Nepali missionaries bring gratitude to Elkton
Churches have supported aid mission overseas
— From all outward appearances, the Zimmerman family staying in town over the next few months looks like many other families in the county.
But this family of missionaries recently returned stateside after working in Nepal, a faraway Asian
country sandwiched between China and India perhaps best known for its side of Mount Everest and its recently scuttled monarchy.
The Zimmerman family is now staying in a home provided by the Wesley United Methodist Church for two months, said Deirdre Zimmerman, a missionary with the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) of the United Methodist Church. While on home assignment, they will meet members of churches who have supported them financially, through prayer or both, in the United States and Ireland, she said. Their two sons are attending North East Middle School while in the county.
“We think it’s a great place,” said Deirdre’s husband, Mark. “We could even settle in a place like this.”
Mark has worked in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, since 1986, while Deirdre began her work there in 1997.
He began working in Nepal as a hospital-based
clinical doctor, where he treated local patients, but four years into his service he met GBGM missionaries in the country. After learning of their work helping the Nepali while also spreading their Christian faith, Mark soon signed on himself.
Meanwhile, Deirdre became a missionary through the Church Mission Society, an interfaith missionary organization, in Ireland. She was sent to Nepal to help improve health and nutrition of the Nepali.
The couple met through their work in Nepal, after Mark sought help with his patients’ diets at a mission hospital. They were married in 2000 and continued on with their missionary work under the GBGM, eventually including their children in the work as well.
Today, they work in Global Health, a subsection of GBGM, where their purpose is to contribute to improving the health care in the country, Mark said.
“It’s simply that part of the Christian belief is that everyone should have access to good health and the belief that that’s part of God’s purpose,” Deirdre added.
She works as a nutritionist and dietitian with the Nutrition Promotion and Consultancy Services, a local Nepali nonprofit organization that trains and educates about malnutrition in women and children. Nepal has elevated levels of malnutrition in these two groups.
Deirdre said the NPCS’ efforts have extended far past just educa- tion though. After a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the country last year, killing thousands, injuring far more and leaving whole communities homeless, the nonprofit strived to aid the affected women who they had previously trained and educated. They created kits that included local food and passed them out to pregnant women, women who breastfeed and to those with children under age 2.
Deirdre said she is in the process of applying for funding, and the NCPS hopes to start a followup training program in July and August.
Meanwhile, Mark said he has treated scores of patients since he began working in Nepal, a country still striving to move out of “least developed nation” status.
Despite its status, Mark said the medicine in the country is actually “quite amazing and could do a lot for people with less,” which was a factor influencing him to stay in the country, while the other was his commitment to his faith.
Mark described helping a local Nepali woman, who told him that things began to “go bad for her” when her third child and her niece fell off a bridge crossing the Tamakoshi River. A local dove into the river to save the patient’s niece, but her infant was never recovered.
The woman suffered from a chronic cough and fever, among other symptoms. Mark was able to diagnose her with tuberculosis as well as epilepsy.
A few days before he left, he saw the patient again and she told him she was feeling better following treatment, although she still suffered from anxiety.
He said he did nothing “heroic” to treat her.
“Neither was hard to diagnose and neither was hard to treat,” he said.
The family will return to Nepal the first week of August, where Deirdre will continue her work to address malnutrition while Mark will return to Patan Hospital, a facility where he served as medical director for seven years, where he will train doctors in the country.
Deirdre Zimmerman speaks to a group of Nepali women during one of the family’s recent missionary trips.
Mark Zimmerman poses with two men in Nepal during one of his recent missionary trips to the Asian country.