School of Justice in Nepal (Part Four)

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Earthquake crack in Kathmandu Vineyard

This is the final installment in a four-part series on the Vineyard School of Justice trip to the Himalayan Region Vineyard Churches in Nepal.


Unshakable Amidst Earthquakes

The spiritual vitality in the HRV defies the logic of the earthquakes and their aftermath. During our time, everywhere we went, we witnessed and experienced resilient, radical trust in God’s faithful presence, love, and power. There are some features of faith which are only discovered with experience, and the people in the HRV know what it means to place their hope fully in Jesus. Our time with these precious people reminds me of the Psalmist’s words in Psalm 46, words which the Holy Spirit – in some mysterious way amidst the shaking of the earth – has written indelibly on the hearts of the people in the HRV.

1 God is our refuge and strength
an ever-present help in trouble
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God
the holy place where the Most High dwells
5 God is within her, she will not fall
God will help her at break of day
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall
he lifts his voice, the earth melts
7 The Lord Almighty is with us
the God of Jacob is our fortress


Video and Photographs

Below, Pastor Uddav Thapa of Chhampi Vineyard describes his experience in the earthquake. Beneath the video, there are several photographs highlighting some of the earthquake realities we witnessed first hand.

School of Justice in Nepal (Part Three)

This is the third installment in a four-part series on the Vineyard School of Justice trip to the Himalayan Region Vineyard Churches in Nepal. Read Part One and Part Two.


NESSING

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Unlike Gatlang, Nessing is a mountain village without road access. With Pastor Prem’s brother as our guide, we trekked for two hours through the mountains to get to Nessing from Gatlang.

Serving in Nessing

Pastor Raju and Suresh Tolange (worship leader and intern) from Kathmandu Vineyard had spent several weeks in Nessing prior to our arrival. They had been rebuilding homes, befriending villagers and learning their language (Tamang), and facilitating gatherings at the Vineyard to encourage people in Jesus. Of the approximately 70 homes in Nessing, around 50 of them are believers, with a few people getting baptized just days before we arrived. It was a joy to see Pastor Raju, Suresh, and Pastor Kunni (pastor of Nessing Vineyard).

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Suresh plays guitar outside Nessing Vineyard

Pastor Raju took us for a brief walk around Nessing and we especially enjoyed hanging out at the far end of the village, with its stunning mountain views. That evening, the Vineyard was screening “The Passion of the Christ” and many people came to watch. We had supper and eventually went to bed, sleeping on the floor of Nessing Vineyard.

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View of “neighbouring” village from Nessing

Saturday Service

The next morning was a gorgeous Saturday morning, with clear views of the Himalayas. People began trickling into the Vineyard in their very best traditional clothing and eventually the Vineyard was packed with people for the morning service. Suresh led worship and the people poured themselves into it, filling the room with singing. Nessing Vineyard was commissioning several new leaders and I had the great privilege of praying for and blessing them.

I preached on the story of Jesus’ interaction with Bartimaeus, how Jesus asked “What do you want me to do for you?” At one point, I asked everyone how many of them had experienced Jesus healing them – nearly everyone raised their hand. People seemed to engage deeply in ministry time and several people expressed a desire to take the gospel outside the village and share Jesus beyond Nessing. It was so very inspiring; Nessing Vineyard is alive and on fire.

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Those raising their hands have experienced Jesus healing them

After the service, we took a group photograph and then trekked down two hours or so with Pastor Raju and Suresh to Syabrubesi, the normal point of origin for treks in the Langtang Valley. We met Sonam (who drove us everywhere during our time in Nepal) and our vehicle there and eventually arrived in Kathmandu late in the evening.


GORKHA

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Pastor Raju is from Gorkha and we travelled with him there for an overnight stay. Gorkha was the epicentre region of the earthquake; it’s about a six hour drive north-west of Kathmandu, south of the China border. Though many homes (including Pastor Raju’s parents’) were destroyed in the earthquake, thankfully the Vineyard building remained intact.

We stayed at the Gorkha Vineyard (some of us sleeping on the floor of the church and others in a tent outside) and Pastor Paul and Subadra (pastors of Gorkha Vineyard) took excellent care of us, providing us with great meals and gracious hospitality. Gorkha has a lot of fertile land and the food is all fresh, home grown, and organic.

Teaching and Training

Pastor Paul had invited people (as well as pastors from other churches) to come the next day for some teaching and training. I did three hours of teaching from the third and fourth chapters of Luke – on Jesus’ baptism, temptation, and the inauguration of his mission. Afterwards, everyone ate lunch together care of Gorkha Vineyard. We spent the evening relaxing and finished with another great meal at Pastor Paul and Subadra’s home. The next day, after lunch at Pastor Raju’s parents’, we drove back to Kathmandu.


REFLECTIONS

Words don’t do justice to all that we witnessed, experienced, and felt during in our time in Nepal. Nonetheless, there were a few recurring themes our team discerned throughout the course of our activities.

First, the HRV excels in hospitality. One cannot possibly enumerate the cups of tea and snacks shared, the meals provided, the homes in which we were invited, and the plentiful ways we were not only welcomed but honoured. Right from the leadership to the very poorest of church members, the Vineyard in Nepal is an exemplary model of gracious, abundant hospitality. We were treated like close family everywhere we went, and it was overwhelming.

Second, there is a strong coherence of vision within the HRV. All of the Vineyard communities are deeply committed to worship, prayer, and outreach – these things are entirely non-negotiable. Worship and prayer were regular features of virtually every gathering or encounter in which we participated, regardless of whether we were in church services or at a farewell dinner. Jesus is welcomed, adored, and sought in every sphere of life.

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Wednesday morning prayer, Chhampi Vineyard

Outreach is also part and parcel of the way the gospel is lived out, regardless of the size or resources of the Vineyard church in question. Though Chhampi Vineyard, for example, takes in a weekly offering of around 250-400 rupees (around CAD$3-5), the church still reserves money for food hampers for Lugandol and visits the village faithfully every week. It is no wonder there is such growth in the HRV; the Vineyard churches go, and the sheer numbers of people who have experienced healing, deliverance, have come to faith, been baptized, and become part of the Vineyard is a testimony to this commitment.

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House visits and outreach in Chhampi

Third, there is high degree of strength and unity amongst the leadership. Pastors and leaders from various Vineyard churches, regardless of geographic distance, seem deeply connected in friendship. Leaders enjoy one another and there is a high degree of understanding, camaraderie, and teamwork amongst them. Perhaps this is in part a result of the earthquake, which required a uniquely concerted, unified effort on the part of the HRV leadership. Regardless of the exact reasons, it is obvious that the leadership is thriving.

Finally, there is a radical, obvious, and palpable passion for and faith in Jesus. You can sense this vitality in how people give their money during offerings and especially in times of worship, prayer, and ministry. Young children, youth, adults, and elders worship alike with abandon. During every occasion of prayer, people pray together in unison, with scarcely a bystander. There is significant engagement with and participation in ministry time, with people often streaming forward for prayer. There is real, prevalent belief that Jesus not only exists, but cares and acts in the here and now. And there is a beautiful sense of people being unashamed of Jesus, of people not being self-conscious in pursuing Jesus with everything they have. The Vineyard communities are alive and flourishing with faith.

School of Justice in Nepal (Part Two)

This is the second installment in a four-part series on the Vineyard School of Justice trip to the Himalayan Region Vineyard Churches in Nepal. Read Part One here.


CHHAMPI

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Chhampi is another village on the outskirts of Kathmandu, within an hour’s drive of the city. We visited the village twice – once for a two-day stay and another time just for the day.

House Visits

Shortly after our first visit, we hopped into our trusty vehicle and visited a few Vineyard people’s homes in the afternoon. Two years ago, we met a lady named Thuli Amma; she’s since become a leader in the Vineyard. Her house was completely destroyed by the earthquake. Her new home is beside her old one, and we drank tea together and listened to her tell her story of coming to believe in Jesus. After praying for her, we went to visit David Tamang, who was the first believer in the village and whose home used to serve as the meeting place for the Vineyard. The next day we visited Maila Dai and his wife in their home. We had a good time visiting and praying for people.

Accommodations and Service

Pastor Uddav and Puja are the leaders of Chhampi Vineyard. Their home was also completely destroyed by the earthquake. A Hindu family gave them and many others shelter – 40 people lived together in close quarters as they were waiting for their new homes to be built. Pastor Uddav says this was a blessing as it enabled him to really get to know the people of his village. Now, Pastor Uddav, Puja, and their baby girl Ulani, live in a tin structure that shares a wall with the Chhampi Vineyard. I stayed with them and Erin, Natalie, and Laura slept in the Chhampi Vineyard building.

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Puja, Uddav, Ulani, and Jenish (from left to right)

On our first evening in Chhampi, we had a great time worshipping together. There are several ladies who love to dance during worship and inevitably they pulled a few of us into worship. At one point, there were several of us dancing together before the Lord, and it was absolutely delightful. The four of us from the School of Justice shared on loving God and loving your neighbour. Once again, ministry time was remarkable, with a sweet sense of the Spirit touching and filling people with the love of God.

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Afterwards, several of us went to the shop at the junction of the village to enjoy some tea with truly fresh milk. It was heavenly! We then went back to Pastor Uddav and Puja’s home for dinner and, eventually, bedtime.

Lugandol

The next morning, after a great breakfast with Pastor Uddav and Puja, a group of people from Chhampi Vineyard gathered for prayer before outreach to a nearby village called Lugandol. Lugandol is about a thirty minute walk from Chhampi and, as of now, currently has no believers – it’s an entirely Hindu village. The Vineyard has been reaching out with food hampers, relationship, and prayer and we were excited to participate.

We saw wonderful things in Lugandol. After handing out food hampers the first time we visited, we met an elderly lady whose knees had been troublesome for quite some time. We prayed for her and when we asked her to try walking, she did a little jig and said that the pain was gone – she was completely healed.

We also heard that there was a man who was paralyzed on one side of his body, and were eager to pray for him. People told us not to waste our time as they believed he was going to die. His wife was fatigued from having to take care of him. When we saw him, he looked like a ghost of a person – totally weak and lifeless. Apparently he had not moved from his house in 30 days. As we greeted him, he had to lift one of his hands with the other to greet us back. We prayed for him and after the first round of prayer, asked how he was feeling. He was responding and talking to us, and we came to find out that since his paralysis he hadn’t been able to hear. Yet now, somehow, Jesus had opened his ears and he was hearing and talking!

This of course gave us more faith to pray that he’d be able to walk. We prayed for him again and afterwards, asked if we could help him up. He agreed and as we helped him, his legs were strong enough to walk to the other side of his home! After this episode, and before we visited the man a second time a week or so later, Pastor Uddav told us that the man was walking around the village. When we finally saw him for the second time, he was lying down in his home. Entirely on his own strength, he sat up, greeted us (this time with both hands functioning) and then proceeded to pick up the mat he was sitting on, walk outside with it, and sit down and visit with us. It was incredible to see him so filled with life. We saw Jesus heal a deaf, paralyzed man!

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The second time we visited Lugandol, we prayed for a woman whose right eye was totally blind and had been for years. She had visited doctors, who had told her there was nothing they could do for her. As we prayed for her, she said she could see flickers of light and said that she now had confidence that she would be able to completely see. God’s presence was strong upon this lady as we prayed for her. We also prayed for a woman who described feeling “thorns” all over her body. Pastor Ramesh felt that this was a result of all the spiritual practices going on in her home – the lady’s husband is a witch doctor. We prayed for her and as we did, her husband joined us, so we asked him if we could pray for him too and he agreed! He said he had pain “from the gods” on his head and legs on occasion, so we laid hands on him and prayed. As we were doing so, he said the pain was moving from one leg to the other. We prayed that Jesus would reveal himself to the witch doctor as the one, true God. Afterward, the man looked brighter and more joyful. Lugandol was a special place for us indeed.


GATLANG

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View of Gatlang (the small collection of homes)

From Kathmandu, we drove around eight hours to Gatlang, a traditional mountain village in Rasuwa district which is near the Tibet border. The drive through the mountains is at once beautiful and treacherous, requiring some death-defying driving which Sonam (on staff at Kathmandu Vineyard, and our driver) handled expertly.

Our small, wooden guest house had quite a view of Lantang Lirung, the highest mountain in the Langtang Himal range. Even though Nepal is full of hills and mountains, seeing the Himalayas is always uniquely breathtaking. We met Pastor Prem and two other leaders from Gatlang Vineyard, enjoyed some tea together, and then turned in for the night after finding (and killing) around eight spiders in our rooms!

Post-Earthquake Devastation

The next morning Pastor Prem met us for breakfast at the guest house, after which he took us to visit various people from the Vineyard. We sat in their homes and prayed for them. The devastation and discouragement wrought by the earthquake was the most obvious here of all the places we visited. The rubble of stone houses is ubiquitous and though no one from the Vineyard here (or anywhere in the HRV for that matter) died during the earthquake, virtually everyone’s home in Gatlang was destroyed. This includes Pastor Prem’s home, his family’s, and the youth leader’s. In fact, all that remains of the old Vineyard building is one isolated, mint-green wall. The Vineyard is now meeting in a make-shift wood and tin structure. We felt for Pastor Prem and the congregation.

Lemba

Perhaps one of our most special interactions was with a man named Lemba. Lemba is unable to speak and has trouble seeing through one eye. His parents passed away and their graves are side by side on his property; he lives alone. He is part of the Gatlang Vineyard and Pastor Prem told us that he is one of their strongest believers, regularly praying for people for healing. He radiated the joy and light of Jesus. He was thrilled to welcome us into his home and seemed so pleased that we had visited. We prayed for him and afterwards, he excitedly showed us various fruit trees on his property. Pastor Prem told us that he wanted us to return to eat the fruit in season.

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We finished our time in Gatlang at Pastor Prem’s home, having tea, talking, and praying with the family.

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School of Justice in Nepal (Part One)

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In May 2016, a little over a year after the devastating earthquakes in Nepal, four of us (Laura Dahl, Erin O’Neill, myself, Natalie Hamm, pictured above) from the Vineyard School of Justice travelled to Nepal to be with the Himalayan Region Vineyard churches there. This is the first installment of what will be a four part report.

There are currently six established Vineyard churches in Nepal – in Kathmandu, Kotgaon, Chhampi, Gatlang, Nessing, and Gorkha. Our team visited all six churches, which is a particularly special feat given geographic considerations – it takes an eight hour drive from Kathmandu followed by a two hour trek in the mountains to get to the Vineyard in Nessing, for example.

KATHMANDU

“The Mother Church”

One of the first things you notice when you arrive at Kathmandu Vineyard is that it’s a complex. There’s a large sanctuary where the Saturday service (Sunday is a work day in Nepal) and other meetings take place, a spacious courtyard in the centre of the premises, and an assortment of rooms surrounding the courtyard.

Children who live in outlying Nepali villages frequently have insufficient access to education; some also experience unstable family situations. As a result, the Vineyard has faithfully taken in children over the years, providing them with a place to live and a healthy family environment, and facilitating their education. One of the joys of staying at Kathmandu Vineyard is being able to live and interact with these children. Though people refer to Kathmandu Vineyard as “the mother church” because it’s the biggest, oldest Vineyard in the HRV and serves as hub, the phrase is also an apt description of practical ways the community promotes the wellbeing of children.

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The courtyard at Kathmandu Vineyard

Wednesday Prayer Meeting

Wednesday is a day of prayer and fasting and since our first full day was a Wednesday, we joined the prayer meeting. It began to rain as we started. During worship, a woman began to manifest a demon – engaging with these sorts of realities is a common occurrence in the HRV. The leaders told us that they’d been praying for this woman to be free. Several of us gathered around and prayed for her, rebuking the evil spirit in the name of Jesus and hearing it retort (in Nepali) things like “I’m not going to leave!” and “She belongs to me!” Eventually, the woman reported some respite and peace, though she sensed that she needed more prayer to be completely free. A few weeks later, one leader told me that she had since been totally freed.

Moments such as these are good reminders – especially for those of us entrenched in a Western cultural mindset – that we struggle against “powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil” (Ephesians 6:12). Being a kingdom people committed to the Lord Jesus Christ and to bringing his rule and reign everywhere inevitably puts us in conflict with the enemy’s schemes. Few things so poignantly illustrate the reality of this conflict (and ultimately the supremacy of Jesus and his kingdom) like deliverance from demonic oppression.

Saturday Services, Youth, House Fellowship

We attended two services at Kathmandu Vineyard. The first was “combined” – every first Saturday of the month, Kathmandu Vineyard hosts the Vineyard communities from Kotgaon and Chhampi (both villages are within an hour’s drive). The second service was a normal gathering with just the Kathmandu Vineyard community.

Though the former was more packed with people, both were equally electric. I have been with the HRV several times, and I am always undone by the sheer vitality of the worship and prayer. The passion and zeal with which people pursue Jesus is almost palpable. This is no doubt a testimony to the fact that so many have come to faith because of personal experiences of healing or deliverance. Such experiences render Jesus as real and as far as I can tell, the earthquake has in no way diminished people’s passion and zeal.

I preached at the two services: first on the story of Jesus raising Lazarus in John 11 and second on the story of Jesus healing a man with leprosy in Luke 5. On both occasions, many people came forward for ministry – it was awesome, to say the least. After the combined service, four people got baptized, which was a wonderful way to end our gathering together.

After the services, everyone mingles in the courtyard and enjoys juice or tea together. Several smaller gatherings follow – for father’s, mother’s, youth etc. Natalie and Erin shared at the youth fellowship on the first and last Saturday we were in Nepal, respectively.

We also attended a house fellowship one evening. The host family has the farthest commute to Kathmandu Vineyard of anyone in the congregation. Natalie, Erin, and Laura shared spectacularly on women and the importance of women in ministry. As we were about to close in prayer, the family asked that we would pray for their son. He was traveling home from India and the family had not heard from him in a week. As we began to pray, the mother burst into tears – how unimaginable the torment of not knowing your own child’s whereabouts. Amazingly, the son got in touch two days later!

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House fellowship

Outreach

The exciting, beautiful things that happen within the walls of Kathmandu Vineyard are but one facet of the community’s life. A great deal happens outside, as a result of the leaders’ faithful commitment to go and share the love of Jesus with those on the margins.

Once a week, a group from Kathmandu Vineyard visits the so-called “riverbed” – a crowded slum alongside the highly polluted Bagmati River. There is quite a long, beautiful history of connection. Recently, the Vineyard began visiting a different part of the riverbed where people haven’t heard the gospel. The Vineyard provided a water tank so that those living in the area could access clean water.

We went to the riverbed one Monday afternoon, handed out food hampers, met with people in their make-shift shelters, and prayed for whatever needs arose as a result.

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Riverbed

Afterwards, we visited several single mothers who are part of Kathmandu Vineyard. Single mothers are often heavily stigmatized in Nepali culture, not to mention impoverished, so it’s entirely fitting for the church to make a bee-line for them and surround them with compassion and support. The Vineyard has provided seed money to many of these women so that they can start small businesses (managing a little snack or vegetable cart, for example) with a view to becoming self-sufficient.

We visited one woman (Sushila Didi, a leader in Kathmandu Vineyard who was in our School of Justice two years ago) in her home. She lives in tiny quarters with her children, three floors up in a precarious building that is especially so after the earthquake. As we prayed for her, she felt the tangible warmth of God’s presence on her head. Afterwards, she brought out Sprite and snacks that she had especially bought to share with us.

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Precarious housing

During our time in Kathmandu, we also visited two men who were sick: one in hospital and one resting at home. Though the latter is a believer, he’s not part of the Vineyard. Both men are friends of leaders from the Vineyard, which is why we visited them. It was yet another great example of how the people in the Vineyard care for those outside their own walls and circles.


KOTGAON

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View from Kotgaon guest house

Raju and Amit

Kotgaon is a 200-year old village, about an hour’s drive from Kathmandu, and situated in the hills above the Kathmandu Valley. Two years ago, our Nepali School of Justice went to Kotgaon and prayed for a man, Raju, who hadn’t left his bed in weeks due to depression and physical ailments. That evening as we prayed, we saw Raju walk to the other side of his home and by the end of our time in Nepal, he was sitting in Kathmandu Vineyard during a combined service.

I have often thought of Raju and the experience as it was a profound window into the compassion and power of God. As our team drove towards Kotgaon this time, I asked about Raju and was told that he was doing well. Even more exciting, we were going to visit him.

Raju’s family home was entirely destroyed by the earthquake. His new home is replete with light and colour, as is his countenance, which is a stark contrast to the way he appeared that evening when we first met him two years ago. We sat and talked with him and his father, Amit, who loves praying for healing and has acquired quite a reputation in the village. Hindu neighbours bring him their sick animals (goats etc.) and as Amit lays hands on them and prays, they get healed! We prayed for and blessed his passion for healing and he had a tangible sense of God’s presence touching his body. A few of us received prayer from Amit and Raju afterwards. Interestingly, just as with the Kathmandu Vineyard prayer meeting, every time we started to pray, it began to rain! By the third or fourth time, we felt delighted at the realization that the natural was somehow speaking of the invisible.

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Outside Raju and Amit’s new home

Water

We stayed for two days and one night in Kotgaon, at a guesthouse with a spectacular view of the Kathmandu Valley. During the days, Pastor Madan (pastor of Kotgaon Vineyard) took us around the village. Given its location, Kotgaon is in desperate need of water; Pastor Madan is involved with a drilling project and drilling was to commence the day after our arrival. He took us to the prospective drilling site and we prayed that water would be found and that somehow, even as the rains had come whenever we prayed earlier, that God would provide water for the village. We later found out that the project had successfully found water 300 feet deep into the mountain! The village is still in need of financing for all the associated costs of the water project.

Services

Pastor Madan arranged two special mid-week services at Kotgaon Vineyard for us to do some teaching and ministry. At one service, I shared on the story of Jesus forgiving and healing the paralyzed man who was lowered through the roof. At another service, Natalie shared on the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well; how Jesus gives and is living water. On both occasions, many people came forward for ministry and we had a chance to lay hands on and pray for lots of people. The Spirit was moving deeply, and it was particularly humbling to see people – some very elderly and hardly able to walk – respond to the invitation to receive forgiveness by coming forward and falling to their knees. These people then prayed for others who were responding to the invitation to receive healing. What a touching glimpse of the kingdom.

Meals

We were shown such remarkable hospitality in Kotgaon. A Vineyard family prepared a wonderful dinner for us in their home, we were invited to breakfast at another lady’s home (the first believer in the village, in fact!), and had a fantastic lunch at Pastor Madan’s house on our last day.

Earthquake Update – One Year Later

April 25 marks 1 year since the first of the two big earthquakes rocked Nepal in 2015.  Since then, the nation has been picking up the pieces, gathering its strength, moving forward and healing.  The Vineyard Earthquake Response has been a small but significant part in the overall earthquake recovery.  Throughout each of our three phases – Relief, Recovery & Rebuilding – we’ve reached over 20,000 people!  We’ve seen God move in miraculous ways.  We’ve seen families housed.  We’ve seen neighbours experience the genuine love of Jesus through gifts ranging from a sack of rice to a new home.  We’ve mourned with those who are mourning and accompanied people into very heart of their heart of their trauma.  In the midst of the rubble, inflation, political unrest, blockades and persecution we’ve moved forward in the strength and surpassing peace of Jesus.  It’s been difficult but also good.  Homes can be rebuilt.  Memories and fears take longer.  Thank you for journeying with us and praying for us!  God’s Kingdom is advancing and we are so grateful to be part of it.

Jaimasi

In this update:

  • A Greeting from Noel Isaacs and David Ruis
  • A Quick Snapshot of what’s been accomplished in the past year
  • One Year After – a personal reflection by Nathan Rieger
  • Specific Items for Prayer
  • An Update on the Kathmandu Hub Project
  • The Other Side Project

Greeting from Noel & David:

Here Noel Isaacs and David Ruis give a 4 min update on the challenges and accomplishments of the past year.

A Quick Snapshot:

Here’s an overview of what’s been accomplished in the past year.  We are aiming to have the majority of the practical rebuilding efforts completed by the Fall of 2016 (excluding the Kathmandu Hub Project).

  • 42 finished permanent homes constructed.  We’ve provided 100% material & construction.
  • 141 subsidized homes.  We’ve provided parts of the materials or costs of rebuilding – adding to what the family already has.
    • 111 subsidized 25 – 50% of total cost (based on need).
    • 30 subsidized 5 – 25% of total cost (based on need).
  • Over 200 lots cleared of rubble in preparation for rebuilding.
  • 6 church buildings constructed.
  • 2 church buildings subsidized (providing building materials the congregation couldn’t afford – non-Vineyard friend communities).
  • Started or upgraded 25 businesses for the urban poor in Kathmandu.  This is the creative response to the housing crisis in central Kathmandu where there are no affordable safe houses.  These businesses will increase the capacity of our people there to secure more affordable housing for themselves.
  • Bikka Land Purchased – The Bikka are a people group found in the high mountain village of Gatlang, Nepal. They are low caste and survive as iron smiths serving the village. They have no homes and have lived as squatters on government land for generations. The earthquake destroyed their homes and consequently totally displaced them.  For years the government had been unsuccessful in removing them from the land.  The earthquake accomplished in a moment what officials had not been able to do for generations.  This not only left the Bikka people homeless, but without any space to live, and literally no place to go.  They lost everything.  Another implication of them being low caste meant they had no official ID’s and were unable to own any property or rent anywhere. In the Nepali world they are known as “the landless people”, and now, the quake had seemed to solidify this identity forever.  Well, under the direction and vision of Noel Isaacs, we were able to purchase land and give it to the Bikka.  The property was subdivided into lots, providing living potential for many.  They shifted from being a landless tribe, to people with land.  The Bikka people now own this land and will no longer face the overwhelming sense of displacement ever again.  11 of these families are part of our Dhakbari community in Gatlang.
  • Kids Helping Kids – Planned children’s centre in Gatlang (funded from Canadian Vineyard kids!).
  • Building a children’s park for traumatized and displaced children.
  • Recently, distributed over 200 sleeping bags.  
  • Throughout the past year over 7,000 rice bags delivered.  Tarps, tents, pots, pans and various and sundries numbering in the 100’s.
  • Health and hygiene packets have been designed, packaged and delivered all over the region. Special attention has been given to packages designed specifically for women.  A couple of medical outreaches including minor operations and treatment of illness’.
  • 5 km of road built to the epicentre village where we have a church.
  • Trauma counselling has been a huge part of the pastoral work across the region.  Our team has been nothing short of amazing in the amount of care and healing they have brought to body, soul, mind and spirit.  The toll on our care givers has been great, but the fruit is overwhelming.
  • Over 35% of all funds used to date have gone to families and people “outside” of our church communities – to our “neighbours”.
  • Over 20,000 people impacted through the HRV efforts!

 

Click on images to see captions and for full size pics.

One Year After – A personal reflection by Nathan Rieger

Nathan PlaysNate is on the pastoral team at Winnipeg Centre Vineyard and was in Kathmandu when the first earthquake hit.  He was reaching for the microphone when the ground began to shake…

When the solid earth crumpled, the waves of chaos following it will always be written in my body’s memory:

The windows begin, they rattle, or rattle and shatter. The dogs and crows howl and shriek. Then, the humans, just a shade slower than the animals, cry out: men shouting for their families, mothers calling for their children, and the rushing of a million people into the streets of Kathmandu. In my memory there is also near-instant sound of a crowd calling out to God, prabhu Jesu! (Lord Jesus!)

And the earth groans, it grabs you and shakes you like a monstrous, drunken thing.  You land on your knees or your face, or maybe manage to crouch. Maybe a crack opens up. It can open anywhere, far above you in the mortar (it’s just mud) of a wall that peels off and lands like a missile beside you, or in the ground itself. It can open a space between two walls, as they tilt away from each other.  And always, it opens a crack in your heart, and fills with a mixture of fear and courage, alertness to help and self-preservation instinct.  And the irresistible urge to run.

Though I only experienced this for a week, maybe a hundred times, beginning on this day one year ago, most of those cracks have still not healed. Neither in the buildings, the walls, or the hearts. The cracks in one’s faith, if the earthquake shook that too, also are still healing in some.

Most unhealable are the gaps left in the absence of a family member, crushed under some door, or brickfall, or mudfall. Not that grieving hasn’t begun to stitch our hearts together, but where a family of five is a family of four now, one year does not begin to change the definition of how many should be here. It’s still five, and the other one is …somewhere else.

Its. So. Slow.

Yes, all who contributed to the massive outpouring of help should be proud of the quickness of the response in the Vineyard: after our first post online, there was a steady stream of tarps, bags of rice, and Hello Kitty blankets to the needy. Between relief, and recovery and rebuilding efforts, the relief was by all measurements the speediest, and needfully, thankfully slow. Pastor Raju, former village bully in his 20s, drove through cracked roads, a mudslide, and monsoon torrents to arrive in his own village Nareshawr at midnight, where a terrified village had all gathered in hopes someone might come. In the rain, with a bleeding face from the encounter with the mudslide, Raju set his village under blue tarps for the night, while the aftershocks rumbled and roared on right there at the epicentre. We had been there only the day before the earthquake, right at that violent centre, and he was the first to return.

Politics and and short-sighted officials stepped in, and should have helped but instead hugely hindered.  When the constitution, wrangled about for 7 years, was hastily ratified for the sake of recovery, it appeared to marginalize the people of the southern plains, and India promptly blocked all petrol trucks from entering landlocked Nepal.  So at the time when diesel was most needed to get supplies to homeless people – there was none. One of our brothers patiently waited for three days and nights at a lineup kilometers long at a garage, to buy several litres of petrol, at many times the normal price.  The work of rebuilding was stalled and resumed in the new year.

Despite the delays, there are hundreds of families that have now rebuilt houses with our help.  Shiny tin houses, earthquake (but alas not yet wind) -proof, have grown up all over the land and blue tarps have given way to blue-painted tin, seen from Google Earth. These new dwellings came up with a mix of prayer and bricks, concrete and cooperation, and of all the moneys sent through the Vineyard, at least a third was given to neighbours of the recipients.  The generosity was astounding – though people had barely enough for themselves, in typical Nepali hospitality they rebuilt their neighbours houses with their own.  At the epicentre, a place where Hindus and Christians had had tension previously, now there is a new road, the Hindu-Christian road, where villagers reached across divides and built a way to bring reconstruction supplies.  Evidence of new life, not just new houses, abounds.

May the cracks in the ground be filled with earth.  May the crack in the walls be repaired.  And may the cracks in our hearts be filled again with peace.

 

Pray:

Prayer has been paramount in the Relief, Recovery and Rebuilding efforts.  Our team is dependent on God’s provision practically and internally.  Here are some critical ways you can partner with us in prayer:

  • Pray for healing.  The cracks in walls can be fixed (or torn down), but the cracks in hearts, only God can heal.
  • Pray for wisdom to manage the resources well.  In the big scheme, the needs are overwhelming.  In the bigger scheme, God is in control.  We must effectively follow his leading and not go a step further.
  • Pray for people to come into the Kingdom and encounter Jesus’ love as a result of our efforts.  While responding practically, we also want to disciple people into the Kingdom!
  • Our church in Nareshawr, Gorkha, near the epicentre of the first quake, is hosting a regional conference in October!  Imagine that!  Pray for God’s blessing on this time – even though its 6 months away we have a sense that God will do some amazing things there.
  • Pray for the pastors and leaders of the various churches.  Pray for the HRV leadership team and for Sherab & Lazwani Bhutia (aka. Noel & Dona Isaacs) as they lead.
  • Supplies and gas (diesel for driving and gas for cooking) are still in short supply.  While not an uncommon hardship, the situation is accentuated in recovery and rebuild mode.  This is especially true in the remote villages.
  • For partners for the Kathmandu Hub Project (more below).

 

Kathmandu Hub Project:

The Earthquake Management team have agreed to put a portion of the Earthquake Fund toward the demolition of the two buildings on the Kathmandu property which were severely damaged in the earthquakes.  The 3 story residence and the main sanctuary both need to come down due to structural deficiencies.  The residence remains evacuated.  We continue to use the sanctuary.

Rebuilding these two structures is a major undertaking and will require large donations beyond the scope of the Earthquake Disaster fund.  Plans are currently underway to establish a new 35-unit guesthouse which will generate income for the HRV and an accompanying sanctuary / kitchen complex.  This is a large project and will require approximately 1.1 million USD to complete.  If you are interested in contributing to this project, please contact Winnipeg Centre Vineyard.  We will have more details on this project coming soon.

KTM Sanctuary

Inside the Kathmandu Sanctuary

KTM courtyard

KTM Courtyard – 1/2 of the 2 storey residence on the left

 

Other Side CD Project:

Other Side Back CoverWorld Vision was a leader in delivering aid relief in the days after the magnitude 7.8 earthquake and a devastating second 7.3 earthquake hit the country. This album is a joint project between World Vision Canada and Vineyard Worship Canada and it celebrates the resiliency of the Nepalese people and is a reminder that rebuilding efforts are on going.  It features Western and Nepali musicians and worship leaders.  It beautifully captures the sounds and heart of Nepal.

“Much of this album was recorded in the Kathmandu Vineyard courtyard surrounded by school kids, barking dogs & running mopeds… definitely an interesting recording atmosphere. When people hear the songs, I hope they are reminded that our faith unites us with the Nepali people. I’m honoured to be part of a project that’s benefitting families and communities in this beautiful country.” – Ryan McAllister, musician.

>>Purchase the CD here

You can also find it on iTunes and Google Play.  The net proceeds are split 50-50 between World Vision Canada, and the Vineyard Earthquake Fund.

Other Side collaboration

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Hope from the Rubble

It’s been about 10 months since the first earthquake hit Nepal in April 2015.  Since that time much has emerged from the rubble.

In this update:

Blockades:

Blockades

He says: “The Blockade is Over!”. The truck on the bottom: “The Black Market”. And the people go without…

One of the major stories of the Fall and Winter have been the blockades restricting supplies coming from India into Nepal. They are politically motivated but have severely hampered daily life throughout the country. They have led to shortages in fuel, cooking gas, medicine and other goods and have limited the earthquake rebuild. There are normally about 300 fuel trucks entering Nepal from India every day. Since the start of the blockades on September 23, 2015 that number dwindled to 5 – 10. Of course the black market has flourished under these conditions, which has resulted in highly inflated prices. The blockades ended 2 weeks ago, however shortages and inflated prices remain. Please pray that the market returns to normal quickly.

Besides the daily inconveniences for the people of Nepal, the inflated prices have significantly increased the cost of rebuilding. Thank God we have not been shut down and work has progressed despite the hardships and unforeseen circumstances!

Rebuilding:

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 1.45.23 PMTo date we have rebuilt 38 new permanent earthquake proof homes in 5 villages.

Local construction crews have been hired for most of these. Many church members have helped with the rebuilding where they can and in some cases contribute their own resources. This is welcome and indicates ownership of the process.

The Earthquake Management team works together with local pastors and leaders to carefully weigh all considerations when determining which homes get rebuilt and which ones are subsidized. Sometimes a family will have all the material they need except for a tin roof. There are many who are simply destitute and have nothing to contribute. Of course, we are more than willing to help these out – especially those single mothers who have no other options and the poorest in the communities in which we’re working.

(Click on pics to enlarge – hover to see captions)

To date we have subsidized to 65 households through providing supplemental building materials.

So far, 6 church buildings have been rebuilt. There are two remaining projects in the remote mountain village of Gatlang, and the main campus in Kathmandu (more below). The demolition and rebuild in Gatlang will begin in March.


Helping Our Neighbours:

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Distributing sleeping bags in the cold Himalayas.

The earthquake rebuild has enabled us to reach out in unprecedented ways. Initially, we were housing and caring for many people. The needs have not stopped and we continue to practice hospitality and demonstrate care to our neighbours.

35% of the total amount we’ve used in relief and rebuilding has gone to our neighbours! This means that while we are caring for our own people, we’re also caring for and demonstrating the practical love of Jesus to our neighbours. This includes everything from food and medication to permanent homes, temporary shelters, subsidies and small business start-ups (more about this below).

Bikka Land Deal:

As we reported in August, there is a caste in the village of Gatlang called “Bikka”. There are 11 Bikka families in Gatlang and all of them are Christians. They are also the lowest caste and poorest people in the village. Before the earthquake they had homes on properties they did not own. After the earthquake, they have not been allowed to rebuild homes on property they do not own. They were landless – now they are landless and homeless. Since the earthquake they’ve been living in temporary structures.

We have purchased a plot of land for the Bikka people. The land will be subdivided into 12 plots for the 11 families. On the remaining plot we will build a community centre for the children and youth (more below).

Currently we’re waiting for diesel so we can hire an excavator to level the plot.

Kid’s Helping Kids:

Gatlang kids

The poorest children in Gatlang will have a place to play!

Children and Youth from 5 of Vineyard churches in Canada have contributed to the Gatlang community centre project. To date, they’ve raised enough funds to build a great space for the kids of Gatlang to gather, do their homework and be kids together!

Thanks kids!

Kathmandu’s Unique Challenges

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Roadside stands like this one are the livelihood of many in the Kathmandu Vineyard.

In the complex maze of streets and alleys in old Kathmandu, live about 65 families or single mothers from the Kathmandu Vineyard. Most of these people live in old tenement housing type structures that remain quite damaged. Because their livelihoods are dependent on income derived from the areas in which they live, they cannot move. There are no other safe, affordable alternatives that are close enough for them to get to their places of work each day. So, they remain in unsafe buildings propped up by wooden poles extending into the alleys and streets. These people have no other options. They simply trust God saying, “he protected us in the first two earthquakes – he will protect us now too!” Their faith is overwhelming – as is their situation.

It’s been difficult, but there is a strategy emerging. The Earthquake response has provided small bursaries to 15 people to help start or upgrade individual businesses. The goal is to increase the capacity of each person to care for themselves and their families so that they afford suitable and safe accommodation without losing their source of income. The businesses range from simple vegetable sales on the side of the road to carts selling a variety of foodstuffs.

 

Kathmandu Hub demolition and rebuild project

The Himalayan Region Vineyards were birthed from the Kathmandu Vineyard. It is the epicenter of activity for the entire region. Both the main sanctuary and the housing complex were severely damaged in April 2015. The sanctuary is usable for now, however one wall leans ominously outwards. The 2-storey housing complex is no longer fit for habitation and has been vacated. Everyone who was living there is now being housed in other rooms connected to the main single story gathering area.

KTM Hub

You can see the 2 story apartment block to the right and the low single story sanctuary roof to the left. Both need to be demolished.

It is clear that both structures need to be demolished and rebuilt. Builders and engineers have confirmed this diagnosis. They are irreparable. We are so thankful that a few years ago, the top floor of the housing complex was removed (there used to be 3 stories) and the roof in the sanctuary was reinforced. Previous earthquake events had caused damage, which, if it had not been repaired, would have resulted in both buildings collapsing in April. This would have meant hundreds of deaths and injuries. Thank God for his wisdom and proactive protection!

Rebuilding these two structures is a major undertaking that will require large donations beyond the Earthquake Disaster fund. Plans are currently underway to establish a new 35-unit guesthouse and a new sanctuary. This is a large project and will require approximately 1.1 million USD to complete. More information will be forthcoming regarding this project.

Other Side CD Project:

Other SideThere is a partnership between the Vineyard and World Vision in the works. One exciting arm of this collaboration is a worship CD project called “Other Side”. It features songs & sounds of the Himalayas and includes artists: David Ruis, Andy Park, Ryan McAllister, Noel Isaacs, Ben Isaacs and a host of other local and international talent. After the initial release, the net sales from this CD will be split 50-50 between the Vineyard’s Earthquake Disaster fund and World Vision. It’s a great way to support local talent and contribute to remaining needs of the recovery.  Go here to purchase the CD – or find it on iTunes and Google Play.

Mark’s Report – USA Partners:

Mark Morgan and the Vineyard Community Church in Gilbert Arizona have been working with the HRV and Winnipeg Centre Vineyard in this earthquake response. They’ve been great partners. Here is Mark Morgan’s report from his most recent trip:

I just returned from Kathmandu. This was my first visit since the earthquake. Every time I make the trip to Nepal, there are surprises. The past two weeks was no exception. At first glance, I thought things looked better than I imagined they would after the huge earthquake. Much of that impression was surface appearance. I know that basic needs for food and shelter are still very much an issue. It is going to be a long-term project for the Vineyard tribe to continue to help families rebuild a safe home and a sustainable life. A closer look reveals damage to the integrity of nearly every home and building. If not totally destroyed, many have been left “unlivable.” We have begun the long process of rebuilding homes. These are simple structures that should withstand future quakes.

The bigger surprise for me was the resolve of the Nepali people, and in particular the followers of Jesus. They are a determined people who are busy putting their lives back together. They are characterized by thankfulness, not complaint! I truly believe they see this whole earthquake event as “light afflictions” rather than impossible obstacles. I learn so much each time I spend time with them. Their spirit is solid. They don’t complain. They greet you like they love you, and they do! They embody the truth of Romans when Paul says: “nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” (Not even devastating events like mammoth earthquakes…my interpretation). Their lives have been galvanized by enduring hardship like good soldiers. I am amazed at them!

The initial shock and emotional response to the earthquake has come and gone. The needs remain. They are significant. This is not the time for us to draw back and allow ourselves to take a breather until there is another disaster. This is the time to get our second wind and push ahead.

Mark Morgan – Vineyard Community Church, Gilbert, Arizona

More Than Earthquake Recovery – follow us:

There’s much more happening in the Himalayan Region Vineyards than recovering and rebuilding from the earthquakes. God is on the move and doing great things! Follow us on our Facebook Page to keep updated.

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Earthquake Update – God is Bigger than those Cracks

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It’s been nearly one month since the initial earthquake rocked the Himalayan Region.  There has not been one day without significant aftershocks and tremors – some of which have been classified as earthquakes.  During my latest conversation with Noel and Raju, they stopped in mid conversation as the dogs started barking, people outside began calling to each other, and the earth reminded us all of its tectonic unrest.  Yet in the midst of all the shaking, hope is being found and formed.  Noel showed me a crack in the Kathmandu Vineyard building that is getting wider with every earthquake.  It’s ominous, but as he said, “God is bigger than those cracks”.  Indeed.

Nessing

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This girl said to Raju, “with money you can buy beautiful house and good food, but not peace and joy. Only Jesus is the prince of peace and joy.”

A few days ago the first outside help reached Nessing.  An awesome team from Hawaii, working with the HRV, arrived and treated over 300 people for various injuries.  Thanks Dr. Tim and Tara and the rest of the team!  This was the first relief that has reached this remote mountain village.

Two villagers died in the earthquake.  All of the buildings are down – except two.  The church building will be usable when the ceiling is reinforced with local timber and one of the church elder’s homes was left standing (although it will likely have to be demolished).   We have 17 work crews active in Nessing.  They have built over 8 temporary shelters and are working on cleaning the whole village.  There was no rice in the village until 2,300 lbs were airlifted in – this is cause for celebration.  They also had a beautiful time of worship.  The whole Nessing church were very grateful and there was a tangible sense of God’s presence as they thanked him for protection.  They are actively cleaning the whole village and are being a wonderfully tangible sign of God’s hope to all.

Ramesh says, “We bring the love of Jesus to remote villages of Nepal… through food supplies, medical help and temporary shelter… that’s what people need now… these are small things that we will be doing for next couple of months..!!!”

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Tents & Tarps

A large shipment of tents has just arrived.  Thanks to the DACH Vineyards in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and to Kinderhilfe for the donation.  They will be used to keep families dry during the monsoon season.  They will also be used for school rooms.  Education is a high priority and it’s important to get back to a regular routine, even if it means studying in a tent in the rain.  The tarps were donated and imported from His Feet International (thanks Todd!).  They will be distributed where needed the most.

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Other News

Silas Rai, the senior pastor at the Namchi Vineyard in Sikkim, India (a small part of India that is part of the Himalayan Region), arrived today.  Silas is part of the Earthquake Management team and will give Raju a much-needed break.  The team will rotate oversight responsibilities to make sure each gets the rest they need.  Please continue to pray for them.

This young girl lost her sister in the quake.  Here she is showing Raju the remains of her house "where she used to play with her small sister who died that day..."

This young girl lost her sister in the quake. Here she is showing Raju the remains of her house “where she used to play with her small sister who died that day…”

Operations continue in Gorkha, Chhampi and Kothgaon.  We will continue to supply necessities until people regain self-sufficiency.  Temporary shelters continue to be constructed.  The road up to the high mountain villages remains closed.  There are many landslides, and even reports of helicopters crashing due to dangerous land conditions, falling rocks, etc.  It’s dangerous work.

By the Numbers

Here are a few numbers for you to crunch…

  • 40 households cleared in Gadlang
  • 17 shelters built in Gadlang
  • 470 homes in the whole village of Gadlang – Pastor Prem wants to clean them all.
  • 3 months to clean the entire village of Gadlang
  • 17 work crews active in Nessing
  • 2,300 lbs of rice delivered in Nessing
  • 7 Helicopter transports have already been taken to Gadlang and Nessing
  • 200 homes need to be cleared in Tipling (will begin next week)
  • 172 Vineyard people’s homes destroyed throughout the region

Thanks!

Thanks to all who have donated and prayed.  Your money and your prayers are making a difference.

A note to Canadian donors: Monday, May 25 is the deadline for the federal government’s matching program.  We qualify for this program.  For every dollar donated by a Canadian to our Vineyard Disaster fund, the federal government will deposit a dollar into their own Nepal fund (it doesn’t double our money, but it does insure more help will reach Nepal).

Remember that 100% of donations we receive go to relief, recovery and rebuilding efforts on the ground in Nepal.

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