Waddy—On a sunny day in December, a Nepali child colored a picture of Jesus. Through the young artist’s creative license, the Messiah grew blue hair and donned crimson robes. The young boy drawn beside Christ was holding a bowl of loaves and fishes and had been colored red from head to toe.
That simple coloring book picture of a Bible story was supposed to help Nepali children heal from the shock of last year’s earthquake and to allow them rest from daily chores.
“The children’s lives there are so hard, you know, from what I was able to observe,” Susan Bryant, member of Graefenburg Baptist Church in Waddy, said.
“When I got up at 7 o’clock in the morning to have breakfast, the children were already taking the goats up the mountains. They work very, very hard. They don’t have a lot of time to play or to be children, really,” she said.
Bryant, president of the Kentucky Woman’s Missionary Union, traveled to the Sindhupalchok District in Nepal at the end of 2015. She joined Joel Catron, member of First Baptist Church of Monticello, and Wanda Lovely, from Urbancrest Baptist Church in Lebanon, Ohio.
Operating in partnership with Baptist Global Response, Lovely and Bryant worked with trained national partners to help women and children process their emotions after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit the area in April 2015. The disaster destroyed a large percentage of homes in two districts and killed thousands. While Bryant and Lovely counseled, Catron spoke to the local men about spiritual matters.
The trip’s therapeutic focus, Bryant said, fit well with WMU’s four-year emphasis on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. According to the organization’s website, the WMU committed to helping Baptist churches address PTSD through its Project HELP initiative.
In Nepal, Bryant worked with children who had suffered similar trauma during the quake. She said the therapy sessions, held in schools and churches, looked a lot like general playtime. In addition to distributing coloring sheets, Bryant and a national volunteer also played games with the children that involved balls or bubbles.
During the program, kids had opportunities to write about the disaster, as well, and they delved into questions about where they were when it hit and how it made them feel.
“This would be an opportunity for them to have playtime and for them to talk to other children and to discuss what happened—give them an opportunity to really decompress, I guess, after the earthquake,” she said.
While Bryant played with children, Lovely assisted women’s therapy sessions and said she also spent her time playing games and encouraging women to participate in simple group activities. In the midst of all that rubble and reconstruction, Lovely and other volunteers told Nepali women to blow up balloons until they popped.
“The thought behind all of it is: this is the same thing that goes on in our hearts,” Lovely said. “You know, we carry these burdens and these pains and these worries and it just gets bigger and bigger and bigger, and finally, it just explodes. … You have to be able to share your thoughts before you explode.”
She said games and questions provided a framework, allowing women to talk about heartfelt matters within a light and fun context. She believed the jobs she and Bryant performed filled a particular need for women and children—groups of people who didn’t always have emotional outlets. And, although both the women and children seemed to love the games and conversations, Lovely believed the team also impacted Nepali villagers by simply showing up.
“When you go halfway around the world, you’ve already done a great deal to lift someone’s burden because just by default, your presence in their life says, ‘I care,’ because you didn’t show up by accident,” she said.
Lovely said she clearly remembered how Bible stories affected villagers, as well. She acted out the story of the sick woman, told in the fifth chapter of Mark, who received healing from Christ merely by touching his robe. An old woman in the crowd cried. That biblical story of healing had given her hope.
Anyone who wants to follow in the footsteps of this team and help other disaster survivors recover can volunteer through BGR. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Or, visit www.gobgr.org/volunteer/requests to read about other ways to volunteer. (WR)
Lily Jameson* is a staff writer for Baptist Global Response.