Serving a Mission
To the surprise of her teachers and peers, Usha decided to serve a mission upon graduating from medical school at the age of 25. She was called to Birmingham, England.
On her mission, Usha became very close with one of her companions, Sister Spjute, who was from Farmington, Utah. They were so close that they used to pray to live near each other in the celestial kingdom so that they wouldn’t be apart.
After six weeks, Usha was sent to a new area in Birmingham and her companion was asked to stay in Coventry. A week later, Usha was knocking doors when her mission president called.
“Sister Spjute is dead,” he said.
Usha was in shock. Her mission president repeated his words and tried to explain. “She was jogging this morning and she collapsed. She died, but we don’t know the reason.”
The mission president came to Usha’s apartment and gave her a blessing, but Usha struggled, not understanding why God would allow her companion to die. “It was very difficult. My companions after that, they all have suffered. . . . I was a little bit more irritable because I missed her so much,” Usha says.
Over the course of her mission, Usha came to understand Christ’s Atonement like she never had before. “I feel that God knows what was happening, and maybe God needed her on the other side of the veil,” Usha says. “I will see her again. And I really want to see her again.”
Usha believes that her mission changed her life. “I think that the thing that I received was the joy of service,” she says. “That’s why I’m more humanitarian now, because of that.”
Finding a Path
After her mission, Usha wasn’t sure where to place her energy. She didn’t feel quite right about joining a medical practice. She counseled with her branch president and friend Bishnu Adhikari (from Meet the Mormons), and he suggested hospital administration. Usha said, “Oh! How did you read my mind? I was thinking the same.”
Bishnu Adhikari (left) and Usha Maharjan
Usha got a Master’s degree in hospital administration in India and had many wonderful experiences serving in her church callings there. But after her graduation, she began to reflect more often on a line in her patriarchal blessing that said, “at the appropriate time of your life, you will meet a companion who is close to Christ and who will take you to the temple.”
Before that blessing Usha hadn’t planned to marry; now she was confused about when the “appropriate time” would finally arrive. She was almost 30.
In addition, Usha had been offered a prestigious hospital administration job in Chitwan.There was no LDS Church in Chitwan, however, and Usha worried that if she accepted the job she’d be placing money and position above her commitment to the gospel.
As Usha prayed about the decision, a friend from California said, “Usha, don’t you think that people in Chitwan need you because they don’t have the gospel? You can help them. Maybe God is telling you to join that hospital.”
“It just made sense after that,” Usha says. She accepted the job.
After a few weeks in Chitwan, Usha felt that she should create a family home evening group with some of the doctors and administrators she worked with. They gladly joined her, and Usha used the opportunity to not only share her own faith but to invite speakers of other faiths, such as Father Seraphim, to address the group as well.
Shortly after she started the group, Usha happened to meet a priesthood holder that was also living in the city, and they received permission from the mission president to hold sacrament meeting in their apartment. Once again, Usha invited her coworkers, and they came.
One day, one of the nurses in the group said, “Ma’am, we are all talking about what Jesus did. When are we going to do it? We’re just talking about it. It’s theoretical. Let’s do it, too.”
In Nepal, the caste system is alive and well, and the people at the bottom are referred to as the “untouchables.” Usha said that among this group, each year nearly 50,000 children die of starvation, about 2,500 go blind due to vitamin A deficiency, and most kids age 8 and older are married. Leprosy is also a major concern.
Usha and her co-workers quickly realized that although these children were hungry, giving food was not a long-term solution. They needed to educate them.
Usha quit her job, began living off savings, and started the non-profit organization Eternal Hope Nepal. A teacher from her family home evening group volunteered to help teach, and Usha began spreading hope.