“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
“Where are you from? Africa?”
A young Nepalese boy gives me a searching gaze, as a follow-up to his curious question.
I smile to myself. At least he was kind enough to ask.
The first day I arrived in Kathmundu, Nepal, I knew things would be different. As I walked with my cart of luggage down the street from the airport, I felt all eyes on me. I had become the latest fascination to a group of people, who barely saw people of my colour enter their land.
After the boy’s innocent question, the rest of the children in the Sabbath school class turned their heads to me, in anticipation of my answer. I hated to disappoint, but patiently I told him: “No, Canada.”
Since arriving in Nepal a week ago, there are many lessons I have learned so far. One is that God is not too particular of who He chooses to teach you. In my case, he decided to use little children.
After I came to the realization that I stood out for obvious reasons, I found it more difficult to open my mouth. I was afraid of their responses. What if I mispronounced a word in their dialect? What if I offended them by saying or doing something that goes against one of their customs? While here I was afraid to speak Nepali or even English for fear that they would not understand. Yet, another young girl in my class parroted questions in English at me — with confidence — though it was not her first language.
During the evenings on my way back from ESL classes, I humbly submitted to being led by a group of my students who navigate the streets with ease. Together, we dodge street dogs, bicycles and motorcycles, and huge, audacious buses. In one brief moment, I turn my gaze from the road. Minutes later, one of the girls yells “Miss!”, seconds before a bus pulls into the street, a couple centimeters away from me. Instead of being their leader, I was the follower…Become like little children…”
“Despite all of the hate and prejudice in our world, still I long to see the world through the eyes of a child.”
The lessons didn’t stop there. God had resorted to going down to size to reach my heart. When I was sitting in my room alone, attempting to eat while work in my room ( a regular “busy Toronto life” tradition), the family’s youngest —a three year-old girl, cried aloud to her mother in Nepali. This in response to her mother’s plea that she join her and her six-year-old sister, Abby, at the kitchen table for dinner. I later learned that this three-year-old had requested to stay in my room with me: “Everyone must eat together”, she had told her mom.
Another time over the weekend, I opened my laptop to begin work. But the children of the house had other ideas. They peered over my shoulder, in the hopes that somehow I would get the hint and entertain them. I did… eventually. We spent the rest of that evening, watching animated Christian films on Youtube, followed by clips of Abby (four at the time) dancing for her school’s grandparents’ day celebration. I made a comment about how well she was doing. Abby beamed, but not without failing to inform me that her partner ( a young boy not much older than she) had not been dancing: “He stands so still. I have to move him to get him to dance.”
I couldn’t help but chuckle silently.
On another night, when Abby spotted me twisting my hair before bed ( I had previously been tucking it under a head wrap) she remarked to her mother in Nepali. The mom translates: “Oh, look Mommy, she has good hair!”
Indeed, children are a blessing. In a world where we so often ostracize others because of their differences, children give me reason to have hope in a better world; one where we are not motivated by our fears, and are more accepting of others. Despite all of the hate and prejudice that exists today, still I long to see the world through the eyes of a child. I want to see a love that transcends culture, tradition, and race; one that mimics a love like that of Jesus Christ.
Watch a video of my ESL students singing “Jesus in the Vessel”