A Time to Restore
Like all things, it was only a matter of weeks before the great Earthquake of Nepal fell out of our news and into history. But Nepal is different. A poor and remote country, the situation was not all unveiled on April 25th. In fact, it was hardly even unveiled a week later. With its mountainous terrain, narrow dirt roads, and destructive monsoon seasons, many Nepali villages are inaccessible for vehicles altogether. That’s after you account for the fact that electricity and running water hardly exist in many villages. So we’re left struggling with the issues with the media – as the story of destruction and chaos begins to unravel, how could the world know how Nepal is doing?
We hear the word 7,000 lives and many of us can’t say we’ve shared the same room with that many people. How could we put it in our hearts that so many people – unreached people – died in 20 seconds, and that God allowed this to happen? In the comfort we love, it’s easiest to just forget and to move on. It wasn’t us, it wasn’t our friends, it wasn’t our families. They’ll rebuild. They’ll be fine. People will help them. All these little comfort filters, playing in our heads. And they work. We move on, and we forget. But how can we trust foreign aid (which depends on our donations) to really make an impact? How can we expect them to “get better” when many Nepalis are suffering extreme anxiety with each additional aftershock? How we can trust that the new orphans will be raised in a life that gives them opportunities? I’m not saying we can all save Nepal from its troubles, but I’m saying there’s a lot of power in remembering this little country with a big heart.
I was pretty interested on the bibles take on disaster and restoration, so I did what millennials do and googled it. I found myself in the book of Joel, not really knowing what to expect. It opens up talking about locusts destroying the seasons crop and the traumatic effect it had on people. What I was expecting next was an outflowing of God’s love and provision, but that’s not what the next verses held. There was a call to repentance. I’ve grown up in church hearing “God’s love”, “God’s love”, then I forget about his sovereignty. That’s a difficult concept for people in a country as ‘free’ as ours to grasp, but my ESV notes summarized it nicely – “God’s restoration of what the locusts have destroyed (Joel 2:27) and his protection of Israel as the cosmos crumbles (3:16–17) both have the same goal: knowledge of his presence.”
Of course, the promise of restoration comes in Joel 2:18 – “Then the Lord became jealous for his land and had pity on his people”, but I’m still taken back about what I read in my ESV notes that says “Knowledge of his Presence”. I have always wanted people to know how God moves in Nepal but I always just thought that was a Kyle thing and not a God thing but even in these painful moments, I think that God wants us to know that he exists. He wants Americans to know that, and he certainly wants Nepalis to know that. If people repent and turn to God, he will restore their lives.
The message I see in the bible is one of perfect restoration, of all things. Not just that people can live forever with Jesus, but that God created this world, sin broke this world, and the rest of the story is God working and preparing to restore his relationship with people. When people get right with God, it’s almost like other parts of creation become restored as well. Families, social systems, and communities are regularly improved with believers in the midst, because God gives us new life and his heart for people which are often radical departures from cultural norms. I know that with time, Nepal will be restored, but is the restoration we seek to deliver going to be aid alone or will it be a relationship with their creator? That’s the question we should grapple with.
Friends, don’t forget Nepal in the coming weeks and months. Talk about it, talk about the mountains, talk about restoration, go visit as a tourist or missionary, but don’t forget about them. I have a strange feeling if something happened to us and Nepal could help, they wouldn’t forget about us.