How God was with children during the Nepal earthquakes
One Bible story made all the difference for BMS World Mission worker Helen Douglas and a group of children she was teaching when the earthquakes hit in 2015. She shares the amazing way God was with them and continues to be with her and her family as they live and work in Nepal
The earth is shaking. The building is swaying. Doors are slamming violently. And there is a roaring noise like an aeroplane. All this is happening as 40 terrified children sit huddled together in the hallway of a Nepali church. They cling to their teacher, BMS worker Helen Douglas, and she knows that she has to find a way to be the calm in the midst of this storm.
“Do you remember what we were just learning?” says Helen. “We were talking about Joseph and how God was with him even when he was scared. And God is with us now, even though it’s frightening.”
It was God’s perfect timing. The earthquake happened on the very day in her series on Joseph that covered his scary experience of imprisonment.
“It was a blessing,” says Helen. “I think it was amazing that we were able to reassure them in the midst of the earthquake when the ground was still moving and say ‘God is with us and this isn’t God being angry. He is still with us’.”
One week after the first earthquake that shook Nepal, Helen and the children met in the same hallway where they had been during the worst of it, talking about how they felt during the traumatic experience. Deciding that art was a good way to help the children begin the healing process, Helen asked them to draw pictures of how they felt during the earthquakes. Images of giant monsters shaking the ground emerged alongside sad and fearful faces. The final, most important part of the process was drawing a picture of where they thought God was during the earthquakes.
“All of the children drew God standing next to them or holding them with his arms around them,” says Helen. “They all recognised God’s presence even in the midst of something very frightening.”
The day of the 2015 earthquake was one that Helen and her husband Angus will never forget. After the disaster it may have been tempting to leave, but they decided to stay.
“We felt that we would be somewhat fair-weather friends if we were there when things were good and then as soon as things got difficult we left,” says Helen.
They knew it was important to continue walking alongside Nepalis through the recovery and healing process.
Helen has continued her work at Patan Academy of Health Sciences, a medical school in Kathmandu that is dedicated to improving Nepal’s rural health by training health workers for rural Nepal. She teaches undergraduates and post-graduates, focusing on clinical skills, medical ethics and communication skills.
“Holistic medical care is relatively new to Nepal,” says Helen. “That is the focus when I am teaching. I talk about not thinking of the patient as a collection of ailments or mechanical systems, but also thinking about their psychological, spiritual and social well-being.”
Angus works as a school director at Kathmandu International Study Centre (KISC), a school for the children of mission personnel. He’s also been involved in setting up a teacher training college for Nepali teachers.
“It’s an exciting time to be at KISC,” says Angus. “We’ve recently signed a long-term lease for an area just south of the city where we are planning to build a new school.”
Angus and Helen continue to see God throughout their work and life in Nepal, and they will never forget how God was with them even through the traumatic earthquake. The experience has actually strengthened their relationships with Nepalis.
“I think you move a number of steps forward when you go through a tragedy with people,” says Helen. “As we’ve walked alongside Nepalis through the recovery process it has certainly opened doors for conversations about God.”
Please pray for Angus and Helen and their three children, Caleb, Charis, and Esther as they continue to work and live in Nepal. Pray for a smooth transition to the new KISC school and as they plan to move to a new home within Nepal. Pray that they would find a good home within a Nepali community. You can hear more from them on the next Prayer CD.
This article first appeared on the website of BMS World Mission and is used with permission.