Covenant United Methodist Church

Changing Lives with Jesus

You are here: Home » Faith in Action » Patan Hospital Nepal

Nepal Newsletter

July 2, 2004
Patan Hospital
Mark and Deirdre Zimmerman
United Mission to Nepal
P.O. Box 126
Kathmandu, Nepal

2 July 2004

If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea; even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
Psalm 139: 9 - 10

Dear Friends,

We are coming to the end of our furlough, or home assignment as some call it. Our working schedule under the United Methodist Church puts us overseas for 3 ½  years and back home for 6 months.  When Deirdre and I got married in 2000 this rearranged our usual furlough schedule (as well as some other things'), so my last full furlough was in 1997-98 We have spent these last 6 months visiting support churches and a few medical groups - in all we spoke in 70 places. Most were in Pennsylvania and New York, with some in New England, Delaware, West Virginia, and Ohio, and we recently added two churches in Texas. It has been a time of many blessings.

Most joyful of all was the appearance in the first light of May 23rd of Benjamin Mark Zimmerman, a sturdy and boisterous 9 lb.2oz. We liked delivering Zachary in the nurse midwife-run Birthing Center of Patan Hospital two years ago, so we searched and found a birthing center at St. Joseph's Hospital in Syracuse, NY. The Syracuse experience lacked the customary heat and mosquitoes that attended Zachary's birth, and we had to leave St. Joseph's after 30 hours - but we were comfortable and well cared for here too. Deirdre came through it well, and each day now she shows more patience with her three boys than I'd ever imagined she had.

We have come to know marvelous hospitality. The Covenant Church in Springfield, PA, and the Bellevue Heights and University Churches in Syracuse let us stay in their parsonages and furnished them to our full comfort. We soon came to regard both places as our homes, and left them with fond memories. Of course, our other home was my Mom's Subaru, a great car that she generously loaned to us, and that we miraculously managed to sell at a reasonable price 2 days before furlough ended. I was able to do some work teaching medical students at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, where I still have good friends from my training days.

This was a fair number of places to visit, and we logged quite a few miles, but at almost every location we left feeling encouraged - by the commitment to our work in Nepal, and by what the Lord was doing in these churches. One day we drove across from Syracuse to Buffalo and had lunch overlooking Niagara Falls. That night after a roast beef and potluck dinner, we spoke at the church in Hamburg, NY .Deirdre and I do our parts in the presentation, but Zach also comes up front, spontaneously breaking out in dance when the Nepali music is playing, and relishing his chance to get to the microphone and lay a "Hi" and "Namaste" on the crowd. After we spoke, questions went on for a long time. We came back that night to the warm and lovely house of Marty and Sue Doherty. Their dog Churchill trundled about to welcome us; Zach dubbed him "Church Dog."

We have been given clearance to return to Nepal the first week of August, and I will resume my duties as Medical Director and internist at Patan Hospital. We hope to soon find a ground floor apartment, somewhere near the hospital. Our path ahead seems more uncertain than ever, even more than when we first stepped out on the road to Nepal.

The struggle between Maoist insurgents and the Nepaii government rumbles along, claiming over 10,000 lives in the 8-year course of this "People's War." The Maoists now control vast sections of the countryside, while the government has had to abandon almost all of its remote offices. The Royal Nepal Army, under the authority of King Gyanendra, holds the cities, though Maoist extortion and assassinations spread fear there also. The democratically-elected parties pace restlessly, relegated by the King to the sidelines. A new Prime Minister gives some hope that negotiations may start again. We hasten to reassure friends and family that communications from Kathmandu continue to describe a situation that remains safe for us to work in.

On November 26, 2005 the United Mission to Nepal will stop governing Patan Hospital and will distance itself from the other two UMN hospitals - ending an era of almost 50 years. UMN will move into more "grass roots" types of work. We few missionaries in the hospitals join many loyal Nepali friends who want to see the life and ministry of the medical work sustained. And the hospitals still have a committed international network of friends. UMN has permitted me to return to work as Medical Director for just one year more, asserting that the job must be turned over to a Nepali after that. So, the clock is ticking away for us to find a new local governing body for these hospitals. A group in Patan Hospital has been developing the concept of our coming under a health science university and medical school. This holds promise, but we should first be sure that this very big venture is likely to advance our mission to Nepali people, especially to the underserved.

Finally, one month ago the United Methodist Church's mission arm (General Board of Global Ministries) put our return to Nepal "on hold" because of their financial position. We were relieved a few days later to get the full clearance to move into a four-year term. In 2003, after a long wait and with a push from many Nepali friends, we were granted a visa to return to Nepal. We feel that must have occurred for a reason, and we value this chance to go back. Still, we return to Nepal with many questions in our minds. For how long will be able to stay? Is this our last term in Nepal? What will become of the mission hospitals? What will I be doing after this year is over?

I have a friend named Dammar. He grew up in the mountains of central Nepal and he's about 40 years old now. He never went to school, but when he was a teenager he attended a church that was started by missionaries. He used to bring his wooden flute and ad lib with the hymn singing. He became a Christian.  Dammar has been blind since he was 8 years old, probably because of vitamin A deficiency.  He comes into Kathmandu by several buses, and using his walking stick he's able to navigate alone in the chaotic streets of the capital city. I have walked with Dammar in the hills near his home.  Coming or going to the motor road, he needs help walking on those trails. The paths go from uneven rocks to the muddy borders of paddy fields, rising and falling often, curving along the edges of steep drop-offs, and passing through the assorted small villages of rural Nepal.

Take his hand. It's soft and sensate - like it's continuously absorbing touch. He holds his arm bent at the elbow and firm so that, through your grip on his hand, you can steer his whole body. His walking stick in the other hand tells Dammar how far the next step drops down.  You must warn him of gaps: "Short step now, Dammar," or "Lonnnng step," and you need to steer clear of the edges. As you travel together, your conversation wanders off to other times and places.

Occasionally you have to pull him out of a stumble. But there are enough easy stretches for you to consider the wonder of it: that you are leading a blind friend through the mountains, and that he just trusts.

Glad you are with us on the journey.

Mark and Deirdre, Zachary and Benjamin

«-- Return