Dear Kidstown Friends,
It was about 11:00 pm. I had just fallen asleep after travelling from the Middle-East to Nepal when I was roused from my slumber by a magnitude 5.0 tremor which had set my room to rocking. I grabbed my shoes, glasses, and passport and bolted for the door…what a great welcome to Nepal!
This tremor, however, was only one of over 270 aftershocks* that have plagued this small Himalayan country since the big 7.8 Gorkha earthquake hit on April 25th. Most of you have read the reports and seen the news coverage and know that the damage was extensive and the impact on the people traumatic.
Yesterday we had the opportunity to visit two areas in Kathmandu which were especially affected by the quake. Old buildings and shoddy construction seem to be common denominators. Newer buildings which have been built with rebar and cement seem to have held up far better.
As we strolled through one of these areas, snapping photos of the rubble, a man stopped and informed us that THAT pile of rubble was his house. He was inside, up on the third floor, when the big shaker occurred.
The age of his home and its substandard construction was bad enough up against such a large earthquake. But what made things worse was the seven-story building next door that kept banging up his home as it swayed to and fro with the quake. Finally his home gave way, a place where likely he grew up, where his parents lived, and maybe even his grandparents lived. It simply collapsed into a pile of rubble.
Remember that I told you the owner was inside, up on the third floor? He recounted how it felt like he was in an elevator. As the building collapsed he dropped 20 feet straight down with it! He surely would have been crushed to death save a strong wooden ladder under which somehow he managed to squirm as the building moved and swayed. That ladder took the brunt of the falling bricks and timber, and although temporarily buried alive, this man lives today because of that ladder.
This is only one story among the thousands of incredible, heart-wrenching, or extremely sad stories. Questions abound. Why did this happen? What do these people do now? Many have lost their homes, some have lost family or friends, others have lost part or all of their means to earn a living. Few have home-owners insurance, or a robust savings account from which to begin again. What do they do?
Another man we met pointed out his house…a ruined, unfixable mess of brick, wood, and rubble. It was only afternoon, yet he had already begun drinking, perhaps unable to cope with the memory of what was, the reality of what now is, and what in the world he is supposed to do now.
And then there is fear. Just as lethal as the swaying and bumping of an earthquake is the trauma it causes and the fear it instills. The real culprit behind the fear that is running rampant in Kathmandu was not the 26th of April quake, but the 7.3 earthquake which hit on the 12th of May. It is that 2nd quake that has instilled fear deep inside, so much so that people have (and continue to) live in tents outside their homes or in open fields, some with what appears no real desire to move back inside even though their building stood up fine to the quakes. How do you combat fear? My little taste of the 5.0 tremor the other night was enough to validate that the emotion of fear is a very real thing!
So – what is our response to this foundation-shaking event here in Nepal? I think that the best, most effective, and greatest way we can help the Nepali people is to continue to pray for them. God reveals Himself as a rock, as a fortress. He is unshakable, even if the ground here in Nepal is not. May the Nepali people turn to Him and find in Him the safety and peace they so desperately seek.
Thanks to all for praying and for caring.