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Local church group takes 10-day Nepal mission trip

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WATERTOWN — A group of Asbury United Methodist Church members recently returned from Nepal, where they went to spread messages of love and hope.

During the 10-day journey throughout the South Asian country, group members formed a Bible club and assessed needs of the local Nepalese health care system.

“It’s extremely primitive,” L. Marianne Scott said, describing conditions at Lamjung hospital in Besishar. The hospital is composed of a few small one-story buildings.

The group went to Nepal to work alongside Christians there and to experience the culture, after receiving an invitation from Dr. Mark Zimmerman, who works with the Nick Simons Institute, which trains rural health workers. Group members said Dr. Zimmerman had spoken a few times to church members about his experience working with Nepalese people and how poor the Nepalese health system was.

Pamela B. Quimby, another member of the group, said the Nepalese government funds only 15 percent of hospital expenses, and much of the equipment and material is outdated or often reused. Surgical gloves are used, then washed and hung out to dry before being reused for other medical services twice more.

Fractures above the elbow are cared for by an orthopedic surgeon who has only 30 minutes to do the surgery because there is a shortage of anesthesia. Families cook food and bring it in for their relatives to eat in Lamjung hospital, as there is no kitchen, group members said.

Mrs. Quimby, a registered nurse, said if a patient dies, it is not uncommon for relatives to be so upset they attack the doctor or staff. There’s little trust between patient and staff, she said.

“They must see doctors as magic or God,” said Jean C. Gianfagna, a group member and retired registered nurse. “Being cared for there is so different than here.”

She said during operations, there’s only one light hanging over the table and an assistant stands nearby with a flashlight.

Lynn K. Morgan, a retired teacher, said the group noticed one new piece of equipment, a small machine for X-rays, which a surgeon purchased himself.

“At the hospital, we asked them, ‘What do you need?’” Mrs. Quimby said. “They all, independently, said ‘autoclave.’”

Group members are collecting monetary donations for the purchase of a new autoclave. Anyone who wishes to donate to that fund may call Asbury United Methodist Church at 782-3240.

The newest sterilizing equipment at Lamjung hospital is 20 years old.

Despite the problems, group members said, they saw dedicated staff, eager to learn about health care.

Staffers, many of whom live on hospital grounds, even helped the group put a fresh coat of paint on walls when they bought painting supplies.

Asbury church members first learned of the needs in Nepal from missionary Dr. Zimmerman, an internal medicine doctor, who worked in that country. Mrs. Gianfagna said the church has supported work there for two decades, but this was the first mission trip to Nepal.

Retired teacher Barbara C. Simmons said there also is a pressing need for health clinics in rural areas of Nepal. A place where staff could offer immunizations, set broken bones and offer midwifery would help the Nepalese population tremendously, she said. Many Nepalese may have to travel for hours just to get to a hospital, she said.

Mrs. Gianfagna said with Nepal’s small Christian population, estimated at about 2 percent, the group members wondered if anyone would attend the Bible group they started. Surprisingly, she said, some traveled as much as five to eight hours to attend those sessions.

The Asbury church group visited a refugee camp where Tibetans live, purchased local products in various markets throughout Nepal, visited shrines and took a domestic flight to see the Himalayas. Much time was spent in Kathmandu, the country’s capital, but outlying villages also were explored.

Members of the group, who also included David E. Simmons, Martha B. Jablonski, M. Max Bovee and H. William Hickox, will consider a return to Nepal, possibly with another Methodist church group.

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