April 25, 2015 will be a day that many of our brothers and sisters in Christ who live in Nepal will never forget. It was a day that brought much pain, suffering, and loss. That was the day, just over a year ago, when the first of two major earthquakes brought terrible death and destruction to this Himalayan nation. Hundreds of thousands were left homeless, while nearly nine thousand lives were lost.
With this tragedy also came an opportunity for God’s people to love and serve those in need, especially those who are of the household of faith. With this in mind, CLC President Michael Eichstadt authorized a special fund to assist in the relief efforts among our brothers and sisters of the Himalayan Church of the Lutheran Confession of Nepal (HCLCN). Over the next several months, our Lord moved the hearts of individuals throughout the CLC to give generously to this effort. In September of 2015 it was announced that sufficient funding had been received to accomplish the three phases of relief work that had been proposed by the HCLCN and the CLC Board of Missions.
We now have the opportunity to look back over the past twelve months and reflect on the privilege of assisting those who lost so much. I was able to travel to Nepal in January, 2016. Eight days were spent traveling and trekking to several distant HCLCN congregations in villages located very near the epicenter of the first earthquake. What I found among those whom we have been able to assist was a thankful attitude that reflected the love of Christ, and a confidence in His enduring love and protection. There was no complaining or requests for additional aid, just simple reliance on God’s provision and determination to get their lives back in order.
I was also able to review and see firsthand the relief efforts that have already taken place, and consult on the work yet to be done. In the first phase of relief, aid was taken to nineteen Himalayan villages where 530 families received the basics needed for survival—blankets, bandages and first aid materials, clean drinking water, tents and tarps for shelter, along with small rations of rice and cooking fuel. Once these basic needs had been met, it was nearly the time of the monsoon months in Nepal, and therefore sturdier temporary shelter was needed for those whose homes had been destroyed. Twenty-seven families received assistance to provide corrugated steel sheeting and poles to construct shelters. The rebuilding efforts of the third phase of relief have been hampered for a variety of reasons, including blockades at the Indian border. These blockades, caused by politics and religious disputes, have created a shortage of much-needed goods, and have driven up the price of fuel and building materials. In addition to the shortage of goods and fuel, political posturing of both Indian and Nepali leaders has also hampered rebuilding efforts across the nation.
To date, and by God’s grace, seven small church buildings have been repaired or rebuilt, and seven church buildings still need to be completely rebuilt from the ground up. While the necessary funding has been received, there is still much work to be done. Please keep praying for our brothers and sisters in Christ in Nepal, as they continue to persevere with strength from the Lord.
Todd Ohlmann is pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Manchester, Missouri, and serves as chairman of the CLC Board of Missions.