CHESTERFIELD, Va. — Church members from a local congregation landed on the ground in Kathmandu for a mission trip, just 30 minutes before a 7.8 magnitude earthquake—the worst to strike in Nepal in four score– reduced much of the capital city to rubble and caused widespread destruction throughout the country, all the way up to the peaks of Mount Everest.
Four members from the Chester Christian Church had joined nine college students from Nebraska for a mission that would have led them to a village, where their work on an internet café would later serve as a facility to train pastors.
The trip had been postponed several weeks prior.
“They were supposed to be over there and back already,” said Pastor Aaron Hoback.
Instead their mission has changed dramatically, the church said. They are handing out supplies and water to affected people in a village. Humanitarian supplies are reported to be in desperate need, according to CNN.
The destruction to the capital is stark; as CNN writes “revered temples reduced to rubble, people buried in the wreckage of their homes, hospitals short on medical supplies and overflowing with patients. Serious damage is also reported in villages in the surrounding valley though the situations are still very murky farther out across Nepal’s rugged landscape.
The death toll has risen to 3,726, according to police.
Fortunately, there were no injuries among the mission group. They are staying in touch with families and the church through texts and Facebook messages.
“For us, it is hard to wrap our minds around where they are going and what they are experiencing,” said Hoback. “The images and pictures that they are going to be seeing, it is hard for us to fathom that.”
“Those images will be burned in their mind,” he added.
But their spirits are strong, Hoback also said.
On Sunday, a member of the mission posted an update on the church Facebook page.
“Our group from Nebraska went to one of the camps that were set up outside and made balloon animals for the kids. That was a big hit.
Continue to lift us up in prayer, especially for Nepal.”
After a journey that began two-days prior, the group landed just ahead of the earthquake. The already travel-worn visitors finally caught up on some sleep. The first night after the earthquake, hotel guests were not allowed to sleep inside. The hotel provided blankets and chairs for guests. They did not get their luggage for a day.
But their focus, Hoback said, is “how God will be able to use them through this process.”
While the plans may have changed – the original plan was to be back May 4 – a greater plan seems to be at work.
Hoback said the biggest way people can support the missionaries is by prayer. ”Pray for God’s protection; and offer strength and courage,” he said.
The church, who usually have a couple of missions planned each year in addition to local work, prayed in church Sunday for their team. And they will continue to pray, Hoback said.
Shortly after the earthquake the team sent a message that was shared on the church’s Facebook page.
Thank you all. Our hearts are very heavy and your love and prayers are SOOOO helpful. It’s probably just amplified by the fact that we haven’t slept much since we left and are completely drained. We will rest tonight and get things going tomorrow. God has truly given us a great opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with this group of people. We are praying for God to fill us with His Holy Spirit and that He will give us the words we need to say to help them come to know the one true God!
The aftershocks have been frequent and strong, with one Sunday registering as a 6.7 magnitude – almost as severe as the first.
Three of the dead are U.S. citizens, a State Department official told CNN on Sunday.
People searching for loved ones, and people leaving messages that they are safe, are posting on a pages designated for the Nepal earthquake, called Family Links. At least one person from Richmond was reported alive after her family posted in search of her.
CBS 6 is working on this story for the evening news. Watch CBS 6 and WTVR.com for updates.