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FIRST-PERSON: Quake damage like ‘watching CNN from van’

EDITORS’ NOTE: Since the South Asia earthquake in Pakistan and India on Oct. 8, volunteers have worked alongside Southern Baptist personnel to offer help and hope to thousands of earthquake survivors. Two Great Commission Christians from California recently served on a volunteer team in Pakistan. Their first-person accounts reflect the profound impact volunteers have on the lives of earthquake survivors.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (BP)–It is hard to put into words all that I saw and experienced on this trip, one of the most significant trips I have taken. We saw so much devastation -– whole towns reduced to rubble.

Most people told us that if you were outside, you survived, but if you were inside a building, you died. It was hard to process it all. Some days it felt like I was watching CNN from the van window.

We met many people in great need.

They peeked out of their tents, intensely curious yet cautious. “Who are these foreigners and why are they here?”

We went to a girls’ school located in one of the hardest-hit areas of the Oct. 8 earthquake in South Asia. The school had collapsed, killing more than 200 of their classmates. Now they were meeting in tents next to their crushed building. We came to help them, to listen to them, to encourage them, to love them in Jesus’ name.

An amazing transformation took place. By the third day at this school, the girls were playing, laughing and enjoying themselves. They asked us when we would return and hung on to us, not wanting us to leave. It was hard to say goodbye, knowing the hardship they had been through and the hardship that was yet to come.

The organization we worked with helped provide new books for these young women, as all their books had been lost in the earthquake. We provided a time to relax and play to help release tension from an otherwise confusing time. We provided a listening ear to hear their incredible stories of loss and pain. And we extended the love of Jesus to them.

One of the days of greatest impact for me was the day we went to the tent village. The village is made up of almost 600 tents with more than 2,800 people. I met Baiza* in the tent village. Both her parents died in the earthquake. At age 12, she takes care of her two brothers. She was incredibly mature and brave.

We were allowed to talk to more than 250 women in a big tent. Toward the end of our time of trauma counseling, we offered to pray for those who wanted it. Some left the tent, but a large number remained for prayer. As we walked among them and prayed, I was overwhelmed by the deep pain and sense of loss. Everyone lost family members, along with their homes. Each had an unbelievable story to tell. We prayed. We listened. We hugged. We cried with them. We extended the tender and loving arms of Jesus to them. We lifted their eyes to the One who will bring hope. And they were grateful.

We also took time to play with their children. Many of the parents commented that no one comes to play with the children, and they were very glad we were doing just that.

We knew people were praying for us. Your prayers were answered. I do believe the love we poured out in Jesus’ name had a rippling effect on bringing God’s hope to this part of the world. Besides spending time at the girls’ school and tent village, we also distributed food, kitchen pots and utensils, shawls and soap to those at the top of one of the mountains. We provided a medical clinic for an area that had not received much attention. And we played with kids everywhere we went. We were able to help two different unreached people groups in this area. I am thankful to the Lord for this privilege and opportunity.

Everywhere we looked there were great needs -– physically, emotionally and spiritually. But God is bringing good out of the devastation of this earthquake. Many people are helping, and the love of God is being extended to a place and people who, for a long time, have been hard to reach.
*Name changed for security reasons. For more information on serving as a volunteer in South Asia with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, e-mail [email protected]. Video: See how the first team of Southern Baptist volunteers helped the earthquake victims of Pakistan here. Also see BP stories from Dec. 16 with updated news of Southern Baptists’ ministry among Pakistan’s earthquake survivors here.

    About the Author

  • Liz Fendley*