Nepal, among the most remote places on Earth, was the topic of last week's program for the Cleveland Kiwanis Club luncheon at the downtown Elks Lodge.
Members of First Baptist Church presented the educational and interesting program on the church's Nepal Ministry. Jim Gibson provided the Kiwanians with information, while Dave Gregory presented a video display of visits to the Far East.
Gibson emphasized the country of Nepal is much like the state of Tennessee (geographically), divided into three distinct sections. While Tennessee is divided into East, Middle and West grand divisions, Nepal is divided from bottom to top, with its Lower Hills, Middle Hills and Upper Hills.
The upper section of Nepal, which includes Mount Everest, is mostly uninhabitable.
Gibson pointed out Mount Everest has been in the news during the past week, with tragic happenings. More than 100 mountain climbers have been perched and somewhat stranded on the upper slopes, many of them inexperienced in mountain climbing and its challenges. There have been more than a dozen deaths among these ill-advised treks on the upper reaches of the mountain.
Gibson said First Baptist's Nepal Ministry began in 2005. He and Gregory have both made the Nepal trek nine times. The two visitors brought along a number of articles from Nepal, including the country's very unusual flag. There were knives and other items made by the people of Nepal, especially for the tourist trade.
Gibson said a major appeal of Nepal is the mountains, which claim eight to 10 of the world's highest peaks.
In comparison, he said Mount Everest towers to 29,029 feet, while Mount. LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee (the highest point in the state) is only 6,100 feet.
Gibson added Nepal is 56,060 square miles, with a population of 26.4 million. Tennessee is 41,000 square miles with only 6.6 million residents.
"Another unusual thing about Nepal, and that region, are the time zones," Gibson said. Nepal has two time zones on three-quarters of the hour, while nearby India's time zone is on the half hour.
He said Nepal is the only Hindu kingdom in the world, and Christianity, as a religious preference, is only 2% of the population.
Gibson also took a little jab at Cleveland Utilities President and CEO Tim Henderson, who was a participant on one of the recent trips to Nepal.
"Over the years, when we would visit, the power (electricity) would be out about 15% of the time," Gibson said. "After Tim went, it's down to about 2%."
He explained the First Baptist mission trips extend to various locations in Nepal, most to rural Baptist churches. A majority are to the Middle Hills region, which is still quite lofty in comparison to East Tennessee. Most of these visits are difficult, with challenging climbs.
Gregory presented a number of videos with views of Nepal, showing the people, the communities and the wide differences in the countryside. He emphasized this Third World is not only very up-and-down, but also heavily populated.
"We see a lot of sadness in the cities, as well as the beauty of the mountainous back country," he said.
Gregory said all members of families work, and many are involved in planting and growing meager crops on the steep slopes. He said education is a big deal, and children must obtain a 10-year certificate to be eligible to go on with their studies.
Gregory and Gibson emphasized to the Kiwanians they are striving to do what they can in Nepal. "We must stay available for what God would have us do," they said.
In closing, they extended an invitation to Kiwanis Club members, who might have an interest to learn more about the ministry, and possibly participate in a future trip to Nepal.
"Nepal is one of the world's countries where Christianity is growing," they said.
In other Kiwanis business:
• Kaye Smith reminded members the club was helping to provide meals and snacks for professionals and volunteers at the Remote Area Medical free clinic at Cleveland High Schoo, held last weekend. Several hundred people received free dental, vision, and medical assistance.
• Cleveland High School's Key Club held its final meeting of the school year last week. The club had 50 members this year.
• The Kiwanis Club's annual golf tournament is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 5, at the Chatata Valley Golf Course.
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