Moving Mountains in Nepal
I’ve recently returned from my fourth trip to the beautiful country of Nepal – the land of dhal baht (boiled rice and lentil curry), the Himalayan mountains, sherpas, dhal baht, Ghurkhas, pepper tea and more dhal baht. I’d been asked, by my friends, Milan & Shusma Adhikari of Aanandit Church in Kathmandu , to take a team over and minister at a Youth Conference and a Pastors Conference. My wife, Sadie, was keen to join me this year and we decided to take our 8 year old daughter Rachel, believing it would be a wonderful, life-shaping experience for her. Amanda Bell and Andrew & Mavis Rackstraw also decided to join in our adventure.
My first task was to come up with a theme for the conferences, for which I chose ‘Preparing the Bride of Christ’, based on Ephesians 5:31-32, the picture of God in Christ being intimately joined with his people just as a husband and wife are in marriage. The wedding of the Lamb where Jesus receives the church as his bride is described in Revelation 19:7-9 and chapter 21. This is not only the climax of the Bible but the reason God created the heavens and the earth in the first place, he wanted a people who would live in love and so share his love. I wanted the conference to reveal God’s heart of love, to inspire God’s people to live confidently in that love, trusting that God wants to heal this hurting world through their efforts as they live lives full and overflowing with that love.
We began our trip with a night in a hotel in Nagarkot, high in the hills surrounding Kathmandu . We got up at 5:30am to watch the sun rise over the Himalayas . An inspirational way to start! After breakfast we hitched a ride half way down the hill in the back of an open truck – Andrew reckons you’ve always got to have one white-knuckle ride in Nepal. It was either that or pack ourselves into a minibus with way to many other people, oh and a couple of goats for good measure. We walked from there down to a small town called Sankhu where Aanandit are just planting a new congregation. Incidentally, they have a small plot of land there but would like to build a simple church hall – can we help them? There we first met a lovely young boy called Albin and his family. They had become Christians the week before when God had demonstrated his love and power to them. You see, Albin hadn’t been to school for 9 months. In fact, he hadn’t been able to study or talk about school for that time. Whenever he did, nails would fly at him from out of the walls, floor and wherever they were in the house. They had tried appease the Hindu gods and spent money on witch-doctors but all to no avail. Sometimes the unclean spirit oppressing him would throw him at a wall, a door or table so he would bang his head. I was reminded of Jesus’ encounter with a boy who was thrown into fire and water by a spirit in Matthew 17:14-21. In desperation they had asked help from the church who had prayed for him. Immediately, and for the first time in months, Albin was able to read the Bible and other books without any nails flying at him. His family all became Christians there and then. As we sat, chatting and praying with them, the father said he had felt so much better since giving his life to Jesus – more joyful, hopeful and peaceful. They agreed to tell their story at the Youth Conference, however they hadn’t taken Albin to school as yet.
Albin and friends. Albin is on the left with his thumb up.
From there it was back to Kathmandu to prepare for the Youth Conference. I knew roughly what to expect in Kathmandu , having visited several times before and having preached at the same youth conference a year earlier. However, I wasn’t expecting the violent thunderstorm we had, the torrential hail and the resultant walk back to our hotel (a pretty good one by Nepali standards, with sit down toilets – praise God!) which included a 200 yard wade through ice-cold water and who knows what else! When we arrived back at Hotel Goodwill, Amanda discovered she’d picked up an unwelcome hitch-hiker, an inch and a half long, black leech! The youth conference was a great celebratory time, over 220 15 to 30 year olds came from churches all around Kathmandu . It was Diwali, a big Hindu festival, so the church wanted to provide a healthier alternative. They really gave themselves to the worship and listened intently to the preaching. A local pastor preached very powerfully on forgiveness which affected many people. We all spoke except Sadie and she only missed her slot because a ministry time went on for about an hour and a half as every young person came forward for prayer! Some asked for, and quite a number received, healing. Boy we worked hard, but we were very encouraged by their passion as many came asking for more of God’s Spirit in order to lead ministries of their own. Some said they thought that the conference had been designed especially for them. Thank you Jesus! During the two days they also had a couple of talent shows, they entertained one another in all sorts of ways: with dance, song, stand-up comedy and drama. Finally, we had a couple of wild praise times, very unusual in , where most worship is conducted seated on the ground (very frustrating for a compulsive jumper!). During these times the young lads pictured all tried to out-jump me! Off the back of the conference, Milan has since organised another get together to which 70 of them turned up – maybe the beginning of a cross-church youth movement.
Shortly after this it was time to say goodbye to Sadie, Rachel and Amanda as the rest of us climbed into a Jeep early one morning and headed out to Jiri in East Nepal . At first we wondered if we’d get out of Kathmandu as the Maoists were burning tyres at every major road junction. There is currently a ceasefire between them, the King and the government, but they’d been riled by reports of a police officer being caught stealing and then being let off. After much prayer and having turned around at several road blocks, we eventually made it out and were on our way. The journey into the unknown was breathtaking, as we left the smog of the Kathmandu valley behind the hills got bigger and the Himalayas closer. We eventually disembarked at a small village in the middle of nowhere and had a 4 hour trek to the village where the pastors conference was to be held. What would we find, where would we sleep, and what would we eat and drink (we’d been told to bring sleeping bags, there’d be no bottled water and that showers would not be possible for 4 or 5 days!). You could say I was a little apprehensive, but it felt great to get my boots on and my rucksack strapped to my back. I was excited to see the black earth, just like I’d seen pictured in so many books about Everest expeditions – I was in Himalayan country at last! It’s true that the desires of our heart get fulfilled in serving God our Father (Psalm 37:4).
We set out at 3pm through some wonderful countryside, if a little steep and slippery (as Andrew’s backside will testify). Due to the delays caused by the Maoists, we had to walk the last hour in darkness during which we were entertained by dancing junkiri (that’s fireflies to you and me). When we arrived, I needn’t have worried, the accommodation was very acceptable, the people very friendly, the food quite edible (except for the inch-cubed chunks of soft pig fat served up in our honour the first night). We had plenty of tato-pane (hot water) to drink and Andrew was particularly delighted at the abundance of pepper tea – nice if not too peppery, but first thing in the morning… Oh for an english tea bag, even if brewed in a mug. I can honestly say I received the warmest hospitality that I have ever received in my life – not the most lavish, but the warmest.
The church in Tulo Patal (roughly translated the Big Abyss or Valley) is perched half way up a hill (that’d be a mountain here), 4 hours walk from the nearest roads, is set in a sparsely populated area and yet has a congregation of 150! Pastor Gyan is well known in the area, people at every home for miles around greet him with the Christian greeting of ‘Jayamashi’. I was told stories of his care for people, how often he’d had sick people dumped in the church when their families had not known what to do with them. He’d care for them, sometimes for days and God would heal them. Sometimes he’d get called out in the middle of the night to an accident and he’d ensure the victim got to a hospital in Kathmandu – a good day’s journey away or a quick, but expensive, helicopter ride. Now he was involved in setting up a church network in the Dolakha region. I never expected to find the church so healthy in those remote areas! Sadly, this amazing man had lost his support a year earlier when his contacts in Kathmandu had run into troubles of their own. He had been operating at his own expense since then, even mortgaging his office in Jiri so he could build the desperately needed new church hall for his growing congregation - £1200 well spent. Faced with mounting debt he was thinking the unthinkable, contemplating having to find paid work elsewhere. I am currently trying to raise support for him, for another amazing pastor called Dinesh and for Aanandit Church . We can support a pastor full time for £60 a month out there. If you can help please mark gifts for Mission.
Milan & Pastor Gyan
Tulo Patal Church hall
The pastors’ conference was attended by over 200 people, including pastors and leaders from around 40 churches. Like the youth, they were hungry for the Word of God. Like most I have met in , they were gentle folk who liked to laugh, but you know they have a steely side. Andew & Mavis brought the house down in the obligatory talent show, performing ‘There’s a hole in my bucket, dear Mavis, dear Mavis…’ Milan preached the message on forgiveness that we’d heard in Kathmandu and again it had a powerful impact – even one ex-Maoist coming forward to ask forgiveness from the community. She was only a young lady but had been a commander in the Maoist army and had personally killed several policemen. Again there was wild praise, much ministry and many testified to having been healed. Afterwards, Pastor Gyan honoured me by telling me I was a Nepali man and by inviting me back as often as I liked.
When we got back to Kathmandu , it was time to take Albin to school. That morning we fasted and prayed and went to his home. On arriving we discovered their well had dried up that morning! We prayed some more but on the way out Albin, or rather the unclean spirit, banged his head very hard on the door and twice against the car. To me it seemed that the spirit knew it was defeated but was acting like a petulant child. We drove him to school where the whole school was talking about him – they’d all heard the stories and known what had kept him away. He was so happy to be back amongst his friends. We prayed for him again before leaving him in his class. That afternoon he was sent home with a fever and that night 5 more nails hit him. We were all a little discouraged but we tried to encourage the church to keep praying for him. They did persevere and I am happy to report that the spirit has left him and he is now attending school everyday by himself.
Mountains are certainly being moved in Nepal, and not just the heaps of rice the average Nepali can tuck away in a single meal! Churches are springing up all over the place, a cross-church youth group has started in Kathmandu, a young boy has gone back to school after 9 months of torment and there’s an emerging church network in the remote Dolakha region half way between Kathmandu and Everest.
As I look back now and reflect upon all that we experienced in those two weeks, I am filled with a sense of wonder and gratitude. This has undoubtedly been my best mission trip yet. I am grateful to God for his amazing grace towards us in allowing us to work with him ‘to the ends of the earth’, for his unending love for us in Jesus, for the way he blessed our work and for our friends living in a very different world but experiencing the same love and working hard to make that love known to their fellow countrymen, many of whom have never heard the name of Jesus Christ.