“Drink it in!” That was what I said to Grant as we were careening down a Nepali highway – three vehicles abreast charging along towards the west and three coming at us towards the east (on a two lane highway). At what seems an impossible last minute, the vehicles broke formation and somehow slipped into their respective lanes…. and then did it all over again. One of the indelible memories for me is the look on Grant’s face as he reacted to it; something that happened with frightening frequency. Drink it in. That is just part of being in Nepal; sights, smells, sounds and thrills.
We arrived on Monday afternoon in Jhapa, which is the southeast state of Nepal. It was the first of several border stops we will make where people cross on foot. Most people simply cross without bothering to get visa stamps, but, being Americans, we are very visible and are in no mood to draw the wrong kind of attention. The border crossings are like something out of an old movie. A lone civil servant who is in no hurry walks us through a paper process that requires us to fill out the exact same information on duplicate forms. The fan whirred overhead, the light flickered, the chairs screeched on the bare concrete floor, and the insects buzzed incessantly as they moved in for a bite.
Our destination was Satasidham. We were the speakers at a pastors’ conference. Somehow the banner got us as Rev Mark Nikolas and Pastor Grant from “Potland.” We are not sure we ever quite understood the distinction between Rev and Pastor, but agreed that Potland has a certain truth to it. Grant had no last name. In the movie Galaxy Quest he would be the character who wouldn’t make it back to the Enterprise. But I promised Lynn (his wife) that I would bring him back alive. So far, so good.
Southeast Nepal is experiencing a movement of the Gospel. Christians are still a significant minority, but Jesus is being preached. Most of the people who attended the conference were former Hindus who have recently come to know and follow Jesus Christ. Unless you understand the life of the average Hindu, you might not understand the liberation that brings. They learn that they matter… that their value to the Creator of the universe is immeasurable. Among these Nepalese, many of whom would be considered among the lowest classes, it means that they see life from a perspective that they have never seen before. It is unfortunate than among people in my own America there is a movement away from Jesus. To many such people, Christianity is a weight of laws and rules. Nothing could be further from the truth! Jesus Christ is the great liberator of our souls.
They Nepali do not have a television culture. Like many others in the majority world, spare time is spent with out in the neighborhood with family and friends. The community nature of the gathering was beautiful. These are sweet, generous people who clearly invest in relationships with one another. At midday there was a large meal of spicy hot vegetables, chicken, rice and Indian bread. Though they have little, they lack nothing in hospitality. It was a time for this multigenerational gathering to sit around and talk and enjoy a break. For an American, such a meal can mean expanding their faith. People around the world find all sorts of creatures to cook and call a good meal. Fortunately, there were few food surprises, though Grant found picking through “bone-in-chopped chicken” to be a new experience.
We met in the upper room of a home. While spacious, it got very hot very early. It was all we could do to drink enough water to keep up with what we were losing as the day went on. The people sat in rows on the floor; women on one side and men on the other. For two full days Grant and I split the teaching. We spoke on theology, the Holy Spirit, faithfulness, encouragement, hearing the voice of God, evangelism and forgiveness. The attendees told Pastor Ram that what they heard was fresh and exciting, especially the teaching about the Holy Spirit.
We have been very moved by the people here. They greeted us with open arms and shared their lives with us these past few days. We have indeed been drinking it in. Pray for these pastors. Pray that there will be open doors in their communities for sharing the good news.
As Jesus told Peter regarding faith, “…on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)