Report: Journey to Nepal 7-13 February 2016
by Hans Lindholm
We Swedes spent most of the nights at a hotel with good standard, The Himalayan Horizon in Dhulikel. Despite the name of the hotel the ever present clouds stopped us from seeing the impressive white mountain chain until the last day of our stay. Hot days taught me to appreciate the bottled drinking water, and the cold nights made the hot water bottle in the bed a must. So good that there is plenty of water in Nepal!
The Academic theological knowledge somehow seems less important, when you encounter simple people who have left their old beliefs to follow Jesus, with everything that can follow that decision – suspicions cast on you and persecutions. They have experienced that Jesus is alive and that he can heal the sick and bring people to faith in him. Our task was to broaden their kowledge of the Bible, deepen their understanding of the Bible and for all of us to practise talking about the Bible.
I think that the PLT (Pastoral Leadership Training ) is an excellent tool for deepening and developing the young Nepalese church. For most of them it would be impossible study for a whole term at a theological seminary. Some have attended Bible school in India. However, for most of them the best solution is to live and work at their place of residence and to gather a few times each term for tutorial seminars. The concept resembles that of the TEE (Theological Education by Extension) that´s being used in several places around the world.
We worked with the writings of John. Hans 1 went through the gospel of John and I – here called Hans 2 – took on the Book of Revelation. This taught me myself to see some connections between the books that I had not been aware of before. I asked myself if it was too soon in the development of the Nepalese church to seek a Jesus centered understanding of the last and perhaps most difficult book in the Bible, but at the same time I found it a privilege to be able to do this before they all had got stuck with other patterns of interpretations.
The best question I put forward for our talk probably was: ”which of the seven letters in Revelations 2-3 paints a picture that best describes the church in Nepal?” One group answered: ” Pergamon, where Satan has his throne, since there are so many temples for idols here.” And we could indeed see the Hindu – Buddhist temples and altars along the roads. Other groups answered Ephesus, the church that had abandoned their first love. Or the one in Sardes, who had the reputation of being alive but was dead. Or Laodicea, who thought they were rich and lacking nothing but in fact needed to ask Jesus for everything: Gold, white garments and ointment for the eyes.
What could I say? Well, I said that many of us have heard that the church in Nepal is alive and growing, and that it has many spiritual (but not material) riches. At the same time it is a sign of spiritual vitality for the church no to be blinded by its progress and growth but always be prepared to turn to Jesus being always dependent on Him. I got the opportunity to say this in my sermon on Saturday – where else in the world do people go to a service on a Saturday besides Nepal and Israel? Hans 1 who is deservedly highly respected, had been invited to preach. However, in Nepal also great men are subdued by being sick in the stomach ( I had had my share of it a day earlier that week), so this time the church had to make do with Hans 2.
They liked liturgical singing, when I sang ” O Lamb of God” to an Englisg tune. A couple of young men who attended church for the first time, had to get up from the carpet where everyone is sitting and be welcomed.
Each month they have a joint service, where they get together from 3-4 churches in the neighbourhood. This service was such an occasion. Some had been walking for 3 hours to get to the service, During the week some had led singing playing the guitar, but on Saturday they had a ”plugged in” band. Some sang the unison songs by heart (could they read?), others had worn song books and a few had the Bible and the song book in the mobile phone.
Most of the songs were unfamiliar to me. But as they took up an extra collection ”for missionary work” (where to?), they sang a song that I recognizes from my childhood chapel at home in Västerbotten:
Showers of blessing,
Showers of blessing we need:
Mercy-drops round us are falling,
But for the showers we plead.
I thought to myself that if any people should have cause to sing that prayer, we in Sweden are the ones!
The group was made up of people of mixed ages with a low average age. Surely it will be able to contribute a lot to the spreading and the rooting of the gospel in Nepal. Both men and women participated, and we tried – successfully I think – to encourage especially the women to speak. In my opinioen the athmosphere was very good.
Two people served as very competent interpreters. That was very important that one of the, Anju, was a young woman. And the other one was Mankaji, who had been incharge of the practical arrangements and who is continually growing into spiritual leadership. We have to take really good care of him!
I would be most happy to return to Nepal, should the opportunity arise. Sadly it was not possible to do so now in May. We must pray for the health of Hans 1 and for the attempt with native speakers, among them Mankaji, will continue to strengthen the assurance that the gospel has come to Nepal to take root and spread.
With greetings in Christ
Hans Lindholm – alias Hans 2