My daughters and I just returned to Kathmandu from a 4-day trek in the mountains of Nepal. We drove 5 hours from Kathmandu, over a mountain range, on some very treacherous roads. I was amazed that the big Nissan 4-wheel drive got through some of the places without tipping over on rocks, getting stuck in the mud, or falling off a cliff. It was obvious that landslides are common during the rainy season.
After our rugged ride, we hiked an additional 5 miles to a very remote village at about 2.000 meters (6,500 feet). No electricity, no bathrooms, lots of mud and very primitive. I have visited many impoverished areas all over the world, but I have never spent several days and nights in this kind of poverty. Just 4 years ago, you would not have found a single teenage girl in this village. All of the girls had been sold (trafficked into prostitution) by the time they were 12. This region has the highest rate of trafficking in the country, mostly girls who are sent to India.
Today, the exploitation has been almost completely eradicated thanks to some ingenious Christian businesspeople who recognized the root cause of trafficking to be economic. After the 2015 Nepal earthquake, they helped families to not only rebuild their homes but to also build “home stays” (a rustic hostel type building with 4 to 6 simple guest bedrooms).
Working with the government, they were also able to help the villagers to establish hundreds of miles of hiking trails between villages and over mountains in this remote region. The home stays have become a popular destination for trekkers and hikers from all over the world. They bring economic prosperity to the host families, as well as through the many ancillary jobs and revenue generated by tourism.
The Gospel is proclaimed in word and deed by bringing forth justice and mercy among these least reached Hindu people.
This visit has been a meaningful lifetime memory for my girls. It was wonderful to see a little girl quickly hold one of their hands on one of our day hikes. It made me cry when this beautiful girl with deep brown eyes, matted hair, and dirty red dress began to cry as we left her village the next day. Obviously, she had experienced a little bit of Jesus through the playful love that my daughter extended to her.
Thankfully, this young girl, age 7 or 8, is no longer at risk of being exploited or trafficked because her family has living wage revenue from their home stay. As we left the village, we took a picture of her family including her sister, age 16, who is the first teenage girl in this village in many years. It made me think about my girls and how they might have been sold into slavery if our family had lived in this village 5 years ago.
It is a privilege for me to be part of a community which works to bring justice and mercy to people and places like this. Such a business is making a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable and most importantly, our time and investment brings the Hope that comes with the Good News of Jesus. I am challenged, as we all should be, to consider deeply what our role as rich Christians might be with respect to the most economically disadvantaged and spiritually unreached. Consider reading the challenge of James in James 5:1-5.
Don, the author, is an IBEC board member and an investor himself in businesses like this.
Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures