Mount Everest

Until a few years ago, Nepal was proud of being the world’s only Hindu kingdom.  Now it is neither Hindu nor a kingdom.  The constitutional settlement which deposed King Gyandendra in 2008 also introduced secularism, although approximately 80% of the population is Hindu.  So now Nepal is mostly famous for its altitude, since eight of the world’s ten highest mountains are in this small landlocked country, or on its borders, including of course Mount Everest.  In sharp contrast, in the south of the country the tropical lowlands are a mere 100m above sea level.  The country’s other claim to fame is having the world’s only national flag which is not rectangular.

My recent two-week visit involved a lot of trekking in the foothills amid breathtaking scenery, but also provided some amazing ministry opportunities.  Each day I shared a message on ‘The spiritual significance of topographical features in the Bible’, and with topics like mountains, rivers, trees and rocks there was plenty of opportunity to meditate on these while walking between villages in the Annapurna foothills.  Every now and again I would meet Christians from the city, who had migrated into the hills to find employment in the hostels catering for backpackers, or I would find modest little church buildings by the wayside.  Even in the Himalayas there are believers unashamed of the gospel!  I also had the opportunity to pray with some of them, and to witness to non-Christians I met.  I even did an impromptu Bible study with a man I gave a Nepali New Testament to.  Please pray for him to read it and find Jesus through it.

Back in Kathmandu, Aanandit (= ‘rejoicing’) Church in the suburb of Imadole is one of a group of four planted under the enthusiastic leadership of Milan Adhikari, who spent a year in England training with Ichthus.  I had the privilege of preaching there and of praying for the sick.  It was exciting to find that many churches in Nepal are non-denominational, and while there can be disagreements between them, they tend to focus on what they have in common rather than what divides them.  Truly refreshing!

Christians in Nepal tend not to be seriously persecuted, although they may well be passively victimised by being passed over for promotion.  Nevertheless, in a meeting with the president of the Armed Forces Christian Association I was encouraged to find that they have some 500 members, including a major and a police inspector.  However, a significant cause for concern is the draft text of the new constitution, which will make it an offence to try to convert somebody to your religion.  Not only will this outlaw evangelism, it may affect the activities of Christian organisations which run hospitals or schools, since this may also be interpreted as evangelistic activity.

A Nepali Christian

One such organisation is the International Nepal Fellowship (http://www.inf.org/) which has a variety of projects including the Green Pastures Hospital in Pokhara which I visited.  An impressively efficient establishment, largely run by Nepali people, it was originally founded to treat leprosy patients, but as numbers have dwindled it has evolved into a spinal injuries unit as well.  Ironically, like many such establishments in the current economic climate, it has no difficulty raising large grants to build new facilities but struggles to find the money for the running costs.

I also had the opportunity to visit the highly-respected Dr Mark Zimmerman of the Nick Simons Institute (http://www.nsi.edu.np) and hear about his significant work training health workers in some of the poorest regions of a poor country.  Many of the outlying areas get neglected, and because they are remote and have poor facilities, many healthcare professionals refuse to work there.  The solution is partly to upgrade facilities like schools to make the rural areas more attractive, and partly to train the existing healthcare workers so that they are more multi-skilled.

Please pray:

  • for the Christians in Nepal, that their churches would thrive and take advantage of the current peace that Christians will continue to have the legal freedom to evangelise;
  • that the gospel would spread among the armed forces, and that people at senior levels of government would meet Jesus;
  • that a new generation of church leaders would be bold, zealous and equipped for the task;
  • that funding would continue to be available to Christian charities working in Nepal.

Visit http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=289551&id=625609602&l=12d06f0aeb for more pictures.

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