The Short Version:
The Kathmandu valley & surrounding region has suffered unimaginable devastation to its infrastructure. Hundreds of thousands of homes have been seriously damaged, & a good amount of them have been reduced to rubble. Midtown Community Church partnered with Global Ventures to raise a bit more than $40k to help rebuild homes, & we are proud to report that we have/are rebuilding 15 complete homes, & we have provided enough enough metal to roof a further 165 semi-permanent homes. All told, as a result of your generosity, 180 families that have been living in the open air or under tarps since the initial earthquake on April 25th will have adequate shelter to weather the upcoming monsoons.
The Long Version:
We arrived in Kathmandu on Saturday night, & it is pretty hard to describe what we saw. The city is located in a valley surrounded by majestic mountains, & the first thing you notice when as the plane is landing is the incredible colors of the city against the lush green backdrop of the Himalayan foothills. It is truly beautiful, & a bit scary. Over the last few days, we have noticed as every plane approaches KTM that there is an interesting tension between how much clearance each pilot gives over the mountains to the south & how fast he has to drop altitude to make the runway. Our pilot opted to clear the mountains by quite a lot & drop us like a rock in the final approach…not exactly a nimble move in a 777.
We were met at the airport by our two contacts Bhim & Govinda. We connected with both men right away, & from the first minute together, it was clear that they are devoted followers of Jesus doing incredible work in Nepal, & that we are very fortunate to have such able partners on the ground here.
The drive to our hotel was interesting in a couple of ways. Kathmandu is quite a lot like many of the places we have worked in India; it is of course a very poor place with poverty on display around every corner. However, it is different in some ways as well. Most notably, there is a bit more room in the valley for people to spread out, so even the more densely populated areas don’t feel overly crowded (of course no place feels crowded when being compared to India). The other thing that strikes you as you pass through the city for the first time is that there are many sections of Kathmandu that appear completely unaffected by the earthquake. The buildings & roads appear as any major city in the developing world, & we drove quite a good distance before the first signs of damage appeared, but when they did…
There is really no way to prepare yourself to encounter devastation on this scale…whole city blocks reduced to piles of rubble & hundreds of buildings scarred by pressure cracks. The heart of Kathmandu is a web of winding roads between 50-70 foot tall concrete buildings, but concrete is the enemy now. The people cannot shake the images of buildings falling on people, so much business is conducted on the streets, & if people must enter a building, they do so with a potential exit strategy in the back of their minds. They are right to fear these things, at least for a while. The city is still shaking once or twice per day, & no one knows when the aftershocks will subside.
We felt our first one, a 4.3 magnitude quake with an epicenter just south of the city during our first night in Kathmandu. It only lasted 15 or 20 seconds, but it put a scare in us, & we were outside of our hotel less than 5 seconds into it. This is the way of life for people in Kathmandu post-earthquake. The ground shakes, they all run outside…the city waits for a few minutes to see if this is a “big one,” or just another reminder of that awful day a month ago when so many of their friends & family died under piles of rubble that used to be homes & buildings.
We have spent the last two days driving all over the region surveying the damage. I know that there are places in Kathmandu that we have not visited, but after 15 hours in the car, it feels like there can’t be that many. In every place we go, we stop & talk to the people. We hear their stories & take pictures of what used to be their homes. We pray for those who will let us. It is amazing how a place that was once marked by such hostility of Hindus toward Christians has changed its tune in the wake of the flood of support & relief offered by the Christian community to their neighbors.
This is not intended as a rant or a slight to our Hindu brothers & sisters, but merely a statement of fact. The overwhelming percentage of food & aid being delivered to the hurting in Nepal is coming from governmental agencies & Christians. In our travels around the city, talking to hundreds of people, we have yet to hear one story of a Hindu organization offering aid. The people of Nepal know well what too many people in the West seem to have forgotten, that in the worst times in the worst places around the globe, you will always, ALWAYS, find the church of Jesus Christ answering the call & offering aid.
Our relief efforts are already underway, & there are so many stories that need to be told, & over the next few days, we are going to attempt to tell them via video. Stay tuned for updates.