The president of the Adventist Church in Nepal described scenes of suffering and panic after a powerful weekend earthquake and multiple aftershocks killed more than 2,200 people and damaged scores of buildings, including at least four Adventist churches.
Umesh Pokharel, president of the Nepal Section, an attached field of the Southern Asia Division, said no Adventist believers are known to have been injured in the 7.8 magnitude quake, which struck around midday Sabbath, April 25, as Christians of all faiths worshiped across the country.
“So far no Adventist has been killed,” Pokharel told the Adventist Review on Sunday. “However, many Christians were buried while they were worshiping on Sabbath and died.”
In Nepal, all Christians worship on Saturday because it is a nonworking day unlike Sunday, when the country works.
Pokharel said four Adventists churches were partly destroyed. “But there may be more,” he said.
Emergency workers were still gauging the full impact of Saturday’s earthquake and some 100 aftershocks, including a 6.7-magnitude tremor on Sunday afternoon. The epicenter was about 50 miles (80 kilometers) from the capital, Kathmandu, and the death toll in the city alone has topped 700 people, local authorities said.
“The human suffering breaks our hearts and moves us with deep sympathy for the thousand of families who have experienced loss,” said Ted N.C. Wilson, president of the Adventist world church.
“May this be an opportunity to show Christ’s ministry of love and compassion in all that we do as we see more of these disaster happening signaling the nearness of Christ’s return,” he said in a statement.
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency’s local office has deployed workers to assist people with food and shelter, and its international headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, decided on Sunday to dispatch an emergency response team.
ADRA also was mobilizing 2,000 tarpaulins and tools, and 2,000 jerry cans from Dubai, said Natalia López-Thismón, spokeswoman for ADRA International.
“We will be focusing on shelter for those who’ve lost their homes,” she said. “We will likely be partnering with GlobalMedic on water, hygiene and sanitation projects.”
The 150-bed Adventist hospital just outside Kathmandu, the Scheer Memorial Hospital, has been inundated with hundreds of people seeking medical treatment.
“Great Pain and Panic”
More than 5,000 people were injured in the quake.
“People are in great pain and panic,” Pokharel said.
He said many areas have no electricity and no water, while telephone and other communication networks have been disrupted and roads are badly damaged.
Pokharel was worshiping in a church in Newari, a village in the Kathmandu Valley about 12 miles (20 kilometers) from the capital, when the earthquake hit.
“We saw houses collapsing with our own eyes,” he said in a report to the Southern Asia Division. “All people came out of their homes, crying and asking God to forgive them for their mistakes and to save them.”
He said geologists had warned local residents and the Nepalese government for years to prepare for a possible earthquake in the Kathmandu Valley so the disaster hadn’t come as a complete surprise. But countrywide rescue operations were complicated by a lack of prior preparations, funds and coordination between the government and other agencies, he said.
The 12-mile trip from the village back to Kathmandu took four hours.
“By the time we arrived home it was almost 5 p.m. and all the neighbors were outside their homes,” Pokharel said, “We all stayed outside under the open sky and felt many” aftershocks.
People across Nepal slept outdoors or in cars as a precaution despite cold and rainy weather on Saturday night.
The Adventist Church has 8,859 members worshiping in 106 congregations in Nepal, according to the latest figures from the General Conference’s Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research. The Hindu-dominated country has a population of about 28 million.
What’s Needed Next
Pokharel said he was seeking to restore contact with all church workers in Nepal and to make sure they have food, clothing, tents, blankets, and medicine.
“The Nepal Section needs immediate help to meet these needs,” he said.
He said he also was seeking details about church buildings affected by the quake and taking steps to repair them.
At the same time, church members in Kathmandu were preparing to reach out to neighbors with assistance and information about quake preparedness.
“Kathmandu is in an earthquake zone, and the church feels that we need to initiate an awareness program,” Pokharel said.
He asked for church members worldwide to pray for Nepal.
His call was echoed by T.P. Kurian, communication director for the Southern European Division, who has been in close contact with the Nepalese church.
“We request all to pray for the people of Nepal,” Kurian said. “Also they need aid and support to recover from the effects of the earthquake.”
He said the division was considering asking the Adventist world church and ADRA for relief assistance.
ADRA has launched an urgent fundraising drive for Nepal, asking people to click on the “Donate” tab on its website, ADRA.org.
Among the first to contribute was Roger Hernandez, director of the ministerial and evangelism department for the Adventist Church’s Southern Union Conference, which encompasses eight states in the southern United States.
“Praying for Nepal is good. But not enough,” he said on Twitter. “Please consider supporting @ADRAIntl cause they need more than prayer.”
In a second tweet, he added: “How about we inundate Twitter and Facebook, saying: I donated to Nepal.”