May 06, 2015 – Baptist Press – Susie Rain

Members of a small Kathmandu church gather at an alternate place of worship one week after their building was damaged in the 7.8-magnitude earthquake in Nepal on April 25. IMB Photo

The small Nepali congregation started worship Saturday (May 2) right where they left off the previous week — singing.

Two dozen voices gained momentum, clapping hands, dancing and raising their faces to heaven in song: “Still I will love You and spread Your love to the people.”

The congregation breaks into prayer, for this is the moment when the song was interrupted by Nepal’s 7.8-magnitude earthquake a week earlier, on April 25.

They shed tears and cry in reliving the moment together: … The congregation grabbed hands and crouched against an inner wall of their fourth-floor room. Someone prayed aloud and others joined. The pastor, Rajaan Tamang*, looked up and saw the outer wall shaking. He looked over his shoulder and saw a crack form across the wall where they had sought shelter. He knew that if they didn’t get off the fourth floor, they all might die. They lurched down the stairs and gathered in the field outside. A few moments later, a building across the street crumbled and killed seven people. They were safe and together….

A lone voice gently leads the Kathmandu congregation back to the present by finishing the song: “Heaven has seen me. The cloud of testimony is surrounding me. Soak me with Your anointing power.”

A feeling of thankfulness washes over Tamang as he looks at the congregation. They survived not just the earthquake but the week since. God has taken care of them — from finding an old tarp with holes for shelter that first night to a friend’s offer of a room for the church to meet this day.

Still, the aftermath of the trauma is evident in their tired eyes.

The death toll has risen past 7,500, including 20 members of one church in the countryside that had weathered intense local opposition. More than 8 million in Nepal are affected by the massive quake, including at least 2 million who are displaced and millions more in need of food aid. An early estimate lists 130,000 houses destroyed but this doesn’t include many villages off the beaten path that officials haven’t made it to yet.

Tamang’s family is among them. His home, which hosted the church, is not structurally sound so they spend nights displaced under a tarp. Church members struggled to find food those first days and did not have money to purchase what was available in stores; their money was buried.

One number, though, pierces Tamang’s heart and won’t leave –- the death toll. This is where the pastor starts his sermon.

“This song we finished today kept going through my head all week, as my heart grew heavier and heavier with the rising death count,” he tells the congregation. “It would have been better for us if we had died last week in our house. We would have gone to a better place … to join our Father in heaven.

“Think of the thousands who died. Many didn’t have the chance to hear. They didn’t have a choice of joining us in heaven or not,” Tamang continues. “Despite our great loss, I feel God wants us to do as the song says — share with the thousands. God is at work.”

Heads nod in agreement. Christians are a minority in this country; less than 1 percent of Nepal’s 28.8 million profess faith in Jesus Christ. Most adhere to Hinduism. But in times like these, doors once shut for this church are wide open.

A physical therapist sees a chance like no other to share about Jesus in her workplace, where survivors with head and spinal cord injuries will be treated in her therapy room.

Another member tells of four families still in tents. They have been forgotten by large-scale aid agencies. He wants to reach out to them.

Tamang nods encouragement and says, “Our church may be small but we can do important work for the Kingdom. Now is the time. People will ask why are we doing this. And we will simply say, ‘Because our God loves you and so do we.’”

The pastor begins the Lord’s Supper to end the service. It’s 11:56 a.m. He didn’t plan to have it at the same time as last week’s earthquake, but it’s very fitting.

“Sorry,” Tamang says, pointing to the dinner plate of torn paratha (flat bread) and bowl of grape juice. “Everything in the church was destroyed…. We have no communion glasses or plate. We will make do with this spoon.”

He holds the symbols of the “new covenant” and prays that millions of Nepalis will soon learn of this great sacrifice. Then, eerily, the chairs begin to shake and the earthquake alarm beeps.

It’s an aftershock, more of a hiccup compared to the quake that abruptly ended the previous week’s service. This one, however, goes mostly unnoticed.

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1 Response to “After Devastation and Death, Nepali Church Returns to Worship”

  1. 1 Gerrie

    Hello,
    As we were praying yesterday at our prayer meeting,we prayed for the True church,we prayed that there would be a visible distinction, we prayed for empowerment and guidance and protection.

    Today as I continued to pray for the true church,I prayed that they would receive the prophets reward that Jesus talks about,because they have listened to the prophets and have received them.

    This reward was in evidence where the widow received Elijah, after she ministered to him,she receive him as a prophet. She received a child,when he died he was restored to life,after the famine Elijah warned her about , she returned and her home and land and income were restored. I believe this distinction will be on the true church and lost things will be restored and the evidence of God’s glory will be on the true church.

    Blessings,
    Gerrie

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