by Caroline Anderson, writer for the International Mission Board (based in Asia)
NEPAL — The village of scattered homes clinging to the side of a mountain is a hidden gem—remote and difficult to access. But those who do make the journey are treated to views of carefully sculpted, mountain-terraced fields of rice and millet and a panoramic of the Himalayas.
The April 2015 earthquake couldn’t destroy this region’s beauty. Four Southern Baptist volunteers said the earthquake closed the chasm between Christians, Hindus, and Buddhists.
The SBC of Virginia made a one-year commitment to help a region of Nepal after the earthquake and sent volunteer teams to provide disaster relief.
The volunteers’ service throughout the past year spoke volumes to the village—especially because the Baptist Global Response (BGR) teams didn’t show favoritism. The volunteers helped everyone, regardless of religion. Because of this, Christians were seen as kind and compassionate.
Stephen Cooper* was on a plane five days after the earthquake hit to help assess the damage. He and his wife, Elizabeth, returned several months later to spend several weeks deconstructing fallen buildings, rebuilding a school building, and passing out blankets and medicine. Fellow Virginians Mark and Diana Henderson* came to serve alongside the Coopers.
Missions are a part of the fabric that bound the Hendersons together.
“We met on a missions trip, we got engaged on a missions trip, now we’re celebrating our first anniversary on a missions trip,” Mark said.
It was a no-frills anniversary with the couple camped out in a tent on the side of the mountain. To bathe, Mark held up a tarp by a public water fountain so Diana could take a splash bath.
Likewise, the Coopers celebrated their anniversary on an airplane.
The Nepalese director of the school said without the volunteers’ help, the children would have nowhere to meet.
“We are thankful for the Southern Baptist(s) of Virginia,” said Muni Pariyar,* the school’s director, who is not a believer. “With the grace of God and the help of Southern Baptists of Virginia and BGR, children are able to return to school.”
“People in this village won’t forget how people from other countries came here to help,” another leader from the school said.
The Coopers and Hendersons said there are 300 families in this area, a total of 2,400 people, and they heard six families are believers.
Through the Coopers and the Hendersons’ care and concern for villagers, the mood of the village changed. The tension between Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians had been almost palpable. Ostracism, persecution, and arguments divided the village and made life difficult for the Christians.
BGR came to their village, which is off the beaten path, and the SBC of Virginia faithfully sent volunteer teams. During the weeks the Coopers and the Hendersons spent in the village, they served selflessly and offered to pray for the sick. Many accepted this offer.
“What we hope is that they see God’s love and His compassion,” Elizabeth said.
Villagers asked them why they came. “Because Jesus said to help others,” the Virginians answered.
“We believe we are all brothers and sisters,” Elizabeth told them.
Villagers also saw the volunteers’ devotion to the Lord. Elizabeth pointed to the spot where she had her quiet times. It overlooks a verdant valley and misty mountains of the neighboring country. As she read her daily devotion, men and women would walk by, stop, and inch forward to see what she was reading. She had opportunities to tell them.
“God is so clearly working here,” Elizabeth said.
Before the earthquake, there was a lot of persecution. Before, Hindus wouldn’t acknowledge Christians.
“God really works through disasters. …He puts people in a position to listen and be open, more so than under normal circumstances,” Elizabeth said. “This went from a village…against Christians to one that is open.”
The Coopers and Hendersons have empowered local believers. They’ve given them an open door to their community.
“We’re temporary. We help encourage. We can help build relationships because they are curious, but it is the Nepalese believers who are here and going to be doing the real work,” Elizabeth said.
This article appeared in The Baptist Press, May 2, 2016. Reprinted with permission.