Missionary evangelists Ray and Carol Hickman of Fresno were preaching in Kathmandu, Nepal when the earthquake hit last weekend.
The couple was in a complex several stories high when the room started to shake, said their son, Jason Hickman of Fresno. Ray was the last one out the door. The rumbling knocked a speaker off the wall that hit Ray on the leg, but otherwise, the Hickmans and those in their buildings were uninjured.
The same can’t be said for thousands of others in the country.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that 5,000 people were killed by the earthquake and a government official estimated the toll could rise to 10,000. Associated Press said there were more than 8,000 injured and tens of thousands left homeless.
Jason Hickman received a brief phone call from his father around 1 a.m. Saturday, and again on Monday morning.
“Buildings are collapsing; there is devastation everywhere,” Jason Hickman said of his father’s reports from Nepal.
The building the Hickmans were in when the earthquake hit is still standing. They moved their missionary work to the first floor to make an evacuation easier in case of a major aftershock. But many in Nepal still don’t feel comfortable inside any building.
“People are sleeping out in the fields and in the streets — even if it’s raining — because they are afraid to go inside,” Jason Hickman said of what his father has witnessed.
On Saturday afternoon, Oakhurst mother Krista Clayton received a welcome phone call from her 21-year-old son, Tyler, also in Nepal. He was with his wife, Kelsey, doing missionary work in a rural village a few hours from Kathmandu through Youth With A Mission, Denver, when the earthquake hit.
“He said when it hit, it was like he was on a boat dock and it was like huge waves … It was crazy how the ground moved and shook,” Clayton said.
Clayton said her son and others in the village were uninjured, and buildings there were not toppled.
It was hard for Clayton to hang up the phone with her son. “I said, ‘Can you please keep talking? I just need to hear your voice.’ ”
Tyler and Kelsey Clayton planned to go into Kathmandu to help with relief efforts for earthquake victims. Jason Hickman also expects that his father, a retired lieutenant colonel with the Army National Guard, is busy helping others in the country.
On Saturday, Ray Hickman posted about the earthquake on his Facebook page: “Prayers appreciated … Major earthquake here in Nepal. Everyone (here) where we are is okay. The center was south of our location. Many after shocks … Worship Him!!!”
Ray and Carol Hickman arrived in a remote village of Nepal on Monday after many hours of slow travel by bus and motorbike. They will continue their work in Nepal until May 1, when they fly to Singapore to do more missionary work. They are expected to return to San Francisco on May 12. Oakhurst natives Tyler and Kelsey Clayton are flying back to Denver the first week of June.
The Hickmans had only been in Nepal for a couple of days when the earthquake hit. They flew to the mountainous country to meet a friend, also a missionary, after spending more than a week in the Philippines helping spread the word of Christ. Including Nepal, the Hickmans have gone to an estimated 35 countries to encourage and support local Christian pastors.
Youth With A Mission, Yosemite, based in Oakhurst, previously scheduled a fall trip to Nepal. Its director, Nathan Nielsen, said the group of 13 signed up for the trip may be rebuilding or trekking to remote communities to deliver supplies.
Reflecting on the countless deaths and injuries of Nepalese that YWAM has worked with over the years, Nielsen said, “It’s heartbreaking.”