Suraj Kasula, who we called Nepal’s most unlikely church planter, sent us this update on the devastating 7.9-magnitude earthquake that hit his homeland this weekend and the heavy monsoon rains and flooding coming in its wake. Here’s what Suraj writes (posted with permission).
Saturday afternoon was a dark hour for the people of Nepal. The 7.9 earthquake struck hard, turning houses into dust in seconds. Historical monuments and some ancient temples were leveled to the ground. The highways were badly damaged.
Most of the houses in Nepal are over thirty-years-old — built with dirt and bricks (and dirt and stones in the remote villages). The houses are compact and built into one another forming continuous walls on both sides of paths and roads, especially in big cities like Bhaktapur, Kathmandu, and Lalitpur that constitute the Kathmandu Valley. The Valley is densely populated (2.5 million people, about a twelfth of Nepal’s total population). In spite of the epicenter being in the western part of Nepal, the worst damage hit the valley.
The valley is full of ancient temples built in the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, tourist attractions protected as historical sites, but now either completely destroyed or badly damaged.
It is reported that in some remote parts of Nepal, the quake triggered landslides that swept away a whole village. It also triggered an avalanche at Mount Everest, killing at least 17 mountaineers, and seriously injuring 61 climbers. The quake hit in the middle of church services (services are on Saturday), killing 35 known Christians. But church buildings in Nepal are modern and small, which prevented larger damage.
My parents are safe, but we lost some friends. Our house in Bhaktapur is collapsed. Our church building is slightly cracked. The death rate is rising hour by hour. It is estimated that between 8,000 and 10,000 people have been killed by this atrocity.
The strength of the earthquake meant people had a small chance of running out from their houses. Those who did manage to run out could not find open spaces immediately. People stuck inside the houses were killed by the collapsing structures, and those who did manage to run out from their houses were killed by falling roofs. The destruction of fragile brick houses was a prime reason why the death toll is skyrocketing.
On top of this, in densely populated places like Bhaktapur, the earthquake hit when people were celebrating the indoor festival of Dugu Puja. Relatives from all across the region gathered together in homes to observe this feast, and most of them would have been drunk. The celebrants who died, which would have included many children, died in the middle of the feast.
And still many tremors are being felt, sixty to eighty tremors have been experienced in these three days; some as strong as 6.5 on the Richter scale. Houses that were only slightly damaged by the first hit have collapsed in these aftershocks. No one dares to go back inside the standing houses because of the ongoing fear of more quakes. People sleep outside in tents. And the crazy thing is that it is raining — the monsoon is at hand!
The earthquake hit the whole country and the national tragedy is compounded by a lack of food, water, and shelter. People’s lives are at risk now simply from a lack of necessities. The government cannot supply the needs.
We have a small church building, and because it is small there is less risk of a total collapse. We opened the church for those who need shelter, and many are coming. One woman and her newborn baby are sheltering in one of the Sunday School rooms. But those at the church are also in need of food and water. The electricity has stopped and that means the water has stopped.
Most of the people hit by this tragedy in Nepal are Hindu. They blame their gods whenever disaster hits, and they will do the same again. The Hindu gods are untouched by suffering. By contrast, Jesus draws near and sympathizes with those who weep, because he knows human suffering and human tears. And as difficult as it is to imagine right now, the suffering Jesus Christ endured on the cross to pay for God’s wrath on behalf of sinners exceeds the sorrow of the whole nation of Nepal right now.
Viewed through this prism of the cross, Christ is exactly what my nation needs now. We tend to think that gospel would be ineffective or inappropriate to preach while people suffer so deeply. But it is the other way round. The gospel is the message of a broken Savior who is relevant to reach into broken lives right now. He is the only true comfort my country can have in this suffering.
So as you consider sending immediate financial support, and the physical needs are great, please join me in praying that this dark tragedy will open up new doors of ministry and make new ways for the hope of Jesus Christ to shine even more brightly in the nation of Nepal, bringing with it the message of hope, consolation, and restoration.
Donations for relief in Nepal are desperately needed. One reliable channel is the International Mission Board.
Suraj Kasula is a native of Bhaktapur studying theology at Edinburgh Theological Seminary in Scotland. Read his story here.