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By Roxanne Anderson, Build International Ministries

Friday, March 31, 2006

NEPAL (ANS) -- In one of the poorest countries in the world, now suffering from ten years of civil war, the Christians of Nepal still enthusiastically salute each other on sight with the greeting, “Jai Mashi!”, “Our Messiah is victorious!”

Nepali lady at Build International conference.

The Nepalese Christians continue to be faithful even while they find themselves caught in the middle of a conflict with no clear sense of which side to support.

The current government, now totally controlled by King Gyanendra after he declared a state of emergency in February of 2005, has often caused as many problems for Christians as do the opposing Mao insurgents who say they are fighting for democracy. Both the king’s Royal Nepal Army, and the Communist People’s Liberation Army are guilty of extreme human rights violations in the course of the conflict, and neither seem to offer much hope of improvement in the area of religious liberties. Christians and non-Christians alike regularly endure threats, harassment, and arrests/abductions from both sides.

Nepali ladies in worship

Yet, local pastors often refrain from commenting on the particulars of the conflict and focus instead on what God is doing in the church. “The church in Nepal is not only surviving, it is thriving,” says one prominent pastor in Kathmandu. “Although the official statistic is 500,000, we actually estimate there may be as many as 700,000 believers in Nepal. This is a great increase from 15,000 in 1979 and 180,000 in 1996.”

Baptism in a river outside of Kathmandu

While in the remote villages, churches find it difficult to assemble even in homes without suspicion from police or threats from the rebels, in the capital city of Kathmandu believers continue to meet in considerable numbers. Although unsafe conditions and frequent curfews prevent any activity after dark, believers openly gather by the tens and hundreds on Saturday morning, Nepal’s national day off, for worship in many local churches.

On a recent visit, a Build International Ministries representative helped organize a one day praise and worship conference. Over 200 local Christians from several churches participated. The believers who came reported some struggles with discouragement, but all said they were heartened by the day of worship and practical teaching. Fifteen new people accepted Jesus as their Savior. Two days later, eight Nepalese believers were baptized openly in a river outside of the city.

Nepali believers praising God at Worship conference

The evangelism in Nepal is primarily carried out by local believers. Western Christians do come for short term trips through various organizations like Youth with a Mission (YWAM), but it is difficult for foreigners to obtain visas to stay long term. A few outside missionaries have managed to obtain research visas, or provide social services through aid groups like United Mission to Nepal (UMN), but by far the majority of gospel work in Nepal is carried out by the indigenous church. Gospel for Asia (GFA), a well respected mission organization, has trained more than 350 Nepalese believers who are currently serving as indigenous missionaries.

Nepal has the distinction of being the world’s only official Hindu kingdom as well as the world center for Tibetan Buddhism. People from both of these religious communities can be hostile towards Christians, who represent less than 1% of the population. People deciding to follow Jesus may be disowned by their family, or lose their job. Sometimes Christians are ostracized by their whole village, or kept away from the water sources.

A common way that Nepali Christians overcome these odds and share Jesus effectively with their Hindu and Buddhist neighbors is by praying for them to be healed when they are sick. Miracles are commonplace, and when someone gets healed it often turns the situation around and brings the whole family or village to Christ.

When this happens again and again, it proves that, in spite of poverty, civil war, and a hostile religious climate, the church in Nepal is indeed thriving and victorious. Jai Mashi!

Roxanne Anderson has six years experience living and working as a missionary journalist in Hong Kong, Nepal and India. She currently serves with her husband in Build International Ministries, based in Grand Prairie, Texas, where they live with their three children when not traveling in Asia. Build International Ministries --  -- is a Christian mission organization dedicated to evangelism, church planting, and training local leaders in indigenous churches.

Other organizations mentioned in the article are Youth with a Mission,  United Mission to Nepal,  and Gospel for Asia

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