I spent my first four days in Nepal on a path that you only find once you take a turn off the path that is already referred to as "off the beaten path". I don't know what it's called, but I was on it. I was on a regional airline, Tuk-tuks, buses, scooters, and a rented off-road vehicle for roughly 35 hours in my first four days in country. On November 3rd, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake hit the Jarjarkot district of Nepal, affecting over 150,000 people. Three days later, the same region experienced a 5.6 magnitude aftershock. What I witnessed during my two days in Jarjarkot was both heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time. Heartbreaking...to see such devastation and realize that I was walking through villages where 157 people lost their lives. And yet, inspiring...to see no one just sitting around, but everywhere we went, we saw people hard at work rebuilding homes and businesses and lives. The people of Nepal are some of the most resilient folks on the earth.
Shortly after the earthquake hit, Raju and I began texting about the possibility of visiting the affected area while I was in Nepal. There's a congregation of the HCLCN located on the edge of the affected area that Raju was eager to visit. Additionally, there are a few independent pastors in the region who have expressed interest in the HCLCN, but Raju hasn't been able to visit them due to a lack of time and resources. He thought it would be a great opportunity for us to visit them, bring them with some Scriptural encouragement, and show love and support as they deal with the aftermath of this natural disaster.
So, after a night of rest in Kathmandu, Raju and I took a short 55-minute flight to Nepalganj. This trip would have taken at least two full days by bus and public transportation. From there, we hired a car and driver to take us (about three hours) to Tulsipur, where we would meet the HCLCN pastor who lives and works in the area. He is also familiar with the Jarjarkot district and the independent pastors who are interested in learning more about the HCLCN. The next day, we left bright and early at 5:00 am to give us enough time to navigate the already rough roads made even rougher by earthquake damage and hasty repairs. It was a long and grueling day that my back-side is still complaining about :) We spent an hour or so in two different locations near the epicenter of the quake, where two different groups of pastors gathered to meet us. I greeted them with a few brief words of encouragement from Psalm 46. Raju visited with them about the Pastoral Training efforts of the HCLCN. After more than fifteen hours of travel over rough and bumpy roads and paths, we checked into a hotel outside the earthquake zone around 9:30 pm after a very long but important day. It was a privilege to be along for this visit.
The devastation breaks your heart, especially when you think of the 150,000 people who were affected by this natural disaster. Many are without a home with the coldest months of the year approaching. One of the pastors we met with is the chairman of an NGO (non-government organization) that advocates for minority groups (Christians) in Nepal. He told me that of the nearly 200,000 residents of the Jarjarkot District, there were only 5,600 Christians. Unfortunately, the government in this area is pro-Hindu nationalist, and so government aid is not distributed equally or fairly. He says there is really nothing that can be done about it either.
|Earthquake Damage in Jarjarkot|
|Small Refugee Camp in Jarjarkot|
|Pastors and Civic Leaders in Jarjarkot|
We woke up early the next morning to a local HCLCN congregation, and then we traveled back into the hills along some of the roughest roads I have ever traveled. We drove for about three hours until we reached the Salyan HCLCN congregation that had suffered minor damage from the earthquake and aftershocks. We parked our vehicle at the bottom of the hill and walked up to the church building, where the people were eagerly waiting for us. I had the privilege of preaching for the service. This congregation and the village are located on the side of a hill that overlooks a valley, which has been terraced for farming. The current crop that is in full yellow bloom this time of year is mustard. The view was breathtaking and looked like something out of a fairytale book. Maybe it was just the contrast from the destruction and devastation that I had witnessed the day before, but I was overwhelmed with the beauty, and I was almost convinced that this was the most beautiful place I had ever visited.
We made our way back down the very rough and hilly roads and got to town around 5:00 pm. Originally, we had planned to spend the night in a hotel and catch an early morning bus, but instead, we quickly headed to the bus stand. Fortunately, we managed to grab the last two seats on an overnight bus to a city that was about an hour away from the HCLCN headquarters and Himalayan Bible Institute. After a long and sleepless night on the bus, we reached the hotel at 4:30 am. Raju had informed them of our change in plans and early morning arrival. It took a bit of knocking, but the night watchman was kind enough to let me into the lobby and then locked the door behind him. I was able to get about an hour of sleep on a comfy couch until the hotel receptionist arrived at 6:00 am. It took them a bit of time to clean up a room for me, but by 10:00 am, I was finally able to take a much-needed nap.
Enjoy the pictures and videos...
|Some of the Beautiful Children of the Salyan HCLCN Congregation|
|Pastor's wife cooking our lunch|
|Posing in front of the pastor's house...with our backs to the beautiful valley|
|My view of the congregation during worship service|
|Raju's Picture of Me Preaching|
|Pastor and His Wife|
|Pastor and His Wife|
|Salyan Valley from the Pastor's House|
|Salyan Valley...about half-way up the hill|