Christmas story main text 3
30 Dec 2015

Christmas story main text 3

Many of those who came for the Christmas service

30 Dec 2015

Many of those who came for the Christmas service were young children. Some had dressed in splendour. A group of little girls arrived, with eye make-up, wearing red and gold dresses imported from China. Sindhupalchok borders Tibet; it is closer to China than much of the country.

But not all children were well turned-out. Some came in ragged, earth-stained clothing. One such small boy sat with me during the service, one of the 1.7 million children across Nepal who has been affected by the earthquake according to a UNICEF estimate, reaching out to hold my hand and occasionally hug me.

“I work especially with the children,” the pastor was to tell me later. “They have psychological problems, physical problems. They need encouragement.”

There was a talent show after the service. The zinc church resonated with more music and singing, and even a spot of stand-up comedy. “This year’s celebrations are very different,” said Pokharel. “After the earthquake there were so many difficulties. We had no buildings, no temporary homes. Over the past year there have been no proper deliveries. We have problems rebuilding.”

He experienced his own personal sorrows in the year, losing his house as well as a loved one. “My grandfather died in the earthquake and my grandmother was injured,” he said. “One of our regular parishioners died as well. But I’m working in the community to encourage the people. I am not just working for the church, I’m working for the community.”

It was clear to me that the pastor genuinely cared for his community, Christian or otherwise. It was also good to see that there were others here who were remarkably selfless. A good example is Bishnu Maya Ranamagar, but for whom there would be no celebration today. The land the church stood on belongs to her. She had offered it for the church.

Himal Sagar Hingmang (left), one of the musicians, and Bishnu Maya Ranamagar, on whose land the church stands.

Himal Sagar Hingmang (left), one of the musicians, and Bishnu Maya Ranamagar, on whose land the church stands. Photo: Patrick Ward

“No one was here to help up reconstruct the old church,” she said. “So I offered this to the pastor. One day, God will give us a way to build more. I am praying for that. I am full of sorrow, but today I have God and I am happy.” Last year, Ramnamagar told me, they had celebrated Christmas in a proper church. “It was a beautiful building, lit up and decorated,” she said.

The parishioners were beginning to queue up for lunch. It was a meal of rice flakes, chicken and cauliflower and the congregation spread itself under a tarpaulin roof, or on the mounds of mud and grass that surrounded the church. The pastor gave out sweets to overjoyed children.

After lunch, there was more music. Children packed in to dance, and swing off the arms and shoulders of adults who dared to enter. Himal Sagar Hingmang, a music video producer, was one of those providing the entertainment.

“Everyone here has fought sorrow and sad feelings,” he said. “This is a very sorrowful year for the Nepalese people. I hope everything is okay next year and we have happier moments.”

Hingmang said he had lost his production company after the premises collapsed in the earthquake. Now he wanted to work with the pastor to produce music videos to tell the world about the quake and its impact. He said they just needed the money for a camera.

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