Family is important. I say that to explain why I am so late in posting today. This weekend was spent with family – from Friday afternoon until late yesterday. Almost every waking moment – except for worship on Sunday morning — was focused on my family. We had a great time together as we usually do. And we told them stories about our trip to Nepal. We told them how important family is to the people of Nepal especially since the earthquake. Let me explain.
In many of the homes where we ministered, we visited with multiple generations. Mothers, daughters, grandchildren. In one of the homes, it was a grandmother raising her three grandsons alone. It seemed as if everyone had someone taking care of them. We asked if there had been an increase in the need for orphan care following the earthquake. We actually had to explain what we meant by that question because the concept of an orphan seemed almost foreign to these people. What we were told is that if parents were killed, the nearest relatives simply took the children into their family as if they were their own. Family is important – even to non-believers.
In fact, the only real problem we had in the villages occurred when one of the mothers who had lost a daughter became extremely angry. The conversation had been pleasant enough as one of our teams asked about the welfare of the family. When they asked if they could share the gospel, everything changed. This woman’s surviving daughter whispered something to her mother, and at that moment, it was as if a switch had been thrown. For some reason, Momma became very angry, shouting at the translator and pointing her finger (a very unacceptable action in this culture) in the translator’s face. As the team removed themselves from the situation, Momma followed them up the path continuing to shout. Later, the translator explained that the woman was angry at them, accusing the team (and possibly all Christians) of wanting to take their children from them. Family is important, and in this Hindu/Buddhist culture, to convert to Christianity is to lose family. Ties are severed. Support is gone. Everything changes.
Sonya and I visited with a couple whose grandchildren were killed in the earthquake. As they told their story, Sonya cried. I teared up. But the grandparents set their stoically. It wasn’t that they didn’t care; they had grieved for four months. This is a culture where tears are almost unheard of. For instance, one little boy had a horrible abscess behind his ear. The family finally took him to the medical team. When the boy started crying in pain, the parents told him to stop. The boy died a couple of days later. Crying isn’t an option for the Nepali people, but when they saw that we had been affected by their story, they were moved. They brought us “kwati,” a bowl of food made of corn, onions, beans, and spices. It was delicious. It may have been their lunch that we ate, but in Nepal, when food is offered, it is rude not to eat. So corn and all, we ate.
God has been so good to us in the USA. We have our hardships, but little compares with the breadth of the tragedy that affected Nepal. The hurricanes and tornadoes that have affected our state in recent years help us understand what the Nepali people are going through, but our resources here far outnumber what is available in most other countries. Where most of us recover in a matter of weeks, months, or years, Nepal will still be trying to cope for decades to come. But cope they will because that’s what families do.