Earthquake Turns Churches into Tombs

Monday 4, May 2015

Evangelicals bear brunt of Christian deaths.

Nepal Christians Return to Worship after Earthquake Turns Churches into Tombs
Image: Anto Akkara
Catholic leader Paul Simick surveys wreckage of Pentecostal church in Kathmandu.

Pledging to spread God's love "even though earthquakes come," a small evangelical church in Nepal completed on Saturday its worship song interrupted by last week's natural disaster.
The first-hand account from the International Mission Board is one of many reports surfacing of how Nepal's Christian minority is regrouping after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake collapsed many churches during their main weekly worship services.

The wreckage of Elssadai church in Kathmandu..Image: Global Mission Nepal
The wreckage of Elssadai church in Kathmandu

Reporting by CT in Kathmandu reveals that an accurate tally of churches destroyed and Christians killed remains hard to come by, since anecdotal reports can be duplicated or exaggerated. But it is clear that many Christians died in their churches.
“I am getting reports of entire Christian families being wiped out in Kathmandu and outside,” Simon Pandey, chairman of the National Christian Fellowship of Nepal, told CT in an interview from his home in a Lalitpur suburb.
If the quake had occurred half an hour earlier, he noted, the casualties in churches would have been much higher. (Many Hindus died during worship services also.)
Of Nepal’s Christians—which comprise between one and three percent of the country’s 30-million population—Protestants were disproportionately affected by the disaster, a Catholic leader told CT.
A survivor of Swayambu church collapse shows photo of fellow church member who died.Image: Anto Akkara
A survivor of Swayambu church collapse shows photo of fellow church member who died.

“The Catholics were lucky as we don’t have church prayers at noon,” Bishop Paul Simick told CT as he observed the wreckage of Vision of Salvation church in Swayambu. (CBN News reports how 17 died at the Pentecostal church, located on the fourth floor of a building, including its church-planting senior pastor.)
The earthquake, which killed more than 6,000 people, damaged dozens of churches in and around Kathmandu, the country’s capital and largest city. A partner of Wycliffe Associates filmed the aftermath.
More than three dozen of those who attended the Canaan Church, which met in a seven-story building, are reported dead. That number is expected to rise, said Paul Miller at Global Mission Nepal.
Injured pastor prays with survivors at Swayambu church collapse.Image: Anto Akkara
Injured pastor prays with survivors at Swayambu church collapse.

Miller reported extensive damage to other churches in his organization’s network: Vision of Salvation Church lost its pastor, his son, and at least 15 church members. Twenty-three members of Elssadai Church died. Nepali Evangelical Church lost its pastor and 80 members. More than 600 Christians lost their homes the neighboring districts of Dhading and Sindhu Palchok. Between the two districts, nearly 45 churches were leveled.
“Our hearts are broken,” Lokendra Ghalan, a pastor from Central Nepal, wrote to CT. “My friend pastor Eliya Ghal, his younger son Raj and other leaders of that church and also believers are dead.”
Anxious relatives and onlookers at the Kapan church collapse.Image: Anto Akkara
Anxious relatives and onlookers at the Kapan church collapse.

“Seventeen of our church members died here including pastor Elia Ghale,” assistant pastor Jacob Tamang, who stood with a sling on his shouldera, told CT while surviving church members and relatives of the Swayambu church tried to retrieve valuables from the concrete rubble.
Outside of Kathmandu, reports have been slower to trickle in from more mountainous and remote districts like Gorkha, Sindhupalchok, and Nuwakot, all of which have a number of evangelical churches.
According to officials of Sindhupalchok district, where over 1,800 bodies have already been recovered, more than 3,000 people are still missing. In Gorkha, nearly 90 percent of homes and buildings were destroyed.
Pastor prays at Thapathali congregation.Image: Global Mission Nepal
Pastor prays at Thapathali congregation.

“Only four of the 1200 houses survived in (Gorhka),” Anna Ho at Reconciled World told CT. “It’s considered a Christian village and is estimated to have over 700 Christians and around 20 churches which also collapsed.”

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