Many people in INF have been saddened to hear of the death this morning at Manipal Hospital in Pokhara of Lazarus Bhattarai. Lazarus had been admitted to hospital earlier in the week. INF North America President Tom Hale has written the following account of Lazarus' life:
'One of the most unusual patients to come to INF's Green Pastures Hospital was a bank manager named Nar Bahadur. He was the youngest son of a scribe from the Chhetri caste, and hence had the opportunity to study. During high school he had noticed an anæsthetic patch on his thigh, and had gone to India for treatment. But he stopped treatment after some time, and the patch, of course, recurred. Nar Bahadur knew it was leprosy, but he told no one.
'Then in 1962 Nar Bahadur was appointed assistant manager in the Nepal National Bank's branch office in Pokhara. So he began quietly to visit Green Pastures in order to continue his treatment. But a year after arriving in Pokhara, he had a severe reaction to his medication - a not uncommon problem with leprosy patients - and he had to be admitted to Green Pastures. Then Nar Bahadur's secret was out: everyone now knew that he had leprosy.
'As Nar Bahadur recovered, he became more and more aware how different he was from the other leprosy patients. Most of them were poor, uneducated, and from the lower castes. So one day INF's Eileen Lodge said to him, 'Why don't you put your education to use and start a school for the children of other patients?' And so, because he had nothing better to do, Nar Bahadur started the Green Pastures school, which continues to this day. Though Nar Bahadur was deeply grateful to Eileen Lodge, he remained steadfastly opposed to her religion. He spoke against the other missionaries. He chastised the new Nepali converts, saying that they had been 'made' Christians, that they were just ignorant and gullible. He once said, 'Even if I was brought back from death I would not become a Christian'.
'One of the patients at Green Pastures at the time had a son named Bal Bahadur [Bale], he was a student in Nar Bahadur's school. He was a mischievous rogue and was frequently caught stealing; Nar Bahadur more than once thought to himself, 'If Bale would only become a Christian his behaviour might improve.'
'One night Bale was trying to read a Christian booklet that described how Jesus had come to earth to save sinners. But Bale couldn't understand what was written, so he asked Nar Bahadur to explain to him the meaning of the booklet. For over an hour, Nar Bahadur read the booklet out loud and explained its meaning to Bale thinking thereby to improve his behaviour. That night Nar Bahadur couldn't sleep. He began to realise that he himself was one of those 'sinners' whom Jesus came to save. He sensed that Jesus was 'standing at the door'. And that night God opened Nar Bahadur's heart, and he accepted Jesus as his Saviour. Then he slept.
'The next morning he told Eileen that he had become a Christian. He changed his name to Lazarus, because he had been 'brought back from death'. And two months later he was baptised.
'In 1967 Lazarus was reinstated at the bank. For the next 25 years he served as manager of various regional branches of the Nepal National Bank, ending up for the last three years back in Pokhara. In some of the cities where Lazarus was posted, he was the only Christian in the community. Then in 1992 he retired from the bank in Pokhara, and the next year became Principal of the newly established Pokhara Bible School.'
INF would like to express sincere condolences to Lazarus' family and friends. Lazarus is survived by his wife Rosemary, son Ashish and daughters Mahima and Karishma. Ashish is IT Officer in INF's Kathmandu office; Mahima is Senior Staff Nurse at Green Pastures; and Karishma works for partner organisation Sagoal. A funeral service will be held at Ramghat Church in Pokhara tomorrow [Saturday 11 February] at 1pm.