On April 25, Arizona residents Pete and Ila Diepersloot were on their way back from a World Renew Domestic Disaster Response workshop in Grand Rapids, Michigan when they heard about the devastating earthquake in Nepal.
“We were of course shocked like everyone around us and our hearts went out to the families of all the people killed and injured,” said Pete.
“Since my retirement more than 13 years ago, Ila and I have worked on volunteer relief efforts in many places and we believe that has become our calling. As International Relief Managers (IRMs) with World Renew, we were involved in relief efforts after the 2005 Banda Aceh tsunami/earthquake that killed thousands – so we had some idea of the horrendous grief people are dealing with and what incredible devastation an earthquake can bring.”
IRMS are trained and highly experienced volunteers that are available to respond quickly when support is needed for World Renew’s international disaster response work. They are called on to manage and implement a wide variety of projects in response to natural disasters, like floods and earthquakes, and disasters caused by civil unrest. IRMs typically work for three to six months on an international volunteer assignment.
Once Pete learned of the opportunity to serve as an IRM in Nepal, he and World Renew’s International Disaster Response team stared making plans for the trip. He left on May 5th, and will be in the country for three weeks. He will be working with Grace Wiebe, World Renew’s Senior Program Manager in International Disaster Response, to assess damage and strategize the immediate and early recovery responses that World Renew will be a part of.
In this early stage, World Renew is working to meet the immediate needs of survivors, such as food, shelter, water and blankets. World Renew will also be connecting with other relief organizations and local groups and churches as it becomes part of the larger, organized efforts and relief work.
“I believe that my engineering training and career experience in project management have been preparing me all my life for this kind of work,” said Pete. “The Bible tells us in Peter that in this life we will have trouble. Certainly the people of Nepal are experiencing this. I believe we are called as Christians to provide help where we can.”
Prepared to serve
On May 7, Pete and Grace were joined by Harry and Annie Bergshoeff – World Renew IRMs from Oakville, Ontario. They will stay in Nepal for five weeks to help with these initial activities.
Harry and Annie recently served as IRMs in Liberia as part of World Renew’s Ebola response. In fact, they have only been home for just over a month.
“We were of course excited about being back in Ontario to enjoy the warm spring weather and see family,” said Annie, “but as we heard the news about Nepal our hearts stirred at the deep pain of the people. The details and numbers and stories that keep coming in show the devastation.”
Both Harry and Annie felt strongly that God was calling them to again use their time and abilities to serve as IRMs. So they began planning the details to serve with Pete and Grace in Nepal.
“It is a matter of being called – and all of us are called to minister to our brother in sisters in need, whether it is doing so at home or across around the world – by traveling or by offering prayers and gifts,” said Annie. “All these parts work together. And we are grateful that it worked out for us to be able to serve Nepal in this way – to have the chance to look these people in the eye and say ‘I am sorry for your loss.’”
Like Pete Diepersloot, Harry and Annie were reminded of a previous time they spent serving as IRMs in the early stages of another large natural disaster – for them, it was Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, in November 2013.
“We learned a lot through our experience in the Philippines – what to expect, what not to expect,” said Annie, “If we hadn’t come through that experience I think the idea of this response might have been even more overwhelming. So that is just one way that God has prepared us for our service in Nepal.”
“As with any response, there will be times in Nepal when we will need to trust God’s timing and be patient,” said Harry. “I remember being there in the Philippines where so many other organizations were at work – some with much larger capacity than World Renew. But even when we were working out our next steps, we always had something vital to give people in need: the gift of time. We could worship with them, listen to them, and learn from them. We could build relationships. It reaffirmed for me what World Renew has to offer.”
Pete, Harry and Annie all acknowledged the importance of covering all of their work in prayer – and remembering, especially, the individuals and families who are grieving and working to rebuild.
“Psalm 121:1-2 comes to my mind as I think of the people – especially because of Nepal’s landscape, said Annie. “I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”
Pete said: “Pray that we can be humble and effective in our work – that people can see we are Christians by our actions, that earthquake victims can be comforted and that we can provide some assistance in people recovering from this disaster rebuilding homes and livelihoods.”
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