Just over 50 years ago a Nepali Brahman and his family walked across the border from India up into the hills – to return to the house and land they had abandoned a decade before because of a smallpox epidemic.
While in India, Buddhi Sagar had met an evangelist by the name of David Mukhia, himself a Nepali, and had come to Christ through his witness. David Mukhia later joined Buddhi Sagar and a small fellowship was begun. From such humble beginnings, today’s church in Nepal has grown in an astonishing way.
Missionaries from India and a host of other countries entered Nepal and have demonstrated the compassion of Christ to the sick and suffering through medical and educational services.
Others have come as tourists and students and set up evangelistic, training and literature ministries. The spread of the gospel has been largely through the witness of simple Nepali believers.
Church growth has been patchy. Some ethnic groups, such as the Tamang, have responded remarkably, whereas others have seen less than a handful trusting Christ.
In most churches in Nepal there is little understanding of Scripture or doctrine, so it is not uncommon to hear Evangelicals talk about salvation in terms of good works that need to be done, even while condemning Catholics for compromising the faith!
There are many challenges facing the 21st century Nepali church. Bible translations are needed; preaching often -involves little more than berating fellow believers for not attending meetings; and there is a dearth of good Christian literature.
The church faces two other issues – the misuse of foreign funds by her leaders and a lack of engagement with the traditional cultures. Nepal is heavily influenced by Hinduism, and it is a challenge for believers to know how much they can participate in festivals and other family functions such as weddings, while remaining faithful to Christ.
There are also immense social and political problems facing the country. There is an intractable conflict between the state and the armed Maoist militias, with political parties, unsure of their role, grasping for power in ‘revolving-door governments’. As I write, the capital city is under curfew following riots that left two people dead.
There is still a great need for missionaries in Nepal. Anyone wanting to work here, though, must come with eyes wide open to the massive challenges they will face.
Nepal needs the mercy of God on her people; and for that we must pray.