Riverside Adventist Academy in India Flooded, Teacher Drowned

(system) #1

Greg Khng first fell in love with India in 2012 when he travelled to the northeast part of the country with the Walla Walla University annual immunization trip, led by the WWU nursing program.

In the past four years WWU nursing students have traveled to India five times to provide immunizations at the two of the local Seventh-day Adventist schools, and Khng's trip proved life-changing.

This year Khng decided to travel back to India to film the nursing program’s latest trip. What he didn’t anticipate was that his three-week visit would turn into a six-month commitment to India’s Riverside Adventist Academy in Meghalaya.

Just one week into filming the nursing group, Riverside Adventist Academy offered Khng a position teaching computer science, math, and assisting in yearbook productions. Despite the full-time graphic design job waiting for him back in Portland, Oregon, Khng decided this was an opportunity he just couldn’t pass up.

“My love for the people and the school made it easy to quit and move to India,” Khng said. “So in a way, Riverside chose me.”

The day Khng was scheduled to begin teaching classes was the day the floodwaters hit RAA. Very early in the morning, the flood waters began to pour into the school.

“I woke up and saw a couple feet of standing water outside my apartment. I went to the bathroom, and that's when an older boy came [in] to wake me up. He told me that the water would be getting much higher and I would need to get to higher ground.”

Khng began to quickly gather his belongings, trying to get his electronics out of the reach of the rising waters. He soon realized that the water was coming in too fast, so he threw what he couldn't carry on the top bunk of his bed and locked the door.

He waded through the water to the clinic where many of the RAA faculty, staff, and their families were waiting out the storm.

The floodwaters were first seen coming by one of the watchman. “Get out! Get out! The water is coming!” he yelled.

Teachers began to quickly hurry the 900 RAA students to higher ground.

Ritu Rai Thukon was one the teachers helping the children to safety. Because of his heroic actions, all 900 children made it safely to the second floor of one of the school buildings. Unfortunately, the waters carried Thukon off when the post he was holding onto broke. He was later found dead.

Riverside Adventist Academy was built by Maranatha International volunteers in 2007. Because of the flooding, the school has suffered severe damage. In places like Khgn’s apartment, the floodwater reached six feet high. The walls of each of the school’s buildings have been damaged and in some places mud is stacked a foot tall. Several of the school’s outer boundary walls were washed away and the electric system powering the school has been exposed to water. Garbage and blown-over trees are littered across the campus. Many of the parked cars had their windows blown out by the water and some were carried away completely. The students’ belongings were all washed away.

The school has been placed on an extended “holiday” while faculty and staff come together to regroup and rebuild.

Many are worried that students will not be able to return to RAA once it has been reopened. Most students do not have much money to begin with, and the added expense of returning home early might prevent them from coming back to the school at all.

The heavy rainfall this week caused significant damage in several of India’s districts. Sixty-eight people have been reported dead, 100 people are still missing, and over 350,000 people are stranded. Traffic has come to a halt on the streets and rural farmland has turned into bodies of water.

As for Greg Khng, his trip to Riverside Adventist Academy has been nothing like he anticipated. Despite his plan to stay until February, Khng is now planning for an early return home as soon as possible.

“It’s not technically safe for me as I'm not used to their water and bottled water is hard to find,” he said.

Khng's planning of his trip home has been complicated because his passport was lost in the flood. In the meantime, Khng is working to document the damage so he can send the footage to ADRA and the General Conference. The video will allow them to assess the damage and figure out how best to send aid.

“While this to me was a bad out-of-country experience, this is a complete disaster for them [the people affected by the flooding],” says Khng. “Many lost all their belongings, many lost their homes, and I can only imagine how many lost their lives. I urge people to do what the can to help.”

Khng is hoping to start fundraising for RAA as soon as he gets back to the states.

The WWU nursing team, which just returned home from their fifth trip to India, is devastated by the news. “We plan to be involved as much as we can,” says Rosemarie Buck, assistant professor of nursing at WWU. “Whether it’s through immunizations or rebuilding, we want to help.”

For those interested in helping RAA through donations, you can send a check to the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church at 12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver Spring, MD 20904 and write in the MEMO: “Adventist Child India for the ‘Mack Trust Fund.’” You can also donate with a credit card by calling (301) 680-6228.

Image Above: Greg Khng with student.

Rachel Logan is an intern with Spectrum, and a recent graduate of Walla Walla University.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6281

(Kevin Paulson) #2

What a terrible tragedy!! May the grace, peace, and comfort of our Lord attend the family of this precious teacher, and all the children at the school! Self-sacrificing workers remain the true heroes of God’s church.

(George Tichy) #3

Time to buy a property at a safer place, higher elevation, so that it won’t happen again. I am always amazed how people would rebuild after floods, just to have another one every year or so. Time to get out and make a smarter investment.

(Carrol Grady`) #4

It’s fortunate all the students had just been vaccinated against typhoid a couple of weeks earlier by the WWU nursing students.

(Tongkam) #5

You may be unaware of their circumstances. It is not always feasible, nor practicable, to relocate. God may have opened the doors to help them establish their school just where it is.

The Jews of old rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem when it was destroyed by siege. Their new temple was later also destroyed by siege. But lest anyone say they were foolish to have rebuilt it, it should be known that God had ordained it to be rebuilt just where it was, and had helped them do so. Obviously, a siege is somewhat distinct from a flood; but God sometimes allows us to pass through an experience, not to shut down our work, but for His own purposes which we may not immediately understand.

(George Tichy) #6

It would be interesting to learn whether that school was built where it is by some clear Divine guidance or by human decision . It don’t see a point in keeping guessing what God probably wants if there is no clear guidance. Which usually there is not. There are prayers, but that doesn’t mean that the final decision was God’s. It’s usually a human decision .

Saying that tragedies like this should not trigger some urgent change because God may have some goals involved is, in my personal opinion, another tragedy. Those people should get out of that land as fast as possible and build on a hill. Fast!!!

(Tongkam) #7


You make some judgmental assumptions (“It’s usually a human decision.”). Is God leading you to make that judgment? If not, know that your words here may well be read by some involved in the ministry of that school, and they may be offended without cause.

There is no safe place on this planet. Valleys may be prone to flooding, but hillsides are prone to mudslides, landslides, and fire. Nearly every place is equally vulnerable to earthquake (one would have to study the geology of the area), and then there are other, less physical but more practical, considerations the planners of an institution must make.

  1. What is their mission?
  2. Where are the ones located whom they wish to
  3. Where will they be best situated to find ready access to
    these people?

Sometimes, though we may wish we could live in seclusion, we may have a duty to build in the city–where the people are. Whilst we are with the people we minister unto, we are subject to the same hazards they are. The only safe place is in Heaven. That’s a future reward for doing God’s work here.

“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.”

The teacher who died apparently did so in service to God and to the flock of students that had been entrusted to his care. The above words may well apply to his sacrifice.

(George Tichy) #8

It’s clear that we have different opinions on this issue about the school location, and no need to clash about it.

Regarding the quote above, I have no comment since it’s been quite a long time since I stopped believing in salvation by works.

(Tongkam) #9

I will never stop believing the Bible, George.

And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.

That doesn’t mean the works save us. We are, however, rewarded according to them.

(George Tichy) #10

Have a great Sabbath.

(ZywVal) #11

I am happy to be able to share some additional information with you as I have served as avolunteer at this school five years ago. It is a little upsetting for me to read some of the “know-it-all” comments which have been offered so far. This school already sits there fore a number of years and although the nearby rivers flow is quite irregular, it has never before flooded the school compound - this is the first time. So there really is no building up again and again. Also: building in the mountinside is a little more difficult than you seem to imagine - there are no roads in the sense we use that words apart from those in the valleys simply because they dont have the machinery to built them - the same of course goes for electricity and water. Pumping water in a low location is much easier than on the mountain - especially if you have close to 1000 people to care for (not all of the boarding). One should also be aware of the fact that althoug there is an abundance of water in summer - this place is dry as a desert in the winter - with power outages that last for weeks it would be impossible in the mountains to get enough water. Finally there are (as already mentioned) not many streets in this area - two of them go by close to the school which is very convenient - for numerous purposes. The land was provided, as far as I am informed, by a local church elder and really can be considered a perfect spot for most practical purposes - that is probably a reason why maranatha agreed to build a walled compound with around 14 buildings…

(Tongkam) #12

Thank you, Val. Frequently those who are wisest in their own eyes have the least practical knowledge or experience. I certainly won’t claim to know everything, but I do know that God often uses methods, circumstances, and locations that we would never think best. To me, the very fact that some can criticize the founding of this school from afar, having no genuine experience in the mission lands, speaks volumes regarding their qualifications for such a work. I am thankful for the sacrificial efforts of the volunteers who are willing to endure trials and privation that the work of God may be advanced.