The gods must not sleep. If a god falls asleep, it’s because no one was there to pay him homage, and that makes him angry. An angry god won’t keep you safe.
So all night long, people must keep bells ringing to prevent the gods from falling asleep. These bells are placed strategically at every street corner so that passing travelers can easily access them as they walk by. When we first arrived in Nepal, the constant ringing used to keep my husband Jonathon and me (not to mention the “gods”!) awake at night, but now we don’t even notice the sound. Now that we’ve been here more than a year, it’s become as familiar as a distant siren or a police car passing down the highway.
As night fades into morning and the bells become less discernible among the other noises of the street, streams of people pass the hospital as they travel up the valley to the Chandeshwori temple. Some of the women carry golden platters with offerings of food draped in a red cloth. This daily offering, called a puja, is another ritual intended to keep the Hindu gods happy and peaceful. These and many other cultural practices surprised us when we first arrived in Nepal early in 2017.
In the summer of 2016, we received a call from the General Conference to work at Scheer Memorial Adventist Hospital (SMAH) in Nepal, and we were excited! It took nearly six months of paperwork, phone calls, packing, and preparation before we were ready to leave. Gathering up our two cats and two-month-old son James, we boarded a plane headed for Kathmandu, Nepal.
We finally arrived in Banepa. Stepping into our new home, an unheated block house, we glanced at the thermometer hanging by the kitchen sink. It read 60 °F (16 °C)! Leaving on our coats and scarves, we explored our new surroundings—the shops, the street markets, the landscape. We became more and more fascinated by the culture and lifestyle of the people we had come to live among.
Our first year in Nepal passed quickly. Jonathon works as both the chief operating officer and internist. I work part time in the antenatal clinic of the obstetrics/gynecology department as well as raising our son. We never lack things to keep us busy!
Though Nepal has many highly qualified physicians, there is still a large disparity in healthcare due to extreme poverty found in many areas. This level of poverty contributes to a high nationwide incidence of suicide. The Kavre district in which SMAH is located has the highest rate of suicide in the country. Most of the suicide attempts are from the ingestion of a readily available plant fertilizer/insecticide containing a compound known as organophosphate. Because of the high cost of treating these patients, our hospital is the only one that will care for these cases, often free of charge. We’ve lost count of the number of nights Jonathon has been in the ICU, desperately struggling to save someone’s life.
We’ve asked ourselves many questions over the past year in Nepal. Are we making a difference? Is there some way to open the hearts of these people to the Savior’s love? Can we break the cycle of ceaseless pujas and replace it with the calm assurance found in Jesus? We can’t help but be reminded of Psalm 121:2–4: “My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.”
While the bells ring ceaselessly and the worshipers journey past the hospital on their daily procession to the temple, we pray that we can continue to be a light to this community. We’re so thankful we serve a God who doesn’t sleep, not because we keep Him awake with a bell but because He’s tenderly watching over each person He created. We hope that each day we’ll have the opportunity to touch one more life and show one more soul the loving face of Jesus.