Winter is coming. It’s difficult not to chuckle at the iconic phrase as images of fantastic beasts and battles unfold in many of our imaginations. However, the somber and bleak connotations traditionally ascribed to winter are still very real in places like Nepal, where Terry Mikeska has been spreading the warmth of this community.
Just two years ago Terry kickstarted the “Fill the Rice Pot” project, providing food to austere Nepali villages devastated by an earthquake that killed nearly 9,000. Today, he is proud to say that after four trips and 46 individual missions, the Mikeska Foundation has raised a little over $100,000 from family, friends and churches with 100% of all travel expenses, printing and postage underwritten by an Permian Basin Angel couple; all of which has gone to provide essentials for those who would otherwise have nothing and likely perish at the hands of harsh winter.
With Thanksgiving nearly upon us, it is so important that we remember the lessons that Terry has brought back from Nepal over the last two years. Every Thanksgiving meal, no matter how lavish or meager, is a meal that someone else will not have at all. Every evening spent in the warmth of a home, with friends and family, is an evening that someone may spend outside alone, in the cold. It is through these lessons that we remember what we ought to be thankful for.
In Nepal, particularly the villages in the Jhapa region where Terry recently returned from, nothing is taken for granted. Each ricepot is a saving grace, each bag of food is a bounteous feast, and each piece of clothing is a chance for a child or senior citizen to make it through the next winter. Every simple essential need, and some that we often do not give a second thought about, are greatly appreciated by the villages that have been touched by Terry’s kindness and this generosity of this community.
Having traveled through much of eastern Nepal, Terry will tell you that, “They have nothing.” Families sit on dirt floors, sheltered by dilapidated homes, and despite that he cannot stop talking about their, “hospitality, kindness, and desire to learn.”
They live in a world where something as simple as a solar panel and a light bulb can completely change a child’s future. It is difficult to attend school, help the family, and study when the day ends at sundown. Terry’s “Light Up Nepal” mission has already provided solar power and lighting to numerous families in the Jhapa district and provided a bright future for many aspiring students. So give thanks to the warmth of a home. May you always have somewhere safe to return to.
More recently, a flood wiped out most of the crops in eastern Nepal just before Terry’s arrival. It is difficult to imagine such an occurrence having any lasting impact stateside, however, to the residents of the Jhapa district it was a very serious question of who would survive the winter.
Once more, Terry, with the help of his host family, distributed ricepots, bags of rice, vegetables, and a variety of other basic needs to hundreds of people in need across eastern Nepal. Families whose very livelihoods were destroyed by a simple act of God, were able to find a modicum of peace in such a simple donation. So give thanks to meals. May you always have food when you are hungry.
In harsh climates food in certainly a necessity, but so is warmth. Each time Terry gets off the plane in Kathmandu, he drags with him up to a dozen or so military duffel bags, each weighing up to 70 pounds. They are stuffed to the limit with blessings from this community, consisting of knitted hats, gloves, jackets, and blankets.
Each item is accepted graciously and treasured. In many cases these clothing items can make the difference between sickness and health; and in more serious cases, for children and the elderly, life and death. The photos of the elderly in new jackets and children in knitted caps and gloves, may warm my heart, figuratively, but those clothing items have literally warmed theirs. So give thanks to comfort. May you never be victim to the elements.
Reminiscing on “one of the more depressing parts” of his mission, Terry described another village. Despite the state of disrepair, this one was neatly settled next to a stream, creating a rather “picturesque scene.”
The harsh reality was that this particular village was a senior citizens orphanage. A place for parents and grandparents to go after they were thrown out of their homes or simply abandoned after they could no longer be supported, and its location next to the peaceful stream was chosen for the purpose of burial rites. After the residents pass, sometimes without their family’s knowledge, their bodies are burned and their ashes are dumped in the stream.
The orphanage runs solely on donations, and the Mikeska Foundation has provided considerably for them. Despite this kindness, many of these abandoned elderly live out their remaining days on dirt floors, exposed to the elements, and most importantly without their families. So give thanks to family. May you care for and cherish you parents until their last day.
Finally, we come to the subject of creature comforts. The words Terry used to describe his final stop, an orphanage for children, were, “Not a single toy in sight.” With the last of the monetary donations he provided games and sports equipment with which they could play together.
Such donations in the villages are far too uncommon, however. Even simple toys in these places have such disproportionate value, that in one instance a father “butchered” a boy for a taking a toy from his son. Outlandish as it may seem, the amount of work it takes to get such niceties is simply incomparable. So give thanks to opportunity. Whenever and wherever it presents itself, may you always have enough to share your happiness with others.
Terry’s unique experiences in Nepal provide us with a variety of lessons that are oft forgotten. Soon enough many of us will be sitting around a table with our families, stuft to the gills after a hot meal, and perhaps soon thereafter thinking about which lavish gifts to get for our loved ones. Throughout the holiday, and every other day of the year, do not forget these lessons. Do not forget that this community has a heart of gold, and that even a little kindness can dramatically change someone’s future. And finally, do not forget to be thankful for the little things.
The Terry Mikeska Foundation will be gearing up for the 2018 Health and Wellness and Education mission, tax-deductible donations can be sent to: Terry Mikeska Foundation 501(c) P.O Box 61692, San Angelo, Texas 76906 or visit: www.terrymikeskafoundation.org 325-277-5466