Dear Family and Friends, Friday, May 8, 2015, 9:20 pm
Two marginalized and forgotten people groups…no more. It is dehumanizing to belong to a people that others despise. This is exacerbated by a Hindu cast system in Asia which ranks and treats people according to their name and tribe. But add to all of this the devastating earthquake on April 25 and these people have reached a low that they have never experienced before.
The last two days we have been reaching out to two people groups who are the poorest of the poor, and because of the quake, the lowest of the low. But by the Lord’s grace he continues to direct us to the neediest people, where our small but passionate efforts are making a big difference.
On Tuesday evening we visited the first group, the Dalit. Most of them are blacksmiths who make knives and sickles (We constantly met men and women carrying these twelve inch curved knives in their belts as we trekked the mountain regions of Nepal. It is very intimidating to come across a person carrying such a big knife but that is exactly why they do it). The Dalit’s circumstances are sad because most of their homes have been destroyed by the quake, but what grieves us the most is that they live in an endless cycle of hopelessness because parents cannot afford to educate their kids and many in the community are addicted to the local hooch which is sold to them by other low cast people who live among them.
But thank the Lord there is a man of God who has spent the last couple of years to reach these downcast people with the hope of Christ, and a church of fifty people now exists. It was a joy not only to help our brothers and sisters in the Lord but also reach out to those in the community who face the most dire of circumstances. Because these people are the despised, the government has treated them as though they don’t exist in Nepal, so they had received no help even though they live only twenty kilometers outside the Kathmandu Valley. So the aid we were able to bring was truly life-saving.
Then on Wednesday, we traveled to the second marginalized people group, the Chepang. Ten years ago, these people lived in total isolation in the jungle. An acquaintance of mine whose wife is working among this people told me that when they went into the jungle they had to cover their noses because of the stench created by the practice of going to the bathroom in the open fields (They had no toilets and no education of the negative effects of this practice). The gospel of Christ though is greatly changing many lives and the entire community of 100,000 people, because around 50,000 of them now believe in Jesus Christ. But like the Dalit, these people are still despised by the majority party of the government (which are Brahman), so they had received no food or help.
So when we heard of their plight we asked the twelve pastors who had contacted us to identify those in the church and community who lost their homes and face the most difficult circumstances. Then we asked all the people to meet us in the closest market village of Makwanpur, where we could buy and provide vital food to each family for the next three weeks.
I wish you could have been there. It was amazing! Every pastor from the twelve churches brought the believers and people from the village. A hundred and sixty families who had lost their homes came and were put on a list. Then the pastors and believers went to the district center and bought on credit (we had the money) rice, lentils, salt, and oil and transported on their backs food for all the families. They carried the food about a half kilometer to a local church where all the food was packaged and ready to distribute. When we arrived, I shared with them to love of Christ and told them that Christians from the United States helped to provide all the food. They cheered and clapped. We prayed, and in the next half hour distributed all the food by 2:30pm.
But get this! Because there are no roads, these dear folks had to walk five hours up the mountains back to their villages carrying on their backs the sixty-six pound bag of rice and ten pound bag of lentils, salt, and oil. They would arrive back to their homes in the dark with their food.
I know that we had just given them life-sustaining food, and I was glad that we could do this, but my heart went out to these folks whose lives are so difficult. Even in relief, they were carrying a great burden.
This morning Donna reminded me of a great text in Isaiah 28:23-29 which encouraged my heart. It speaks of who the Lord is (The most important question any of us needs to answer each day is: Who is the Lord and what am I believing about him right now?). The southern tribe of Israel was facing a powerful enemy, Assyria, who began seizing their villages. Times were very discouraging. But the Lord reminds his people, “Does a farmer continually plow his field to plant seed? Does he constantly turn and harrow the ground? Does he not also know how to sow the right seed in the right way? And finally, does the farmer not use the right tools to harvest the crops so that they are not lost?”
The application is very simple: Is the Lord the kind of wise, loving, powerful, sovereign God we can trust? Over seventy quakes in two weeks, 7,742 deaths, ongoing landslides that are killing hundreds more, and starving people who live under a prejudiced government have all challenged this reality. But those of us who know the Lord and have experienced his incredible faithfulness and mercy, know that he is a God who can be explicitly trusted.
And what a joy it has been to be an instrument that proves who our God truly is. Many thanks to you folks who are fervently praying and sacrificially giving so that together we can be this instrument. It has been a crazy but incredible experience.
Yesterday we went to Dhalika to help two more communities, but this update is already too long (It was another wonderful day). Today was a day of praying, planning, and preparing. We were also called today by two pastors in Dhading and Nuwakot who need emergency relief. No help is getting to their villages and people are desperate, so we will respond in the next two days.
As emergency food is being distributed, our attention is turning to provide temporary shelter. We had actually tried to address this problem the last two weeks but the situation here has made it impossible. At first, the Nepali government required that all relief be given to them and they would distribute it. But the United Nations, countries promising over $415 million in relief, and major relief agencies, like the Red Cross, protested with one voice. Then the government changed its mind only three days ago and said that they would allow relief efforts to be distributed by the agencies but only under the control of police and local authorities. The end result is, hundreds of thousands of tarps that could be used for shelter and have already been provided are in government warehouses or are nowhere to be found.
I talked with my friend from World Vision this morning and he told me that they have also been forced to purchase the tarps in Nepal so that they have some to distribute. So he told me his best resources, we hunted for a few others, and by 12pm ordered 400 highly quality tarps and 12,000 feet of rope which will be delivered to Kathmandu by Sunday. Our hope is to purchase 400 more this week.
My partners and I also agreed on a vision for these tarps: We are calling it “Operation Reach Beyond.” This is the strategy we believe the Lord would have us carry out. We will work with the same local pastors who helped us gather the neediest people from 120 villages and distribute emergency food to them. But this time, we will only gather believers whose houses were completely destroyed in the quake. We will give them one 18×24’ tarp and rope which will provide shelter for them especially during the monsoon season which is coming.
But then we will ask them to become an instrument of Christ’s love and give a second tarp to one of their neighbors who also has a collapsed house who is not a family member and is a non-believer in Christ. The needy in Christ will become instruments to help the needy in the community.
One reason we have been and will continue to focus on helping both the church and the community is that the people in the village might see the Lord’s love for his world. Gospel Harvest Mission will contribute $10,000 and join two other Christian ministries in this project.
Matters for Prayer:
- Please pray for the whole process of picking up and delivering the tarps. Local policemen and authorities have been unpredictable in supporting the relief efforts, sometimes even confiscating the materials. Please also pray that the believers in need that we help will have a heart to reach out to their unbelieving neighbors and even love those who have persecuted them.
- Please pray for a change of heart with the government (a big-faith prayer), especially the prime minister and the governing parties. They have been very slow to distribute relief and many thousands still have not been helped.
- Please pray for Santosh as he leads the distribution of emergency food to Nuwakot and Dhading the next two days. He has worked closely with me but now I am handing him the ball.
- I will preach tomorrow in the church I was preaching in when the Quake hit. Please pray the Lord fills me with his Spirit and empowers me to preach a Word that leaves a long-lasting deposit.
- I am flying out this Sunday evening for the States. Emirates Airlines will end the grace period on Sunday for missed flights because of the earthquake and my visa is also running out, so I caught the last flight out of Kathmandu on Sunday and got the last seat available. I am sure I will have some adjusting to do when I return.
It has been a great privilege to stand in the gap during such a time of crisis. May Christ be glorified.
P.S.-Sorry that none of my updates have pictures. Our time has been so pressed here, and my lack of technical skills also hampers me from transferring pictures to my letters. Once I get settled in the States I want to make it a priority to get the pictures on our site and perhaps even input some into the updates. My hope is that you might see with your eyes what is so often hard to imagine.