April 28, 2015

Adventist Church in Nepal Appeals for Urgent Help

, news editor, Adventist Review

The president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Nepal appealed for urgent help Monday for scores of church members who lost everything in a devastating earthquake over the weekend.

Members are in immediate need of warm clothing, drinking water, and tents to cope with living outdoors in cold, sometimes rainy weather after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal on Sabbath, April 25, killing more than 4,000 people and injuring 7,000, said Umesh Pokharel, president of the Nepal Section, an attached field of the Adventist Church’s Southern Asia Division.

“We would like to appeal to our brothers and sisters around the world to extend help. Your small help would be great for the church,” Pokharel told the Adventist Review.

“Although many organizations together with the government are doing their best, our concern is for our workers in the field and members who have lost everything,” he said. “They need at a minimum good clothes, water, and tents.”

The exact number of Adventists requiring assistance is unclear because the earthquake, whose epicenter was 50 miles (80 kilometers) from Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, has disrupted communication across central Nepal. The Adventist Church has about 1,700 members and 36 workers, including pastors, worshiping in 14 churches in the affected area, Pokharel said.

Counting the Cost

Among those in need are members of the church in Kaping, a village about 50 miles from Kathmandu. The church’s pastor, Bishnu Rokka, and several of the other 76 members lost their homes, while the church itself sustained cracks in the walls, Pokharel said.

Shankar Baral, a pastor from an area north of Kathmandu, reported that the homes of several of his members also had been badly damaged.

A Bible worker from Sangachok said many of her village’s houses had been flattened and spoke of a dire need for food, shelter, and clothes.

“We are planning to send some of our people to assist them,” Pokharel said.

The Nepal Section’s accountant, Binod Dahal, traveled to his home village after learning that his father’s house had collapsed.

Donations for the Adventist Church in Nepal can be sent to the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, the administrative body of the Adventist world church, in Silver Spring, Maryland. (See sidebar.)

ADRA and Scheer Memorial Hospital

The Nepal church’s appeal came as governments and aid agencies around the world scrambled to assist the devastated country.

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency, based at the General Conference’s headquarters, dispatched an emergency response team to Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, to assist members of its Nepal office in providing shelter to the new homeless on Monday.

Asian Aid USA, a supporting ministry of the Adventist Church, launched an appeal to raise support for the Adventist-run Scheer Memorial Hospital outside Kathmandu.

The 130-bed hospital has been swamped with people seeking assistance, said Jim Rennie, chief executive of Asian Aid USA, which has worked with the hospital over the years and sponsors more than 100 children in Nepal.

“The hospital urgently needs funds and supplies,” he said by phone.

He said all donations would go directly to the hospital and be sent weekly.

Pokharel said the situation was difficult at the hospital, with more than 200 people seeking treatment on Sunday alone. “Our church members and church workers are also helping at the hospital,” he said.

A Reason to Praise God

Tent camps have sprung up in Kathmandu and across Nepal as dozens of aftershocks from the weekend earthquake sent tens of thousands of people — even those with homes — in a desperate search for safety. Pokharel and his family are among those sleeping in tents.

The capital was at a virtual standstill on Monday, Pokharel said.

“The sun is shining, but people are staying outside,” he said. “Little movement can be seen in the streets. Nearly all schools, colleges, and private organizations are closed. Government and rescue vehicles are about the only traffic on the road.”

Read “Adventist Leader in Nepal Tells of Panic and Pain”

Amid the tragedy, Pokharel said he had a personal reason to thank God for His care.

Pokharel had planned to travel to Makwanpur, 185 miles (300 kilometers) from Kathmandu, for a baptismal service on the day of the earthquake. But an unexpected development prompted him to cancel his plans at the last minute. Several fellow Adventists urged him to reconsider, but he refused to yield.

“Some of our people were not comfortable with my decision, but I was sure that it was God's decision, not my own,” Pokharel said.

He said he realized now that he would not have been with his wife and two underage children when the earthquake occurred if he had made the trip.

“That would had caused more panic for me and my family,” he said. “Also, I wouldn’t have been able to come home on the badly damaged roads, and my family wouldn’t have managed to live outdoors without me.”