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In Nepal, 4 Colo. pastors aid quake survivors

DENVER (BP) — Four Colorado pastors were seven hours into a rugged road trip across rural Nepal April 25 when they got word that an earthquake had struck near Kathmandu.

More reports trickled in to the missionary with whom the pastors were traveling, and an hour later their 15-passenger van turned around in the rutted road and headed back to what became the Americans’ “home” for the next eight days.

Five of those nights they slept outside, sharing with the Nepalis the trauma of structure-jolting aftershocks.

“Everything was in a state of chaos,” said Marc Maurer, co-pastor of Mesa View Church in Mesa, Colo., founder of Beyond the Giant Ministries International.

An architect by trade and mountaineer by inclination, Maurer was in Nepal with Nate Holt, pastor of Living Water Baptist Church in Fruita, Colo.; Mike Banks, church planter of Sojourn Ministries in Loma, Colo.; and Albert Harris, pastor of Fellowship of the Rockies in Rifle, Colo.

At last fall’s annual meeting, the Grand Valley Baptist Association (GVBA) had “adopted” South Asia, which includes Nepal, one of the nations to which Beyond the Giant has ministered. Plans were made for a group from GVBA to lead discipleship, evangelism and leadership training conferences this spring to help strengthen Nepali pastors and churches.

That the team arrived less than 48 hours before the April 25 earthquake was God’s provision, Maurer said.

“How much foresight and effort it took to lead us to Nepal at that specific time, it was incredible,” he said. “In the first 24 hours, we were able to talk with people in the field with us, praying with them, comforting them, giving out cases of New Testaments in the Nepali languages that we’d gotten from the missionaries.”

A rapid response team with Baptist Global Response arrived Sunday night, about 30 hours after the earthquake shook the Himalayan region.

“We met with them the evening of the 26th,” Maurer said. “They found out we were available; we said, ‘We’re at your disposal.’

“Because we were working with BGR — they use existing church networks to as quickly as possible assess immediate needs — everyone we worked with was a pastor somewhere,” Maurer continued. “We were able to do emergent relief work within a few days, to distribute rice, tarps and water. The beautiful thing about all these relief efforts was that they were all being done by Nepali churches, and the pastors were giving God the glory.”

Maurer spoke of going to one village that had sustained heavy damage in the earthquake, where BGR had a connection with the local pastor, who had a connection with the governor, who had a connection with the police. BGR’s two trucks pulled into a flattened area that perhaps had been a sports field, and first to greet them was the pastor, followed by the governor and then the police. As a result, there was an orderly distribution of 900 bags of rice, plus water.

“The very fact there were Americans there who were Christians, helping unload trucks of supplies, raised up the Nepali pastors in the villagers’ eyes,” Maurer said. “When you multiply that with all the pastors in all the villages, you’re talking about the possibility of a massive outbreak of God’s Spirit.

“These men [the local pastors] now have a platform,” Maurer said. “They will now have influence to follow up and lead others to Christ.”

Maurer called the three pastors with him “heroes” for how they adapted to such a different situation than they had anticipated.

They were prepared to teach leadership, discipleship and evangelism in two-day sessions at three remote areas of the nation. Instead, they became comforting leaders to traumatized people and shared God’s love with all they encountered.

Nate Holt of Living Water Baptist Church west of Grand Junction, Colo., recounted, “One of the most important things God taught me was that we are to be still and know He is God and trust Him. He just broke my heart for the Nepali people — the impact of such poverty and then this. They need the Gospel; they need Christ.”

The Colorado pastors had a Q&A with Christians in Kathmandu that stretched to more than three hours.

“They asked questions like, ‘Why would God allow this to happen?’ and ‘How can we help people?’ and ‘Is this the end of the world?'” Holt said, “and we told them, ‘God is still at work in your life.’ We were able to encourage them. It was good, very good, to do that.

“The worst thing is the people there, they don’t have anything to cling to,” Holt continued. “They’re less than 2 percent Christian. They’re very afraid even to go into their home, and when they finally go back in, there’s another earthquake [on May 12].”

Holt, Harris and Banks returned to Colorado as scheduled on May 2. Maurer, an architect by trade, remained another 10 days to help assess structural damage and to train others in key things to look for. His flight left about 90 minutes before the second earthquake struck, he said when he talked with Baptist Press during a layover in Denver on his 20-hour trip home.

“It doesn’t sound very spiritual to do building assessments, but it is,” Maurer said. Missionaries and Christian caregivers, such as the woman who has a house filled with orphans with AIDS, are prone to worry when the possibility exists that their residence might crumble around them, he said.

“For me to go in and give them a realistic assessment, even if it’s a bad report, at least they know,” Maurer said. “I believe it was how God helped bring some sense of relief and comfort to these people in their time of crisis.”

Relief efforts over the next six to nine months will center on providing essentials — rice, water, tarps — for the people of Nepal, Maurer projected. Then rebuilding efforts will begin, utilizing Nepali workers.

God taught him the importance of patience, of waiting on the Lord, Maurer said.

“Prepare to win,” the Colorado pastor said. “You prepare on a daily basis for those things you believe will come to pass. All of a sudden you have this … godly interruption, the earthquake. You can’t enter the buildings; you’re living with the Nepali people. Immediately you want to jump in and help people.

“I saw so many people making mistakes by jumping in too soon,” Maurer said. “God taught me to be patient, to know and trust the movement of God. I woke each day saying, ‘This is Your day; whatever You have for me to do, I’ll do it.’ It’s not our plans that matter. It’s God’s plans that matter.”