Elizabeth Gilbert once said that home is whatever in this world you love more than you love yourself. In Kathmandu, Nepal, I found my home on a street corner between Thamel and the Garden of Dreams. I found my home at the feet of a young woman, small and battered, couched against a brick wall with two naked children snug in her lap.
She was a quiet beacon in the day’s dying light, a point of stillness in a crowded and chaotic city where dust violently swirls and colors blur. My traveling partner and I had been in Nepal a week, thus far feeling only overwhelmed by and detached from the desperation we encountered. A place like that can leave you dizzy, unable to process the overt poverty and grief endured by so many.
These three small, dark Nepalis tucked themselves in the shadows to keep their bare feet cool from the blistering pavement. Their home was a tattered and worn tarp, coated in dirt and piles of trash, and their ribs protruded above hollow stomachs. As we approached, the children rushed toward us with open hands and toothy smiles. They were a little girl and boy with sun-bleached hair and cheeks crusted from gutter dal bhat, each with runny noses, begrimed hands, and lonely eyes. I saw these children, running and leaping, and I knew they must dream dreams as big as ours.
From then on, we spent each morning with this street family, our arms full of food, clothes, toys, and water. We sat together, cross-legged in the dust, and played games with the children. We laughed and smiled with them, speaking in that language which needs no words.
On our last day in the city, we brought a translator along to listen to the woman’s story. Her name was Sakina, and her life was unsurprisingly tragic. She was young and married, though her husband had many wives and had long since abandoned her to street life. She was born into a family of beggars—her mother worked a corner just blocks away. Sakina’s four year old son Jamin was born without the use of his legs and had only recently learned to walk; most days he was hot with a fever and slept the visits away. Her daughter, two year old Rajesh, was fascinated with our white skin and kept her hands on our faces while we took photographs. At night they shared a one room shack with other street beggars.
There are moments, I think, when time stretches and deepens beyond typical experience, when the love of God pours out and imbues our lives. These are moments to which you can choose to give your whole self, to which you can say, “Yes, change me. Make me new.” Six days with Sakina, Jamin, and Rajesh left me undone. For the first time, I sensed the immensity of existence, the sheer wonder and beauty of a human life, no matter how broken or lost.
This was the moment God intercepted my heart for his charge—to love, without condition or reprove, every human creature on this earth, and to advocate and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. I promised then to be Sakina’s voice and to be her hands, to speak for her family in any way I could.
In the year since I met Sakina and her children, she has given birth to a baby boy named Samir and survived two major earthquakes that devastated Nepal. A home ministry in Kathmandu is now actively involved in caring for and supporting Sakina. They check on her regularly, bringing her family clean water, shoes, and food. If she is willing, the ministry will work to educate and enable her with the skills necessary to provide for her growing family.
The course of Sakina and her children’s lives are changing as her story spreads. This storytelling ministry is named for Sakina because hers was the first story I ever told. Hers is the story I am made to tell. Sakina, God’s presence in the world—the one through whom I found home.
If you enjoyed Sakina's story, read more of our stories below: