, news editor, Adventist Review
The first humanitarian aid has begun to reach Adventist believers in remote areas of Nepal after a powerful weekend earthquake caused widespread destruction.
The 29 Adventist families in the village of Thumpakhark, located about 50 miles (80 kilometers) from the capital, Kathmandu, joyfully welcomed the arrival of the Adventist relief team on Wednesday, said Umesh Pokharel, president of the Adventist Church in Nepal.
Pokharel said the team from the Adventist Church’s local headquarters in Kathmandu found the families living outdoors “with sad faces and discouraged spirits,” looking at their ruined houses and trying to salvage belongings.
“We were the first to reach this village after the earthquake, and they were so happy to know that the church cares,” Pokharel said. “We also gave aid to other community members who are not Christian.”
The local pastor and all three of the church’s Bible workers lost their homes in the earthquake, he said. The village church, built just five years ago, was also destroyed.
The relief team distributed 15 tents, 15 sacks of rice, 15 cartons of instant noodles, and bottles of drinking water to the villagers and promised to return with more tents and food.
“We prayed with them and assured them that all Adventist members around the world are praying for them,” Pokharel said.
Pokharel made an urgent appeal earlier this week to Adventists worldwide to support efforts to assist hundreds of Adventist families affected by the 7.8-magnitude earthquake last Sabbath, April 25. He said Tuesday that he was grateful that leadership at the Adventist world church was responding to his plea but said much more help was needed.
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency is also scrambling to provide assistance in Nepal. Its efforts are focused on providing food and shelter to the general population.
The pastor of the Thumpakhark village church, Devi Bahadur, praised God that Adventist believers were worshiping in the church when the earthquake struck because they had been able to exit the building quickly and avoid injury. He said many members would have been injured or even killed if they had been at home.
No Adventists are known to be among the more than 5,000 people who were killed across the country. But two Christian churches belonging to other denominations in a district 30 kilometers east of Kathmandu collapsed, killing about 200 people worshiping inside, Pokharel said. In Nepal, all Christian faiths worship on Saturday because Sunday is a working day.
The Adventist relief team faced an arduous journey to reach Thumpakhark. The roads were badly damaged, and landslides and rocks blocked their way, Pokharel said. Rain was falling, and two aftershocks shook the ground on Wednesday. The team passed many flattened villages, where they saw residents desperately digging through the rubble of their homes in a search of possessions. Makeshift tents stood beside the crumbled houses.
The team also visited a second village, Kaping, located two hours from Thumpakharka, on Wednesday and distributed 14 sacks of rice, 14 tents, 14 cartons of instant noodles, and drinking water.
“We have 20 Adventist families in this village, and all have lost their houses,” Pokharel said.
The Kaping church suffered partial damage.
“When we went there, they were so happy to see us,” Pokharel said. “We prayed with them and assured them that we are with them, together with Adventist members around the world. We promised to return with more aid.”
On the road out of Kaping, the church workers came across six families living in tents on the roadside. They stopped and gave them noodles, biscuits, and rice.
“They were so thankful that we came by,” Pokharel said.“They said we were sent by God to help them.”
The church workers also visited four families, one of whom is Adventist, near the village of Khadichower and gave them tents and food before praying with them.
The team plans to visit two more remote villages on Thursday.
“We need more tents and food,” Pokharel said. “Please remember us in your prayers.”