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

Maili Tamang clapped and sang along as the remnants of her husband's Kathmandu church gathered for a noon prayer one week after a massive earthquake collapsed the "roof of the world."

Injured pastor Jacob Tamang prays with survivors at Vision of Salvation church.
Anto Akkara

Injured pastor Jacob Tamang prays with survivors at Vision of Salvation church.

"In God’s time, anything can happen," the 55-year-old mother told CT. Tamang lost her husband Maila, her sister, and three other family members when Vision of Salvation church, which rented rooms in a four-story commerical building in the Swayambu area of Nepal's capital, collapsed with 62 worshipers present. Seventeen members of the Pentecostal church, where Tamang's husband served as an elder, died, including senior pastor Elia Ghale and his son.

"We cannot decide our future or what happens to us," she said, surrounded by cracked walls. "Even after the world, we will be with God.”

Family of Maila Tamang mourns Saturday.
Anto Akkara

Family of Maila Tamang mourns Saturday.

Tamang was worshiping at a nearby Pentecostal church when the quake struck.

“I was standing in a row near to the wall and praying when the trembling started. The pastor continued the prayer and suddenly, everything collapsed,” she told CT. “I was half conscious and could heard people screaming. After one hour I was pulled out. While lying there, I knew God would save me.”

Meanwhile, 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 in the Himalayan Mountains.

Maili Tamang lost her husband Maila, her sister, and three other family members when Vision of Salvation church collapsed.
Anto Akkara

Maili Tamang lost her husband Maila, her sister, and three other family members when Vision of Salvation church collapsed.

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.

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 during weekly prayers. (The Baptist World Alliance reports about 150 Christian deaths have been confirmed.)

“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.)

The wreckage of Elssadai church in Kathmandu.
Global Mission Nepal

The wreckage of Elssadai church in Kathmandu.

“The evangelical churches have suffered terrible tragedies,” Kala Bahadur Rokaya, general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Nepal, told CT. “It will take time to count the deaths among Christians across Nepal. Many areas are still cut off.” He feared more bad news was yet to come from mountainous and remote districts such as Gorkha, Sindhupalchok, and Nuwakot, which have many evangelical churches.

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 destroyed Nepalese church.
Thir K.C.

A destroyed Nepalese church.

The earthquake, which killed more than 6,000 people, damaged dozens of churches in and around Kathmandu, Nepal's largest city. A partner of Wycliffe Associates filmed the aftermath.“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. (CBN News also reports on the tragedy.)

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