Special Report: Nepal Earthquake 2015
“Where is my daughter?” the muffled cry came as the pastor pulled the young lady from his congregation out of the rubble of a collapsed building. He comforted the young mother with the assurance that her daughter was safe and then consoled her with the promise that rescue workers were on their way to take her to the hospital where she could be treated for the serious injuries she had sustained in the earthquake. The young lady’s immediate response was, “I’m alive, but there are others in the building who probably are not. Go back and look for them.” The pastor followed the woman’s command and pulled several corpses out of the heap of stones that just minutes before had been the village’s bank. When the Nepalese army helicopter arrived, the pastor assisted in placing the woman on the stretcher and transporting her to the waiting chopper. Unfortunately, the poor lady breathed her last breath just as she was being loaded into the belly of the awaiting air ambulance. Now, it is the voice of the lady’s toddler daughter that echoes through the makeshift tent village that the entire village now calls home as she who longingly searches for her mother, “Where is my mommy?”
This same story could be retold thousands of times with almost every possible configuration of the details, but this one example seems enough to summarize just what happened on April 25 in the Himalayan nation of Nepal as it was devastated by a 7.8-scale earthquake.
I’ve known for years that it wasn’t a matter of “if” but “when” Kathmandu and the surrounding cities and villages were to be met with a tragic earthquake – and, in fact, I’ve even written about this impending doom as I’ve encouraged the believers to take seriously the mandate to share the gospel with as many of their fellow Nepali as possible. Having been intimately involved with ministry in the country for almost twenty-five years, I was heartbroken when I first heard the news of the earthquake. Knowing how the buildings are constructed with stone or brick without proper earthquake resistance architecture, I could only imagine how devastating the massive quake must have been. However, even in my farthest stretch of my imagination I still fell far short of the magnitude of the reality.
I was in the South American country of Colombia when the earthquake shattered the nation. Immediately, my email inbox was flooded with messages from all over the world, asking if we were in Nepal and if we were safe. One particular message really touched me deeply, “I know that both you and Peggy are is a very stressful situation, torn between your responsibilities in Columbia and wishing to be right there in Nepal doing whatever you can. Think about how so many hundreds, maybe thousands, that have come to know Christ due to your obedience in daily prayer for Nepal starting way back in the 80s.”
Ironically, I was in the middle of writing emails to my coworkers in Nepal concerning my upcoming visit when the Internet notification of the earthquake came through. At that time, the estimation of the causality count was just over one hundred, but each news broadcast brought more and more detail with the ever-escalating death toll increasing astronomically. As the extent of the tragedy began to unfold, I realized how God’s hand had orchestrated my upcoming visit. Due to other pressing items in my schedule, I had cut the one-week visit back to two days – just long enough to be there for the board meeting of the Bible college and then head on to other assignments in India. When it became apparent that the whole nation was in a chaotic state because of the earthquake, I knew that it would have been impossible for me to have proceeded with the teaching conferences that were originally scheduled. Instead, I was there just long enough to assess how Teach All Nations could best assist with the disaster relief effort.
Jeremy (my youngest son) and I toured several of the camps where the displaced earthquake victims are housed in tent cities that fill almost every available open space in Kathmandu. In each camp we had opportunity to get firsthand stories from the survivors and to witness their almost hopeless situation. Although we couldn’t do anything to make a significant difference, we knew that our smiles, prayers, and words of encouragement could penetrate deep into their hurting souls. We had the opportunity to survey the devastation in both Kathmandu and some outlying villages and to meet with a couple pastors whose churches had been destroyed.
One of those pastors was the individual who pulled the lady from the collapsed building in the story that I’ve related above. Since I’ve known him for a while, I felt comfortable promising to assist him in his rebuilding process. Therefore, a portion of the funds that our generous donors have entrusted to Teach All Nationswill go to help him rebuild the church building and several low-cost homes for his church members. We also had an opportunity to connect with an Australian missionary that I’ve actually known for several years but wasn’t really aware of exactly what he does in Nepal. I discovered that he has a very simple brickmaking process that is perfect for the reconstruction effort since he can grind up the old bricks and mix the powder with cement to make much stronger bricks that have a space to put reinforcing rods through the bricks so that the structures built with these bricks will be earthquake resistant. The technique is a hand-operated procedure so it can be operated by the very people whose houses are being rebuilt. I also met with one of the young men that Teach All Nations provided scholarship funding for his college education and was surprised to learn that he is associated with a company that is producing prefab homes in Nepal – another excellent alternative for the rebuilding project.
In addition to working in this one village, we are also delegating some of the available resources to help at least one other pastor rebuild his church. Of course, anything we are able to do will be nothing more than the proverbial “drop in the bucket” compared to the need. But the beauty of the our Christian faith is that God promises that every good seed will be multiplied up to thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times once we have planted it in the right soil.
The young lady that the pastor pulled from the rubble of the village bank is now a resident of heaven with a gorgeous mansion while her daughter sleeps on a mat on the ground under a blue plastic tarpaulin, but – thanks to the generosity of all the friends of Teach All Nations from India, England, Scotland, Canada as well as the United States – the daughter will soon have a safe, dry, warm home to grow up in. Thank you for your prayers, gifts, and love that have taken us this far in the relief effort. One very generous donation came in from a mystery donor who was totally unknown to me. He had taken one of my courses from the Bible college here as a distance learner. Apparently, I mentioned something about Nepal on one of the videos and he remembered the comment. He called the school to find out how to connect with me to support the relief effort. God certainly works through any and every channel to fulfill His will.
Now we ask for your continued prayers that the reconstruction to move quickly and without any delays. Since the monsoon season begins in June, it is urgent that we get this precious little girl out of the tent before the heavy rains begin. Additionally, let me suggest that you remember some of the side effects of the earthquake. One of the major rivers of the nation has been dammed up by a landslide that was triggered during the earthquake. The blockage is subject to wash out at any time, releasing the resulting reservoir of water as flashfloods that will devastate all the villages and towns downstream with incalculable damage and loss of life. One other very tragic byproduct of the earthquake has been a surge of human trafficking. Immoral men have been preying on the displaced victims and taking them into bondage as slave laborers and sex workers. It seems unthinkable that men are so depraved as to use these desperate situations to perpetrate their diabolically greedy plots on other already hurting fellow humans; however, this is exactly what is happening. However, I am convinced that your prayers can – and will – make a difference just as your gifts are already doing.