“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
The date 25 April 2015 will be etched into the minds of all Nepali. That fateful day, a 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck the central region of Nepal, just 80 km north-west of Kathmandu. Two weeks on (at the time of this article’s writing), the casualty numbers have risen to over 7,500 fatalities and 14,000 injured, and the numbers are expected to rise.
The physical devastation includes the destruction of public buildings, infrastructure for water and power, heritage sites and more significantly the destruction of thousands of homes. Images broadcast of collapsed buildings and homes, and faces of homeless and distraught Nepalis who have lost loved ones and are now gripped with fear and despair, flash vividly in our minds and haunt us.
Fear of what lies ahead of them is given voice in a Nepalese expression, “ke-garne”, translated as “it’s like this, what can we do”. All around the world people are struck with the images of the quake’s aftermath with many organisations and countries coming to aid the estimated 2.8 million people made homeless by this disaster. (Figures from UNHCR appeal, accurate at time of writing.)
Amidst this backdrop, we have witnessed the love and grace of our sovereign God. It was nothing short of a miracle that when the quake struck, our people were in their respective churches worshipping and were not in their homes. None of our Methodist churches in Nepal collapsed although some minor damage to the buildings was sustained. Many of our believers in the affected areas lost their homes and are now living under temporary shelters but are safe. We thank God for His protection over our people!
Looking back, we recognise the wisdom of our leadership in the Methodist Missions Society (MMS) and our field team in Nepal, which led MMS and the Methodist Church in Nepal (MCN) to develop contingency plans in 2012 to address concerns of a potential quake.
Emergency packs containing food, water, blankets, communications equipment, water, solar-powered lights and tents were prepared and checked periodically. Briefings were regularly conducted to ensure that our leaders were familiar with the contingency procedures that were put into place.
This preparedness ensured that when the recent quake occurred, our Nepali pastors and leaders were able to lead their people and provide them with the emergency packs that would meet their basic immediate needs for survival. Despite all this, more had to be done.
An MCN Crisis Relief Committee was promptly established to oversee the initial relief efforts, plan for longer-term relief work and to coordinate with the MMS Home Office team. The Rev Sabashtain Lepcha and our missionary Mr Gopal Sebastian are key members in the Committee, as they were responsible for developing the contingency plans. The Committee was given an initial grant from the MMS Crisis Relief Fund to meet the needs of Phase 1 work.
After completing Phase 1a – providing for the immediate needs of the girls from Sophia’s Home, the members of our Wesley Bardan Methodist Church (WBMC) in Kathmandu and the families of the Rev Lepcha and Gopal – the relief operations moved out to the community, beginning with the neighbouring households around WBMC.
The approach taken by our field team is to front all our relief work with our Nepali pastors, leaders and members of the local church there. This, as the result has shown, is critical to the success of our work.
Phase 1b was then activated, focusing on the district of Kavre and where Phulbari Methodist Church and Pathlekhet Preaching Point are located. This district sustained significant damage to homes and was in desperate need of assistance. The Rev Lepcha and Pastor Chiangba, Pastor-in-Charge of Phulbari MC, spearheaded the planning and coordination with local government authorities to provide relief aid.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven”
Matthew 5:16 (KJV)
On 5 May, 190 families from six villages in the Kavre district each received provision packs of rice, lentils, oil and salt. The distribution process was conducted smoothly and without incident. The appreciative village officials and villagers thanked our team for their act of love and compassion with smiles on their faces.
Our team members were also glad to be a part of this relief programme. The Rev Lepcha shared: “It was good to be able to help the people so badly affected and in need of help. We have to be the light, sharing His love with our neighbour and loving our neighbour as He has loved us!” In the coming weeks, we will extend the relief programme to cover the villages around Tanahun and the remote villages in the Kavre district. We expect to distribute another 300-500 relief supply packs to the families there.
The planning for Phase 2 will begin soon. This phase will involve the reconstruction and restoration of homes and provide assistance to the people to help them live off their land, and have their daily needs met so that they achieve a minimum level of sustainability. This phase will continue to provide challenges to the Crisis Relief Committee as they develop a practical and pragmatic plan to achieve this. Do pray with us as we seek His wisdom, strength and faith in preparing for the coming relief operations.
In all these relief programmes, we remain focused on our ministry’s vision, “To Redeem Nepal for Jesus Christ”. We recognise the opportunity through our good works to reach out to people who have yet to receive the gospel. The morale of our Nepali believers has been an encouragement to all of us; their willingness to help their neighbours in spite of their own adversity is a lesson of faith in action, and what it means to bless your neighbour and believing that God will shower manifold blessings upon us.
- for our Pastors and leaders, that God will give them strength, protection and healthy minds and bodies. Pray for discernment, that plans and decisions made will be Christcentred.
- for those who have been affected by the quake, that they will continue to trust in our sovereign and loving God and that their faith will grow stronger through this experience.
- for the provision of resources and funding as we plan for the restoration and rebuilding phase.
Col (Ret) Quek Koh Eng is Area Director and Operations Director in the Methodist Missions Society (MMS). He submitted this update together with Noel Tam, Country Coordinating Officer for Nepal with the MMS.