Val served with INF in Nepal for many years and has a deep interest and experience with the Nepali diaspora. She continues to support Nepalis in the UK.
Val writes about the impact of Nepalis leaving home for work
Fuelled by the declining economic situation and – for over a decade – the Maoist Peoples War, Nepali youth began to flee their hill villages. The resulting communities of displaced Nepalis, especially in towns along the plains bordering with India, were a challenge for the local churches but at least the needy people were in their midst.
Then, gradually, a torrent of Nepali young men [and later, women] left their villages and towns to seek their fortune in India or further afield in South East Asia and the Middle East.
Few Nepali churches have remained unaffected by this phenomenon. Some lost leaders and all saw families split up with one [and sometimes both] parents overseas during the formative years of their children’s lives.
Churches have been slow to grasp the stress suffered by migrant families. I have heard more than once “He’s got a good job overseas… why isn’t he sending back tithe to help us?” The reality is that most migrant Nepalis start their life overseas with a hefty debt and struggle to send sufficient support for their families. A disproportionate number get sick or injured overseas, or even die.
The problems created
Some partners, overseas or back home, succumb to sexual temptation and particularly for those travelling through India, there is the danger of contracting HIV. Children miss their parents. Returnees, who accepted Christ overseas, are sometimes viewed with suspicion. Ordinary church members, who have developed into leaders while overseas, face the challenge of not being given greater opportunities for responsibility on their return.
For the church, there is clearly a new role here which is slowly being realised. The family left behind needs sympathetic understanding and all sorts of practical and spiritual support. A regular phone call to the migrant overseas could be the one thing that keeps them going and faithful. Churches need to be prepared to cope with the after-effects of broken families, other trauma and long-term sickness.
Returned migrants, many themselves encouraged by the Nepalese Migrant Unity Network [NeMUN], are the ones best able to educate the churches in their area. NeMUN, which itself provides practical, medical, legal and spiritual help to individual migrants and their families, is an organisation established by migrants for migrants but supported for several years by INF. But, in the end, it is the local churches who must assume responsibility for all their members – in Nepal and other countries too.
We are grateful to God:
- for Nepali Christians reaching out to those who are migrating
- for the church in Nepal as it continues to respond to the challenge of the many thousands of migrants who leave the country each year
- for church leaders to find effective ways to support their members living overseas and the families left at home
- for migrants facing dangerous or difficult work – for effective changes in working regulations that will keep them safe, and for God’s protection on them and their families