Beneath the stark majesty of Mt. Everest sprawls the country of Nepal, flush with vibrant colors and ancient traditions. Hailed as the birthplace of Buddha and home to a predominantly Hindu population, Nepal has a complicated history with Christianity.
In 1715, the first missionaries reached the country, but their expulsion a few decades later inaugurated a 200-year ban on Christians. And when Nepal flung open its doors to Western aid in the 1950s, the government restricted incoming believers—no evangelizing or converting.
Fast forward more than half a century. The current constitution guarantees religious freedom, but evangelism and conversion are still illegal. Nepali Christians face steep fines and even imprisonment for merely mentioning the good news. Yet, it’s within this increasingly inhospitable environment that the church is flourishing.
Religion in Nepal
The church in Nepal is a small minority. But it’s growing by leaps and bounds. There are approximately 1,000,000* Christians living in Nepal today. That’s 3.8% of the population, and the number is rising steadily. It’s the fastest growing body of Christ on the planet.
Landlocked in Asia, Nepal is sandwiched between the two most populous countries on earth.
“The Nepali church is the fastest growing in the world.”
— Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
Christianity on the
Rise in Nepal
Though Hinduism and Buddhism still constitute the majority, Christianity is attracting more and more believers every year.
With deep fondness for their country’s rich culture and abiding respect for the governing authorities, Nepali believers fulfill Peter’s exhortation to “revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks […] the reason for [their] hope” (1 Pet. 3:14-15 NIV) .
It’s not easy, but God continues to be faithful—attracted by His irresistible love, more and more Nepalis are abandoning empty religions and finding true peace with Jesus Christ.
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resources in the hands of new believers.
For over 200 years, Nepal was the only Hindu kingdom in the world. But in 2008, democracy replaced monarchy, and with it came freedom of religion. A mere 10 years later, Nepal has a new claim to fame: It hosts the fastest growing body of Christ on the planet. And it’s just getting started. Koinonia Patan, a local church in Kathmandu whose name comes from the Greek for fellowship, is but one body of believers in this burgeoning movement. Beyond ministering to its 800 members, the church is mobilizing leaders to take the gospel beyond the four walls of the building.
That’s where the In Touch Messenger comes in. With the New Testament and dozens of inspiring sermons from Dr. Stanley, this simple solar-powered audio device is an indispensable discipleship tool in the hands of Nepali believers.
Kedar, a leader at Koinonia Patan, distributes Messengers throughout Nepal, bringing much-needed teaching to isolated believers. Many of these Christians have started Bible studies, relying on the device to illuminate the Word of God. When these Bible studies have ten or more baptized adults, Koinonia Patan considers them to be house churches, each one a beacon of light attracting those in search of the truth. And Kedar isn’t the only one taking advantage of the Messenger’s unique discipleship capacities.
Ditya (name has been changed to protect her identity), a local hospital volunteer, travels to remote Himalayan communities still recovering from Nepal’s 2015 earthquake, in search of vulnerable people who need medical help. In these journeys, Ditya encounters new converts who are hungry to grow but often don’t have access to pastors or Christian community. Recently equipped with Messengers, Ditya now has a way to nurture their faith even after she returns home to Kathmandu. “I have been praying for something like this,” Ditya says of the Messenger, noting how the audio device is perfect for oral learners.
For those who cannot read, the Messenger provides a way to hear God’s Word and be nurtured in the faith. Nepal has an adult literacy rate of about 60% (according to UNICEF, “State of the World's Children 2016 Country Statistical Information,” from research in 2008-2014).
The Messenger is solar-powered. Only about 70% of the population in Nepal has access to electricity, and it’s often cut off for up to 12 hours per day (according to The World Bank, “Ensuring the Sustainability of Rural Electrification in Nepal”), 2015.
In isolated mountain villages, Nepali Christians come together for worship and fellowship—and it’s a special surprise when visitors from the capital bring Messengers to hand out.
The In Touch
In Nepal, this simple audio device is accelerating church growth and discipleship.
“I have been praying
for something like this.”
— Ditya, Nepali Christian
Because of faithful sowers like Kedar and Ditya, the church in Nepal continues to grow. Koinonia Patan in particular has planted 240 house churches with their sights set on 500 by 2020. The Holy Spirit Himself is awakening hearts to salvation and adding to their number daily, as the church continues to devote itself to teaching, koinonia fellowship, and prayer (Acts 2:42, 47) .
Support from believers around the world is putting God’s Word and other precious resources into
the hands of Nepali Christians. And that means more and more new believers are getting discipled,
finding fellowship, and growing the body of Christ.
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Wander through the streets of Kathmandu and you’re bound to hear the mechanical creaking of Buddhist prayer wheels punctuating the city’s soundscape. Ranging in size from tin can to oil drum, these cylinders contain a scroll inscribed with thousands upon thousands of copies of Buddhism’s central mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum. Notoriously difficult to translate, the phrase is said to contain the essence of all the Buddha’s teachings.
Adherents believe that spinning the wheels releases the energy of the mantra, purifying the environment and any nearby beings of the negative karma that causes suffering. Because for Buddhists, suffering is the problem.
In Nepal, many people practice a mix of Hinduism and Buddhism, the two dominant religions.
According to local beliefs, negative karma that remains at death must be worked out in a subsequent life.
Buddhist shrines are popular visiting places for residents of Kathmandu.
But for Christians, suffering is the path. To follow in the footsteps of Christ is to pick up a cross daily, surrendering to the process of sanctification even when it hurts. Which isn’t to say it’s all pain.
For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.
— 2 Corinthians 1:5
In embracing the “fellowship of His sufferings” (Phil. 3:10), we find not only comfort but also intimacy. Rather than an impersonal energy that filters out “unnecessary” suffering, our God is a loving Father who came to suffer with us—and for us!—so that we might experience the joy of knowing Him.
Click here to listen to John 3:16 in Nepali.
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True Religion: How One Church in Nepal
Is Making a Difference
BY LISA SMORTO PHOTOGRAPHY BY BEN ROLLINS
an oasis of love shelters some unexpected inhabitants.
A woman leans against the railing on the upper balcony of a cement building. The noises of a crowded city can be heard faintly from the inner courtyard. Birds punctuate the air with raucous cries. Her face erupting in a wide smile, it seems that every part of her visage is expressing joy: from the free-spirited grin to the laugh lines, exaggerated crow’s-feet, and twinkling eyes behind round-rimmed spectacles. Dressed casually in a purple top and draped crimson and yellow sari, she is a picture of relaxed happiness.
Nearby, two small girls watch shyly, taking a break from their play to observe the scene. Outside a sliding glass door, stacks of shoes await their owners: bright pink for tiny feet, black slip-ons for elderly ladies. Laundry for frames large and small hangs from a clothesline, taking advantage of the dry summer air. In this setting, young meets old with an unexpected ease, childhood colliding with the wisdom of age in a tangle that seems unlikely, but works perfectly.
How It Works
On a tour of the facility, a Mercy House representative talks about the family environment that’s created for the older and younger residents. The needs of the widows and the orphans were a huge burden for the church, he says. Anxious to help, they prayed about the issue, and then started the home in 2003.
Click here to listen.
This is Mercy House, a place where the love of Christ invites the most vulnerable among us, widows and orphans, to live together. The founders of Mercy House recognized that two groups of society’s neediest members had a lot to give—to each other. The children, all girls half- or fully orphaned, and the elderly women, whose families lack the resources to care for them, inhabit these yellow and turquoise painted rooms together. The girls receive schooling, meals, and a warm bed to sleep in, while their elders have a place to live out their final years in a dependable and safe environment.
In the process, they provide each other with something desperately needed by us all: a sense of family. The little ones, with their brightly animated play, bring an infusion of innocent joy and lightheartedness into the time-worn hearts of the older women. And the arms of the widows, which have embraced many children over the years, do not have to remain empty. With their sage wisdom and storehouses of love, the women provide what every growing girl needs—the nurturing warmth and care that only a grandma can give.
Koinonia Patan Church’s ministries extend beyond Kathmandu. They’re starting fellowships all over the country.
Koinonia Patan Church has a heart for the vulnerable among them, and they are determined to do what they can to serve the poor and the lonely in their community. Fueled by the strength of Christ within (Phil. 4:13) and an undeniable move of the Holy Spirit, they are lifting children out of poverty, taking in the elderly, and caring for physical as well as emotional and spiritual needs. The story of Mercy House is the story of each individual girl and every widow whose life is allowed to blossom under the watchful care of our heavenly Father. It’s the story of new hope for those at the beginning of life, and satisfied joy for those near its end. But it’s also the story of how one fellowship in the body of Christ, full of love and mercy, is fulfilling the words of James 1:27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (NIV). And as the church in Nepal grows, there will be many more twinkling eyes for elderly women, and carefree hearts for young girls.
At Mercy House, it’s already a reality.
You are the light of the world.
A city set on a hill cannot be
hidden; nor does anyone light a
lamp and put it under a basket, but
on the lampstand, and it gives light
to all who are in the house.
— Matthew 5:14-15
So far, we’ve been able to send 1,400 In Touch Messengers to Nepal. Thank you for helping to spread God’s Word.
|Writers||Amy Hayes, Lisa Smorto|
|Editors||Renee Oglesby, Debbie Paulding|
|Creative Director||Lisa Dyches|
|Reporters||John VandenOever, Joseph Miller|