…let us go up to the mountain of the Lord
I ate a light breakfast at the small restaurant inside the Bleu Hotel, consisting of tea and toast. I made sure everything was packed for the trip, including nuts, bananas, and candy bars.
“You have to feed everybody for the trip,” Ankit said. “There will be five of us.”
I triple-checked that I packed all six sets of documents and that everything was in order. I was anxious to get going and was impatient for him to show up.
At last, he arrived at the hotel wearing jeans, a light jacket, and a red cap, along with the driver in a white van. It was barely light outside and quiet. The streets were empty and the stores had not yet open. I was surprised that Manisha and her father weren’t in the van.
“We’ll pick them up on the way out of town,” Ankit reassured me. I wondered if Manisha had anything to eat. If not, she could fill up on all the snacks I brought. I showed Ankit the food and we both climbed into the van.
Wearing a blue dress and white blouse, I was glad to be spared another motorcycle ride. I loaded a fresh roll of film in my Nikon camera and made sure I had plenty of money to pay the driver. My paranoia prompted me to check once again that I wasn’t missing any documents.
I looked forward to getting out of Kathmandu for the day (the dusty air was bothering my sinuses) and seeing the beautiful countryside and towering Himalayan Mountains.
“Be sure to bring your camera,” Ankit said. “You will get a good view of Mount Everest if it’s not cloudy.”
It took a while to travel through downtown Kathmandu. The sun was just beginning to cast its first rays of light over the streets and buildings, and I could see shadows of people in the distance.
I was startled to see so many standing on the edge of small streams by the road brushing their teeth. The water appeared muddied from the rains. I had noticed a toothbrush and toothpaste in the hotel room when I met Manisha. For a country that didn’t seem to use toilet paper, it surprised me that anyone would brush their teeth.
Ankit exited the van and walked into the hotel to retrieve Raj and Manisha. Eventually, they made their way out and I saw that Manisha was wearing the same dirty blue outfit from the previous day. My heart ached to put something new on her. I imagined how beautiful she would look in the pretty pink dress and checkered blue top I brought her.
They climbed into the van and Raj smiled at me. Manisha was quiet and did not want to sit beside me today. She stayed with her father. I asked Ankit to ask Raj if she had eaten.
“A glass of milk,” he replied. I felt bad as I had eaten more than she had.
After a while, we left Kathmandu far behind. Old brick and concrete buildings were replaced with scenic flowers and grass, with clumps of trees dotting the countryside. Every so often we passed young lads shepherding cows on the side of the road. Grass took over where there had been dirt and scenic rolling hills followed one after another in an orderly, rhythmic pattern. The panoramic vistas, the motion of the van, and lack of sleep made the trip seem dream-like, but I was jolted back to reality by the start and stop of the steady stream of vehicles ahead of us and those coming from the opposite direction.
As the day went on, the road deteriorated into one bump after another. Eventually, the two-lane road narrowed to one, and the rolling hills out of Kathmandu became gigantic mountains. The road wound like a child’s slinky, and I wondered at every turn if someone approaching from the other side would hurl us into the abyss below. Around every bend I heard horns honking, ours or another car, and sometimes both.
Our destination was the Dolakha District of the Janakpur Zone, the town of Charikot. Our trek took us from Lamusagu, which was about 47 miles outside of Kathmandu, to Lamosagu Jiri, another 27 miles. Then we traveled to Khaktapur, which had been the main trade route for centuries between Tibet/China and India. That accounted for the high volume of traffic. Its position on the main caravan route made the city rich and prosperous by Nepali standards.
The scenery was spectacular. Never had I seen such incredible beauty. We were surrounded by mountains in every direction as far as the eye could see. I wondered how such incredible beauty could coexist side by side with some of the most destitute people in the world. If it weren’t for the children who were so malnourished, with protruding bellies and red hair, I could have been totally absorbed in the magnificence of the Himalayans, but the children were heartbreaking.
Nepal’s per capita income was only $180 per year, one of the lowest in the world and the lowest in South Asia, where the average per capita income was $350 per year. Of its eighteen million inhabitants, half lived in abject poverty.
The next town was Dolalghat, where we crossed a long bridge over the Tamakosi River, which was about six hours from Kathmandu.
We subsequently came upon the Indrawati River where a large group of people was gathered, facing an unusual construction of wood in the middle of the river. It was still smoldering from being burned.
“What is that?” I asked Ankit.
“They are having a funeral. It is the Hindu custom to burn the dead body over a river.”
I hated thinking about Manisha’s birthmother in that way.
“Just down the river a little further,” he continued, “at Chere, we recently baptized about twenty people.”
I chose to focus on the baptism of believers in the river rather than the burning of dead bodies for the rest of the trip to Janakpur.
We traveled along the Bhotekosi River and crossed that river at Khardi Sanopakhar, Dada Pakhar, and Thulopakhar, which was close to Ankit’s village.
Then we came to Sildhunga, Mude, and Kharidhunga, which were nine thousand feet above sea level. After that, we traveled through Boch, and finally arrived at Charikot, which was the district headquarters of the Dolakha District in Janakpur, arriving in the late afternoon. Januk was the name of a famous king and “pur” means city or town. It was a historical holy city.
As we were driving along and the road became nearly intolerable to ride on, I looked at Manisha and wondered how she could not get sick. I shouldn’t have thought it because soon thereafter, she threw up. Her father tried to hold her out the window as we were driving until the last of the milk landed on the road instead of in the van. Maybe it was a good thing she only had milk for breakfast. She looked dreadfully unhappy. If only I had brought a change of clothes for her.
After a long while, we stopped. Everybody got out and walked in different directions. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do.
Ankit glanced back at me and said, “It’s time to go to the bathroom.”
I convinced myself I didn’t need to go. Maybe if I waited a while, we would come to a restaurant somewhere, like a McDonald’s, and I could go then. Of course, there was nothing but mountains around us in the middle of the Himalayans. I just wasn’t ready to head for the bushes.
“I don’t need to go,” I lied, waiting in the van while everyone else disappeared. Plus, I didn’t bring any toilet paper. D___ that toilet paper. As I looked out the window, a female monkey in season scurried by the van.
I had a few moments to be captivated by the view. There was nothing around me but mountain peaks adorned in various shades of blue and green. I wondered how there could be so much evil, so much violence, so much wrong with the world when so far from all of that, God’s handiwork stood tall and majestic. It was like God had painted the sky, the mountains, the rivers, and waterfalls with a touch of heaven, a glimpse of what awaits us beyond heaven’s gates. The mountains and the trees and fields would have burst forth in praise if it were possible.
The beauty was like a tiny thread woven through a tapestry where time and sin had ravaged the perfect nature of all things; one lone thread that promised redemption, a taste, if you will, of the magnificence of God’s original creation.
Within me, a sense of longing arose, a burning desire to partake of the beauty of our heavenly home that God is preparing for us. Whatever my eyes have beheld here, that my senses have been awakened to, so much more so will it be there. Paul wrote in I Corinthians 2:9, “… as it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.’”
Eventually, everyone returned to the van. Manisha and her father climbed in sitting to the left of me in the back. She had warmed up to me again and I was able to hold her for a few minutes as the van gathered speed on the half-paved, half-dirt road.
Her clothes now were not only dirtied and soiled but smelled of sour milk. Her shoes, riddled with holes and far too small, had been tossed into the back of the van.
It was still hard for me to believe she was going to be my daughter. I would rest easier when we were in the air over Kathmandu and headed toward Los Angeles. That seemed an eternity away right now. There was lots of talk going on but since everyone spoke in Nepali, I didn’t know what was being said except for the occasional translation by Ankit.
We continued to travel for a long time passing through small villages where we had to make numerous stops to register with an official who sat in a hut beside the road.
A couple more hours passed and no McDonald’s or Wendy’s showed up on the radar, so I thought before things got desperate, I better do something. There were too many jolts in the van on the bumpy road to wait too long.
Ankit asked the driver to stop and a few minutes later he pulled the van over to the side of the road.
“Is this okay?” Ankit asked.
“Well, I don’t have any toilet paper.”
He looked back at me in amazement. “Why didn’t you bring toilet paper?”
“I didn’t know I would need toilet paper. I just thought we would stop somewhere at a restaurant and go.”
“We’re out in the middle of the Himalayan Mountains!”
There were no restaurants out here, just mountains and small make-shift homes with poor, needy children running around taking care of cows more dead than alive, and one monkey in heat. No five-star hotels, let alone anything resembling a Western-style restaurant.
“We’ll stop at the next village and I’ll try to get some,” Ankit said.
Guys just don’t get it, I thought. Or maybe I really am a soft American.
Later we made a brief stop at a little shack in a small village. Ankit ran in and purchased some toilet paper, quickly came out, and handed it to me through the window. I tried not to look embarrassed and avoided eye contact with everybody. I was just glad to have my toilet paper.
We proceeded to drive along the road and every few minutes the driver slowed down and Ankit would look back at me with a questioning look, “Is this a good place to stop? Do you want to stop here?”
“Yeah, this is okay,” I said at last. I just wanted to be done with it.
I climbed out of the van and started heading down a little path off to the side of the road carrying my toilet paper mumbling to myself, “I am not a soft American girl. Gee, they probably do this all the time.”
After doing my deed I headed back up the trail and saw that everyone else had left the van. Fortunately, nobody went my way, so I just waited until everybody returned.
By now we were all hungry so I handed out some of the snacks that I brought and we began to munch on them. It was about 3:00 or so in the afternoon when we finally arrived at the CDO’s office.
We pulled off the road to a large open area in front of a two-story, white concrete building with brown shutters. A red and white Nepali flag hung limply from a flag post out front. There were a few children and men milling about. It was quiet and peaceful, unlike the bustle of activity in Kathmandu. The whole area was surrounded by mountains off in the distance.
As I looked toward the east, Ankit said, “Just over those mountains is China.” It felt like the ends of the earth. I took a few pictures and then followed Ankit up the flight of stairs to the second story of the CDO’s office. Manisha and her father followed closely behind. I clasped my documents under my arm and held on to them nervously.
“You need to be friendly with the CDO and talk to him when he asks you questions.” I could tell Ankit was also nervous.
Appearing in front of a government official who wielded such power over my future was certainly out of my bailiwick. I tried to focus on the matter at hand but my heart was racing, wanting it to be done. My throat was so dry I wasn’t even sure I could respond to any questions he might ask me.
|The outpost to get Manisha’s document signed, near China
As we stood in the doorway, the room appeared very dark. We were motioned in and I found an empty seat several feet from the door. As I waited for my eyes to adjust, I gazed through the window. The Himalayan Mountains in the distance seemed to symbolize the huge hurdle in front of me in the guise of this official.
Manisha sat beside me. One exposed light bulb with wires crisscrossing the ceiling provided the only lighting. Old wooden chairs lined the bare walls. I felt like I was starring in a movie as I sat in the dusty, dingy office of the CDO of Dolakha, Nepal.
A man in his early 30s, the CDO was dressed in a green suit with a pointed little cap on top of his head. It was hard to comprehend how a man on the other side of the world could have such incredible control over my destiny except God had given him that authority.
My thoughts flashed back momentarily to all that preceded this defining moment in my life. As a child, my parents told me I was born under a cloud. My husband chided me, “Is this another one of your sad stories?”
“I don’t love you anymore,” my partner spitefully responded one night after I presented him with evidence that he was seeing another woman. I remembered the wine bottles and cheese that I uncovered in the garbage after being away for a few days visiting my family.
I replayed scenes of the long hours I worked as a court reporter putting him through medical school. I recalled the night he contacted the police after I confronted him in his office at the hospital. Two weeks after our divorce was final, the other woman gave birth to his child. I was devastated and hurt. Only a loving God could help me to recover and begin a new life in Him. Would God give me a chance to redeem the years the locusts had eaten?
A few years after my divorce, I received a letter from World Vision, an evangelical organization that sponsors children in Third World countries. The beginning of the letter, dated February 13, 1993, read: “Over 150 million children worldwide are trapped by hunger, sickness, poverty, and neglect.” I took the letter and put it on my refrigerator. Someday, I thought, I am going to adopt a child from another country. How and when only God knew.
The letter ended with the quote from Proverbs 13:12 (LB): “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when dreams come true at last, there is life and joy.”
I looked at Manisha and reflected on what the future would hold. With her piercing, dark brown eyes focused on me, she spoke softly in clear English, “I love you.”
I responded back, “I love you, too.”
I did not know how she could have uttered those words because she could not speak English. I thought about what the Bible said concerning speaking in tongues and wondered if I had witnessed another one of God’s miracles. Whether I could explain it or not, it gave me the assurance I needed over the next few days that God was in control.
As we sat and waited, there was a lot of talk in Nepali.
The CDO asked Ankit a few questions as various men walked in and out handing him papers to sign.
He continued to pour over my documents and after a while looked up and asked, “You’re not forty?”
“No,” I said, “but I’m almost forty.”
“It’s the law you must be forty.” He gave a cursory glance through the rest of my papers. He and Ankit exchanged a flurry of words in Nepali. Some elderly men sitting in the room stared at me. I had the feeling that Ankit was talking about my infertility. I felt exposed that such personal information was being bantered about. I saw worry in Ankit’s eyes and knew my hopes of becoming a mother were precariously in limbo.
Ankit and the CDO continued to talk for a while longer. I went and sat by him hoping for some reassurance. More old men came in and the CDO turned his attention to other matters. About this time, Manisha’s father, not happy with the sudden turn of events, took Manisha outside and I could hear her running up and down the wooden planks.
Ankit said to me in a whisper, “The CDO said he cannot approve your adoption because you’re not forty, and he has to abide by the law. He is putting in a call to the legal office in Kathmandu to see if they will give him permission but they won’t do it. We will have to go ourselves and meet with the Home Minister after we get back to Kathmandu.”
We continued to wait for a long time for the phone call. Finally, the phone rang and the CDO talked loudly on the phone. When he got off, they discussed the call. I could tell it wasn’t good.
Ankit shook his head indicating that he could not get permission to sign my paperwork.
“I wish I could do your adoption, but I can’t,” the CDO told me in broken English.
I knew it wasn’t his fault. He had tried. I had known before I came to Nepal about the age forty rule, but what difference did it make in my case because I couldn’t get pregnant? Written laws prohibiting a child from having a home, a future, and hope—why, God?
Manisha was an orphan; her mother had died when she was a baby, and her father couldn’t support her. He didn’t want to support her. Girls were considered a liability in Hindu culture and without Her birthmother, the life she faced was one of destitution and death.
This road seemed so familiar to me. I had walked it before, more than once; loss, separation, and abandonment. I cried out, “Not here, Lord, not in Nepal. A three-year-old orphan girl needs a chance to know You.”
We will be in Nepal soon taking Christian books to orphans through Child Hope International. For $34.95, I am offering a special edition signed copy of my book to help Child Hope International continue their efforts to find homes for orphans and pay for their education.