The Rev. Trina and Ken Holmberg spent part of 2014 and 2015 working with the preschool and church in Nepal. This month, they share how the major earthquake in April slowed—but not deterred—the continued work of helping to educate young Nepali children.
This article was going to be written the beginning of May, shortly after the preschool opened in its new location. Unfortunately, April 25—the day of the first major earthquake to hit Nepal in 80 years—came two days before the beginning of the new school year. Life was shattered for everyone and even if a school could open it would be a while before parents would trust their children to caregivers in buildings that were not their own.
The night of the first earthquake, we joined the Pradhans and many of their family members sleeping in the building. It was the safest place any of us had and it wasn’t out in the open of an unusually cold April. Tension ran high as temblors continued to shake for hours, so we locked the doors and moved to open ground.
Eventually we returned and began sorting, organizing and getting ready for school to start. Engineers (many) checked our building and deemed it safe and strong. No “green sticker” of approval was to be given as we had thought, but we were told we could open and didn’t need it for preschool. We met with teachers and talked about how different the beginning of the year would look. School would open shortly.
On May 12 we met with the toddler and nursery parents in the morning. It was a good discussion and some parents who were engineers praised the soundness of our building. That afternoon, Trina went off to “earthquake training” and learned how to help the children in our school. At the same time, the parents of the four-year-olds would be meeting for the same discussion. Before each meeting began, the earth would again shake in a major way. However, the parents at the school felt quite safe. They even decided to have the birthday party for one young lady as it had been planned. The Pradhans had to ask a few to leave after an hour or so because they needed to go home.
The school again sat empty, waiting for the children to come and play and learn.
On June 1, we held our last two orientations for parents and school began on June 2. Most of our children came; a few were out of country and one had moved farther south, away from the quake areas and would be leaving our school.
Parents and children were nervous about the separation and a few parents stayed for the entire three hours the school was open. The children adjusted well that week and so we opened for full days (9–3) the following week, letting parents know that they could pick children up early if they were not ready to leave the children all day.
The four- and five-year-olds’ classrooms are on the second floor and so we made space for them on the first where it was safer. They played, they talked and they adjusted to being back at school. One of the parents had purchased an earthquake detector for the school and so we began drills to prepare. Eventually Trina set off the alarm, some cried a little, but all did quite well following their teachers’ directions.
Life is almost back to normal. The three-, four- and five-year-olds have homework and they are learning their ABCs and their Ka, kha, ga (Nepali). They are misbehaving, laughing, running and being normal children. They love their new school and they enjoy being with their friends.
There is health and security in this place. God has prepared it for such a time as this. God has brought these children to the school and we all believe God is growing them to make the future of Nepal brighter, happier and healthier. It is an awesome responsibility but one which the Moravian Church in Nepal is struggling to grow.
There remains a desire for a grade school. People surrounding us are talking of renting us their good, strong buildings. There is hope that where God has placed us we can grow.
There is also the desire to have our own land and build to suit our needs instead of adapting the best we can to an existing building. This is a distant dream as there is little money anywhere in this country. But what God desires will come to be. God is working mightily in Nepal and loves this nation of people. We must all pray and act accordingly.
Thank you for your prayers and to those who have given to help feed and rebuild this amazing nation and people. Pray for wisdom as we grow, pray that the doors will open for the school registration (license) and pray for teachers and places to all come together at the right time. God is in control.
Trina and Ken Holmberg served in Nepal with the Antioch program of the BOard of World Mission.