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One pamphlet wins a Nepali village for Christ

Posted on Thursday, April 1st, 2010

(Picture: Ami Vitale/Panos)

Recently, word reached our EHC office in Kathmandu that a large group of believers had been worshiping regularly in this rugged Himalayan region where an eight-man team of pioneer missionaries trekked in with the Gospel 16 years ago, searching out unreached villages. Many of those villages will never appear even on the best of government maps.

Their first visit to Dummana years ago actually lasted less than half a day because the first village they visited appeared deserted. But it was soon obvious to the team that the village was inhabited because of small embers still burning in fire pits and a few chickens running about. They knew from experience that the villagers, with their children, were somewhere in the nearby mountains tending their flocks or farming, and that it would not be uncommon for them to be away for several days.

Realising they had other villages to reach, as well as facing a two-day trek back down the mountain, the pioneer missionaries went to all the homes anyway, leaving a gospel message at each home, trusting that there would be at least a few who were literate in the village.

Little could they have known their visit would result in the planting of a thriving church—one we are happy to name “The Church of the Printed Page”—that with almost no direct contact with the outside world during the ensuing years would grow to several hundred believers and even plant other fellowships high in the Himalayas.

And all of this would be the result of the printed page, including an initial booklet left at a doorstep and then a follow-up Bible correspondence course that would later be sent from our Nepal EHC office via a postal station at a distant village in the Himalayas.

It all began in 1993 when the eight pioneer missionaries brought simple gospel messages to the deserted village. Sixteen years later rumours reached EHC’s Kathmandu office of the profound miracle that had happened over those years. It was also learned that prior to 1993 no-one had ever visited this area with the Gospel.

Hearing these rumours, EHC Director David Lepcha decided to lead a small team of EHC leaders to eastern Nepal where they would trek up the mountains to confirm firsthand if these reports were accurate. That visit took place in June of last year.

The team included Jacob George, EHC’s Regional Director for the South Asia Rim region; Solon Karthak, EHC’s Eastern Himalaya Director and former National Director of Nepal for 25 years; David Lepcha, EHC’s current National Director for Nepal; and Fred Creighton, EHC’s International Pastoral Consultant from New Zealand.

What resulted from their journey is a wonderful account of the grace of God manifested through a simple gospel message in the language of these previously unreached people.

According to Fred Creighton’s description of the trip, it was a long and arduous climb, with “perspiration flowing freely.” But in the end it was worth it. The group would be amazed at what they would discover as they penetrated the jungle-covered foothills, climbing higher and deeper, and passing village after village of these hidden people.

Dressed for the occasion in their rugged trekking clothes, the four arrived in eastern Nepal during the monsoon season after a journey of many hours from the capital of Kathmandu. The pouring rain did nothing to dispel the stifling heat. As they drove their Jeep toward the end of the road where they would begin their mountain trek, they became increasingly concerned at the ferocity of the rainfall, believing that the numerous rivers they would encounter might be swollen to flood stage. They knew this could prevent their vehicle from making it through to the end of the road at the foot of the mountain where they were to begin their climb.

Of even greater concern was the fact that flash floods could happen in an instant during the monsoon season, and their Jeep could easily be swept away with them in it. In fact, at the outset of their journey they faced a detour, which ultimately took them an additional two-and-a-half hours along a road that barely qualified as a road in order to get around a flooded river.

But it was along this road that they came across an elderly woman whom one of their team recognised as being from the Dummana area, the place to which they were travelling. The woman had come all the way down the mountains to get treatment for her ailing back and now was heading home on foot.

The team was impressed greatly by the old woman’s stamina. When they asked the woman her age, she didn’t even know! They, of course, made room for her and her companion, along with their luggage, and continued on their journey.

Having reached the end of the road, the team set off on foot. The first day would require a strenuous eight-hour hike before they reached the village where they would spend the night. Along the way they passed through several small villages scattered about in the rugged terrain.

In total, they crossed five swing bridges spanning deep gorges and raging rivers, cautious with each step when putting their weight on the sometimes-rotted wood. Being the monsoon season made the experience of these crossings even more harrowing.

The team noticed how many porters were on the road carrying unbelievable loads on their heads and backs. That’s how the old woman and her companion took their luggage up the mountain. Surprisingly, even many young children braved the dangerous slopes.

It was a tough journey, especially for Fred who is in his seventies. He later told our staff, “I was tired and dehydrated. We were forcing ourselves up jungle hillsides, where we were warned repeatedly by villagers not to stop or lie down because wild animals might attack us! So we just had to keep going.”

After trekking still higher and farther for eight hours on that first day, they reached the edge of the Dummana region, which covers a vast area requiring many hours to cross. Their actual destination was still five hours away, and it would have been far too exhausting to finish the climb in a single day.

That night they enjoyed cold baths and stayed in bamboo huts with thatched roofs. Before they knew it, they were awakened at 5am by their porter, who demanded they leave with no food, coffee or even a bathroom break! He told them this was necessary to get to the village on time for their visit.

Fred explains that as they trekked even higher into the Himalayas they would break out in spontaneous songs of praise with shouts of joy as they reached each new summit, only to realise there was a further summit on the horizon yet to be climbed.

During this portion of their journey they stopped at a “tea shop” (something quite common in the region) for drinks and nourishment. Fred found himself — as he described it — the object of great attention as little children with their “inquiring expressions gazed at this strange white creature”.

After the break it was time for their final ascent. Upon entering the Dummana Village, named for the same region, the trekkers were welcomed by EHC’s very first convert 16 years ago, Brother Brinda Magar (Brinda meaning “man of peace”), who invited them to his home.

Thus began a four-day stay that included much discussion and piecing together the story of how this village came to know Christ as the result of a single EHC booklet. During this time of reflection, Fred and his colleagues came to a clearer understanding of the challenges EHC workers face in taking the Gospel to such remote regions.

First, the difficult terrain means they must limit the number of items they would carry to only gospel literature, not even taking some much-needed personal items, such as food supplies. They can’t afford the luxury of hiring porters for the task. Workers also need to trust villagers to offer them food. Even if they do carry small amounts of money to purchase food, they often must fast, as there are no shops to obtain what is needed.

Second, weather conditions can wreak havoc on those travelling in such regions, crossing dangerous terrain that often can be life threatening.

Third, there is no guarantee that once workers arrive in a certain area they will be welcomed by villagers or viewed as a threat. And finally, sleep is fleeting and very difficult as one climbs these heights.

As Fred and the rest of the team confessed, the trek reminded them again and again of the profound dedication of EHC workers who do this as a lifestyle, just to be sure everyone receives the message of salvation.

Fred and his colleagues learned that after the eight workers departed the village in 1993, having placed gospel booklets in each home, Brinda, a Hindu priest, returned home and found one of the messages on his doorstep. It was simply titled, “You Must Meet Him.”

Interestingly, this was the same message that was first printed at the start of EHC’s work in Nepal back in 1983. That first printing consisted of just 10,000 copies.

Brinda was moved by the gospel message, saying that it was unlike anything he had ever read. He sent for EHC’s Bible correspondence course, which required some effort because the nearest post office was a three-hour trek, and postal service was very sparse in that area!

The lessons finally arrived, and Brinda was gloriously converted as he studied them. His conversion was obvious to the locals as the Word of God took root in his life. With God’s help, Brinda found deliverance from Hindu practices as well as a severe drinking problem. All of this resulted just from studying the four-part Bible course. His wife and daughter also came to Christ and were delivered from years of demonic affliction.

The five Dummana church leaders from left to right: Vir Behadur, Rudra Magar, Naroal Bahadur, Brinda Magar, and Tek Bahadur

But Brinda’s conversion did not spare him and his family severe persecution and opposition from villagers. They were told to leave to the outskirts of the village. The Lord, however, turned the persecution around when the water supply to the village was cut off and the only person capable of fixing the problem was Brinda. The outcast soon became the hero by supplying the much-needed water to the entire area!

Soon Brinda’s influence as a good Christian businessman grew. He established a flour mill, a telephone system, and opened a small shop. As his faith grew, so did his witness. A growing number of villagers had come to faith in Jesus and wanted to know more about their new faith. They were even gathering in meetings and engaging in their own form of worship, including singing and praying together.

One day a porter from another village further down the mountain passed by and quipped, “Are you people Christians?”

“What is a Christian?” they asked.

The porter answered, “People like you who sing, pray, read the Bible and call on the name of Yesu (Jesus). In our village they are called Christians.” Until that time these new believers had never heard or used that expression.

One day Brinda and a fellow believer decided to make the two-day trek down the mountain to seek out more information about how they could better follow Jesus. God led them to a man in a town called Dharan who was a Christian and had, amazingly, served on the board of directors for EHC Nepal some years earlier!

Most likely they had learned of this man through their correspondence with the Nepal EHC office. God led them to this specific person who soon trekked to the village to help them establish a thriving church. When the group arrived in 2009, they were surprised to find a church building large enough to accommodate 200 worshippers at one time. They quickly learned that another church had been planted in a neighbouring village, as well as seven Christ Groups in nearby areas, all as the result of Brinda’s conversion from a single gospel message. More than 300 believers regularly worship in these churches and Christ Groups.

Even during this trip, a young elder of the church was leaving to plant a new fellowship in yet another village—this one seven hours away!

Still, the surprises continued. Brinda’s brother, Roshan, arrived home from Dehradun Bible College where he is midway through completing a degree in theology. Roshan was one who came to Christ as the result of his brother’s conversion 16 years ago.

As Roshan grew in the Lord he decided to go to a well-known Bible college to prepare for leadership and learn how to train others for ministry. Roshan now believes God is leading him to return to Dummana to establish a Discipleship Training Center there, instead of staying in a more comfortable location in Nepal.

What Roshan didn’t realise, but now knows, is that EHC already had plans to establish just such a centre for the region, using EHC’s Train & Multiply course as the major part of the curriculum. A Mobile Training Center is being considered, using a motorcycle in areas where it is feasible and mules where the terrain is more difficult.

God clearly is showing His intention to expand and multiply His church in eastern Nepal by training many new leaders from this very village and the surrounding area. And the expansion has already begun. Last summer, during the EHC leadership team’s visit to Dummana, Solon Karthak, founder of the EHC work in Nepal, had the joy of ordaining six new pastors, five elders and 13 deacons, totalling 24 persons—all of this happening in what we call “The Church of the Printed Page” in Dummana, eastern Nepal.

When the team was ready to head back down the mountain they had a final surprise. They met a 90-year-old hunchbacked man who was smiling broadly, his wrinkled face beaming. Like Brinda, he had been a Hindu priest for many years. Our team learned that just five months earlier he had been led to Christ by one of the believers of the village.

Amazingly, all of this can be traced back to 1993 when a simple gospel booklet was left on the doorstep of a Hindu priest, high in the Himalayas of eastern Nepal.

As an added note, that booklet, which included the same content as the original message used to launch the work in Nepal in 1983, is but one of 14,275,285 gospel seeds planted throughout Nepal since our first coverage began. One can only imagine what may be happening with all those other seeds! At last count, 348,146 people have responded to the Gospel in Nepal, just as Brinda did in 1993.

Today, through a program called Project Macedonia, hundreds of Christian leaders will be trained to be church planters, not only in eastern Nepal, but throughout all of the 75 districts of this Himalayan nation!

Nepal is just one of 97 nations where EHC’s courageous pioneer missionaries are trekking into nearly inaccessible regions of the world to offer eternal life to people who may have never heard the Gospel.

God can use the message in a single gospel booklet to change the life of a Hindu priest or transform entire villages as the Holy Spirit leads the lost to salvation. Pray that God’s blessing will be upon every gospel booklet that is being distributed in Nepal and around the world.