The outcast — ‘hated by his gods’, despised by his village, a disgrace to his family — was now embraced by Jesus Christ (see ET, December 2016).
His reputation as a thug was infamous, and rumours of his transformative conversion spread quickly. Suraj’s mother could not believe the change. She wanted to meet the pastor of the church to tell him, ‘My son was dead, you made him alive’: words of high praise from an orthodox Hindu woman with a lifelong suspicion of ‘cow-eaters’ [Christians].
‘The despair I felt in my life before Christ, all those suicidal thoughts, were replaced by a joy and delight in Christ’, he said. ‘I began to love this God who gave me new life! The spiritual refreshment of that night has been springing up in my heart ever since’.
God’s amazing grace became obvious to everyone who knew Suraj. His new reputation began drawing others to the church. A neighbour of his, a young woman preparing to become a Buddhist nun, witnessed Suraj’s conversion, attended his church, believed and was baptised.
At school, he met and fell in love with a young woman, Roshani, with whom he shared the gospel. She was converted, and later became Suraj’s wife (they have been married for five years). Most of her family were converted soon after. Twenty souls eventually came to Christ because of Suraj’s testimony.
The changes were dramatic in his life. Suraj’s love of alcohol, drugs and cigarettes stopped immediately. It’s not something every convert experiences, but he did.
‘My parents were very happy, my family and village were all happy. My gang was broken and disbanded. All the people in the village were shocked at the change, and some of them even came to faith; not because I evangelised, but simply because they saw my life and were drawn to my church’.
Suraj looks back on his conversion with a new zeal to minister the Word of God in Nepal.
‘Like many people in my village, I was raised in orthodox Hinduism, with 330 million gods, all of them who came to destroy or teach morality, but none who came to save sinful mankind.
‘Above all, no one died and sacrificed like Jesus; not Buddha, not Muhammad, not any gods or goddesses. Jesus came to give life, and he is God who incarnated to come down from heaven. God came to touch the untouchable sinners when Christ took on human avatar!
‘Had I followed Buddha, I would have been a better or moral guy, humanly speaking, and would have avoided a life of crime, but I would not have found forgiveness for my sins or new life. In Jesus I got new life and a wonderful Saviour, who took my sin; and, in return, he gave me his perfect saving righteousness, free of charge. This is the great message Nepal needs’. This is the message Suraj plans to bring back.
To do this, Suraj believes he is called to plant Reformed churches. ‘Despite my gang life, I was good at studying; I don’t know why’. Now, it is clear God had plans for his natural academic gifts. Suraj wanted to study theology in America, but his visa request was denied. His request was granted by the UK, and he settled on studying at Edinburgh Theological Seminary in Scotland, where he encountered a robust Reformed theology.
There he was introduced to the sermons and books of John Piper. He says the books Desiring God and Spectacular sins were especially helpful. He downloads all the free books and many sermons from desiringGod.org, and he encourages friends back in Nepal to listen to episodes of the Ask Pastor John podcast.
Reformed theology was not something Suraj came to understand, until God opened doors for his studies in Scotland. But Calvin helps put words to his personal experience. ‘I believe in irresistible grace’, he said of the ‘I’ in the Reformed acronym TULIP. ‘I resisted. God overwhelmed me, overpowered me, and I could not resist it even by my hatred of Christianity. The voice of God is insuppressible! As I have studied in Scotland, especially under Dr Donald Macleod, it has become very clear, my election was not accidental or coincidental, but “he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). My conversion was by irresistible grace’.
But, even for Christians in Nepal, Reformed theology will be a hard, slow, long sell, as those believers grow from theological milk to solid food. ‘In Nepal we didn’t know about Calvin or Reformed theology or even Pelagius. Christianity in Nepal is naturally very Arminian.
‘The main reason behind this is that most of the people confuse Calvinism with Hindu fatalism, wrongly thinking everything in life is the consequence of your actions in a previous incarnation. This is man-centred fatalism, not grace-centred predestination. For those with a Hindu background, Calvinism is nonsense’.
Call to Nepal
Suraj is a realist. It will take a lifetime of labour, and probably more, to see robust Reformed theology take root in Nepal. He is patient. He recently finished his bachelor’s degree, which cost Suraj and his wife all the money they had.
He admits his education creates a financial hardship. And he admits pastoral jobs in Scotland are appealing. Why not just make a home in Edinburgh and work for a local church? ‘But my wife and I are convinced; we are called to return to Nepal. So many people’s lives are being destroyed. Their hearts have been blackened and darkened by sin. The light of the gospel can only expel this. We are called by God to Nepal. We must return’.
© Desiring God Foundation. The full article is online at desiringGod.org (John Piper). Used with kind permission.