Dying under the stars – Lele, Nepal

Chilli’s drying in the window

Not so far from Kathmandu there’s a valley – it’s a beautiful place with an almost clean stream snaking through rice fields hemmed in by heavily wooded hills. It was harvest time in Lele and the fields were dotted with workers standing rice sheaves up. We walked and hour and a half to two tiny neighbouring villages to visit a house church. It is humbling to sit in mud floored rooms with people whose houses were some of the simplest we’ve seen. They we’re uneducated people and in the same way that their houses hugged the hills they seemed to embrace life here and somehow hold on.

Life in the village
Life in the village

Most of their homes were damaged or destroyed by the earthquake and tin shelters now provided their living space. Their homes are only safe as barns for the animals.  As we  was amusing to be asked to lay hands on and pray for the sick goat that was off its food but when you realise the importance of that goat to the wealth and sustainability of their lives you start praying with some conviction!
We had come to this village thinking to visit the local leprosy hospital to deliver some medical supplies we had with us but the local people dissuaded us from doing so. It seems that even if we donated the supplies the hospital would charge the patients for them. With this sad fact in our minds we agreed to visit a critically ill elderly man who had been discharged and sent home to die from his cancer. We decided we could try to  use whatever of our supplies we could to help him. After half an hours walk we arrived at a tiny mill besides the stream. The old man was crouched beside the stream trying to wash some puss stained clothes. The infected wounds that covered the back of his neck were oosing green and it seemed as if there may be worms in there too. . . This guy has no family and though it’s hard to judge the age of a Nepali I would guess he’s around seventy. We help him stand up and brought him back to the mill where he had shelter during the day – at night he sleeps outside on a ragged red blanket under the stars and right now it’s cold at night – even in doors it’s cold!

The old mans bed
The old man’s bed

We prayed, tried to clean his wound as best we could with the sanitised hand wipes we had then we fixed the only menoline pad we had over the whole of the back of his neck, doing a poor job of  fastening it with sticky plasters. It wouldn’t last long but it was the best we could do. We gave him our two roll mats and left with heavy hearts. The man himself was happy and after the prayer he said the pain had gone. He had met some friends who at least had tried to help. Our bus was waiting so we gave the pastor money and told him with as much authority we could to buy antibiotics for the man and go back to him directly. Is this man still alive? I can’t tell you.

The old man
The old man

The irony of this situation was that the church we were visiting had happily allowed two white strangers sleep in their church hall for two nights, they had offered us spare blankets as we just had light weight sleeping bags. Meanwhile a critically ill member of their congregation was dying under a star filled sky without help or shelter. Many times here I have to simply say that I fail to comprehend how people are thinking or why things are the way they are. I have tried hard to find any justification for this situation which probably has its root in something to do with the cast system but I can’t possibly comprehend it. There may well be other circumstances that I am unaware of in this situation and I am not judging them or saying the church was wrong – I am simply say I don’t understand!
Today my pray is “Show me the things that break your heart and let them break mine too”
Perhaps we should also pray that if things are as they seem from the outside that they change. That a church that has somehow become blind would see again and that an old man dying under the stars would know love.

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