Near the end of church services across the Kathmandu Valley on April 25, stunned Christians staggered toward exits as the power blinked off and the earth rocked beneath their feet.
For many Nepalese Christians, Saturday is the usual day of worship, and believers in the country’s small religious minority were winding down church services around noon when a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the Himalayan nation and killed over 4,000 people. In Kathmandu, at least 80 worshippers died when an evangelical church collapsed.
The tremor struck some 9 miles below the earth’s surface, but scientists said the quake was shallow enough to cause massive damage above ground and strong enough to equal the power from an explosion of more than 20 thermonuclear weapons.
Indeed, the quake was about 16 times more powerful than the deadly tremor that struck Haiti in 2010. (An aftershock the day after the Nepal quake shook buildings nearly 700 miles away in the Indian capital of New Delhi.) At least 18 climbers—including four Americans—died when the earthquake triggered an avalanche at Mount Everest.
Hospitals grew overwhelmed as seriously injured patients outstripped medical capacity in the impoverished nation, and devastated villages at the epicenter near the district of Gorkha remained cut off by landslides that blocked roads with boulders and mud.
In Nepal’s capital of Kathmandu, the quake toppled temples and other religious sites in the predominantly Hindu nation, and grieving families began solemn Hindu rituals to cremate their loved ones.
Some carried dead family members down hillsides on bamboo stretchers to build funeral pyres at riversides. A local priest said families had burned more than 1,200 bodies within 48 hours in rituals near a temple in Kathmandu.
As smoke rose from riverside funeral pyres, prayers and singing rose from open fields in neighboring towns, as Christians from local churches huddled with others outdoors to avoid the dangers of powerful aftershocks. Some had lost their homes in the quake.
Christians make up less than 3 percent of the population in a country once considered the world’s only Hindu kingdom. After years of intense persecution, Nepalese Christians now have more freedom to meet openly, though proselytizing remains illegal.
Baptist Global Response, the international humanitarian arm of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), reported local churches were pooling limited resources to become community hubs for relief, offering shelter, clean water, and food to neighbors in need. (A local partner told the group at least 17 bodies had been found in a nearby church. The church’s pastor lost three of his family members.)
Workers at Rescue Network Nepal, an indigenous Christian organization, activated volunteers they had already trained through local churches to provide first aid and trauma care in rural regions.
Outside Christian organizations responded as well: Samaritan’s Purse and Convoy of Hope dispatched teams and supplies to the region to offer relief in conjunction with church networks in local communities.
David Platt, president of the SBC’s International Mission Board, said his denomination would also help with relief efforts, including both material and spiritual needs.
“In light of the lack of gospel access in so much of Nepal, seeing urgent physical and spiritual need collide like this is overwhelming,” Platt wrote after the earthquake. “A natural disaster like this in Nepal underscores the reality that in a world of pain and suffering, the ultimate hope for the nations is the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
— by Jamie Dean | WNS