Sunday, June 08, 2014

Open Pentecost letter to children in Bellevue, WA

Dear friends at Aldersgate UMC, this letter comes to you from Katherine Parker, a servant of Jesus Christ, called as a missionary and appointed for the service of the gospel in partnership with brothers and sisters in Nepal as a Health Advisor with the United Mission to Nepal. Grace and Peace to you.

I draw strength every day from the assurance that God in Christ has made a way for us to live full, healthy and abundant lives.

On Pentecost we celebrate the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives and through our church community. One of the signs of the Holy Spirit is that the message of God's abundant love can be shared and understood among people all around the world. We have different languages and cultures, but the Holy Spirit unites us as one church. Because we want to embrace this diversity and connection, we, as the church today, send missionaries from one community to another to strengthen the relationships and share in the common ministry. We send people from Zimbabwe to Cambodia, from Korea to Mongolia and you have sent me from the USA to Nepal to work together with the people called Methodist and the ecumenical community to promote health and fullness of life for all in a transformed Nepali society.

One part of a healthy life is eating a good balanced diet. This is especially important when you are growing. What did you eat for breakfast to help you grow? Fruits? Vegetables? Grains? Protein? Did anyone have a glass of milk for breakfast? Cows are very special and important in Nepal and people like to drink milk and eat yogurt as an important protein source. But sometimes it is hard for kids to get enough protein for growth because milk and yogurt are too expensive.

My friend and mentor Miriam Krantz has worked for almost 50 years with severely malnourished children in Nepal, especially those who are not getting enough to eat because they have a tummy ache (diareaha). She developed a kind of porridge that their moms can make called Sarbottam Pit-ho, which is a Nepali word that means "super flour". It is made from 3 kinds of locally available grains and beans that are roasted and ground up.
[basic recipe is 2 parts pulse (soybean or chick pea), 1 part corn or rice and 1 part wheat or millet or buckwheat, roasted separately, ground and combined as a flour.]
We feed this porridge to children who come into the hospitals that our church operates in Nepal and we work with the government of Nepal to teach mothers all over the country how to make Super Flour to feed to their children, especially in their first 2 years.

Do you like to eat whole grain foods like oatmeal or whole wheat bread or pasta? Babies in Nepal like to eat Super Flour because it has a nice roasted flavor. All around the world we eat different foods, but we all need good nutrition to grow strong. And as the church working together, we can help each other to stay healthy and grow.

In Nepal, the first line of the national anthem is "Saya tunga, phulka hami, yota mala, Nepali", which means "like many different flowers, we are knitted into one garland of Nepal." They joy of Pentecost is to celebrate the uniqueness of each of you as beautiful, growing flowers that the Holy Spirit is binding together in the love of God, together with children all over the world including in Nepal, to form a beautiful and healthy garland of flowers.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Peer Educators in Doti

As part of the United Mission to Nepal (UMN) program on Integrated Community Development, we have been engaging youth in peer educator training for adolescent sexual reproductive health (ASRH). Last week I was in the far western region of Nepal in the district of Doti with two other UMN Health Team staff, Anu G. and Anu B. To conduct these trainings with child club members in grades six to nine from six schools. The mixed-gender component included the topics of self-esteem, my changing body, sex and gender, STIs and HIV, communication and life-skills and dialogue about the anonymous question box queries.
Students discussing modes of transmission of HIV

Anonymous question box
In this region of Nepal, the practice of Chaupadi (certain purity restrictions during menstration) can often inhibit the ability of girls to attend school. We spent extra days with girls groups to dialogue about their fears, embarrassment and worries and conduct training on menstrual hygiene which culminates in sewing improved washable pads.

Discussions at Rampur Higher Secondary School
Disposable pads are available in the market here, but they are relatively expensive, embarrassing to buy and difficult to dispose (they must be buried deeply to prevent animals digging them up and they decompose slowly). Of the 50+ girls in our trainings this week only 6 are purchasing disposable pads. The rest are using the standard practice of a folded cloth. The main disadvantage of this is that it doesn't stay in place well and makes it uncomfortable and difficult to walk to school or play games. To counter this, we introduced an improved washable pad that they can sew.

Improved washable sanitary pad sewing supplies
Several of the girls don't have scissor at home and so the activity of tracing a pattern onto the cloth, cutting it out and sewing the pocket together was a new challenge. But, working together, everyone was able to complete their project and took home the completed sample as well as a pattern to teach others. Included in our training this week also were three deaf girls and one blind girl.
Tracing patterns and cutting

Girls with their completed "improved washable sanitary pad"
We are also offering a parallel training to youth leaders of the church in Nepal called Christian Family Life Education (CFLE) that incorporates values articulation for decision making, protecting myself from harm, contraceptives & family planning and dialog about equality in marriage and equal valuing of boy and girl children. A short video about CFLE is available from the UMN YouTube channel.


Monday, September 23, 2013

On the bus from Bhaktapur

Special Bahktapur yogurt
Saturday afternoon, Bimila and I went to Bhaktapur city. It is the third of the ancient city-states in the Kathmandu valley, but has a quieter feel to it than either Kathmandu or Lalitpur/Patan. I enjoyed going to the temples with Bimila and visiting her cousin's house where I tasted three of her homemade achar (spicy preserves). 

It takes about an hour by bus to get from Bhaktapur back to Bimila's house in Imadol (a neighborhood just south of Lalitpur at the Guarko intersection). We were trying to get home around 6:30, so the sun had set and darkness was descending quickly and busses were less frequent. We finally caught one headed in the right direction, but the seats were already full. I wasn't worried, but Bimila has more experience and knows that the bus would only get more crowded. A lady seated next to where I was standing was getting off, so Bimila had me sit down and she made her way to the back of the bus, where she squeezed into the back bench seat. 

The isle was starting to fill up, but not yet to the point of a press, when a mother with a baby in her arms and a three year old in tow got on and was in the isle next to me. So I got up to give her my seat and made my way to the back where Bimila was. Bimila looked dismayed and asked what happened to my seat. I said (in my broken Nepali), मेरो देसमा बेबी बसनोस "in my country, baby please sit down" and pointed back to the mother and children. Bimila was quite surprised, and said that in Nepal, this is not how people think about bus seats. Then I felt guilty because Bimila insisted that I take her seat. 
Playing with the baby

A few minutes later as the press was starting to build, another mother with a babe in arms ended up in the back of the bus near us, but with her back to me. But before I could do anything, Bimila was chatting up two college age men, who were seated next to me and convinced the two of them to give up their seats for the mother and Bimila. They assented and the whole dynamics became very playful. Everyone made silly faces at the baby and he cooed back and got passed up to the students who had fun playing with him during the ride. I could see that other passengers were interested and watched us and might have wanted to join in. But it was these young men who seemed to enjoy it the most, both of them competing to see which one the baby would look at longer. What could have been another packed, uncomfortable bus ride was a lot of fun.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

In Transition: from Cambodia to ... Nepal

A little over five years ago, I showed up at the Global Ministries headquarters in New York and said in substance, "Here am I, send me." And they said, "Where we really need you is. . . Cambodia!" And I said, "OK."

And what a joy it has been! Cambodia Methodism is a "mission initiative," an emerging church on a path to autonomy, and it has been my privilege to share with you some of the indicators of this over the years. Five years ago, I was one of 11 missionaries in Phnom Pehn. My departure brings that number down to seven. This is a great indicator of the strength of the mission as more programming and leadership is picked up by Cambodian nationals. Though the end of my term of itinerancy comes as an emotional jolt, it is with great joy that, as I leave Cambodia, the ministry continues in the hands of my friends.

So Global Ministries said, "Where we really need you now is. . . Nepal!" And I said, "OK."

True, I am sad to be leaving Cambodia and at the same time tremendously excited about the challenges and opportunities in going to Nepal. I will write about the new work in future newsletters as I learn more. So far, I understand the work will be substantially focused on community outreach, like my work in Cambodia. I am hopeful that a significant essence will be on testing for drinking water quality, a passion I developed during my masters program at SacState which involved research in Ghana. In the language of missionary assignments, I will be "seconded" to the United Mission to Nepal, a long-established, inter-denominational Christian organization in the country.

I said good-bye on February 19th to the Community Health and Agricultural Development (CHAD) team, other members of the Methodist Mission in Cambodia and many friends I have developed over the past five years.

These past few months for me have been full of transitioning responsibilities to the capable hands of various Cambodian team members and the Social Concerns Committee. Mr. Thy will continue on as team leader, particularly overseeing the ongoing monitoring of project groups. Ms. Daneth was invaluable this winter as she picked up coordination of my former haunts in Kampong Speu and Takeo. Ms. Vannak has assumed much of the financial oversight for the program assisted by GBGM-Cambodia treasurer Helen Camarce. Mrs. Sophal will coordinate health access and advocacy ministries following the retirement in December of missionary Irene Mparutsa and her return home to Zimbabwe. And Mr. Ken will continue to advocate for holistic ministry throughout the church. I have great confidence that the program will continue to provide valuable support to the ministry of the church in Cambodia.

Please keep in touch with the ongoing work in Cambodia through stories on the blog http://chad-cambodia.blogspot.com. Mr. Thy continues to write powerful testimonials of changes experienced by Cambodians for this site. Also new in 2012 was a CHAD program Facebook page with the name CommunityHealthAgriculturalDevelopmentCambodia. Ms. Vannak has been regularly posting pictures to the Facebook page so I hope you will check it out.

More to come.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

a Lenten reflection from Cambodia

I'm changing the way my newsletter goes out and will soon discontinue using GoogleGroups. Please take a moment to sign up for my new list through MailChimp if you would like to continue receiving my email newsletters.

Two weeks into Lent, I'm still reflecting on the encouragement and hope I feel from the Ash Wednesday reminder that our lives belong to a story richer, deeper, and longer than our brief life’s span*. After a hectic month in January of running up and down the country to visit project groups, I spent most of February in the city doing various forms of report writing. When I get caught-up in these day to day or even annual tasks, I sometimes feel bogged down. It is helpful at these times to take time to reflect. I'm really proud of our team and the 2011 accomplishment that Mr. Thy summarized. This season of the church is also a reminder to me that the little that we each do in this life is a part of God's great love and work through humanity. We are part of a story that is greater than any of us individually. This brings me hope.

In our March staff meeting devotions we reflected on Zacchaeus and how Jesus took time to focus on one person in the midst of the crowd, and Zacchaeus was transformed. So, in the midst of this great and cosmic story, I offer you three individual stories of transformation written by Amanda King about different people who have been engaged with our CHAD program. I cried when I read them, and I'm here to witness first-hand. Please take time to read about how a woman got a life-saving heart surgery with the help of a determined church family, how another woman is overcoming disability through a cow loan, and how an agricultural loan helped to reunite a man with his family.

Additionally, Mrs. Sophal, a health program staff with the CHAD program, shared with me this testimonial about her own life that was included in a Lenten devotional called Sponge Searching for Water prepared by our friends in Louisiana.

Thank you for being part of my story through your friendship, prayers and support. I'm inspired by what we can do together.

In peace, Katherine

*thanks to my friends Dan and Courtney Randal for this reflection.