MCC photo/Rick Cober Bauman 

Matrika Devkota (left), founder and Director of Koshish, with colleague, Kamala Paudyal (right). 

“The least of these…”

“Those on the margins…”

These are the groups and individuals to whom MCC often feels called and our work in Nepal is no exception.

For the first three days of my recent time in Nepal we visited those on the margins. Separated from mainstream Nepali society by muddied switchback roads ending in narrow footpaths. These indigenous groups struggled for the basics of potable water, and for more than a few months of the year with getting adequate food. MCC’s work with them, through a local partner is truly transformative. 

Then on a fourth day we stayed in the heart of the throbbing Nepalese capital, Kathmandu and visited the most isolated community. Truly “the least of these” this community had been pushed to the margins by the powerful force of social exclusion. Struggling with serious mental health issues, these women had been variously chained in locked rooms by their families, deposited in prisons, or abandoned to sexual violence on the streets.

Marigolds grow in the fence around the perimeter of House of Hope Kathmandu, Nepal, House of Hope is a transition house for women with mental health issues run by Koshish.MCC photo/Matthew Sawatzky

Our partner Koshish, describing itself as a “national mental health self help organization” has for 15 years boldly rescued people (and yes, that is the right term!) from these social dumping grounds. Reaching to these women who have been cast aside, Koshish invites them into a community of hospitality and healing. The community provides not only safety and dignity, but also medical care and proper nutrition. The transformation could not be more miraculous.

Sushmita (not her real name) was rescued from prison only two years ago, while she was serving the 10th year of an undetermined sentence. She emerged from jail, in her words, “not knowing who I was or where I was.” Several months in the healing space of Koshish allowed her to rebuild her world and she is now the office cook. Many of her “sisters” at Koshish eventually move back with families after long and determined efforts of Koshish staff to encourage family reintegration.

Jenisha Mainali received support in 2015 at House of Hope Kathmandu, a transition house for women with mental health issues run by MCC partner KOSHISH. MCC photo/Matthew Sawatzky

Only 15 years ago Matrika Devkota, the founder and executive director was himself struggling with deep depression. Reaching out to a teacher, a physician, and an MCC worker Matrika eventually stabilized, and soon realized a calling on his life to work for healing for others. Pushing against strong social currents Matrika and Koshish have made real inroads in Nepali society with other agencies emerging to improve mental health care. Increasingly, women left out of Nepali life are being, albeit tentatively, invited back to be the sisters, daughters and spouses they once were.

Koshish is remarkable in its courage to insist that no one is disposable. And MCC is wise to partner with Koshish. But deeper than not being disposable, the women at Koshish are so much more than the least of these, so much more than the rejected. They are created in the image of God. They have at their very core the seed of a new creation. Even laying alone in her jail cell, Sushmita carried within her the divine spark of hope which, if fanned by a loving and skilled community like Koshish, grows into a creative force for life. Thanks be to God.

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