ON Saturday, April 25, 2015, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake rocked Nepal, a largely mountainous country north of India. The quake struck about 50 miles (80 km) northwest of the capital, Kathmandu. Tragically, more than 8,500 people died, making this Nepal’s deadliest natural disaster on record. More than half a million homes were destroyed. There are 2,200 of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Nepal, and most lived in the affected area. Sadly, one Witness and her two children died.
“The earthquake occurred when the congregations in the most devastated area were having their Christian meetings,” said a Witness named Michelle. “Had it occurred when many were at home, there would no doubt have been more casualties.” Why were those attending meetings spared? Kingdom Hall design was a big factor.
“NOW WE SEE THE BENEFITS!”
Modern Kingdom Halls in Nepal are designed to be earthquake resistant. Man Bahadur, who is involved in Kingdom Hall construction, states: “We have often been asked why we lay such solid foundations for relatively small structures. Now we see the benefits!” After the earthquake, approval was given for Kingdom Halls to become shelters. Despite aftershocks, Jehovah’s Witnesses and their neighbors felt secure there.
Christian elders quickly began to search for congregation members who were unaccounted for. “The elders put the welfare of the congregation above their own,” said a Witness named Babita. “We were touched to see such love.” The day after the earthquake, the three members of the committee overseeing the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Nepal, in conjunction with traveling ministers, or circuit overseers, began visiting congregations to assess needs and support the local elders.
Six days after the earthquake, Gary Breaux, from the Witnesses’ world headquarters in the United States, came to Nepal with his wife, Ruby. “Because of the confusion in Kathmandu, as well as the aftershocks,” said Reuben, a member of the aforementioned committee, “we were unsure if Brother Breaux would be able to come. But he was determined to get here—and he did! The local Witnesses deeply appreciated his visit.”
‘WE FEEL CLOSER THAN EVER BEFORE’
Silas, who works in the Witnesses’ office in Nepal, said: “As soon as our telephone service was restored, the phone began to ring day and night! Fellow Witnesses around the world were concerned about us. Although some spoke languages we couldn’t understand, we sensed their love for us and their eagerness to help.”
For several days after the quake, local Witnesses brought food to Kingdom Halls to share with those in need. Additionally, a Disaster Relief Committee was established, and soon supplies began to pour in, mainly from Bangladesh, India, and Japan. Within days, a medical team of Witnesses from Europe arrived and set up their base at one of the Kingdom Halls. They immediately got to work, not only checking the physical condition of quake victims but also helping them deal with any emotional trauma.
Expressing the feelings of many, a woman named Uttara said: “The earthquake was horrible and scary. But afterward, we felt closer to our spiritual family than ever before.” Yes, the quake did not weaken the love that Jehovah’s people have for him and for one another. Instead, it strengthened that love.