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Indigenous Workers in Nepal in Prime Position to Aid Earthquake Victims

April 30, 2015

Buildings damaged during the April 25 earthquake in Nepal will take years to rebuild.

The earthquake in Nepal on Saturday (April 25) is an ongoing disaster of intense and widespread magnitude that has hit millions of people with long-lasting effects. While many organizations are rushing aid to the Himalayan republic, Christian Aid Mission's South Asia director said the primary challenge is not gathering food and tents to send to Nepal.

"During these kinds of disasters, gathering up enough aid is one challenge, and getting it to the people is another," said the director, Sarla, who is traveling to her native country this week to encourage ministry leaders and assess damages. "In some of these areas, access is only on foot."

The indigenous ministries in Nepal that Christian Aid Mission assists are well-positioned to distribute aid to survivors of the 7.8-strong earthquake that took the lives of 5,500 people and injured at least 10,000 others. With rains and landslides cutting off road access to many areas, local Christian workers know how to get aid to people deprived of their homes and to come alongside the shell-shocked survivors in their trauma, she said.

The ministries that Christian Aid assists can cheaply purchase food, water and tents from local sources, she added.

Rains hit many areas after the earthquake, and with the monsoon season approaching, there are fears that disease will spread rapidly. One native ministry leader, Bhai Anugraha, reported that when his team went to Bhaktapur outside of Kathmandu, they found diarrhea was already rampant.

"There are at least 100 people living in a single tent of 20 feet by 12 feet," he said. "The weather is not good either; it has been continuously raining. They do not have toilets. It is a mess. We were the first ones to provide at least some help."

Near the tectonic plates that created the largest mountains in the world, the Himalayas and their highest peak at Mt. Everest, earth shifted with a deafening rumble. That sent masonry from humble homes to heritage sites crashing to the ground. With shaking from India (72 dead) to China (25 dead), the earthquake and scores of aftershocks have affected 10 million of Nepal's 33 million people. They have lost loved ones, homes, businesses or farms from the quake or its after-effects, such as landslides.

The total death toll could exceed 10,000, Prime Minister Sushil Koirala said, and at least 450,000 people are reported to have been displaced from their homes.

In Gorkha District, at the epicenter 83 kilometers (51 miles) northwest of the capital city of Kathmandu, Barpak village was leveled, Sarla said.

"Of the 1,200 houses, only four are still standing," she said. "In Gorkha, people are walking out of the village. Also, many churches were lost in the Sindhupalchok area."

A Nepalese ministry leader in Kathmandu, Gopaljee, was guest-speaking at a church in the capital when the quake hit; he and the 70 people in attendance survived the rocking and swaying, but he said a church meeting on the seventh-floor of a building in the Copan area of Kathmandu ended in catastrophe.

"All of a sudden, with the earthquake it came down, and 28 people died," he said.

A church planter,identified only as a graduate of Nepal Bible College in Kathmandu, was one casualty of the earthquake.

Two nearby worship sites were destroyed, and in Ramechap in western Nepal, three people died when two other church buildings came down, he said.

"A lot of relief agencies are working in different places, but they cannot cover all of the affected areas," he said. "We talked to people from Ramechap, and we said, 'OK, we're going to Ramechap. Not all of the roads are paved – it was rainy; it was very difficult. From a certain point onward the members of our team had to walk."

Churches in Nepal meet on Saturday, and many Christians in Kathmandu and surrounding areas survived because they were in worship centers built to code rather than in aged homes when the quake struck at 11:56 a.m., Sarla said. A ministry leader based in Kathmandu thanked God that his church, 600 members sitting on the floor of a two-story concrete structure, suffered no injuries or deaths.

"It struck while we were at the end of the worship service, before the benediction and final prayer," Sita Poudel said. "The building shook very hard for almost three minutes; it was a very frightening experience."

Poudel requested prayer for those who lost loved ones and property, and for those involved in rescue and relief efforts.

"The disaster is enormous and widespread, and it is hard to even imagine the scale of damage," he said. "The scale of the disaster is beyond our capacity or comprehension, but we will have to act to help however we can during this hour. You are welcome to partner with us in relief and rescue."

Christian Aid Mission's history with Nepal goes back to the origins of the organization – and the introduction of Christianity to that country. Organization founder Bob Finley prayed in 1948 that he would see people come to Christ in Nepal during his lifetime, at that time a Hindu monarchy with no known Christians.

In 1951 Prem Pradhan of Nepal traveled to India, heard the gospel, and then returned home to preach Christ. He is widely recognized as the first apostle to Nepal. Christian Aid assisted Pradhan, who continued in his ministry after completing a six-year jail sentence for preaching Christ. Today the estimated number of Christians in Nepal is nearly 1 million.

Christian Aid's South Asia director, whose maternal grandparents' home survived Nepal's last epic quake in 1934, as well as the April 25 shaking, said she is eager to see how the organization can help Christian workers minister to victims of the disaster in the name of Christ. Some of the ministries are in remote areas, such as Gorkha, where the quake has cut off communications.

"I'm just really praying for the people in Gorkha; they're right near the epicenter," Sarla said. "And they're not going to be the priority to get the government help."

The immediate challenges are daunting, and long-term needs will stretch the ministries' capacity.

"The monsoons are coming, so it's probably going to get worse – after that, Kathmandu will have the danger of all kinds of diseases, because you have mosquitos and other problems," Sarla said. "And in the aftermath, rebuilding will be hard, because there are no support systems in the country. The Nepali diaspora will send help, but those in the affected areas are going to need support long-term to rebuild."


SC: MIR