Greetings from Kathmandu again,
It seems like a long time since the last time I posted. This is probably because a lot has happened in the past few days.
Little did we know when we planned this trip to Nepal that we would be here to witness history. On May 28th the newly elected Congressional Assembly voted almost unanimously to declare Nepal a democratic republic. http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/05/29/asia/nepal.4-279713.php What this means is that the reigning king (who assassinated his father, mother, and brother in bloody fashion in the royal palace back in 1999) has 15 days to vacate the palace and the current 230 year old hindu monarchy has come to an end. The nation of Nepal has been under monarchy rule for more than 450 years. As you can imagine...the people of Nepal are elated and the celebrations went on in the streets all night long all over Nepal. May 28th has been declared a national holiday and will be celebrated like we celebrate Independence Day. Hopefully this declaration also brings an end to the violence that has dominated this nation for the past ten years. Bomb blasts and killing have been common place for the past 10 years. The pastors we have been working with are also hopeful that the new government will keep its promises of freedom of religion. Before 1952 there were no Christian churches in Nepal. Between 1952 and the late 70's there were only underground churches. According to a 2007 survey it is now estimated that there are around 2,700 Christians churches in Nepal. Until 2006 the nation of Nepal was the only nation in the world to have Hinduism as the official and national religion. Now Nepal has no official or national religion. The most recent census reports that the population of Nepal is 30,000,000. Statistics tell us that less than 1% of the population is Christian and with many areas and villages of Nepal still with out Christians witness...the fields are white for harvest. Just as Paul prayed for open doors to preach the Gospel so too do we pray for open doors.
We arrived last Tuesday afternoon and left early Wednesday morning for a three day trip into the hills and mountains that are West of Kathmandu. Pastor JB is originally from this part of Nepal and knows many people there. There are eight other pastors in Nepal that have been working with Pastor JB over the years. You can tell that these men all have a great deal of respect for Pastor JB and his sons. Pastor JB first heard about his Savior when he picked up a small tract that had been thrown into the streets by a soldier to had taken them away from someone who was trying to hand them out. At that time it was illegal to openly evangelize in Nepal. JB was brought to faith through the Word of God and it cost him dearly with his family as he has been ostracized from his father now for many years. This family has endured many hardships such as being arrested and detained as they have tried to proclaim the Gospel. But the Lord has been faithful and given them the strength and courage to carry on.
We had the privilege of meeting and visiting with four pastors who Pastor JB works with. Two of these pastors he baptized years ago when they were brought to faith. While the distance to these places was not far, the amount of time it takes to travel there was very long. We probably averaged about 30-40 KM/hour as we wound our way up and down mountain roads that seem to have been built for one way traffic but somehow they manage two way traffic with all sort of vehicles, including very large lorries (trucks) making their way through. We visited the cities of Hetauda, Bharatpur, and Butwol. We attended and taught at special church services that were arranged since we would be there and we also visited and taught at a couple of house churches. My impression of the four pastors we met is that they are very sincere in serving the Lord and have truly humbled themselves before the Word with a great desire to increase their knowledge and understanding of it. It was a joy to meet and visit with them.
The trip was grueling, long, and sometime frustrating as we sat for long periods of times as traffic was brought to a stand still in the middle of no where for no apparent reason. But the beauty of these mountains is breath taking. Rajan (pastor JB's youngest son) kept telling us that we hadn't even seen mountains yet. He tells us that here in Nepal mountains have snow on them year around and not just at the top. Picture in your mind the pictures you have seen of Mt. Everest. These are what they call mountains. What we refer to as mountains...like the Rocky Mountains, are just very big hills. Way back in these "hills", straight up it seems, are villages that are only accessible on foot. Pastor JB and his sons have made trips back into these hills to spread the Gospel. While pastor JB says that his work is now encouraging and training pastors due to his age, his son Rajan has a real burden to take the Gospel to these unreached areas of Nepal. (The picture shows the "hills" that Rajan was explaining to me. The real Himalayan Mountains tower above the ridge you can see but with the haze and clouds we were unable to see "real" mountains.)
Here in Nepal worship services are held on Saturdays since this is the one day of the week when businesses are closed. So we attended the worship service where Pastor JB and his sons serve. There were about 85 in attendance. I was given the privilege of preaching for the service. This afternoon Raju and Rajan took us to see some sights around Kathmandu and we did a little gift shopping for my family.
Tomorrow we will meet from 8 to 4 with Pastor JB, his sons Raju and Rajan, and the other eight pastors they are associated with. Pastor Ude and I will lead them through a series of presentations that will outline the faith and doctrine of the CLC along with our history and the mission work of our body. Following this presentation all of these pastors will meet for a few hours to discuss what they have heard and what their next step will be. Pastor JB and his sons have already decided to initiate the beginning of a Lutheran Church body in Nepal and are confident that these other eight pastors are committed to this as well. Pastor JB and his sons have a very sincere desire to build a church body founded upon a strong Scriptural/doctrinal foundation. They have witnessed the problems of other congregations and church bodies in Nepal who have not had thorough theological training and they intend to avoid this pit fall by seeking this training from the CLC and then spreading it through out Nepal. They really have thought this all through and have set God pleasing goals. We await the Lord's direction and leading in this as in all things. What a privilege it is to be in the Lord's service!
Just one more full day in Kathmandu. On Tuesday morning we are planning to get up and leave the hotel by 4:00 am so we can drive to a point an hour or so East of Kathmandu to watch the sunrise over the real Himalayan Mountains and hopefully we will be able to see Mt. Everest if it is clear. Then we will head back to Kathmandu in time to catch our flight back to India at 2:00 pm.
Please pray for these men and their God pleasing goals.