The Earthquake: Part Two

We would like to share a continuation of our days in Nepal in the aftermath of earthquake.

Day Two: A quiet dawn breaks over the city of Kathmandu. Gone are the incessant honking of horns, street sellers hawking goods and the busy foot traffic that gives Kathmandu its personality. The mood instead is somber, quiet, and fearful of what happened and what might happen next. We gear up in our room for a day around the destroyed and traumatized city, stuffing water bottles and cameras into our bags. Our eyes show the signs of sleeplessness as we suffered through 10 aftershocks the night before. We slept fully clothed ready to sprint out if another big one hit. A couple of times we came close to fleeing our room as some of the aftershocks registered nearly 5.0 on the richter scale at 3:00 AM in the morning.

Walking through the empty courtyard and leaving the hotel compound we stepped out to a vacant alleyway and walked to an intersection where only a few cars and motorbikes passed by. The site of toppled homes and tilted buildings seemed unreal. Every block told a different story, but the same theme - devastation. After an hour of walking through ravaged and shattered areas, we came to a temple/cremation site where body bags of the dead were being unloaded from a dumptruck. The crowd was large and the wails of sorrow and mourning from the family members watching these body bags being carried sent a chill down everyone’s spine. There are few sounds in life that stay with you like the sounds of deep and uncontrollable, mass mourning. Down the street from the funeral pyres was a large home reduced to rubble. We took photos as a search and rescue team cleared debris at this site, and then, a man in a black motorcycle mask approached us. He noticed us documenting the destruction and said to us in a shaky and tearful voice, “Will you take my picture. My brother and his children all died yesterday in this home. I want people to know what happened here, so my brother and his children...won’t...won’t be forgotten.” We touched his shoulder and consoled him and then took his image. “Thank you sir.” He said as tears rolled down his face.

Hour after hour passed as we moved from district to district around Kathmandu. Entering the Bhaktapur district we saw complete city blocks destroyed. Search and rescue teams were on the ground trying to recover those still trapped, while the residents were evacuating and carrying whatever they could to escape the dangers of the buildings ready to fall. At noon time our motorbike drivers, who we hired, talked to some people gathering near a park. Then our drivers turned to us to translate what this group were saying to them, “These people are telling us that there is another big earthquake coming. They say at 1:00 PM today there will be another large one.” I looked at William and we both considered this for a moment. “I thought it was impossible to predict earthquakes?” I said openly to our drivers and William. I wasn’t completely sure, but from my understanding it was impossible. We decided to head back to Durbar Square and at around 1:04 PM, when we were documenting down an alley just off Durbar Square, our worst fears came true. The earth began to sway like we were passing over waves at sea as another quake struck. Screams erupted all around us as we ran 20 meters to the center of the street. Birds flew in every direction while squawking in a shrill, unnatural way. The earth swayed endlessly and it seemed as if the whole city would fold in on itself. People sprinted down the streets by the hundreds, yelling and screaming in terror. All we could think about was staying in the center of the road to avoid toppling buildings. This aftershock registered at 6.3. The first thing we said to each other after it subsided was, “They predicted it right!” As a result of this, one correct prediction, we would constantly be on edge in the days that followed because predictions of big quakes were announced daily. Never again was another one accurately predicted, but by nature, we heeded every warning.

After the end of these hectic days and more aftershocks, we would come back and crash in our room. We saw so many desperate and needy families living in tarped tents without food or water on the streets. It was a sad sight and we knew we needed to help. The government couldn’t mobilize fast enough to get aid supplies out immediately and NGO’s were at least a week away from getting real help to the people. So, in the days that followed, we set ourselves to finding supplies for our own aid drops. We had the advantage of being on the ground when the earthquake happened so all we had to do was find the goods, buy them, and then deliver them. Working with local elders and pastors of a church in Kathmandu we began shuttling aid supplies out to villages and districts around Kathmandu. Sacks of rice, tarp sheetings and cooking supplies were the main purchases at local warehouses. The other advantages to buying local products is that money is paid to local shop owners rather than bringing in aid from foreign countries. This is important as it helps the local economy, not damaging it further. Moreover, Nepalese are accustomed to eating rice and dal for every meal, so buying food they eat on a daily basis is necessary. Everything worked like clockwork when we began mobilizing and soon we were a small force able to bring large amounts of aid to specific communities.  In one village, a 74-years old woman, clutched our hands as we distributed food supplies to nearly 25 families. She spoke to us in soft Nepalese. Our translator said, “She is thanking us for helping them and being so kind.” She nodded her head with sad and thankful eyes as our translator spoke her words to us in English. Her home each night was with 10 others under a tarp tent. She was thankful for the food and for being alive.

As we delivered aid supplies everyday to different districts we also preached the Gospel and laid hands on the sick. In each village people were eager to hear the Good News and know the reason why we had come to help. Many were searching deep in their hearts for answers as to why this earthquake happened. Some of the most famous Hindu temples had been utterly destroyed as a result of the earthquake, leaving people with little faith in the idols they once worshipped. After explaining the Gospel to those displaced and sitting outside their broken homes we would close our messages by saying, “God is real and he cares for you. He sent His Son to die for all of us. He never leaves nor forsakes those who call upon His name. He heals the sick and forgives all who believe in Him. God loves you the same as all the children of the earth. There is no difference to God where you are from or what you have. He loves you deeply. If you ask Him to forgive your sins, He will do it. He will give you new life. Eternal life. You will have a kingdom to come and even in death you will live forever with Him. We are witnesses of this new life (pointing to ourselves and the Nepalese pastors and elders accompanying us) and this is the message we come to speak. God can change you right now and give you new life. All you have to do is confess with your mouth and believe in your heart and you will be saved.” In every village many came to receive Him. We laid hands on the sick and this was also a sign and a witness to many. The light of Christ shines brightest in the darkness and it was evident God had us in this disaster for moments just like this. We ministered everyday in the aftermath and brought supplies to areas even as far as to the epicenter of the earthquake.