In my adulthood, there have been a number of devastating natural disasters that have ravaged our world including the tsunami in Indonesia and the typhoons in the Philippines. Each time, I've watched the scant news coverage, stunned by the horrific images of death and despair. At times, I've even been moved to tears. Yet, each time, I've felt separated – slightly removed from something happening to another people in another place.
Saturday was different. My morning check of social media informed me of the massive earthquake in Nepal, another developing country a long way from home.
Yet, this earthquake hit home for me in a way that other disasters haven't. You see, in the past several years, we've welcomed several Bhutanese refugee families to our community who have spent decades in refugee camps in Nepal. Having seen the frailty of refugee camps first-hand (albeit not in Nepal), I immediately feared for the safety and welfare of the refugees in these camps.
What's more, this natural disaster felt even more personal to me because our friends – Dave and Jenny - have been living, working, and serving in Nepal for almost two years. In the time they've been there, by prayerfully supporting them, we've grown to love the Nepalese people as well. When I saw the epicenter of the quake was in their district, I immediately feared for their safety as well as that of their neighbors.
Thankfully, Dave and Jenny posted a message to Facebook early on reassuring everyone they were OK, stationed at the hospital in their district waiting to see how they (two doctors) could be of help. In their words:
Hey all, we are ok. We were in church when the earthquake hit. Everyone ran out and immediately started praying. We are now sitting outside the hospital and waiting to see if any patients are coming to the hospital. Pray for protection and for Nepal.
Update: despite Lamjung being the epicenter, the hospital has been quiet. Can't say the same for Kathmandu though. Many of my teammates are volunteering/ working at area hospitals. Please continue to pray.
As the day unfolded, our friends faithfully posted updates about what they were seeing and observing:
People spending the day in the hospital courtyard. No one is spending the day inside in case of aftershocks.
Aftershocks have slowed down. Thankfully, patient volume has been light. We have spent the day between the hospital and hanging out with the kids. We will sleep tonight at our friend's place, then consider returning to our home tomorrow. We are thankful for the communal spirit here and for all of your prayers.
Aftershocks continue to slow down. Most villagers slept outside and were greeted with a cold rain this morning. We are considering moving back to our flat today (in a four story house).
I was on call overnight at the hospital and was only called in for an obstetric case. We are still seeing only minor trauma coming in. I received an update from Duncan Hospital, another mission hospital in Northern India. Looks like they got more trauma patients than we did despite the distance from the epicenter. Thank you for your continued prayers for Nepal. Continued updates when we can.
Saturday night, we watched NBC's Nightly News to see their coverage of the earthquake, which was limited – a few pictures of the devastation in Nepal's capital, Kathmandu; An estimated casualty count; And then a shift to how the earthquake impacted those climbing Mt. Everest.
By night two, the news featured more photos of the capital, with a focus once again on the impact of the earthquake on tourists as well as the Americans caught in the quake. I turned it off in frustration.
How is it that we can reduce a disaster like this one into what it means for Americans?
Now to some extent, I realize the media is probably trying to do what my refugee friends and Dave and Jenny have done for me: Make me care about something happening thousands of miles away from me by making it personal. Unfortunately, they're failing.
I mean, it's a tragedy that climbers – including Americans – were killed on Mt. Everest because of the quake. But it's even more tragic that thousands of Nepalese have already been killed by this quake; That people are sleeping outdoors because they fear additional buildings will collapse in the aftershocks; That medical care is limited; And that this situation will likely get worse before it gets better.
The most recent update I saw from our friends came from Jenny. It said this:
Evacuating to outside the hospital grounds again in anticipation of yet another aftershock. Third time today...Lord, have mercy @dave_kim_md #nepalearthquake #kimsnepal
Indeed, may the Lord have mercy on ALL those impacted by the earthquake in Nepal.
May the Lord use doctors – like our friends Dave and Jenny – to bring hope and healing to a traumatized nation.
May the Lord provide safety.
May the Lord grant those still living in the terror of aftershocks, peace.
May the Lord grant those of us living thousands of miles away from this disaster a greater understanding of it's impact on the Nepalese people.
May the Lord help us to care about such devastation because he cares about it and grieves every casualty.
And may the Lord move us to compassion and to action, so that we, too, can bring hope and healing to those who need it most.