Rev. Wesley Graham is a missionary who visits Nepal under the Free Presbyterian Church of Northern Ireland (FPCU). He has worked there since 2006 with over 100 Free Presbyterian Churches of Nepal (FPCN).
Graham gave an interview to the Missionary News early this morning, recounting his experience during Saturday’s earthquake, and describing conditions for himself, his wife, and the Nepalese church.
Listen to the audio interview here.
MN: Can you describe for us the events as they unfolded. This was a strong earthquake.
WG: It was fairly strong. I mean the whole ground shook and the building shook, and all the buildings around. It’s a strange thing, there’s a real rumbling comes, and the ground moves beneath your feet. It’s very scary stuff now.
I’ve never experienced anything like that, I mean it… On Saturday morning, we meet here on Saturday. All Christians meet on Saturdays here. But we were just finished, just before twelve o’clock, and we were standing at the back waiting to go out. And there were girls, and they sensed that there was an earthquake coming. I didn’t see anything. But they ran out, and of course I ran out after them. And Carol, my wife, she was behind me. And whenever I was halfway to the gate, I said to myself, “Where’s Carol?” I turned back and saw her coming, and she was staggering all over the place. And I went and caught ahold of her. And I nearly went over, the two of us nearly went over, but we got out the front gate. And it kept going—I think the thing maybe went for about a minute and a half—the whole shaking. Then we came down out into the open ground, and two or three hours afterwards, there were these major movements in the ground, you know. You feel that the earth’s going to open up around, but the fact that you’re on… its soil we’re on, so there’s a certain give with that. If you’re on concrete or tarmac or something like that, it could break up, but I mean open soil or clay, there’s a certain give with it.
There’s a road…We live just, well about three, four miles out of the city, and there’s a road, a dual carriage way half a mile down the road from us, we went down… I went down yesterday morning. And the center of the road actually lifted, must have lifted about five feet, and lifted a footbridge as well. Right up, I mean it’s incredible, those big, big cracks in the road, massive cracks. So it wasn’t, that part wasn’t too far from us.
MN: What is it like where you are living?
WG: Well where we are the buildings are all intact. And the people of course are all out in tents, and of course we’re out in tents as well. We’re out in a tent because there’s a threat of more earthquakes. The church put up a tent just out in open ground. And some locals are in the tent with us. So, we’re sleeping there, it’s fairly rough. It’s not a very attractive tent, but it’s a plastic roof, so it does the job. We have a few neighbors beside the church here, and they’re staying in this tent with us.
So, you see, on Saturday it came at 12 o’clock, and then throughout the next 24 hours, every four hours, there was a tremor, and it shook the building. Well, we stayed out all day on Saturday. We stayed out of the building and then about one o’clock in the morning we decided to go into the building, that was on Sunday morning. Well we were in it for about four hours, and about five o’clock in the morning, there was another tremor and the building shook so we decided to stay out of the building then, as most people are doing here. They don’t go into the buildings because of aftershocks and things. There was a major aftershock yesterday about half twelve, and it was I think 6.7, so we’ve stayed out and we’ll be staying out tonight, maybe another couple of nights, we’re not sure yet.
MN: Is there a shortage of food or water?
I mean there’s been no shortage of food as far as we’re concerned yet, the difficulties would be out in the hill districts, and places like that. We haven’t experienced any major shortage as yet obviously. The water, we have to buy all our water, but we have a stock of it anyway. But the water comes in 20 litre containers and they’re sort of running out in the shops because everybody’s buying them and they’re not getting replenished. But there’s no real major problem as far as they’re concerned.
We have a well here that we go to at any rate, so we can go down to the well and get it. I suppose if it went on for a prolonged period there would be a problem. They’re hoping I suppose in the next two or three days that the crisis will subside at least here in the city.
Well we went in this morning actually, went in to get a shower because I hadn’t washed since Saturday, and thought it was time to get sorted out that way. So we went in and got washed up in the building. We’ve been going in and out of the building, but we don’t stay in it for any long period. And so, we’re actually cooking inside today. Yesterday they were cooking outside, and we don’t have to do any of the cooking, for there’s ones in the church, they do it all so there’s no problem.
MN: What can you say about the churches? Have you, has there been damage among the churches, how many, have you been able to contact individual pastors, all 100 or 120 of them?
One of the churches they were meeting, and they must have been coming pretty close to the end, this is in Kathmandu, and they were coming pretty close to the end of their service, and they sensed that there was an earthquake, because they felt the building vibrating. And they instantly left the building, and the building collapsed, but they all got out safe. There was another church, again, out in the country, and it collapsed as well, but there was nobody hurt, but they must have been out of it at that particular time.
MN: So far you have not heard of any deaths among the Free Presbyterians, just a few of the churches destroyed then.
WG: That is right; there might have been some minor injuries, but nothing major. There are no reports of anybody being killed.
But there were other churches in the city, maybe five churches, and of course a lot of these churches would be up, maybe could be three or four or five stories up , and they were maybe renting a building, or renting a room or renting a floor. And they were reckoning there were about five churches, and the churches were virtually wiped out. Christians, they were just killed. Probably Pentecostal, Charismatic type people, but the building collapsed. There was one place and they reckon there were about 100 and they were all killed.
MN: Have you been able to reach all the pastors of all the church, or has Paul Thapa been able to communicate?
WG: Well there’s some of them he can’t contact because the communication isn’t that great. But I was actually to go… we were to leave this morning to go and open two new church buildings, but because of the conditions of the roads, and the uncertainty of whether you’ll get there or even get back here, we had to cancel those openings. Now we were also to open a new building next Monday up next to China direction. And the building, that building it was just finished. The building actually came apart, it collapsed, and the pastor’s house, it collapsed as well.
MN: You say you’ve got some people living with you in the tent that you’ve set up, are you having good opportunities to speak about the Lord because of this incident.
WG: Well these people in the tent are mostly from the church. There might be one or two neighbors, maybe half a dozen neighbors in, and really the locals here would be no doubt taking the opportunity, but they would know them anyway, and they would be in contact with them.
MN: Have you been able to go into the bad part of town, or not really, it’s not safe at the moment.
Paul has offered to take me down tomorrow on the motorbike to go around a few places to see them. I hope maybe to do that. There was actually a tower, a viewing tower in the center of the city where a lot of people go, I’ve been to it myself. And there were about 300 people had bought tickets and they were in the tower. And that tower came down, and most of those people were killed.
Rev. Wesley Graham sent an email to the Missionary News asking us to pass on his appreciation to the churches for their support. He writes:
“We are so thankful to the Lord for His mercy in preserving the lives of the members of the Free Presbyterian Church of Nepal. When we consider the dreadful loss of life in many parts of the country it is truly remarkable our people here escaped relatively unscathed. Carol and myself have been overwhelmed by the messages of support in the past couple days. Our churches have demonstrated their solidarity in a wonderful way. It shows how much of a family our church really is. We would ask for the continued prayers of God’s people that the Free Presbyterian church may be able to minister to those who are in greatest need.”
Rev. Wesley Graham travelled into Kathmandu and took photos of the damage. See his photo essay here.