During past visits to Nepal, I have often thought to myself, even commented to others, that I feel like I am in a real-life reenactment of the book of Acts. My most recent trip this fall was no different.
As a matter of fact, the parallels to the Apostle Paul’s missionary endeavors throughout the Mediterranean regions became even more obvious. Paul’s mission field consisted of a culture that believed in the Greek and Roman pantheon of gods. He preached to them that God was one and that one God became incarnate in human flesh to die for mortal man. This truth was just as inconceivable to Paul’s audience as it is for the average Nepali whose worldview from birth has been to believe in tens of thousands of gods and that everyone will undergo endless reincarnations based on works and karma. This is the precise task for the Nepali pastors and church planters who love their country and its people: to transform their nation through the power of the Gospel.
Although my recent trips have not been official Blue Ridge trips, I have invited some Blue Ridge members to share the experience. Last March, my wife Lynn joined me for the first time. For this latest trip, I traveled with Damon Fensterman, a leader in our Follow men’s group, and also Jonge Tate, lead pastor of Bedrock Community church.
Here’s what Damon had to say about his experience in Nepal:
“What I got to see was God working out His plan for the country of Nepal, a nation where I've been investing prayer and finances for over half my life. A missionary friend of mine moved to Nepal in the early ‘70s and for many years, he knew only one Christian. I got to meet dozens! And I got to be part of what God is doing. We encouraged and prayed over pastors and church planters. We washed their feet! We stood as a group praying together in unity, claiming a massive valley for the Name of Jesus. We laid on hands and prayed for the sick and brokenhearted. We laughed and cried together. Now I know what Paul meant when he said ‘we have you in our hearts’.”
Together, we visited pastor training centers that are part of an American missions organization called Acts International. The mission of Acts International is to train and equip national leaders in Asian countries to plant churches amidst unreached people groups. They have established small training centers in many Asian countries; there are two training centers in Nepal.
The primary purpose of this trip was to continue to build relationships by spending time with the two Acts training center directors (one in east Nepal and one in the west) and to visit many of the pastors and leaders on location at their church buildings or home “fellowships.” The pastors were very encouraged by our visits, welcoming us into their homes and inviting us to worship with them. Even though we couldn’t understand the words in their songs and prayers, their emotional love for Jesus was palpable. Every pastor I met expressed gratitude for the Acts curriculum, which effectively prepared them for the daunting task of evangelism and church planting in Nepal. We met with more than 30 pastors, leaders, and aspiring church planters.
Here are some of their stories:
- A pastor named Shiva who owned a lucrative restaurant/bar sold it in order to plant a church in an unreached village.
- Another man was a former witch doctor who became so sick himself, nobody could help. He claimed his whole body felt like it was on fire. When a nearby pastor heard of this, he visited the man and prayed for his healing. The witch doctor was healed almost immediately. Then the pastor explained the Gospel of Christ, and he believed and was saved!
- I can still hear the pain of Maya who trusted in Jesus for salvation and was beaten almost to death by her husband. When she refused to recant her faith, he left her while still bruised and recovering, divorced her and had another woman within weeks. She is now leading a house fellowship of 28 people, the only church accessible for miles.
- Ram was once part of the Maoist communist rebels who bullied local villages. He recalls beating Christians and burning Bibles. Eventually he left the Maoist movement, but when his marriage was arranged (as is customary), he found himself married to a Christian woman who read her Bible every day. After some time, he attended her church and gave his life to Christ. Then he read the entire Bible in 28 days!
Recently the government of Nepal passed a law that made Christian evangelism and conversion illegal. I asked every one of the leaders how that would change their outreach. They were unmoved by the law and one pastor even said, “I will show the Jesus Film! Let them come get me. I live so far up in the mountains, they will never find me!”
The people of Nepal have grabbed my heart and will not let go. Every time that I am there, God continues to show me how He is calling out a people for Himself in Nepal and building His kingdom. The church is growing faster in Nepal than anywhere else in the world.
Walking through the streets of any city in Nepal, I recall looking into so many eyes and seeing hopelessness, poverty, and despair. That is in direct contrast to the eyes of my Nepali brothers and sisters in Christ, which glow with same hope and joy of life that I see in many eyes here at Blue Ridge. I feel so humbled to be in a position where I will continue to see more and more Nepali eyes filled with the hope of Jesus Christ. God is opening the doors for us to join Him in what He is doing. Lynn and I are excited about where this is leading and trusting God every step of the way.