnificent wisdom and grace allowed me to get a glimpse into what He is doing in Nepal.”
*Names changed for security purposes.