Soon after arriving in Sichuan Province, Mark Eller of Samaritan's Purse visited a town near Chengdu, just east of the epicenter of the massive earthquake that shook China on May 12.

Thousands had been killed, including children who had been buried when a middle school collapsed. As rescuers searched for trapped coal mine workers nearby, some feared that an aftershock would bring down the remaining cracked buildings.

The massive recovery effort facing China is so arduous that the project director for the Boone, North Carolina–based agency has no idea how long his team of 15 workers will remain.

Nine days after the disaster, Samaritan's Purse airlifted in tons of supplies, including thousands of blankets, hygiene kits, temporary shelter materials, and systems that filter 60,000 gallons of water a day.

"There are cities, villages, and towns that are totally destroyed," Eller said. "Approximately four million to five million people are homeless and will need relief, transitional housing, food, and other things for a long time."

Coupled with the cyclone that struck Myanmar eight days earlier, these tragedies have prompted a relief effort rivaling the one that followed the Southeast Asia tsunami in 2004.

Christian mission organizations and relief agencies are meeting needs in both nations, although resistance from Myanmar's military rulers is making it much tougher to extend help there.

Even World Vision, one of the few agencies with workers stationed in Myanmar prior to Cyclone Nargis, has experienced difficulties. "Every time we are able to do distribution it's a renegotiation effort with the military," said Jeff Wright, an emergency affairs official. "Myanmar remains an incredibly difficult place to work."

World Relief officials have decided to focus relief efforts on China, and the agency is forwarding Myanmar donations to World Concern International. This Seattle-based partner has been distributing fortified rice, water purification tablets, blankets, tarps, and resettlement supplies throughout the country. World Concern also has plans for a recovery effort that may last up to three years.

"We hope to replace the rice harvest and get a crop in before the season is lost," World Relief's Paul Rebman said. "It's not looking good, but we're giving it an effort."

In China, World Relief already had eight staffers involved in an HIV education and prevention ministry. Working with members of the China Christian Council, the disaster relief arm of the National Association of Evangelicals is distributing tarps, food, and other supplies. It is also offering trauma counseling, and Rebman plans to visit China in July 2008 to offer disaster relief training to officials.

Baptist Global Response (BGR), a Southern Baptist agency, sent nearly $250,000 for food and water filtration units to both nations. It dispatched a six-member assessment team to China the week after the earthquake. While awaiting that group's recommendations, director Jeff Palmer asked disaster relief teams from state affiliates to prepare for travel to the Far East.

"We may have 1,000 [volunteers] in the next few months," Palmer said. "It will move from relief to rebuilding to development. In both [countries], we could be there two … to five years."

After the Asian tsunami, reconstruction work took three years and cost 10 times more than the emergency relief efforts. Wright envisions a similar scenario in Myanmar and China, although government resistance in Myanmar means reconstruction could take twice as long.

"Everyone who wants to can get into China," Wright said. "That means fewer complications in the long term."

On the ground, agencies work with churches, residents, and other agencies to get supplies to those in need. However, some fear that donor fatigue will hinder efforts. BGR and other agencies used financial reserves for much of their initial assistance, Palmer said, which means they are now keeping a close eye on fundraising dollars.

"[Still,] the biggest challenge is the enormity of the task," Samaritan's Purse's Eller said. "A disaster of this size is overwhelming to look at. The people are very tired. They're still in shock."

Related elsewhere:

This article accompanies "Aiding China's Shaken Church."

"Myanmar Aid Crisis Triggers More Deaths, Disease," took account of the damage immediately after Cyclone Nargis.

Our previous coverage of Myanmar, including of the protests and crackdown last autumn, includes, "Christians and the Burmese Crackdown," and "Slideshow: Burma's Christians."

More on the effects of Cyclone Nargis is available from BBC News, Yahoo's full coverage, and Reliefweb.

Our recent coverage of China includes "China's Great Leap Forward," "Hungry for Jesus," "Audio Slideshow: Changing China," and more.