Nepal: To the Ends of the Earth
I posted previously about the WHY of our trip to Nepal. Now that we're back...WHAT exactly happened?
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
Those words rose from the page along with the morning sun on our first day in Kathmandu. My heart rested in the truth that God’s pulse has always quickened for the people of Nepal. He longs for this people to know the supremacy of Christ and he is the one who will faithfully advance his glory in that land.
Going back all the way to Eden, God’s mission has always been to spread his glory over the entire earth among every people group, not the least of which are the ancient Hindu and Buddhist peoples of Nepal.
Nepal, a place gaining attention for years on the world stage for her monolithic peaks, stalwart mountain dwellers, and wool aplenty, recently gathered much more limelight for less desirable reasons: two devastating earthquakes measuring 7.5 and 7.8 which decimated villages, ended the lives of nearly 9,000 Nepalese and ushered in pain and suffering for countless more in a nation-state already rife with poverty. What would we discover when we landed we wondered, each member of our team a Nepali novice.
Beginning with a long journey east, we arrived in Kathmandu with eyes wide open, awaiting the unexpected. We were immediately greeted with a culture quite unlike anything many of us had ever experienced. The density and movement of people, the dirt, the pollution, the tangled power lines, the seemingly chaotic labyrinth of roads and alleyways, the chromatic array of people, buses and buildings (in Nepali it’s “rangi changi” meaning “multi-colored”), the distinct aroma – all served to awaken our senses to our foreign status. Romantic notions of this place were quickly quelled, but still...it’s Kathamandu and the land of Everest!
On our second day, our hearts grew heavy with the weight of spiritual darkness that overshadows the physical luminance of that beautiful, diverse land holding everything from the jungle floor to the world's Himalayan rooftop. Visiting historic Hindu and Buddhist temple sites, we learned about religious rhythms and practices dominating the cultural landscape of Nepal much like the mountains which abound. While smoke arose from cremated bodies out in open courtyards, we lifted the aroma of prayers to our listening and compassionate God on behalf of the people we watched. While witnessing Buddhist people circumnavigate the Boudhanath temple to engage in the perfunctory ritual of spinning prayer wheels in order obtain more karma towards nirvana, it caused us to stop and ask ourselves: what are the empty traditions or rituals which we as disciples of Jesus can be prone to mindlessly perform? It also caused us to rejoice in the grace and freedom Christ has won for us!
The following day, we faced one of the great evils of our age: human trafficking. Nepal is no stranger to this horrific practice. Over 20,000 children and adults are trafficked in and out of Nepal annually. The horrific stories of what young children and women suffer rip your heart in two. Though Nepal has strict punitive legislation for traffickers, little is done to enact those laws. We walked streets and alleys where trafficking happens to once again pray for the people and the government and we visited a prayer room appropriately named Mukti (translation: salvation) which is devoted to confronting this evil injustice where followers of Jesus from many organizations unite in prayer and tireless collaboration. One such example - Beauty for Ashes.
We ended the day with our first taste of dal bhat – the traditional Nepali meal with which we became quite familiar! A platter of rice, lentils, greens, curried vegetables, pickled vegetables and a spicy chili sauce. Pretty tasty if you ask me! We dined with a Christian couple who owns a two-story restaurant which houses a meeting space above for their church family. The atmosphere of that upper room seemed to be exactly what you’d imagine for a church in a “closed” nation. We prayed Nepali style (every believer praying aloud simultaneously) over the couple for their requests to be able to do more to reach their neighbors with the good news of Jesus. Their faith and hunger inspired and instructed us.
The next stage of our journey took us in a new direction, both westward and upward in elevation as we embarked on our much anticipated week of trekking in the Himalayas. After a day’s journey to Pokhara - the gateway city for the Annapurna Region - we began our 60-mile circuit as trekkers carrying packs as well as a message of good news about the kingdom of God. Who would we meet? What stories would we share? What would we witness? Would we endure the physical, mental and spiritual exhaustion? What is the Spirit of God doing outside of the buzz of Kathmandu, we wondered?
Undoubtedly, the Spirit of God is moving in Nepal. The first known believer in Christ in Nepal came to faith in 1951, but in recent years the church in Nepal has seen tremendous growth, causing some to name it as nation with the fastest growing Christian population (see this NPR article – This article certainly has a secular, cynical tone toward the spread of Jesus' name in Nepal).
And yet, in a nation with nearly 29 million people among hundreds of people groups spread over an Illinois-sized nation of remote mountain villages, there remains 98% of those millions who do not know the gospel of Jesus. You do the math. There are entire people groups (people of similar language, culture) with no presence of devoted disciples of Jesus nor churches. Twelve of these people groups – Tibetan Buddhist peoples in the more remote regions of northern Nepal – are the focus of TFP, the ministry with whom we partnered.
Our God was very gracious and arranged several provisions for us. First, the leadership of TFP for our team. We had translators and trekking guides who exhibited tremendous patience, hospitality, kindness, servanthood, steadfastness and spiritual leadership. One of our translator/guides had trod the well-worn paths of the Annapurnas for the past twenty years, though this was his very first trek with a team trekking with a missional purpose. He himself came to faith in Jesus when a group of Australian trekkers shared the gospel with him many years ago! It was a good reminder for all of us to be intentional as ambassadors of Christ no matter where find ourselves!
After three grueling days of altitude acclimation and tired feet, we found ourselves on day four and the winds of the Spirit blowing in our sails. God had humbled us and broken us in order to prepare us for this day – a kairos moment. While stopping at a tea house along our trek, we saw a man butchering his buffalo in a small one-room smokehouse. From the time we walked into the room, we sense the Spirit preparing this man to hear the good news. He was a broken man whose wife had left him. We asked if we could share with him a message of good news about the kingdom of the most high God. So, with bloody hunks of meat and bloody knives on the ground before us, we joyfully shared about the God who came to the earth to rescue his lost children. This man soaked up the words as his hands had the blood and he responded that day to the One who came for him. Praise God who saves! We pray he will grow as a disciple of Jesus as a nearby village church (two days away) seeks him out.
Later that day, we found ourselves overwhelmed with the sweeping, stunning views in one particularly well-known remote mountainside village. Set among the rough hewn stone work of this ancient, traditional Tibetan village we met hospitable people who offered us chyaa (Nepali tea) and moi (fermented Buffalo milk drink – i.e. a challenge for the untrained American palette to say the least!). We found opportunities to pray for more than one person for healing from physical maladies and witnessed God moving that day to reveal the authority of Jesus among other “gods.” We played with sweet children and shared a simple story about Jesus who commanded storms to be still. The soil of future relationships was cultivated that day and TFP has since returned to continue to water the soil for the gospel and church planting.
By God’s grace alone, our vision trip accomplished much both within and without. It seized us with joy and hopefulness as we saw a growing Nepali Church, hearing the testimony of many Nepali believers, the majority of whom came to the kingdom by way of physical healing in the name of King Jesus. And yet our trip also gripped us with the gravity of lostness and spiritual darkness which still pulls down like a window shade upon countless millions in Nepal. We long for the fame and glory of Jesus to spread! We pray for laborers for the harvest for this land! Will you join us in prayer and support of the people of Nepal whom our God dearly loves?
If you would like to learn more about the work of TFP in Nepal and their short and long-term opportunities, please visit http://tfp.asia
It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, 3 and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.”
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.