United Methodists joined Christians around the world in a prayerful response to the earthquake that has claimed thousands of lives in Nepal and neighboring China and India.
BBC News reported the death toll at 4,000 people, with at least 7,000 injuries by Monday evening as the Nepalese army and police undertook massive search and rescue operations. Many were living in “vast tent cities” in the capital of Kathmandu as aftershocks from the 7.8-magnitude earthquake continued.
Five missionaries working in Nepal for the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries were reported safe.
partnership in nepal
The United Methodist Board of Global Ministries “has been in mission with the people of Nepal a long time, and that is a great grace in this time of need,” says Thomas Kemper, the board’s top executive.
United Mission to Nepal, a long-time partner, assigned an officer to in a recent disaster readiness and response training held by the United Methodist Committee on Relief in the Philippines last February.
The Rev. J. Denise Honeycutt, who leads UMCOR, pointed out that the regional trainings “fortify our partners’ capacity to respond quickly and efficiently to crises.”
In a joint statement, the World Council of Churches and the Christian Conference of Asia called churches around the world to pray for those affected by the earthquake and “extend every possible support for humanitarian aid assistance in Nepal and other affected areas in the neighboring countries.” The World Methodist Council also offered its prayers for the people of Nepal.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief is planning to offer assistance through international and local partners, including the United Mission to Nepal, a longtime church partner. UMCOR approved a $90,000 grant April 27 to GlobalMedic, which will help earthquake survivors access clean water by providing household and public water-filtration units.
Church organizations begin work
UMCOR is part of the ACT Alliance, a coalition of more than 140 churches and affiliated organizations associated with the WCC or Lutheran World Federation, some of whom already have a presence in Nepal.
The Lutheran World Federation, for example, has an emergency team on the ground and is coordinating its efforts through the ACT Alliance Nepal forum with the Nepalese government and the United Nations.
Over the weekend, the federation distributed tarpaulins, hygiene kits and ready-made food to about 400 families in Kathmandu and is working on emergency shelter and water, sanitation and hygiene materials.
DanChurchAid, which has a local office in Kathmandu, is building a temporary tent camp where survivors could safely stay.
The United Nations refugee agency is sending plastic sheets, 4,000 solar lanterns and tarpaulins for shelter, while UNICEF, the U.N. Children’s Fund, is mobilizing to help children and families affected by the earthquake.
Missionaries survey damage
Dr. Mark Zimmerman, a United Methodist missionary and medical doctor serving in Kathmandu as director of the Nick Simons Institute, which trains rural health care workers, was with his family in church when the earthquake struck at noon Saturday Nepal time.
At first, he said, the damage seemed minimal. But Zimmerman and his wife, Deirdre Zimmerman, a missionary who serves as advisor for nutrition programs, soon learned that was not the case.
The more serious concern is in the rural areas, where communication and relief support are sparse,” he wrote in an April 26 letter. “No one knows the extent of the loss of life and the hardship out there.”
Donations to support the response to the earthquake in Nepal and other international disasters can be made online through UMCOR Advance # 982450. Checks also can be made out to your local United Methodist church. Write UMCOR Advance #982450 on the memo line and put in the offering plate.
Missionary Katherine T. Parker expressed appreciation for the outpouring of concern by church members and made specific prayer requests as the earthquake recovery began. Parker deals with issues of water, sanitation and hygiene as a member of the health team of United Mission to Nepal.
“Our relief focus will be primarily in Dhading and planning for this has started,” she wrote about the mission’s plans in a Facebook post. “Two doctors from Tansen left from Pokhara this morning to go to Gorkha. We are coordinating all of our efforts with other local partners.”
Thousands of homes and most schools reportedly were destroyed in Gorkha, one of the closest districts to the earthquake’s epicenter.
No damage was reported at Tansen in western Nepal, where a hospital related to the United Mission to Nepal was established in 1954 as a partnership between the people of Nepal and a coalition of 20 Christian organizations on four continents.
A United Methodist missionary couple has worked at Tansen hospital since 2012. Dr. Lester Dornon is a senior physician and Deborah Dornon is coordinator of expatriate services. They also served in Nepal and Tansen from 1990 to 2002.