India (MNN) — The wife of a missionary supported by Gospel for Asia died Sunday when an earthquake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale struck Sikkim, India.
Pastor B. Tamang and his wife, Nirmala, were enjoying a fellowship meal with some church members and two Bridge of Hope workers in their home in Sikkim when the earthquake struck just after 6 p.m. They live near the epicenter of the quake. Due to the mountainous terrain, all the buildings are constructed terrace-style into the sides of the mountains. The Tamang home is located just below the church where he serves as pastor.
The earthquake struck at 6:10 p.m. and everyone in the Tamang home scrambled to get outside. As they were running, the church building collapsed, and Nirmala was crushed beneath one of the falling walls. Pastor Tamang and the rest of the Christians with him also suffered major injuries and are being treated at a local hospital.
Pastor Tamang's church was completely destroyed.
"We are deeply grieved to hear about Nirmala's death. Gospel for Asia has lost a vibrant Christian woman who served as an example of what it means to 'love the Lord your God with all your heart'" says Gospel for Asia President K.P. Yohannan. "While supporting her husband's work, she led a dynamic ministry reaching out to the women in this area. Please be in prayer for this dear brother and all those in his ministry area who are filled with sorrow because of this situation."
Several churches led by Gospel for Asia-supported missionaries were also destroyed in the quake. But the full effect of the disaster on the ministry has yet to be determined, according to Yohannan.
"We have literally hundreds of missionaries serving throughout this area, as well as dozens of Bridge of Hope centers," Yohannan said. "The earthquake cut off electricity and took out the normal communications channels, so we don't know the full extent of the damage."
The earthquake came during the Indian monsoon season, and the heavy rain, coupled with the shifting ground, led to landslides. Several major roadways are blocked, preventing teams from reaching the people who need help. The heavy monsoon rains are also preventing helicopters from flying in to assess the damage, according to news reports.
The BBC and CNN report the earthquake shook the border region of India and Nepal with one major quake of 6.9 and two aftershocks measuring 4.8 and 4.6. All three quakes occurred over a one-hour period of time, starting just after 6 p.m.
Monday's news reports indicate that 35 people died in the quakes, but government officials expect the death toll to increase as rescuers find bodies. The area where the quake hit is at the base of the famous Himalaya Mountains. The majority of the area is comprised of small, rural villages carved out in the sides of the mountains.
Nepal's capital city of Kathmandu was also rocked by the quake.
The quake hit Tibet as well, killing seven people. Bangladesh and Bhutan also felt the trembling.
Nepali and Indian news outlets reported that dozens of people were also injured as they attempted to escape by jumping off of buildings. Others were caught up in stampedes as terrified people tried to make their way to safety.
"The people in this area are facing a huge catastrophe, and they are frightened," Yohannan said. "Many may not be able to get out of their village to get needed medical attention or food. Those who lost their homes are stuck outdoors, trying to find any shelter from the driving rain and colder weather. They desperately need our prayers."
Gospel for Asia Compassion Services teams are mobilizing in the area, and they will begin helping those affected by the quake as soon as they are cleared to enter the damaged areas.
"The people who suffered through this quake are desperate for help and for a sympathetic ear," Yohannan says. "Our Compassion Services teams will give them the practical things they need, like food and blankets. They will also pray with them and offer the hope of God's love. The teams are committed to working in this area for as long as it takes to bring complete restoration."