Loving the People in Melaka and Faraway
By Felicia Kwong
Many of our Nepalese brethren have their houses built on these hill-slopes and mountainous terrain. To reach their houses, they have to trek many days on foot with heavy load on their backs since there are no proper roads for any vehicle to drive through, especially in the outskirts. Sadly the country’s poor infrastructure has caused much inconvenience to both citizens and tourists alike. The cheapest means of transport is by road but the only so-called highways are merely single-lane roads whose surfaces are tarred. Most of the other roads have surfaces which comprise rocks, sand and red earth. Therefore a 30-40 km journey in a bus on such roads will take a couple of hours – provided there is no mishap along the way. If there is an accident, then the duration of the journey can double or even triple! Yet the backaches and discomfort are well-worth the price to pay for in order to be reunited with a special group of people close to our hearts
The highlight of my eight days there was to be reunited with the returnees, some of whom took time off from their families throughout the duration of our stay to be our guides, carers, body-guards and porters of our heavy luggage. Rajes Gurung, the ‘boss’ amongst the group who despite the loss of his unborn child for a 2nd time while he was with us, stayed on to be the companion to Khai Chew in his very early morning photography ventures. On our night returns to our lodging place, the Harvest Mission Centre that was perched at a higher altitude, Rajes carefully held us to ensure that we did not slip nor miss our footing as we trekked on the slippery challenging laterite ground with just our mobile or torch lights to show us the way.
Then there was Santosh, a skinny young man who weighs about 40 plus kilos literally carried Catherine on his back when the upward terrain became more challenging! Rajes Rai who is fluent in English was my faithful guide up and down the trip to our lodge. Ram Chandra, Muluk, Som, and Rupuk travelled long distances possibly overnight in the buses from their homes to welcome us upon our arrival at the Kathmandu airport, showering us with so much warmth and love. The former two stayed on with us for a couple of days later joined by Durga so that they could be of service to us.
Most of them became believers during their stay in Melaka and upon their return to Nepal, remained faithful to the Lord. Muluk and Durga entered into pastoral ministry while Ram is a loyal church worker. Despite their financial constraints receiving minimal salary in the ministry, they elected to be of service in their various home churches. I cannot imagine the struggles they may face to feed their families with the little they have but I believe that our Jehovah Jireh has never failed them. Their uncomplaining joyous disposition impressed upon me that even with so little material blessings, they are rich in the spiritual blessings from the Lord.
Hi and Bye
On our last day before our departure back to KL, a recent returnee, Yakub made the arduous overnight bus journey just to see us and bid farewell. The reunion was a brief 15 minutes! I am amazed yet again that all of them in their own ways were willing to spend money and time for the brief fellowship with us. Another returnee, Sujan one of the past leaders of the Melaka Nepali Fellowship met Danny, Catherine and I for a 10 minutes catch up at the Kathmandu airport on the day of our flight to Pokhara. I had mixed feelings of happiness and sadness, so glad to see him after almost a year of absence and sad when we had to bid goodbye once again.
The first village church co-pastored by our returnee, Amar was a small room with a basic wooden pulpit, the only furniture in the room. Upon our arrival in the late morning, Amar whose wife probably spent the whole morning to prepare an elaborate lunch invited us to his humble abode consisting of a small hall, a bedroom and a kitchen with laterite flooring. I am moved by the amazing hospitality showered upon us. The church members were simple folks with very little material blessings yet we were showered with their traditional gifts of garlands, colourful shawls for the ladies and tope for the guys. Their desire to be ministered to was infectious as we were swamped by their many requests.
Just as we were to about to climb on the vehicle to depart, an elderly lady caught hold of my hand and gave me her parting gift, a bottle of soft drink. It was one of the best gifts I have ever received! I was moved to tears by her generous gesture. I am reminded of the parable of the widow who gave all she had albeit not much in the world’s perspective. In Malaysia we are blessed with so much yet share so little of our material blessings to those in need.
The second village church pastored by another returnee, Hom Tamang, was housed in his rented premise, a two level shop unit. The ground level doubled up as its kitchen and the meeting place while the upper level with two rooms were occupied by Hom & his family in one and the orphaned children in the other. We were treated to a deliciously home cooked meal prepared by Hom’s wife. Their simple gesture of their warm welcome touched me in a deep way. I began to understand Ps. Danny’s passion for these folks who have won his heart.
The Village School
The visits to these impoverished village churches left a deep impression on me as I witnessed first-hand the poverty of the Nepalese who survived on the bare basics of life necessities. A chance visit a village school reinforced this impression. These school kids wore unwashed and tattered uniforms and some of them were without any proper footwear. Apparently their parents are too busy working in the farms to bring food to the tables to ensure that their children are properly dressed for school. It was a heart wrenching sight to see the dirt and filth on the faces and bodies of these young children in their tattered uniforms. Back in Malaysia, we so often fail to appreciate the daily life blessings with our wasteful lifestyle in allowing our children to throw away half eaten food!
At Pokhara, we were invited by Ps Bedu & Ps Jiwan, the former a friend and pastor of one of our Nepali leaders, Paul Tamang. Their church congregation comprised mainly young adults which is a complete contrast from the other two village churches of elderly folks. The evening worship was vibrant. It was backed up with modern guitars and drums. They even had a modern looking pulpit. After Catherine Chiew’s testimony and Ps Danny’s message, there was a call for ministry & prayer which was well responded- a similar scenario as witnessed in the other two village churches.
After the service, we were driven to an orphanage efficiently managed by a Tibetan lady, Mama Dorma & her Nepali husband. With more than 60 youths under their wings, I was deeply impressed by the overall cleanliness and discipline amongst the orphans ranging from the youngest of 4-5 years to the oldest of 17-18 years. The older kids acted as mentors and big brothers or sisters to the younger ones. There was a daily duty roster which was diligently adhered to by the children while Mama & her husband oversee the management of the orphanage. Despite the low profile, their main source of funds has been from a regular supporter from a United States church, a contact established after one of their earlier adoptees secured a job there. It is an amazing testament of God’s faithful providence that His work will never lack His supply. Mama Dorma shared with deep conviction that God has never failed them all these years as none of them had gone hungry due to the lack of food or funds.
Such are some of the deep impressions which have found their way into my heart through this mission trip. In fact, the mission experience has sparked off a special love affair with this country and its people within me. My desire to return has been ignited. I do not know when that will be but I will definitely look forward to the day when I can make another trip to this beautiful country which is the home of our Nepalese brethren.
Felicia is a member of Melaka Taman Asean Methodist Church ( a church-plant of Wesley Methodist church) in which the Nepalese ministry is under. Her passion for the Nepalese ministry was ignited in early 2008 upon a chance encounter of a couple of Nepali men who had to walk back to their hostel under the blazing afternoon sun. She stopped her car and gave them a lift and since then she decided that she could contribute in a small way by providing the needful transportation to them.