Sample Chapters! Children of the Himalayas

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Introduction

 

Then the Lord answered me and said: 
‘Write the vision 
And make it plain on tablets, 
That he may run who reads it. 
For the vision is yet for an appointed time; 
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. 
Though it tarries, wait for it; 
Because it will surely come, 
It will not tarry.’ 

(Habakkuk 2:2-3) 

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us. 

(Ephesians 3:20)  

This is a story of individual journeys of faith merging into a shared call to know and carry God’s heart for a people group, and particularly for their children. The call was initially experienced by three very different people: me, my Nepali friend Dawa Wesley, who is widely known as Mary by friends and family in Nepal, and her American husband, Bob Wesley. Then, as the years progressed, several others with the same passion to help children in need by providing them with the love of a family began to join us. We all came from diverse backgrounds, with unique personalities, experiences and histories and yet we became united by a God-implanted vision in our hearts. The paths we took brought us together with one purpose and were divinely used to prepare and equip us for all that God had destined according to His will.

I am now sixty-seven years old, have two wonderful adult daughters, Louise and Sarah, and am a proud grandmother of Ryan, Thomas, Grace and Ella. I grew up in a working-class family in rural Northamptonshire, am an avid animal lover and enjoy nothing more than a walk in the countryside with my dog. I moved to Yorkshire in my mid-twenties when I married, but I was later divorced. I retired in 2011 from my job working for Leeds Children and Young People’s Social Care, as a social worker specialising in fostering and adoption. I then attended Charis Bible College Dewsbury for three years. I am an active member of an Anglican Resource Church in Leeds where one of my roles is coordinating pastoral care.1

This story began for me when, aged fifty, I was called to travel to Nepal for the first time. I feel so privileged to be a part of this amazing adventure; to have experienced God’s promises being fulfilled, and to witness His love in action. I am continually learning to trust Him as I experience His constant faithfulness and witness His plans unfold.

The main intention of my writing this book was to impart my interest and support for a vision, which I believe came from the heart of God; a vision to promote, provide, or support family-based care as a response to the needs of orphaned, abandoned or displaced children, a great number of whom survive on the streets. It is the story of the formation and development of a ministry to children in the Himalayan region of Nepal and beyond. The work comes under the auspices of Wesleys International, a charity registered in the USA, and in recent years it has also become a not-for-profit non-governmental organisation (NGO) registered in Nepal. There are references in the book to SFAC (formerly Substitute Families for Abandoned Children but now called Strengthening Families for Abandoned Children). This is a UK-registered charitable organisation to whom we are grateful for a considerable amount of wise advice and help as we have journeyed onwards in our calling.

I hope the book will be an encouragement, especially to those who have an interest in, or experience of, children’s work overseas. I want to promote and demonstrate the efficacy and value of family-based care over other institutional forms of care. My wish is also that as you consider the importance of family life for children, you will encounter in full the reality of God the Father’s amazing love for you. God is the perfect father and His wonderful love defies comparison with any other paternal relationship, even those which the most privileged of us may have experienced with our loving earthly fathers.

God ‘places the lon1`ely in families’2 and His heart is constantly towards all the children of this world, especially those who lack the nurturing environment of a loving family life. This is particularly applicable to Nepal, where thousands of street children live in dangerous, dirty conditions, resulting in untreated illnesses and injuries. They lack emotional care, food, shelter and safety, and are at high risk of exploitation and abuse. All too often, their only means of survival is to resort to begging, drugs or prostitution. Even if help comes, enabling them to leave street life, complete liberty does not come easily, because they have no official identity. It is impossible to go on to higher education, employment, marriage etc without a birth certificate and citizenship. I knew almost nothing of the plight of these children when I was first called by God to go to Nepal.

Godly connections play a big part in our story and not least of these is the marital union of Mary and Bob Wesley. Then for me, a notable link was the one divinely engineered between Mary and me in 2002, without which there would have been no book for me to write. Different though we are, there are common denominators in our individual journeys, one of which is that each of us heard God’s call and wholly desire His will for our lives. Another is that we all graduated from a Charis Bible College en route to where we are today, and recognise this to have been a transforming time of preparation for His purposes in our lives. Mary and Bob attended Charis Bible College Colorado together as a married couple from 2006 to 2009. Then, to my profound surprise, because I never expected to be called to Bible college at the mature age of sixty, I attended Charis Bible College Dewsbury, England, from 2011 until 2014.

God is not only a loving Father who likes to surprise His children but, I am convinced, He absolutely delights in dialogue with us too, especially when we listen attentively and answer with a willing ‘Yes’. He speaks in so many ways; there are no limits with Him; His sheep follow Him and recognise His voice.3 God spoke to us – we heard. Psalm 37:4 says, ‘Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.’ In our case, He placed in each of our hearts the same desire – to reach out to children in need, often orphaned or abandoned children, many living on the streets. Our greatest desire is to bring hope where there was previously none and transform lives and change nations in the process. His promise to us is that He will grant the desires that He gave us, and we continue to stand firmly on that promise!

We have been, and still are, on a very challenging and difficult, but exciting and rewarding journey, and have experienced several unexpected turns along the way. For several years, Mary and Bob rescued orphaned and abandoned children from the abuse and exploitation they experienced on the streets of Nepal. With the limited resources they had available, they responded with love and kindness to each and every need they encountered. Slowly, others began to partner with them as they saw the results of their labour. Consequently, many children have found the love of a family and new hope in Jesus. Some have grown up and are now serving God and raising their own families to reach and impact future generations. We believe they all have great potential to transform their own nation and even to reach beyond their own people!

Due to certain calamitous events in 2015, the work began to extend further than the street children and even beyond the borders of Nepal. Out of necessity, the primary base of the ministry temporarily became Siliguri in the Darjeeling district of India rather than Kathmandu, Nepal, following the earthquakes there. Consequently, as the work once again continues to develop in Nepal, it has extended beyond the borders. It remains based on biblical principles and on God’s love, which knows no boundaries. Changes in the political climate and legislation have meant that we can no longer be overtly Christian in our approach, but this has changed our actual practice very little. We have always sought to help every child in need regardless of race, religion or caste, and do not impose our beliefs on children, although many have recognised and responded to the love of God. We seek to connect and partner with other NGOs and individuals from all backgrounds who share our aims and principles based on the premise that all children need a loving family life.

Our work still promotes and provides a family-based, effective and restorative alternative to orphanages and other institutions. Within the loving environment of family life, the focus is on every aspect of children’s needs. For children rescued from street life, this has been done by means of a three-stage programme of care. This consists of a street outreach and feeding programme, followed by a small group home, which is a short-term facility where children go to be prepared for family life, and from which they are often placed into a foster family of their own. The child’s birth family is given every consideration and children and young people are helped to be reunited with them, if it is possible without risk of significant harm to the child. Occasionally, older teenage children are befriended and supported and helped by skills training to enable them to find work.

The work is done under the general direction of Mary Wesley as part of Wesleys International and, very recently, we have also acquired a director for Asia, Joshua Daniel, who is responsible for WIN Nepal4 and has moved base from Hyderabad to Kathmandu. He felt a calling to the post through his own life experiences. Having had a very difficult childhood, he ran away from his family at the age of fourteen and spent two years living on the streets. He survived by the railway in India by begging and scavenging from rubbish bins for food. Since reuniting with his family, he has worked tirelessly as he seeks to help children in Africa and the Philippines, as well as India and Nepal. I am the UK representative of WIN Nepal, responsible for promoting the work and fundraising. In addition to this, I also travel to Nepal as and when required to train and equip staff members and foster carers.

The US charity Wesleys International has two streams, one of which is preaching the gospel to the lost and equipping the Church. The other is reaching out to children at risk. It is the latter, the outreach work to children, which was officially registered by the Nepal government as a not-for-profit NGO called WIN Nepal in 2013. I became the UK representative of WIN Nepal soon after this and the charity began to partner with SFAC, a well-established UK charity providing training and consultancy to similar organisations all over the world. We were able to avail ourselves of consultancy and advice from Mick Pease, the director. And in 2014 Mary and I formulated detailed plans to develop and extend the work, so that many more children could be helped.

However, the scope and focus of the work soon began to change, as it needed to adapt to the increased needs of children orphaned and families affected by the devastating earthquakes of 2015, which killed around 9,000 people. We could not have predicted the destructive effects of this disaster, yet there was an overwhelming sense of having been called and prepared for ‘such a time as this’.5 This was most certainly a time for walking ‘by faith, not by sight’.6 In fact, had we been led only by circumstances we would surely have given up, but we knew the One whose voice we had heard and whom we believed. Indeed, it was not the end, but a time of transition, during which we learned so much about God’s amazing faithfulness and grace. The principles and philosophical foundation of the work did not alter, although there were many unavoidable changes. Everything is still led by the belief that children need families, whether by supporting families affected by this tragedy to care for related children, or finding substitute foster families for children who have none.

I began to write this book several years before I could anticipate either its conclusion or the number of unexpected and, at times, seemingly insurmountable obstacles, delays, detours and adjustments we would meet along the way. The greatest challenges for me have been to walk ‘by faith, not by sight’, and to believe in faith that God will bring to completion everything that He has begun. Despite temporarily succumbing to discouragement on more than one occasion, I knew that this was a book I was meant to write.

I first heard God’s voice via a supernatural dream in 1999 and responded by going out to Nepal in 2001. I was obedient rather than willing at that time, and had absolutely no idea of the importance, the purpose, or the outcome of my submission. In those early days, I just followed His voice where He led me, but with very little confidence in myself and more than a little trepidation. As I did so, my numerous fears were gradually quelled and I experienced a sense of peace and security brought on by being in the centre of His will. I began to hear Him speak and then to see Him move to perform His word. Gradually, I found that hesitant obedience was replaced by a constant trust and joyful willingness to obey. I knew then that He had truly placed His desires in my heart.

While in Nepal with the International Nepal Fellowship (INF) from 2001 to 2002, I was given a comprehensive vision regarding the needs of many of Nepal’s children. I heard God speak more clearly and more frequently than ever before or since. It was just as if God laid on my heart what was on His, as He gave me a divine download of thoughts and ideas, flooding my mind almost continually. As a result, in my own personal time and not during INF office hours, I wrote a paper on how to answer the needs of orphaned and abandoned children by placing them into substitute Nepali families. I returned home believing God would bring this about, but then a long and sometimes difficult journey of faith and trust began. Nothing progressed quickly or came about easily, and there was much opposition and difficulty. It mattered not to me what people thought, because I knew the voice I had heard. I never really gave up on the belief that God had spoken, despite many obstacles and periods of discouragement and doubt. I knew He would fulfil His word, whether I was to live to see it all in my lifetime or not!

Graciously, the Lord showed me only what I needed to understand as and when I needed it, and connected me to the right people along the way, always in His perfect timing. Then, He revealed more, though not all, again and again, step after step. Looking back now, I know that to have been shown the full picture at the outset would have been too much for me to sustain faith for. Years later, though still on a journey of faith, I wonder at the full magnitude of what He has already done and called us to. It has turned out to be far beyond anything I could have asked or thought and, praise God, it is according to His mighty power ‘that works in us’.7 And to think that, for me at least, it all started with a dream!

 

Chapter One

The Dream

12th December 1999. I recall that date, but was that the date of the night I went to sleep and had the dream or was it the morning I woke from it? I’m not sure which it was, but I do know that the dream was so supernaturally significant that I will always remember it, and quite vividly too. I believe that one way of identifying and confirming a supernatural dream is when the recall of its contents remains just as vivid years later as they were at the time. That is undoubtedly so with this one, and so I knew then and know now, with even more certainty, that it came from God.

That morning I woke, sat up and at once swung my legs over the side of the bed. As I did so, I was aware of what I can only describe as a lightness of spirit. It seemed to pervade my entire spirit, soul and body and to be linked to an unquestionable willingness to obey. It was as if my obedience (to what I did not yet know) had been agreed even as I slept, and that this agreement had set me free in some wonderful, although utterly incomprehensible, way. At that moment, I had no idea what the dream meant, but I felt a perfect sense of peace and knew that I would be going somewhere and doing something as a result of it.

This was the third time in my life that I had had a dream in which the Lord spoke to me. The first dream occurred a decade before my conversion, when someone I later described as ‘pure light and pure love, upon whom I was not allowed to fully look’ spoke to me. Ten years later, I turned to God in a time of crisis and as I prayed desperately but sincerely for the first time in my life, my thoughts went back to that first dream. I knew my prayers were heard and I felt completely at peace as His loving care cocooned me over the coming days. This resulted in my coming to faith as I realised His awesome love for me. I gave my life to Him and came into a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Some years later, I was shown in a second dream the importance of not straying from the ‘narrow path’ and continuing to stand on ‘solid rock’. The full details of this particular dream, though crucial to my personal walk with God, are irrelevant to this story. The third dream, however, was very germane indeed and was in fact the catalyst to all that I feel compelled to tell now. So, I feel it vital that I convey the details of that third dream in some detail.

During that night in December 1999 I dreamed that I was travelling on foot through a stunningly beautiful place. I was walking with people I knew were all medical or social work professionals, though no one had told me this. There was much in the dream that I just knew because I knew. For instance, I also knew that we were all on our way to a selection process for some kind of work in that place. We were following a narrow and winding path through a valley in a mountainous area with numerous hills covered in deep green trees. There were hills behind hills, behind hills, behind hills – as we walked ever higher upwards into them.

We arrived in due course at a building that looked to me to be possibly Buddhist, although this was contradicted by a glass door panel with a symbol of a dove etched on it. I felt anxious at this stage because I was continually thinking I had arrived too late for what seemed like a job interview, and that other people were younger and better qualified than me. But throughout the dream I kept seeing a lady whose face shone with the love of Jesus and she repeatedly said, gently and reassuringly, ‘It’s going to be alright, Diane.’

As the dream continued, we were back walking out in the open once more; this time descending through the tree-covered hills as if we were on the return journey. That is when I said, ‘But where is this place? I don’t even know where we are.’ As if in response to my question, I found myself looking at what appeared to be an aerial view of where we were. It was like looking down at a map, but with no identifying place names or words on it. I then said, ‘That doesn’t tell me anything. I still don’t know where we are.’ Again, there came a response to my complaint as the words ‘ON TOP OF THE WORLD’ immediately appeared in very large capital letters across the landscape I was viewing.

After this, I was walking down a familiar English street where I used to walk home from school as a child. As I walked, I was saying, ‘Well, if they don’t let me take a year’s unpaid leave like Mick Pease did, I’ll just leave anyway, because I’m going!’ Mick was a friend and colleague who had previously taken twelve months’ unpaid leave to go to Brazil with his wife, Brenda, to work with street children. When I woke up, I knew without any doubt at all that God had spoken to me.

However, I did not understand what the dream meant, except that I believed I was being called to something. I shared the experience with my prayer partners, and it was then that I was informed that the Himalayas are known as ‘the Top of the World’. I also spoke with my close friend Denise, who was the only person who believed as firmly as I did from the very start that this was a call from God. I felt disappointed, though, when I turned to a church leader, hoping he would come alongside me to help me to discern what God was saying to me. At the time, I was quite hurt that he clearly doubted whether I had heard from God at all. Now though, I understand that the call was for me alone to hear, pursue and respond to. I should not necessarily have expected other people to receive it with the same certainty as I did. In fact, on reflection, I am grateful that his reserve and doubt caused me to be all the more cautiously discerning as I sought confirmation of the call.

I began to very prayerfully and consistently pursue this sense of calling and to find out about countries in the Himalayan region, and Christian organisations working in them. Eventually, a watershed was reached at Easter 2000 when I went to Spring Harvest in Skegness and visited the Resources Centre there. I returned home equipped with details of various mission organisations, including the INF. I sent a letter to each one of these, explaining that as a result of a dream, I felt God might be leading me to some kind of work for Him in the Himalayan region. I gave details of my professional qualifications and experience as well as mentioning, almost as an afterthought, that my work involved report writing and that one of my interests was creative writing.

One day I returned home from work to find a reply to one of these letters, from the publicity manager of the INF, a mission organisation that at that time had its base in the country it serves. He had sent a job description and application form for the post of journalist based at the INF HQ in Pokhara, Nepal. I applied and was asked, quite understandably as I was not actually a qualified journalist, to send him samples of my writing. Soon after this I was accepted for the post, and so I went ahead and requested a year’s unpaid leave from my job as a fostering and adoption officer. It was declined at first but, after I spoke with the director of Children’s Social Care and reminded him that my colleague Mick Pease had been allowed exactly this for his year in Brazil, it was granted. This was one of a number of obstacles that appeared as I progressed with plans to go, but the Word of God says ‘let the peace of God rule in your hearts’.8 I found that I experienced a wonderful peace whenever I moved forward, despite many obstacles, and so I continued to persevere.

I did some research on Nepal as I knew very little about it, and discovered that it was a beautiful Himalayan kingdom lying between China and India, and home to the highest peak in the world, Mount Everest. I read that it had a population of 26 million people and a rich diversity of ethnic groups, languages and cultures. Sadly, there had been an internal war between the Maoist rebels and the government since 1996. More than 10,000 people had died, more than 800 had disappeared and nearly 200,000 had been internally displaced. I learned that it was the only officially declared Hindu kingdom in the world, with Hinduism and Buddhism being the two predominant religions. Only about 2 per cent of the people were Christians. It had been illegal to change one’s religion at all, but it was now just illegal to evangelise.9

There were almost two years between the dream and actually setting off for Nepal, during which time I sought God’s will and soon recognised that a fierce spiritual battle was raging. This seemed very strange, and puzzled me greatly. I was only going as a ‘short-termer’ and did not even have any idea why I was going – so how could my little contribution matter so much to the enemy of our souls? Also, lots of things happened during the preparatory phase which could have made me think I could not leave my job, my home and my daughters, but I was given a continual assurance that all was well and that I had indeed heard God’s voice.

One wise person said to me, ‘If it’s right, there’ll definitely be opposition.’ My initial reaction to this statement was to think that surely the opposite must in fact be true. If God wanted me to obey Him, would not the doors open wide for me to easily walk into what He was calling me to? On the contrary, I soon realised that this was not so and I refused to be deterred by the obstacles put in my way or the things that happened, although I was not completely unaffected by them either.

There was certainly an unusual amount of difficulties to overcome. For instance, I had brought my two daughters up alone from a young age, following my divorce, and one of them, Louise, still lived at home. The other daughter, Sarah, had her baby son, Ryan, to care for and had injured her knee so would need to have an operation while I was away. It was particularly hard to leave Ryan as I had spent time with him every day of his life so far and loved my role of grandmother. In addition to all this, my church leadership made it clear they were not ‘sending’ me and therefore would not be supporting me. My mother could not understand why I was going and told me she did not want me to go because she feared she would die while I was away and never see me again. Similarly, my much-loved favourite aunt told me emphatically that she thought I was absolutely crazy. Furthermore, the massacre of the Nepalese royal family happened while I was preparing to go, and this caused several well-meaning close friends, who doubted that I was really called, to express their strong concerns about my safety. Nevertheless, I reached a stage where I knew that not to go would simply be outright disobedience. My fear of God was greater than any fear of people, and it would have to not matter that no one else understood.

There was absolutely no question in my mind about the fact that this was God’s will for me. I determined to go, but as I had no excess money in savings, my financial concerns were very high. If I was to be obedient then I had to give up my entire income for a year and trust the Lord to provide, not only for the costs of my being in Nepal but all of the financial commitments of home while I was away. The whole endeavour seemed impossible, but I was going to step out in faith nevertheless. Then one Sunday morning, as I was driving to church, I suddenly felt a consuming sense of panic come over me. How were my mortgage, my bills and my car loan going to get paid while I was away? Whatever was I thinking of? How would my daughters cope without me? Perhaps others were right and I was simply just crazy.

As suddenly as this panic had gripped me, the words ‘And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus’ came to me very plainly and my peace immediately returned. As if to confirm this word, during the church service that day the reading was from Philippians 4, so these words from verse 19 were given to me once more. Then later that day I was given the same scripture; this time it was while watching the God Channel on TV. So three times in one day God told me that He would provide for all my needs! I knew this was God speaking specifically and directly to me through Scripture, and that I need not be anxious about anything. I can only explain the peace I experienced in the area of finances from that day onwards as supernatural.

When I at last left for Nepal in September 2001, I had less money in my bank accounts than I needed while in Nepal or for essential ongoing expenses at home. But, inexplicably, on my return in June the next year, I had money left in my current account and, in an account opened specifically to draw from while in Nepal, there was still the same amount as when I set off! What an amazing God we serve! All household bills were paid and my house and car were still in my possession. One friend had put sufficient money in my account to keep the car loan paid so that my daughter Sarah could use it while I was away. Also, a few people had given small amounts on a regular basis to support me. However, the total of this was not enough to explain everything and I really do not know to this day how it happened. It seemed impossible in natural terms and I remain convinced that it could only have been divine, supernatural provision.

Due to this, my faith in God as Jehovah-Jireh, one of His redemptive names meaning ‘The-Lord-Will-Provide’,10 grew dramatically from that time onwards. I recall saying that I knew I would return to Nepal in the Lord’s time, and that the money for my next trip and all subsequent trips would always be there when it was needed. And the money always has been there when needed, although it has quite often not materialised until the very last moment. I still have periods of anxiety over apparent lack of finances, but all I need to do is look back and encourage myself in the Lord by reminding myself of what God has done before. My lessons in trust continue to this day!

 

 

  • Diane Bell

    Diane Bell has a professional background in fostering and adoption, and attended Bible College for three years following her retirement...

  • Children of the Himalayas

    Diane Bell

    On 12thDecember 1999, middle-aged social worker Diane Bell was stunned by a dream from God that would transform countless lives. Called to offer family-based care to street kids in Nepal, cancer, devastating earthquakes and lurid child trafficking allegations were among challenges...