Union University Goes to Nepal and Survives the Earthquake

In April and May, Dr Fletcher Tink, our Academic Vice President, led a team of six people to Nepal to engage in three major seminars, “Theology of Work” twice, and “Ethics and Responsible Business Practice”. These seminars, funded by Mustard Seed Foundation, were contracted with Union University of California and TrackNepal, the host agency. What this teamdidn’t expect was a violent deadly earthquake, marked at 7.9 on the Richter scale.

Dr Tink was preaching on Saturday, April 25th, on the 4th and top floor of an apartment building in the hillsides near to Kathmandu when the building shook violently. After a few seconds of group disorientation and loud praying, he led the 30 worshipers, minus their shoes, down the throbbing staircase to a field nearby where the water buffalo were herded, joining hundreds of others pouring out of tottering buildings, some sobbing, and all looking quite panicked. The lean-to brick building next to the apartment collapsed. As the crowd milled around, uncertain what to do next, others trailed off uncertainly to their homes. It took an hour before any emergency vehicles were seen. Thankfully, no one of the congregation was injured. Dr Tink, who had been preaching on Saul, the terrorist, turned Paul, the missionary, reassembled the group. He continued the service with the story of Paul and Silas and the earthquake in Philippi that liberated them as they prayed and sang. The group concluded this spontaneous service with prayers of thanksgiving for deliverance punctuated by singing in the presence of a number of curious Hindus. . The six internationals, arriving on different planes, were delayed a day or more because the Kathmandu airport had been closed down. Dr Tink earlier had pleaded with them on Facebook to continue the mission, and all agreed to not turn back. The hotel, perched on a mountain bluff, where Dr Tink’s assistants were housed, was too badly damaged for occupancy. So he, and two of his staff, along with nine of the hotel management, slept, protected only by a tarpaulin covering, for two nights under the star-studded sky. Hourly they were woken up by aftershocks. This calamity that killed nearly 9,000 people, injuring 20,000 plus and destroying one million homes, radically altered both the schedule and the focus of their mission.

The first seminar in Dhulikhel was postponed. Instead, the team reassembled in Kathmandu to appraise the damage and the need for relief efforts. In the course of the next ten days, the members of the team which included 5 Americans . . . Jon, a retired missionary, Shirley, a former member of the staff of UUC, Joe, a businessman with his 17 year old son, Caleb, Nate, an Information Technology specialist, and Fozia, a Pakistani school teacher . . . participated with their skills and roles in the seminars, building critical relationships to suffering students and friends that they met along the way. Fortunately two of the planned venues did not suffer earthquake damage and, in these seminars, the classes proceeded without interruption. The first seminar, three days long, was held in the idyllic tourist community of Pokhara at the base of the Himalayas and registered 73 students, mostly Hindus. Another took place at the birthplace of Gautama Siddhartha, the “Buddha”, in the Chinese Buddhist Monastery (a first for an interfaith class) right on the park property of this most sacred natal site in Lumbini, again with a mix of Hindus and female Buddhist nuns, amounting to a total of 97 participants. At the end of the ten days, a make-up session was improvised near Dhulikhel, the initial place where the earthquake hit, this time in a church with seventy attendees from five local Christian churches. Altogether a grand total of 250 participants attended the three seminars. Ironically, five minutes before the end of this last session, another aftershock sent the participants scurrying out of the church, but reconvened long enough to distribute the certificates, all of which carried the authorization and stamp of Union University of California. Dr Tink also addressed three different churches with 170 worshippers, the last service held in a tent because their church building was so damaged. He also was interviewed on the Christian “Shepherd” radio station. There were a number of challenged the team had to face: finding hotel accommodation, food that Westerners could enjoy, internet connections and ATM funds. However, the members were very flexible and rolled with the ongoing seismic punches. Indeed, the international raised considerable donations through the social media, Facebook, sufficient to provide not only supplies and services for a full day of delivery in the devastated community of Khokana, but continued to supply needed items on an ongoing basis through the proxy of their Nepalese relationships.

Of special note, the Vietnamese community through UUC contributed funds that were used for the purchase of tents, shovels, picks and food items. Everywhere where supplies were provided, the names of Union University of California and Mustard Seed Foundation were bannered. The internationals also took advantage of tourist opportunities---visiting the great Hindu temple complex known at Pashupati where hundreds of victims of the earthquake were being openly cremated; the Buddhist World Peace Pagoda; the “mountain flight” alongside Mt Everest; the Boudha Stupa; the Monkey Temple; Lumini, the birthplace of the Buddha precisely on the day of his birthday; Thamel, the backpacker’s district in Kathmandu; a boat ride on Lake Fewa; and many other famed sites and activities. On the final day of the final seminar, Mother’s Day, Dr Tink’s 97 year old mother died, requiring him to return immediately on four flights back to Florida for her memorial service, then to Upstate New York for her funeral. It seems that God was somehow engaged in the exquisite timing. One day earlier, the last seminar would not have been completed. One day later, the second big earthquake hit, creating travel chaos that might have impeded his return to the States. Union University of California believes that this immersion experience has been so valuable to both the national recipients and to the Western team, that similar opportunities should be expanded. A return to Nepal is on the agenda in 2016, both for the unusual experience (minus an earthquake) but with the option of academic credit, and with possible side tripsinto Tibet and Sittim (North India). For those desiring more information for the experience of a lifetime, please contact the UUC office or Dr Tink at fletcht@aol.com Please enjoy the photos that represent a visual portrayal of the unusual, even exotic, experiences, tempered by tragedy and need, in Nepal. UUC has its footprint pressed firmly into Nepal’s soil in so many meaningful ways. And don’t forget to read the testimonials of those internationals whose lives have been changed. Testimonials about Nepal (click here to see) Photos of Nepal: “Appealing Nepal” Taken by Fletcher Tink and Nate Warren April 24-May 9, 2015 APPEALING NEPAL (please click on the link below to see the pictures)

Part I: (47 photos) A. Scenes Around Kathmandu B. Faces of the People C. Scenes from Khulikhel

Part VII: (52 photos) N. Respite in Pokhara O. The Seminar in Pokhara P. Logos River Church

Part II: (73 photos) D. Ministering in Dhulikhell E. After the 7.9 Earthquake

Part VIII: (74 photos) Q. The Heart of Buddhism: Lumbini R. Celebrating Buddha’s Birthday S. The Seminar in Lumbini

Part III: (44 photos) F. Piya’s “Angels” G. The International Team

Part IX: (33 photos) T. Visit to a Rural Community U. Preaching in a Nazarene Church

Part IV: (61 photos) H. Devastated Kathmandu I. Open Cremations of the Dead Part X: (58 photos) V. Visiting Devastated Khokana W. Offering UUC Assistance to Khokana Part V: (39 photos) J. Faces of the Nepalese K. Rescue Teams

Part XI: (47 photos) X. Ancient Panauti, Spared Y. “Make-Up” Seminar in Panauti Part VI: (42 photos) L. The Beauty of a Nation M. The Beauty of the Landmarks Part XII: BY DIVINE APPOINTMENT Z: Random photos of a team in ministry