By Emily Tyler, coordinator of Workcamps and Brethren Volunteer Service recruitment
Hopeless. This was the word a man from the village of Kebalpur used to describe how he felt more than two years after the devastating earthquake in Nepal.
This summer, 16 of us traveled to the Dhading District of Nepal for the Young Adult Workcamp. We partnered with Heifer International to help rebuild two schools. Our time with the people of Nepal and their overwhelming resilience inspired me each day as we huffed and puffed up the mountain to our work sites.
On our last day of work in Kebalpur, our translator offered to give us a tour of homes that were affected by the earthquake in April 2015. It was the house of the man who felt hopeless that we visited first. I distinctly remember approaching the house with a corrugated tin roof held down by giant rocks. There were no signs that any rebuilding had happened since the earthquake. A baby lay on a blanket in the middle of the floor and the man solemnly sat by the door as we had a conversation through our translator.
Every interaction we had with people before this moment had been positive, happy, hopeful, and full of unspoken love. Over the last few days, we had laughed with the people of the village while we gave our best (unimpressive) effort to mix cement by hand, enjoyed playing kickball with their children and grandchildren, and even taught an elder of the village how to take a “selfie.” However, when this man shared with us, my entire perspective shifted. The reality of how this village was affected by the earthquake hit me like a ton of bricks. I was speechless. All I could do was sit in his doorway, listen, and be present.
The workcamp theme for the summer was “Say Hello” and was supported by 3 John 13-14, which shares about having heart-to-heart conversations and greeting people by name. The theme focused on communication with God and each other, and even ourselves. While we were in Nepal, however, we were not able to communicate with people in their native language. But in our language of service, smiles, and holding space for people’s hopelessness, we formed relationships with people. We experienced what it means to be the church together and to work for the good of one another.
Wherever we are, we are called to be the church not just in positive, happy, and hopeful times, but in difficult times of sitting in a doorway together and holding space for the despair that we see and feel all around us. When everything seems hopeless, we can share the burden and allow God to be present with us.
The people we encountered in Nepal may not have been impressed with our cement mixing skills. But as we worked side by side, the way they welcomed us, showed us radical hospitality, and allowed us to be present in their hopeLESSness and hopeFULness was remarkable. It was one of the most significant images of church I’ve seen.
Workcamps provide opportunities for people of all ages to serve, worship, and learn together in community. Registration for the 2018 workcamp season opens January 11, 2018. For more information on workcamps visit www.brethren.org/workcamps or support it today at www.brethren.org/give.