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Nepal Newsletter

November 30, 2005
Mark and Deirdre Zimmerman
NSI, EPC 1813,
PO Box 8975,
Kathmandu, Nepal

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way;  walk in it.’” Isaiah 30.21

30 November, 2005

Dear friends,

Any journey in Nepal can be good for your prayer life, but bus journeys may be the best! Setting off in the early morning, it may take 12 hours to cover a distance of just 100 miles.  With as many people on the roof of the bus as are in its overcrowded interior, you soon leave the very urban and insular world of Kathmandu, and start the long day of winding over hills, along river valleys and down to the hot plains before climbing back up into the hills. As the warm sun chases away morning mists, school children run across fields in their blue government-school uniforms, hoping to flag down a vehicle and reduce the long walk to school.  A couple of village women with bright saris wrapped over their dusty, frayed blouses are pressed forward by family members come along to stop a bus for them.  A slim man stands patiently in the shadow of a tea shop, hair neatened into place with mustard oil, a traditional Nepali topi (cap) placed carefully on top, and a small synthetic briefcase in his hands…who knows what business he hopes to achieve today?  Down in the flatlands, increasing numbers of bicycles appear, many with a passenger riding side-saddle on the back carrier.  Here many men dress in traditional dhotis (wrap-around skirt), while younger women wear kurtaa-surwal (dress and trousers) in order to cycle themselves with dignity.  People of all sizes (but mainly women) carrying loads of all sizes appear intermittently along sections of the road:  married women with huge swaying loads of grass for animal fodder, teenage girls with large brass water pots accompanied by mere toddlers who carry what they can in a collection of plastic jugs and bottles, more women with long, stiff bundles of firewood heading home to prepare the morning meal of rice.  All along the way, families play out their lives on the dusty porches of red-mud painted houses, children running and rolling in the dirt, often perilously close to the heavy vehicles that hurtle down the road.  So many marvelous snapshots of life in rural Nepal, so many reminders of the need for prayer for this land and its people.

Of course, some parts of the road bring prayer more urgently to mind.  These days soldiers regularly board buses, their loaded guns swinging without caution amongst the swaying crowds, sacks of grain, and occasional domestic livestock that fill the aisles.  It is standard advice to abandon a vehicle that army soldiers commandeer, but what do you do if you are on a remote hillside, rain is falling, and the next vehicle may not appear till the following day?  And that too is likely to be carrying soldiers.  Somehow it is easier to pray.  And easier still when the road becomes muddier, the rocks in it bigger, and the bus threatens to heave itself over the edge down the hillside.  Such a possibility is confirmed by the regular appearance of twisted, rusting vehicles in the valley below. You are indeed fortunate if, as I recently did, you only make such a journey as an occasional adventure to enjoy the wonderful Himalayas.  For all, the journey involves discomfort and danger, but also the sharing of snacks and complaints, advice and laps for crying children, and finally the relief of reaching your destination, with previous strangers.

Our own journey over recent months has had a few bumps and uncertainties as we approached the crossroads of “life after Patan Hospital”.  In just a few days, Mark will leave his job as Medical Director, and leave the place where he has worked for almost 20 years.  With the last few issues finally worked out, we are now in a position to confirm that our next step is for Mark to become director of a new organization called Nick Simons Institute (NSI for short).  Here is a brief explanation of what this entails.

What is NSI? NSI is being and funded by an American family, in memory of their 23 year old son Nick who died in an accident 2 years ago.  Nick had previously worked as a volunteer in Nepal, fallen in love with the country, and aspired to become a doctor working overseas.  NSI’s principle aim is to improve rural healthcare in Nepal, through a variety of initiatives to provide appropriate training and support for staff living and working in remote locations.  In doing so NSI hopes to counteract the huge flow of health care professionals going to work in private practice, urban areas or Western countries.

What has this to do with Christian mission? Obviously, care for the poor, marginalized and sick was important to Christ.  Mission hospitals in Nepal witness to Christ by providing a good example of quality care for the poor and service in remote locations.  Although NSI itself will not be a Christian organization, it hopes to utilize and support mission hospitals (and others) in improving rural health care, and further the spread of their ethos and example.  This may also be significant in securing the future of some of these hospitals as they face the withdrawal of other support.  We have prayed for some time about our next role after Patan Hospital and feel strongly that this opportunity was opened to us by God. The United Methodist mission board (GBGM) has now approved our new posting, affirming the value of this work in their mission.

So what part is there in all this for churches at home to support? The three main areas of support we are looking for from churches at home are prayer, prayer and prayer.  NSI will be well funded thanks to the Simons’ generosity, and will be established as a charitable company given the current political climate.  However it is our firm belief that it is prayer (your prayers!) which brought us to Nepal, prayer which has kept us here and prayer which has established any good work here.  Prayer will be essential for any success to come out of NSI’s work.  At present we are enjoying visitsors from both sides of the Atlantic, and we would warmly welcome others to come and get a flavour of life in Nepal and perhaps assist with the establishment/running of NSI or work at the related hospitals.  In the future we may also be able to link interested groups with funding needs at some of these hospitals.

Is this the end of any relationship with Patan Hospital? We certainly hope not.  Mark plans to continue a small amount of clinical work at the hospital, and we will also be pursuing the hospital as an important training site for NSI health courses.

How should we be praying? Continue to pray for the future of Patan Hospital.  Various parties continue to wrangle over its governance, and at the time of Mark’s leaving no new medical director has been appointed.  Pray for the registration of NSI, and the associated application for our new visa, even as we give thanks for our initial 3 month ‘research visa’.  Pray for Mark to find a good team of colleagues to join NSI, particularly those who can help with the financial and administration aspects of the organisation.

If you or a church group would like to know more, just e-mail us ( and we will send you a CD powerpoint presentation on the Nick Simons Institute. Please also note our new postal address.

In the midst of all this change, we daily move forward with all the smaller journeys that take us along the path of life.  Drivers snap to attention as Benjamin toddles down the lane from our house yelling “Taxi!!” (our most common form of transport) at the top of his lungs;  if there is any doubt as to our need, Zachary will race ahead, peer in the passenger window and delight the driver with his “Kaali chha, daai?” (equivalent to “are you ready to go, friend?”).  We continue to be so grateful that your journey is joined with ours, and that we can enjoy and at times endure the way together - all in the care and provision of our Lord.  May you have a wonderful Christmas and know His light on your path in the year ahead.

Mark, Deirdre, Zachary and Benjamin

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