Nepal (MNN) — Nepal just marked the second anniversary of devastating twin earthquakes that killed 9,000 people and made a million others homeless.
The government has been criticized for the slow pace of rebuilding, and did not officially hold any commemorative events April 25th. However, survivors held memorial services in Kathmandu and other parts of the country.
(Photo courtesy of Asian Access)
Although it has faded off front page news, the reality is that Nepal is still in tatters. Less than one-fifth of the destroyed homes have been rebuilt. Asian Access, a ministry that helps train, develop, and network church leaders, had already started connecting believers to help respond to the quake needs. It was a unique moment for these Christians.
Perhaps what makes this more interesting is how the Japanese Church lived out the idea of ‘walking a mile in another man’s shoes’. Who better to understand the needs in a crisis zone than those who have lived through a similar disaster?
Asian Access (A2) sent two short-term mission teams from Japan’s tsunami and quake zone to Nepal to encourage their counterparts there. Robert Adair led the teams. He observed the shift in thinking from pre-disaster days to what it has developed into today.
“[In the past], it was mainly focused on proclamation ministries, so we could get a big group of people together and share their testimonies or something else. It was built around people understanding the Gospel. They didn’t really interact with people’s felt needs. The disaster in 2011 changed that. We were meeting the Japanese people’s felt needs because, for the first time, we were getting our hands dirty mudding out their houses, helping them get back on their feet…and because of that, that gave us the credibility to talk about Christ.”
(Photo courtesy of United Nations Development Programme via Flickr: https://flic.kr/p/snA7wC)
In Japan, for the five years following the disaster, as ministries got their hands, dirty, people saw the investment made in long-term recovery and meeting needs, rather than following a formulaic agenda. In short, the A2 Japan team focused on building relationships as much as building the literal community. “I think it took the pressure off that ten-day period that everybody needs to know Christ, and everybody we meet needs to have a 30-minute discussion about the Gospel, or whatever it is — this kind of ‘superman’ approach to short-term missions, [instead of] seeing the role of the short-term missionary as support of the long-term worker.”
For whatever reason, the Nepal earthquake struck a chord with the Japanese Church, says Adair. He goes on to say that while there have been several disasters in Asia since 2011, God created a resonance between believers in Nepal and Japan.
“With Asian Access right now, we kind of have two streams that are going. We have the teams that have been your standard short-term mission trip, where I’ve been involved, where you take your Japanese Christians. We also sent over a pastor care team to help the long-term workers, to encourage them and make sure they’re doing all right, and processing everything all right and whatnot.”
Those relationships will see more fruit. There are plans for future Japanese short-term trips to Nepal. Adair says coming alongside the Church in Nepal is not limited to Japan. The opportunity is there to communicate the love of Christ, regardless of where you are.
“You may not have the language, as a Westerner, to be able to share Christ, but in everything you do, in all of your interactions, whatever you do, trying to make sure Christ is in the center of your interaction.”
Anyone is welcome, providing they have these three qualities: “We encourage them to have three main attitudes when they come: one is to have a cheerful spirit, the second is the willingness to do anything (so you’re not going to always understand why you’re being asked to do whatever it is you’re being asked to do, and trust that we’re not going to waste your time, and that it has purpose), and then also, have what we call a ‘dendo’ spirit — a desire to see Christ known.”