Monthly Archives: February 2014

A funeral and a wedding

Last blog was about Subadra’s husband’s funeral – and we went to the meal on the 13th day to see her.  She was dressed in a different sari – blue and green colors (no red allowed now) and seemed better than she had been previously.  However, Subadra is still facing a new and difficult kind of life.

We heard last week that our landlady’s son had gotten married.  Anju, our landlady, told us that this was a difficult life change for her, because actually, her son and his bride had run off together – the Nepali equivalent of eloping.  If a couple runs off and spends the night together here, they are considered to be married.

On Sunday, 2 banana trees draped in red appeared at the top of the path down to our house.  (The landlady and her son live right next to us) The young couple got dressed in their wedding finery and went to the Hindu temple to go through the marriage rites and make everything official.  The landlady came over to see us that day and invited us to the bhoj (feast) on Friday to celebrate the wedding.

banana trees and wedding sign

We got an official written invitation which said that the party would be at the White Lake Hotel in the town starting at 3 pm.  We have been in Nepal long enough to know now that no one actually goes to things like this on time.  And – the family hadn’t even left the house here on Friday afternoon until close to 4 pm!  So – we didn’t rush to be on time…  (Maybe now you will forgive us when we are late to things in the U.S. because time does have a different meaning here…)

Les got off work right at 5, which is a minor miracle these days!  He came by the house to get me and we walked together into town to the hotel.  The bride and groom and some family were standing in a room where they were receiving guests.  We got to greet them and give them a gift, then after chatting and taking some photos, we moved out into the courtyard area where coffee was being served.

With Anju, the groom's mom and our landlady

We chatted with friends there and found out some more about this particular couple and the background to their running away…  The young man (our landlady’s son), Ashirbad, met his bride when they were studying in the same college.  He is a Khati – a Chetri family (fairly high caste Hindu).  Sailesa is the daughter of a Newari family who owns a shop in the bazaar.  The Newars are Buddhist.  Her older brother, Saurab, just finished his residency at the mission hospital.

The bride’s family are not happy with this marriage – and so none of them came to the party at the hotel.  As we walked home from the party, we could see that their shop was open and they were serving customers.  I wanted to go over and say, “Don’t you know you won’t ever get these moments back again?  Go and be with your daughter and be happy for her!”  But – I didn’t.  I just thought them loudly in my head.

Anyway – after we had our coffee and visited with friends, we went into the buffet line and had our meal.  It was quite tasty pulau (rice with spices and nuts and coconut, etc,), curried vegetables, spicy tomato achar, goat meat, and fried fish.  We ate with our plates balanced on our knees – trying to be neat while eating the meat off the bones and drinking water to combat the spicy peppers.

buffet line

Turns out that Sailesa’s family had been talking about arranging a marriage for her (within the Newar community) so this young couple decided that if they wanted to be together, they would have to run off.  It may take many years before the bride’s family actually recognizes the marriage.

Please pray for this young couple – and for their families.  And for us as we try to get to know them better and to encourage them.

Newlywed couple


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Widows wear white

This email was sent to be posted for the first weekend in February, but got moved to this week:

Subadra’s husband died early on Saturday morning.  She had left him at the hospital on Friday evening, reassured that everything would be okay since he had spoken to her and was on oxygen, as well as getting IV fluids and medicines.

Although she found it hard to fall asleep after getting home on that evening, she had eventually dropped off in the early hours of Saturday morning.  The next thing she knew, she was awakened between 7 and 8 am by the sounds of a vehicle arriving, and lots of voices.  It was the sound of her sons bringing the body of her husband by the house – in order to get everything needed to drive down to the river in Ramdi where the body would be cremated.  Subadra wept as she said, “I didn’t get to say goodbye….”

We heard the news from a friend of ours and a family member of Subadra’s on Sunday.  As is often the case, we wondered what exactly was the right thing to do…  We have known Subadra for many years, as she has worked as a house helper in missionary homes.   Subadra and her family are not only very staunch Hindus, but they are also Brahmin – the highest caste.  There are so many rules and restrictions in their lives – it always reminds me of the joy of being free in Christ – and so very thankful for His sacrifice for us!

After some discussion, we decided we would go to visit Subadra on Tuesday, so Les could go as that was his day off this week.  We were reminded by our house-helper that we should not “do Namaste” in a house of mourning.  (In other words, we were not to greet them with the traditional greeting, or to put our hands together as part of that greeting.)  “What shall we take to offer to them?”  we asked again to make sure…  The only acceptable gifts from non-family are gifts of fruit – but it cannot be bananas.  So – we purchased some grapes, apples and pomegranates and walked down to Subadra’s house.

We were intercepted at the front door – which is actually the door to a shop (which was closed) where the sons sell building supplies.  Subadra was downstairs we were informed, and were shown the way.  We removed our shoes, and entered the room.  It was lit by just one electric bulb – there were no windows in the room.  It was a cement room – and one side was filled with all the furnishings that had been set up nicely in the room previously.  They were all thrown and piled on one side, and a temporary plywood barrier had been put up.  In between that and another plywood “wall” was Subadra.  She was sitting on a blanket covering a pile of straw.  She was dressed all in white – one cloth wrapped around her like a sari without the blouse, and another cloth was wrapped around her head and upper body like a shawl.  We had to sit a distance from her on another mat – touching her would be strictly forbidden.  Her daughter, granddaughter, and daughter in law were sitting on another bench on the other side of the room.

For 13 days, Subadra will sit in that room – grieving the loss of her husband – and also probably wondering what the rest of her life will be like.  Becoming a widow in Nepal is so difficult – she cannot remarry, and can never again wear the color red.  She will be reliant on her sons to take care of her now – she has 2, so that makes her more fortunate than some.

During this period of what is known as “criya” , she will have restrictions on how and when she can bathe, what she can wear, where she can go, to whom she can speak, and what she can eat.  No salt is allowed during the 13 days – every morning, she will go to the public water tap to wash, then she returns to her small “corner” where she has to cook her own rice.  She can eat that with some ghee, along with some lemon, ginger, and/or white radish.  She can also eat some fruit – which others can cut for her, but then she washes with her own water before she eats.  In the evenings, she can only eat fruit.

On the 13th day, she will wash and put on clean clothes (she can choose to either continue wearing all white – even for up to one year – or she can wear other colors as long as it isn’t red) and that day she can again eat salt and other foods.

Her two sons also are required to wear white for the 13 days and to do the daily restrictions of washing and special diet.  White is the color of mourning here in Nepal – which is one reason many in the church find it a bit difficult when brides want to follow the western tradition of wearing white.  The traditional bridal dress in Nepal is red.

So – we tried to encourage Subadra during our visit – but other than to be there to show that we care, there wasn’t much we could do.  She did ask us to come again – which we found encouraging.

Please pray for Subadra and her family.  One of her granddaughters is attending a private school run by believers here in town – perhaps the seeds of faith about which Subadra has heard over the years through her work with missionaries will be watered as her granddaughter shares what she has learned at school….  And we ask for continued prayers for wisdom in how to show God’s love to the many people around us so desperately in need of it!


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22 years ago today…

22 years ago today, Hannah was born here in Tansen!  It is one of those days that is fun to replay in our minds – and to remember with thankfulness.  If you want to reminisce with us, please read on….  (I know some of this is the same as last year, but I think that living here where it happened again brings the memories back even more!)

We had been in Tansen for just over a year in Feb, 1992… throughout my pregnancy with Hannah, one of my biggest concerns was actually getting to the hospital from our house to deliver!  The midwife who was looking after me had put a delivery kit into our house, just in case, and the last 3 nights that Les was on call at the hospital, another nurse friend slept at the house with Rachel, Luke and me.  (Rachel was 4 and Luke was 2).

We lived down the hill from the hospital – it was about a 10 minute brisk walk from our house up to the hospital.  We had no phone in our house and cell phones were unheard of at the time.  There were only a handful of vehicles in Tansen – and no ambulance – at least not one with wheels!  (There were people you could hire to carry you on their backs in a basket.)  There were several tea shops and stores between our house and the hospital, and my fervent prayer was that I didn’t have to stop and deliver in one of those!

That Saturday morning (Feb 1) Les was scheduled to do morning rounds.  I had been feeling that the delivery time was near, so we decided to all walk up to the hospital together that morning and the kids and I would wait in the Guest House to see what would happen.  While Les worked, Rachel and Luke played happily and I sat and watched them and sometimes read books to them – while labor was increasing….  Les came over for lunch – which everyone ate except me!  At that point, the doctor and midwife came in and suggested I move to a room in the GH annex – a more quiet and secluded place, but still on the hospital compound.  I was happy as the delivery room in the hospital was like a dark cave with the door opening to the nursing area and with a good view for anyone wanting to watch.  (Happily the state of the hospital delivery rooms is much better these days.)

Things went quickly after that – and Hannah was born at 2:30 pm.  She was our smallest baby – weighing in at just 3 kg (6lbs 10 oz).  She has remained “Nepali sized” – just perfect for her!

Hannah is born

That afternoon at the GH was the weekly English service at 4pm.  Near the end of that, Les went into the service with newborn Hannah just in time to hear our friend praying for the safety of Debbie and the delivery of the baby.  One of the children looked up and whispered loudly, “They’re here!”  We have a lovely photo of all the children and adults gathered around Hannah – welcoming and blessing her.

Well – Hannah is now a grown woman – currently in her final semester at Asbury University majoring in Music Education.  She is doing her student teaching and thinking and praying about what to do after graduation.  We have been so thankful for her presence in our family and so proud of her many accomplishments and gifts.

Happy Birthday, Dear Hannah!  We love you!


Hannah is welcomed by Grandma and Grandpa Harsh and Rachel and Luke

Hannah is welcomed by Grandpa and Grandma Harsh and Rachel and Luke


Hannah with us at her senior recital in November

Hannah with us at her senior recital in November


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