TRAVERSE CITY — Sharon and David Lund opened their door when a Nepali stranger came knocking in 2005.
Bishow Bhatta, a Hindu, had heard about the Traverse City Baha’i couple through a mutual Michigan friend. He wanted to convert and learn more about the Baha’i faith. The Lunds handed him some books and told him to return if the words piqued his interest.
The Lunds, both 70, are part of a small Local Baha’i Group of Elmwood Township. Sharon is a former Headstart teacher and retired Traverse Area Public Schools social worker, while David is a retired state vocational rehabilitation worker.
Baha’i is a world religion with an estimated 5 million followers worldwide who believe that all humanity is one single race and that the day has come for its unification into one global society.
Bhatta visited the Lunds again a few months later. He still wanted to convert. He also wanted to start an orphanage based on Baha’i principles in a rent-free facility that he and business partner John Snyder, a Vietnam veteran originally from Lake City, built in Kathmandu.
In 2006, Bhatta established the Nepal Children Orphans Home in Kathmandu, the nation’s capital and largest city with a population of about 1 million. The Lunds became co-founders and help sponsor the 32 children living there.
Sharon spent five months in Nepal in 2011 and helped set up the orphanage. They also taught and visited rural schools along the India border, many led by Baha’is.
On Feb. 28, the Lunds left for a nine-week visit at the orphanage to spend time with the children and to work with and help train teachers.
“Corporal punishment is often used in Nepalese schools,” Sharon said. “The typical way is harsh. Children can be hit, whipped or humiliated.”
The mission of the faith-based Nepal Children Orphan Homes is to provide food, shelter, clothing, medical and dental care to orphans who were between the ages of 5-12 when they first arrived. Another major goal is providing an education with a strong emphasis on English, computer skills, as well as the moral and spiritual virtues of love, kindness, justice and integrity, she said.