Empowered Through Education
Shanti Lama ’15 has big goals after graduation. The business major and native of Nepal plans to take what she’s learned at Bethel College and put it into practice in her home country, empowering young people through job creation and equipping them with the skills necessary to provide for themselves.
“People are leaving my country because they don’t have jobs,” Lama says. “I have a deep desire to create jobs in Nepal for the younger generation.”
Lama’s entrepreneurial spirit is inspiring. Her love of learning is infectious. And her impending graduation from college is nothing short of incredible — especially considering how far she’s come.
Lama is a survivor of domestic slavery.
When she was just 8 years old, her birth parents found themselves unable to pay for her schooling or provide for their family, which included five children. They sent her to live with a family who promised to send her to school if she would work for them. In exchange, her parents received a sum of money.
So began four years of domestic slavery for Lama — years that would include living with three different families, endless hours of work and empty promises of the education she longed for. She was isolated and depressed and, at one point, almost sold to a man in India. But at one place Lama worked — a hotel in a region so remote it took an entire day’s walk to reach — something amazing happened. Lama met the man who would become her adoptive father.
He was an American missionary from Michiana who talked to her about her situation, through an interpreter, and gave her a Bible. He asked her if she would like to come live with his family and go to school. Lama was excited at the possibility, but hesitant to believe it could be true.
After negotiating with her birth parents, Lama’s adoptive father secured her release and took her to her new home. At first, she struggled to accept her adoptive parents’ love.
“I didn’t know such nice people existed,” she says. “I didn’t know why I was there. They had a cleaning lady and I wasn’t expected to babysit their 3-year-old. I had always thought I needed to earn love.”
As Lama settled into her new life, she found a second home at an English-speaking school that was started by Christian missionaries and included students who had come from situations similar to hers.
“My teacher was incredible. She made sure each student was loved and cared for,” Lama says. “Within a year or two, I had learned English and was doing well in my classes.”
It was while she was in high school that her father told her he felt God wanted her to go to Bethel College. This came as a great surprise to Lama, who had never before entertained the idea of coming to the United States. But when seven sponsors stepped up to provide the funds for all four years at Bethel, she knew it was God’s plan.
In 2011, Lama was accepted and began her Bethel journey — a journey that would open doors of opportunity for her future.
“A college degree means so much to me,” Lama says. “It’s huge. It was impossible. But I believe it’s just the start. Bethel has prepared me for my future in a way I cannot even describe. It gave me a foundation. How I was shaped here means more than anything. Bethel has prepared me for my future in a way I cannot even describe. Now, Bethel is part of my testimony.”