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Stop and Think Before You Help Nepal

May. 11, 2015By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

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All around the US there are churches that all of a sudden have Nepal on their radar. A country where Christianity only recently arrived is now suffering from a devastating earthquake and aftershocks. It will not be a surprise if the death toll reaches 10,000.

Just to put a personal face to the issue: I have friends who live there. My wife’s friend lives in Nepal, is 39 weeks pregnant and sleeping outside for fear the house might collapse. A pastor I know sent this message:

it was hard time for us. earthquake started while we were about to conclude the church service. It was strong, and we never faced like this in our life time. It was hard to get out for wave was strong. Two of our church members jumped from the window down, and one get fracture his leg and my wife got fracture in her hand by fell down while rushing for out. my house got some crack and top part of slap, which we recently made for water tanks fall down. My house about to fall down, seers said, it was swing like anything. By the grace of god we are safe and spending whole nights and days outside the home at open ground. Same time rainfall making the situation very panic. Whole two days earthquake is not stopping. Some of the churches and lots and lots house and lives of kathmandu damaged. Today only we could enter home and writing this to you for prayer. Please, pray for us, for Nepal and believer.

In the US, Christians often immediately ask, “What should I do?” It’s not just Christians either, as the US is the most generous country in the world in terms of dollars donated to charity. The impulse to help is right, but I want to raise a red flag and ask you to think first. 

What Nepal Does Not Need

I will start from the negative side. I can tell you what Nepal does not need:

The Majority of Short-Term Missions Teams. If you are planning to send a bunch of untrained workers to help with relief, stop immediately. From what is being reported, the airport cannot handle a bunch of Western college students to take the place of trained aid workers. Are there real needs? Yes! Do you need to send a bunch of people who are there to learn? No.

Just to give one example: If a short-term team in the name of Jesus builds a cheap house, it will only get knocked down the next time Nepal endures an earthquake. If you want to rebuild fast, fine. If you want to care for Nepal long-term, think twice before sending a team.

Your Clothes. Don’t start a clothing drive. Please. Second hand clothing is impossible to get to people who might need them. What people need is security, food and water, and not a new second-hand shirt. I don’t understand how clothing drives became one of the knee jerk reactions to meeting needs in a disaster. There is just a better way.

"If you are planning to send a bunch of untrained workers to help with relief in Nepal, stop immediately!" - Tweet this

What Nepal Does Need

 If you really want to help, let me suggest the following:

Give Your Money To Reputable Organizations. If you want to help Christians or just the country in general, find a good relief organization and give to them. Check to see if they are part of the Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability. There are a lot of charlatans out there. In the US, people will ask for aid but less than half will actually make it to where you desire to help. In Nepal, there will be people posing as Christians asking for aid, and there will be fake stories to try to sift through. I will not be suprised if people in government skim off the top. It’s sad, but people and governments profit off of tragedy.

To guard yourself, you can work with organizations like Compassion International (or others) that have a plan and a track record of helping people with long-term solutions. Relief is needed now, but not forever. Learn from the example of Haiti. In four decades before the 2010 earthquake, $8.3 billion in international aid had been given, yet the country was 25 percent poorer than before the aid began. Sending money aimlessly is not helpful.

Specialized Short-Term Teams. It is very challenging for Christians to find a place of worship in Nepal. There might be a need, after the initial relief efforts, for teams who want to commit to a 1-2 year period to go and help Christians rebuild their schools and places of worship. Almost all of the churches in Nepal rent a space, but the few schools and churches that have buildings will probably need outside help.

There may also need to be an influx of doctors and other medically trained staff. If you fit that profile, find an organization that can plug you in to help.

Ask Yourself The Deeper Questions. Helping people in Jesus’ name is important, but it is also important to understand the systemic brokenness in Nepal. Why was there such a lack of infrastructure? What worldview drives the country’s view of work? Why have Christians faced strong opposition from people? Many thoughtful questions need to be asked.

Ask the Missionaries. The best way to help right now is to ask missionaries in the area what they need. There are a lot of Western workers in Nepal, and some of them are in dire straights and need immediate help. Missionaries know of real needs, what is being planned on the ground, and whether your aid would just reduplicate others’ efforts.

Lastly...

Pausing to think for a moment is a compassionate move. It is not cold hearted to hold off on sending clothes, to not get on a plane, or to “just send money.” Let’s help the Nepali people and especially our Christian brothers and sisters in any way we can. Let’s partner with Christians in the surrounding countries to provide that help. Let’s think through ways we as individuals can partner with solid organizations to provide real relief – both physically and spiritually. 

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