“Also the tree of the field will yield its fruit and the earth will yield its increase, and they will be secure on their land. Then they will know that I am the LORD, when I have broken the bars of their yoke and have delivered them from the hand of those who enslave them.”
This verse from Ezekiel 34:27 was pretty much the first thing I read on return from my recent visit to Nepal. I recall looking up at a colleague, and with tears in my eyes, saying ‘I have seen this with my own eyes’.
One of INF’s newer work areas is in a district called Bajura. Bajura District is the poorest of Nepal’s 75 Districts, and one of the poorest places on the whole of the earth.
The headline statistics make grim reading:
Nearly half of children will die before their 5th birthday
Maternal mortality is 458 deaths per 100,000 (in the UK it’s 10 per 100,000).
Most families are only able to produce enough food for 3-6 months each year
To survive, menfolk migrate to India to do the most menial and dangerous of jobs
The practice of Chhaupadi – sending women to live in the cow shed during their menstrual cycle – is still widely practiced. Women also give birth in cow sheds, where they stay for 11 days if it’s a boy, and longer for a girl. Is it any wonder so many women and children die?
Then there is the caste system. A third of people are ‘Dalits’, the poorest of the poor, often referred to as ‘untouchables’. Dalits are not allowed to enter temples, touch food at common gatherings, or use public taps. They are often beaten by upper-caste people, and many live in modern forms of slavery and bonded labour. Few have land or farm animals, and are hardest hit by the shortage of food.
And Christians? When we started work five years ago there were just seven Christians in a District population of 135,000.
In Luke 4 Jesus says:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
I saw these words being fleshed out:
Women proudly told me that they no longer practiced Chhuapadi
The mortality rate for children and mothers has reduced by over 50%
300 families now have enough food for 12 months
A further 300 families have sufficient for more than 6 months