“Woe to him who builds his house without righteousness And his upper rooms without justice, Who uses his neighbor’s services without pay And does not give him his wages. Who says, ‘I will build myself a roomy house With spacious upper rooms, And cut out its windows, Paneling it with cedar and painting it bright red. Do you become a king because you are competing in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink And do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He pled the cause of the afflicted and needy; Then it was well. Is not that what it means to know Me?” Declares the Lord. Jeremiah 22:13-16
I’m flying home from an incredible nine days in Nepal; Kirk is with me after spending fifteen days. I read the above verse on the way home and it struck me. Every time we leave our comfortable lives with our material ease, reflections and conversations occur among team members about whether our lives are right or whether we should feel guilty for what we have. In theses verses in Jeremiah, the Lord is reprimanding the King of Israel for his selfishness. What struck me is He never tells him it is wrong to have these things. He basically tells him his father had them too…BUT he cared about justice and righteousness and the cause of the afflicted and the needy. And He asks the question, “Is not that what it means to know Me?” I love this. Knowing the Lord changes us…and changes what we do.
We basically went to Nepal to love…and pray they would know we were Christians by our love. Dr Kirk and Dr Minnette Son, our dedicated pediatric intensive care doctor who has served on our pediatric heart teams all over the world, joined a group of six from Calvary Chapel Maui (David and Robin Courson, Larry Boydstun, Dean Kellio, and Joey and Jess Markoya) to trek into the Himalayas and show love in whatever way possible, including delivering simple medical care. I and nurse practitioners Cathy Woodward and Lisa Matosovsky, also dedicated team members all over the world, joined them late on this trek. What an adventure the three of us had!!
We flew into Kathmandu on Saturday morning. At the airport, we immediately met our driver Sachin, whose job it was to drive us the many hours to the trailhead. We picked up our guide “Everest” (so nicknamed by us because this mountaineering guide with 20 years experience has, in fact, guided Mount Everest; we were a little beneath him, but he never showed it. He took such good care of us!). We also picked up our two porters along the way; it was their jobs to carry our overnight backpacks while we carried our daypacks. We drove from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. over one of the most incredible roads in the world. One segment is in fact called “the most dangerous road” in the world. We ended up at a guest house in Syabru Besi in the Langtang National Park. This is where the road ends. So the only way to visit the towns and villages to the east is to walk. We walked about 8 hours Sunday and stayed in another guest house. We walked about 6 hours Monday. Kirk actually walked down and met us and walked us back up to where we held a clinic that afternoon. Their team had gone higher and farther and had had a medical clinic farther up the valley the afternoon before. Some of their team had even climbed to a high camp at 16,000 feet. We arrived in Langtang, at about 13,500 feet, about 2 p.m. and started our clinic about 3 p.m. What an incredible experience to be in this beautiful valley at the top of the world, staring up at the majestic, snow-covered Himalayas and taking care of the villagers in this Tibetan village. In order to have had this experience of going that high and far and getting to participate in the medical clinic, we had to walk down in one day what we had covered coming up in two. We figure we easily walked forty to fifty miles in three days, covering an elevation change of almost 9,000 feet. Physically expensive…but priceless!
I loved encountering the larger team and seeing the palpable difference they were making in the lives of those around them. Our little team of three had been pretty much under the radar, respecting the fact that we were three women traveling with three men and not making much of our medical experience. By the time we reached the larger team, everyone in the valley knew there was medical help around and they asked liberally. Nepali culture is also very much based on the caste system. Guides have higher status than porters. Both keep a certain polite distance from their clients. The larger team had successfully broken down these walls. It was so fun seeing them all interact and joke with and walk with and eat with and hug these members of our team. And it was fun to merge our teams so we had so much more freedom to do so with the three dedicated men who were taking care of us. The trek in itself is indescribably beautiful. I spent a day driving and two days walking, not really ministering and wondering why the Lord had me there. I felt like He told me it was a simple gift for me, just to admire His beauty. I was so thankful to the health and ability and opportunity to just do that. But I loved joining up with the larger team and seeing the impact just simply loving people was having in their lives. We all (teams, guides, porters) drove together, in a bus this time, down that same incredible road back to Kathmandu on Wednesday. I can’t describe how much I enjoyed the beauty of the scenery and the beauty of interactions on that bus. Dear Lord, we pray they met You simply because they met us.
We all got to have dinner together on Thursday night at the Rum Doodle in Kathmandu. It’s an historic restaurant with lots of trekking and climbing history. Since members of our team got to a high base camp, the whole team got to sign a big Yeti foot that will be displayed, amongst thousands of others, in the restaurant. Since our team verse was “how lovely on the mountains are the feet of them who bring good news (Isaiah 52:7),” we called our team “Beautiful Feet.” What a fun honor.
On Friday, Kirk, Minnette, Cathy, Lisa, and I joined our perfusionist friend Bart Hensler, who had arrived from San Antonio, and a team of friends from Mayo (peds cardiologist Allison Cabalka and her husband Jeff, peds ICU doctor Sheri Crow and her husband David and daughter Lydia, heart surgeon Lile Joyce and his wife Tina, heart surgeon David Joyce and his infectious disease doctor wife Joyce) to focus on heart care in Kathmandu. Allsion and Sheri have been leading this effort for the past five years and the rest of us have been honored to join them. We presented a symposium on Tetralogy of Fallot on Friday morning at the Cardiac Society of Nepal, with hundreds in attendance. The president of Nepal actually came to “open” the meeting that evening and we were all privately introduced to him. The meeting continued on Saturday and Bart and Sheri presented a symposium on ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, basically long term cardiac or lung bypass for emergency situations) that afternoon. We all spent time at the hospital on Sunday morning observing surgeries and post-operative critical care. Cathy and Lisa presented an historic nursing conference on Sunday afternoon. Bart and members of the Mayo team will continue to observe, help, and consult at the hospital during the rest of the week.
On Saturday morning, we got to attend church at Sundar Dhoka, a ministry to lepers and disabled in Kathmandu. We had met the family who runs this ministry last year but hadn’t gotten to go to church because of our cardiac work. I’m so thankful we got to go this time! The pastor, who had been a member of a high caste family, had been paralyzed by falling out of a tree soon after he had gotten married and while his wife was pregnant with their son. They were rejected by their families and the pregnant wife had to harvest her own rice simply to keep them fed. He was taken care of in a mission hospital, where he became a Christian, and this incredible ministry was born. I love worshipping internationally because it reminds me of the universal truth of the gospel, despite language and despite culture. There was such unbridled joy amongst the “outcast” in this church that it moved me to tears numerous times.
A unique week. Three very different ministries and experiences. All, however, about doing justice and righteousness and pleading the cause of the needy and the afflicted. Is that not what it means to know Him?