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 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.