The Great Commission is a challenge to all Christ-followers to reach those who have not been reached. This could be across the street or across the world. In missions lingo, an unreached people group is a group of people of whom only a small percentage are Christians (check out the Joshua Project for more details, maps, etc.).
Nepal has over 31 million people; less than three percent (3%) are Christians of any affiliation. Within Nepal, there are entire people groups without a single Christian in their midst. This includes many village communities.
Out of all the Christ-followers I met while in Nepal, only a handful were second generation Christians. In other words, only a small number were born into a Christian family. Most were first generation converts, often from a Hindu or Buddhist background. This included most of the Nepali pastors I was privileged to meet.
One of my favorite questions to ask of Nepali Christians was this: “How did you become a follower of Jesus?” This often lead to stories of rejection, persecution, etc., as well as stories of great satisfaction and peace. In fact, “peace” was the word I heard quite often when a Nepali believer would describe his or her salvation experience. It was the search for peace, that often failed within their native religions, that led them to Jesus and his peace.
Many of these believers, particularly the pastors, had made great sacrifices to follow Jesus. While they would describe the loss of family relationships, I was embarassed to think that maybe my greatest sacrifice was to scale back the size of my cable TV package.
Most churches in Nepal meet in rented facilities, many of them in homes that have been retrofitted for church services. We were privileged to see several of them and even worship with one in Chitwan. These buildings ranged from the first floor of a house to a sizeable room to a mud hut that measured about 10×20. But that mud hut church had seen its numbers grow from 8 people three months ago to 18 today.
Since Saturday is their only day off work, most Nepali churches worship on that day. The church we attended met on the second floor of a house and squeezed in about 200 people. The worship that day was led by the women of the church, which made the two and a half hour service a bit more bearable. I must confess I was a bit jealous of the sermon: it lasted almost 90 minutes and no one fell asleep (with the possible exception of one of our team members).
After the service, I was introduced to a young fellow who was a youth pastor from Kathmandu. As we talked, I noticed he was holding a small copy of the NIV Bible in English. I asked him if that was his only copy of the Bible in English; he said it was. I asked him if he would like a larger copy of the Bible and he nodded enthusiastically. I walked over to where I had laid down my Bible and then handed it to him. His eyes lit up. He kept saying “thank you, thank you, thank you.”
All told, I met with at least 8 different pastors. None of them asked me for money. We talked about what their churches needed, what they needed, and how we could help. Over and again, I heard, “we need training.”
On our last full day, Brendan and myself were privileged to meet with a pastor in Kathmandu who is affiliated with Harvest Bible Fellowships back here in the USA. His church has helped start nearly 20 churches in Kathmandu. That will be the way Nepal is reached — by starting churches that will start churches.
I left Nepal feeling … tired, encouraged, challenged, and chastised. Most of all, I left feeling thankful. Thankful for a God who loves all people, everywhere. Thankful to be a part of what God is doing in history.