forgiveness • peacemaking • reconciliation
equality • poverty • missions


Blue Roofs of Hope

November 2, 2016 by

The valley of Rayale in Nepal harbors a resilient people. A year and a half ago a 7.8 magnitude earthquake destroyed many of their homes and took loved ones, but it did not take away their determination.

building houses in nepal
The construction site: packing dirt into
bags that then stack up to form walls.

For two months this autumn I worked alongside the locals, helping them build earthquake-resistant houses to replace those destroyed last year. The houses are simple but strong: fabric bags filled with dirt on site serve as the walls. When one course is completed, barbed wire is laid on top to tie into the next course. The attic floor is plywood supported by steel tubing. A king truss roof, topped with blue tin, is welded in place, and finally a coating of plaster is applied on the walls, both inside and outside, completing the single-family dwelling.

When I arrived in Nepal in August, only eight or nine houses had been completed in Rayale. But despite numerous problems – the recently ended monsoon season had weakened the soil structure, and none of the local workers spoke English – our small team from the Samaritan’s Purse international relief organization helped complete twenty-five houses by mid-October.

Just over a year ago these people lost everything, yet they were more than willing to sacrifice a day of harvesting rice or corn to cook for us while we worked. It’s perhaps cliché that when we Americans visit impoverished nations, the kindness of the inhabitants surprises and even overwhelms us. I don’t have a long sociological explanation for this (and perhaps there is something we can learn from them) – all I could do was thank them for hot cups of yak-milk tea and plates of dal bhat (rice with spicy curry) that they offered me.

It was a busy two months in Nepal, and as I left Rayale last week, I looked down at the village for the final time from a nearby hillside. I saw the blue roofs of houses that just weeks ago did not exist, and I thought of the families that have moved into them – and I also thought of the hundreds more that don’t yet have a house.

Nepali village
Rayale, Nepal

I realize how little I actually did. Yet these blue roofs represent more than just sturdy dwellings for a few families – they are symbols of hope for the people of Nepal. Through the relief work of Samaritan’s Purse and other groups, God has planted many seeds here. Nepal’s previous state of devastation is slowly coming to an end; Samaritan’s Purse plans to build more than 400 houses in the coming years. A bright future is on the horizon, and I feel thankful to have been a small part of it.

Author Biography: Sheldon Hofer, age 19, lives at the Woodcrest Bruderhof in New York. Read more about the Bruderhof’s partnership with Samaritan’s Purse in Liberia and Cambodia.


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