A young woman in a bright orange sweater peered intently at four American Christians while her tiny son squirmed on her hip. Armed with shovels and crowbars and covered in dirt, the foreigners demolished her old, Nepali village school, pounding its cement walls into pieces. A 7.8-magnitude earthquake had damaged the structure in April, and it needed to come down so another could take its place.
But why did Americans fly halfway across the world to do the work?
Intrigued, the Nepali woman couldn’t stop watching. Virginia volunteers Kathryn and Michael Tolliver say she kept dropping by, carrying her baby and asking questions about the team. She wasn’t the only villager to express interest.
“They’re just real curious and now they see Christians in a little bit different light, I think,” Kathryn says.
During the first two weeks in October, the Tollivers, members of The Heights Baptist Church in Colonial Heights, VA, traveled to a small village in Nepal with two other members of their church. SBC of Virginia Disaster Relief had adopted this village and committed to help it recover. With logistical help from Baptist Global Response, SBCV had been sending teams to the community for about five months to teach math, science, and English and to perform Disaster Relief work.
As volunteers flew in and out, life for Christians in the Nepali community started to change. Only a few believers had lived there before. While their numbers were few, the Tollivers say local believers possessed a beautifully strong faith. They had suffered persecution before the quake. They told volunteers their neighbors had threatened them, and once, villagers kidnapped and questioned their pastor.
But when disaster struck, God gave these Christians an unprecedented chance to show love, compassion, and forgiveness. They teamed up with the Baptists from Virginia to help the community rebuild. By the time the Tollivers arrived in Petku, the persecutors’ hearts had begun to change.
“We were very welcome,” Kathryn says. “Even the [school] security guys and the older men, by the end there, were smiling and welcoming and gracious. Disaster Relief really opens hearts and minds. … It’s such an opportunity. God really works in these times, and it was so obvious.”
The Lord’s touch was, in fact, so evident that the young mother who kept visiting the team eventually accepted prayer from one volunteer.
Director of SBCV Disaster Relief Jack Noble says this warm response resulted, in part, from the volunteers’ willingness to listen to villagers’ needs.
“The community accepted [the volunteers] quickly, and it enjoyed them being in the community because they did the things the community wanted done,” he says. The volunteers put aside their own relief priorities to work on the village’s favored projects.
SBCV Disaster Relief plans to continue sending teams to Nepal until the quake’s first anniversary in April and then will turn any further efforts over to individual American churches. Before that time, Noble says, the SBCV of Virginia will help tear down more damaged buildings, rebuild houses, conduct English as a Second Language courses and, hopefully, reconstruct the school.
If you’re interested in volunteering, email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Noble also encourages believers to give toward relief efforts in Nepal through their local churches.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Casey Watson is a writer for Baptist Global Response (BGR).