Following the call

Though they?ve been forced out of the country, Gloria and Dean Witt haven?t given up their commitment to Nepal, an Asian country hostile to their Christian beliefs.

The Witts were back in Hillsboro last week to talk with friends and church groups about their experiences serving the poor of that country.

While living in Hillsboro during the early 1990s, Gloria established a medical practice at the PMA-Hillsboro Family Practice Clinic.

Feeling a call to return to Nepal, where they had lived from 1990 to 1992, they left Hillsboro in July 1996 for Pennsylvania, where they began a training program offered by the World Evangelism Crusade.

After various delays, they finally arrived in Pokhara, Nepal, in July 1997 for three months of orientation and language training.

In October, they moved to Surkhet, where Gloria began working in a leprosy and tuberculosis clinic among the city?s poor neighborhoods. She also trained native doctors.

Dean, meanwhile, put his engineering training to work. His first task was to make their mud house more livable. He added solar electric power and a solar powered hot-water system and fixed their porous roof.

He later worked as business manager for the mission and began engineering projects for the local neighbors that would improve their living conditions.

The Witts? work proceeded with numerous cultural, spiritual and professional challenges, but with positive results. Then, last July, they and nine other families were suddenly informed that their work visas would not be renewed and they would have to leave the country.

In a country where governments are voted out of power regularly, a new regime had taken over that was more resistant to Christian influences.

The Witts think their problem with government officials began several months earlier when they befriended a young Hindu woman. They eventually invited her to live with them because she had a new baby and no family to care for her.

In time, the Witts said the young woman needed to begin training for employment so she could support herself and her child. She became unhappy with the arrangement.

?What we found out later was that she had told the chief district officer that we had refused to help her because she wouldn?t convert to Christianity,? Gloria said. ?That wasn?t true.?

Regardless, it was the excuse the government needed. The Witts were forced to terminate their assignment and return to the United States.

?When this stuff goes on, you kind of say, ?Why am I working here? People don?t appreciate what I am doing,?? Gloria said. ?But God said very clearly, ?Gloria, you aren?t here to serve the government officials. You are here to serve the poor.?

?You have to face up to the fact that the government official doesn?t care if I?m here or not because they don?t care about the poor people,? she said.

The Witts and their three children lived in Pennsylvania for a while upon their return, then with Dean?s folks while they wait for the family to move from the farm they purchased in Michigan after leaving Hillsboro.

They currently are visiting churches on WEC?s request, talking about their experiences in Nepal.

The Witts feel their call to Nepal hasn?t been terminated. They hope to return this fall on tourist visas rather than work visas.

?The government doesn?t keep track of you if you have a tourist visa,? Gloria said.

As a result of their experiences, the Witts say they?ve learned to wait for God?s timing and resources.

?The biggest thing I?m realizing is that if I?m going to accomplish anything, I can?t depend on my own wisdom,? Dean says. ?We?ve got to depend on the Lord. It?s his work. I was just being a catalyst, I wasn?t the active participant.?

Gloria said their years living in a economically deprived culture has driven home again the material wealth in this country.

?If our neighbors (in Nepal) could send their children to school, they would buy a uniform and that would be their only clothes for the whole year,? Gloria said. ?We had neighbors starving between harvests. And this was the majority of the people around us. They lived in absolute poverty.

?Americans get the notion that everyone is as comfortable as they are, and if they don?t have the latest TV or computer, they?re poor,? she said. ?They?re not.?

The Witts say missionaries aren?t particularly special people in their own right.

?God sends missionaries overseas because they are too stupid to learn here in the States what he has us to learn,? Gloria said.

?God asks all of us to step out of our comfort zone, and that may be talking to our next-door neighbor,? she added. ?Missions isn?t overseas. It is right here.?

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