NEPAL – Notes of a praise song carried from one end of the field to another. As the song ended, another started from a different direction. The two singing churches provided a sense of peace amidst the screams of neighbors sitting in open fields seeking a safe place from the aftershocks and tremors April 26, the day after Nepal’s 7.8-magnitude earthquake.
The quake hit just 50 miles outside of the capital city of Kathmandu and reached as far as India, Bangladesh and the Chinese region of Tibet. It was the strongest in the region in more than 80 years, killing at least 3,800 people and leveling buildings and homes. The death toll is expected to rise in days to come as rescue efforts expand from the cities to the countryside.
Aftershocks continue to rock the area. The largest hit Sunday afternoon, registering in at 6.7-magnitude and causing panic and fear for thousands of locals and tourists packing the streets and open fields of Kathmandu. Government officials advised everyone to stay outside until their homes and buildings can be checked.
Residents drive by some of the destruction from an earthquake in Kathmandu that is now reported to have killed some 3,800 people.
The Associated Press reports say another M5.1 earthquake struck near the border of India and Nepal on the morning of April 27.
International Christian worker Bekah Rivers* said local churches and believers are responding as the “hub” for the communities by providing access to shelter, clean water and food. People constructed tents from poles and tarps or anything that would provide protection from the cold night and possible rains. Even a group of volunteers from a North Carolina Baptist church joined the ranks of those sleeping outside their hotels. The volunteer team is reported to be “shaken up, but fine” and helping with immediate needs around them.
“Some pastors and discipleship trainers’ homes were damaged and even destroyed yesterday, yet they are taking care of their community,” Rivers said. About 30 people are staying in the field near the area where their team pitched tents. “Each time there is a tremor, everyone screams. We had earthquakes all night and much of the day.”
Like most of the Christian population in Nepal – about 1 percent of a 28.8 million mostly Hindu nation – Rivers and her husband, Glenn, were at church on Saturday when the earthquake hit at 11:56 a.m. local time. The power went out, followed by a long and violent tremor. Panic ensued, and people in the church began to pray and cry out to the Lord for their protection and safety. The congregation dashed to the one and only exit.
“We stood up and had time to hang onto each other but were then thrown to the ground,” she said. “I would describe trying to get out like being on a trampoline with people carrying it and you’re trying to walk from one side of it to the other – completely off-centered and unsettling, nearly impossible. We both prayed, ‘Lord, please let us get out of this building.’”
Another Christian worker, Marcia Neely,* described her exit from the building as if she were surfing on waves, instead of solid ground.
In a rural church gathering miles away, the same thing was happening. The quake hit in the middle of the closing prayer, only the fate was not as good as in the Rivers’ church. This training center suffered a lot of damage. Discipleship trainer Ramila Karmacharya reported injuries and fatalities.
“I just got an update that 17 dead bodies have been found in this church which we have trained and supported,” she said via Facebook. “We appreciate your prayers for this church. … Pray for the pastor, his family and the whole church family. The pastor lost three of his own family members.”
The damage to rural areas has yet to be added to the news reports and death toll. Roads are damaged, and getting to these areas is difficult. Government officials estimate 80 percent of the houses in rural areas have been destroyed. The quake occurred at a depth of 9.3 miles, which is considered shallow and more damaging than a deeper quake. News from remote areas near the quake’s epicenter, where many more may have died, has been scant. International Christian workers warn that the days to come might be the hardest as reports continue to come in.
“The rural village homes will be damaged far beyond repair, and the death toll at this point is probably limited to the city centers,” Neely said. “All of the places where we work in … it’s devastating to think about what they are experiencing.”
Christians in Nepal ask for you to join them in prayer.
Pray for basic shelter, water and food. These necessities are a high priority right now since no one is allowed back in their homes. The nights are cold, and monsoon season can start any day.
Pray for God’s people to deeply know His comfort and peace during this time. Pray they will share the One who is our Hope and our Firm Foundation with those around them.
Pray for people in Nepal and surrounding areas during the continuing aftershocks and aftermath of this disaster. Southern Baptist assessment teams will begin surveying the damage April 27 to find the best ways to respond.
Thank God for the safety of the North Carolina volunteer team and other Christian workers. Pray for their stamina as they minister to those around them.
To make donations for first response items such as basic survival needs of water, shelter, food and healthcare, go to BGR’s “Where Needed Most” Fund.
North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM) Disaster Relief is partnering with Hungarian Baptist Aid to assess the needs of those affected by the earthquake, according to Richard Brunson, NCBM executive director. You can donate to this effort by making a check payable to NCBM, P.O. Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512 and designate your check for “Nepal Earthquake Relief.” You can also give by credit card by calling Kecia Morgan at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5613.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Susie Rain is an IMB writer based in Asia. Caroline Anderson also contributed to this article. BR updated the story on April 27 according to wire reports, and will continue to provide updates as new information becomes available.)