On Thursday we stood together in a twisted concrete cemetery. The broken heap of twisted metal and concrete where 17 people died that once was a church, restaurants and offices. Anyway I guess this is just how things work but we’ve gone from seeing buildings, vehicles, temples, dogs and dust to getting to know individuals and I want to introduce you to some remarkable friends who survived this building and tell you their story…
Merina is 31. On this particular Saturday she is waiting for her husband to pick her and Grace their 18 month old daughter up and take them to Church. He is late and Church starts in 15 minutes. He is not answering his phone and surely it’s now w too late to get to church on time. Merina is angry; why is he late? why did she struggle to get herself and Grace ready on time? why does he not reply to just one of her many calls to his mobile?
Biraj, Marinas husband is not having a good morning his mobile is on silent and he’s not seen his missed calls . He has so many things going through his mind as he rushes to Church and prepares to lead the worship. In his busyness he has completely forgotten to drop by his own house and pick up his family.
The church is on the fourth floor of a multi purpose five storey building. It’s trobing with people and the worship service begins. Biraj realises his mistake but it’s too late to go home so he just gets on with leading the worship as best he can. It’s going really well and the 80 strong congregation is deeply emersed in the wonderful atmosphere.
Merina and baby Grace have given up waiting and gone to her mother’s church just a short walk from their home. She’s really annoyed and at the same time worried. Why has he not answered her calls? Whatever happens she intends to make sure Biraj never does this to them again.
This day is April 25th and the earthquake strikes at 11:56 bringing massive destruction to large areas of Nepal. The capital Kathmandu does not escape unscathed. Merina and Grace are badly shaken as they evacuate the building. Merina is anxious and as they start to walk home the phone starts to ring. Something terrible has happened at the church. The building has collapsed she has to get there and she has to find Biraj. All around her there are dust clouds and sirens and panic. Her thoughts start to run wild. What if he is dead? What about all the other people, her friends and family members?
For hours the rescue team pull people out of the rubble. Each one is a relief but then there are the dead and the count rises; these are not just any people these are close friends, these are family. After two hours Biraj emerges covered in dust but miraculously unharmed. It’s a happy reunion. The tears flow and a slow realisation happens that may be someone bigger was at work causing them to end up in different places that morning.
The joy and relief is short lived as the reality of the situation starts to dawn upon them. Where are Raj and Shoba, Biraj’s brother and sister-in-law? Where is Eliya Biraj’s father and the pastor? Those who are not injured have emerged, then the injured begin to be pulled out of the rubble. Slowly they start to count up who was there in church. Everyone needs ambulances and everywhere there’s chaos. Slowly they account for many of them but the number of missing is significant. Four hours after the earthquake Shoba is discovered she has a broken jaw and both legs will need surgery. Her husband Raj was not so fortunate; he had taken a direct hit to his head. Probably the only consolation was that his death would have been sudden. The waiting continued; hours turn into days. Dad and Pastor Eliya is still missing. It takes 4 days before his body is recovered. In all 17 people died in the church building.
Ironically this Church group had been investing heavily in buying some land and building there own building. They we’re just two weeks away from moving into their new building when the earthquake struck. Despite not having any windows the new building quickly became a shelter for many of the displaced church members.
Biraj and his family found themselves not only bereaved but also homeless as their rented accommodation had been destroyed. As the pastors only remaining son, Biraj found himself at the center of this group and suddenly needed to take on the pastoral role left vacant by his father’s death. The family themselves stayed in a tent until the monsoon and then moved in with Merina’s mother. Since the earthquake they have been working daily seeking to bring hope and comfort to those around them whilst dealing with their own personal grief.
Help us as we seek to help this remarkable family build a house not just for themselves but also for Shoba; Biraj’s brothers widow and Peter and James two orphans who Biraj’s father housed before he passed away.
Finishing off the church building and the Sunday school has been the priority since the earthquake and this has left them in significant debt. We are wanting to help them by providing free labour and funds to build their house. This is no palace; just a simple building with a corrugated tin roof, rendered brick walls and a suspended ceiling. We need to raise the funds to complete this. That seems a mountain but mountains are climbed by taking small steps. Every donation and act of kindness will help.