Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world.
One afternoon we walked to the Tiny Hands International office in Kathmandu. We navigated the narrow, potholed streets of Thamel that were lined with tiny shops just big enough for a man and his carpets, scarves, flutes, or whatever other wares he chose to peddle. Thamel is the tourist center for those who think roughing it in a Third World country means pizza and “beef” that is more than likely water buffalo, not beef.
We passed the giant tree with the “do not enter” sign, marking the outer edge of Thamel, and came to the bridge.
The bridge over the river.
The river that I will always remember.
Beneath the bridge, a long shack with a corrugated tin roof and multiple entrances – was no doubt home for more than one family.
Laundry that had likely been “washed” in the filthy, black river where livestock waded and pooped was spread over bushes to dry.
Two young women sat nearby on buckets and combed through their long hair. It wasn’t a stretch to imagine that it had been washed in that same river.
Litter is absolutely every. where. I kid you not. There is nary a public trash can to be found on the street, but there are piles of litter everywhere. In fact, a carpet of garbage lines the river and wild pigs wade in the slime. A familiar smell reminiscent of my parents’ hog farm just before it rains filled the air as we finished our trek over the long bridge.
Kadi and I went back to the bridge a second time. Like the homeless family we befriended and sought out four time during our stay, we were drawn to that which seemed to break our hearts the most.
It’s the circle of humanity living under the bridge that I think of as I fold laundry that I’ve taken out of my stackable washer and dryer that sing to me when they complete their cycles … as I clean out my three-car garage … as I eat too much at Easter dinner and feel embarrassingly miserable. Let’s be honest, most of us will never know the kind of hunger that leads to mixing dirt into the soup to give it substance or eating a rock just so my tummy feels full. #TruestoriesfromNepal
What do I do with these thoughts? These images? What do I do when I wake up in the middle of the night remembering new friends who are walking in obedience to God’s call on their lives to be the Kingdom in Nepal? How do I process my internal wrestling with guilt about the haves and the have-nots? How do I deal with the shame I feel for being so grateful that it’s not me living under a yellow bridge with my hungry children, pigs, and crap? What do I do with the fact that I emptied most of the “snack” food from my luggage and gave it to the homeless family? MOST. Not all. I held some back. Why? Because they were – God help me – expensive. How do I sleep at night remembering little Rajeesh digging through the bag we gave him on our way to the airport? He was looking for food and there was none. And here I sit – still full from another day of gluttony, wondering if he had supper – or lunch – or anything at all today – and all I have are tears.
I have no easy answers. No complete list. I’m fumbling around in the dark here, but my eyes are wide open and my heart is still raw.
[Tweet “Yellow Bridge Lessons of Poverty & Guilt. No easy answers, but open eyes & a raw heart. @TinyHandsIntl #justice”]
For now …
I pray for the Tiny Hands expats, nationals, house parents, border monitors, and sub-committees.
I pray for the Tiny Hands staff that are working from this side of the ocean.
I pray for those who need help most – the vulnerable, orphaned, abandoned, abused, and hungry.
I minimize and simplify and sell, sell, sell in order to fix my eyes on much more important things and redistribute this “wealth.”
[On a side note, it hasn’t gotten past me that the Tiny Hands children’s home parents do devotions with their kids in the morning and in the evening. Don’t ask me when I last did devotions with my kids. Please. Don’t ask. But I realize that they have none of the distractions that we have. I’m talking about comforts that we take for granted like electricity, heat when it’s cold, choices galore when it comes to food, clothing, electronics, reading material, toys, games, TV shows … Our MUCH means less time for the truly important things in life.]
I pray that God never allows me to forget – that He gives me His words to tell the story of His lost children in Nepal.
I don’t stop talking about what I’ve seen and learned and need to tell others about, because I can’t. I feel like I’ve been handed a story that needs to be told.
And the story includes the message that YOU can do something. (We all can.) You can pray, and give, and tell the stories too. You can shop with purpose and don’t buy what you don’t need. You can train up your children to understand that justice is the appropriate response to the Resurrection story that we all celebrated yesterday. Perhaps they will be the next generation of expats committing to “Be the Kingdom” in Nepal or somewhere else.
… and it all started with a long walk over a yellow bridge. Though the separation between my life experience and those of the families living beneath the bridge seems to be an insurmountable chasm; it is not. We are all souls created in the image of God … more similar than different. Perhaps recognizing that truth begins to narrow the gap.