Nepal has been hit by two huge earthquakes — on 25 April and on 12 May. The first one was particularly devastating.
Most Christians in Nepal were in church when the first one struck. They generally meet for worship on Saturdays as Sunday is a working day in Nepal.
Eyewitnesses spoke of their experiences on 25 April. Immediately after hearing about the earthquake in Nepal, I skyped Narayan Bhagat, who said, ‘We are all safe. The Lord protected us’. Just a few hours earlier, when the ground began to shake violently, Narayan had ordered everyone to evacuate the hall where their worship service was drawing to a close. It was not an easy task: there were 35 disabled people in wheelchairs. He said, ‘Everyone was scared. Some ran, some were screaming. Immediately my eyes looked to he who is Almighty God, sitting on the throne and ruling the heaven and the earth’. He reassured everyone that the Lord was in control; and everyone started helping the disabled people to leave the building. As soon as they were outside, they saw houses around them collapsing, one after another. Miraculously, their building withstood the earthquake, with just minor damage. A ministry team had come from Singapore to work at the disabled centre. ‘They were in awe of how God had kept the church building intact during such a violent quake. God’s mercy and power were present’, Mr Bhagat said. The Singaporean visitors shared how they were encouraged by the faith of the Nepali believers. Seeing them continue in prayer when the aftershocks kept coming, and how they offered food and help to the surrounding neighbours, was a remarkable testimony. Since 1992, Mr Bhagat and his co-workers have been ministering to many people in the villages. Over 35 churches have been established. The houses in these villages are made from mud and bricks, and 70 to 80 per cent of these have collapsed.
Pastor Samuel Rai is general secretary of the United Baptist Churches of Nepal. Pastor Juge Ram of India Link Ministries has conducted seminars for his pastors in Pokhara. Pastors Training International (PTI) is carrying out a series of training conferences for Samuel’s men, beginning in October. Simon Percy, director of ministry for PTI, said, ‘Last Sunday I was pleased to be able to speak with Samuel on the phone and to know that the Lord has not taken him home yet’. Samuel Rai wrote: ‘As we were worshipping, all of a sudden everything started shaking’. He requested prayer ‘that the Lord will open hearts for the gospel’.
More traumatic than his personal experience is the news that many Christians, including pastors, have died in the village of Barpak (Gorkha district), which had a significant Christian minority population. Being close to the epicentre, reports say that less than ten homes remain standing out of 1200. Samuel wrote: ‘We are planning to send some rescue workers from our church’. Also badly hit is Richet, where their Bible school and a church of 500 members existed. Now there is nothing left of the building. More than 260 people were killed when the church building collapsed during the service.
The pastor was said to be critically injured, along with many others; and his wife and daughter-in-law killed. A team was sent there immediately and Samuel Rai was awaiting further news. ‘We are organising with all our Christian friends and churches to send some of the relief materials, as well as provide them with basic needs, such as food, medicine, blankets, clothing, tents and water supply’.
Suraj Kasula is a Nepali from Bhaktapur in the Kathmandu valley. The valley is full of historic temples and is listed as a World Heritage Site. Many of these temples have been severely damaged and some completely destroyed by the earthquake. Suraj is studying theology at Edinburgh Theological Seminary. Described by Desiring God as ‘Nepal’s most unlikely church planter’, he was born into an orthodox Hindu family, became a violent criminal gangster, and ended up in prison. According to Desiring God, one day a neighbour told him about Jesus. He was given a copy of the Bible and, in his words, ‘[God’s] invincible grace overcame me. I burst into tears, and I trusted Christ as my Lord and Saviour’. Following the earthquake, Mr Kasula said, ‘My parents are safe, but we lost some friends. Our house in Bhaktapur is collapsed. Our church building is slightly cracked. Christ is exactly what my nation needs. He is the only true comfort my country can have in this suffering’.
Nepal relief round-up
Nepal is still in chaos after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck in April and then another of 7.3 in May. More than 8000 people have died, with the death toll rising. Even more have been seriously injured. Entire towns, villages and livelihoods are destroyed and survivors need drinkable water, basic food and shelter.
Many Christian and other relief organisations on the ground are offering help, including:
Barnabas Fund: https://www.barnabasfund.org
Feed The Hungry: http://feedthehungry.org.uk
India Link Ministries: http://indialink.org.uk
Operation Mobilisation: http://www.uk.om.org
Samaritans Purse: http://samaritans-purse.org.uk/nepal-earthquake-2015
New Life Children’s Haven (Kathmandu) was started in faith by Pastor Ram Nepal and his wife in 1990, arising out of a concern for orphan children. Their objective is to provide a loving, stable and biblical environment for the children. One of their leaders wrote: ‘Our pastor was about to finish the service [when] the earthquake struck. Praise the Lord, nothing happened to me and my children’. However, one of the leaders was injured and they were traumatised. They had to sleep outside in the church compound for many nights because of the risk of aftershocks. The report said: ‘Most of our members lost their houses. They are taking shelter in our church compound. Most members have to work daily to meet their basic needs,[but] now they do not have work. They do not have food to eat [or] a place to stay’. The immediate needs of the children’s home are for food, water and sanitation. The Reformed Church of Nepal has more than 800 churches across Nepal. Many of these have been damaged and many Christians killed. In a report, the church said: ‘We need to help those pastors and church members. As we have limited resources, we are sharing this prayer request to our brothers and sisters in Christ’. They have set out a plan to buy tents and tarpaulin for more than 10,000 people; to distribute food and provide purified drinking water, first aid health treatment and temporary accommodation. They are also concerned about children orphaned by the earthquake who need to be rescued and cared for.
Dr Bal Khrishna Sharma, principal of Nepal Theological College, Kathmandu, said, ‘I was about to conclude my sermon when I felt something was shaking. I did not realise it was a quake. The shaking increased and people began to get out of the building. There were approximately 600 adults in the main building and 300 children in their classes. The quake was so strong that it was difficult to walk. One side of our church building collapsed. The bricks fell inside. One elderly person was taken to hospital and died while being treated’. He asked: ‘Please pray for the people of Nepal, for their physical and mental healing as well as spiritual awakening. There is no protection in the world, anywhere, but only in God through Christ. This message of peace and hope is also the message this nation needs’. There are many other stories of hundreds of Christians delivered from imminent danger, while others suffered injury or lost their lives. A proud yet impoverished nation has been all but destroyed and will take years to recover. Nepal, whose religion is a Hinduism that has assimilated Buddhism, has one of the highest church growth rates in the world — from 458 professed Christians in 1961 to around 2 million today. With persecution on the increase again over the past year, this mountainous country, sandwiched between India and China, remains ripe for the gospel. There are three things we can do in the UK: supplicate, sacrifice, serve. Let us bring our supplications before the throne of grace on behalf of Nepal. Secondly, let us give generously and sacrificially. And thirdly, let us serve as we can, even by simply making the needs more widely known in our churches.
India Link Ministries