the dry season
To all who have found themselves in the blessed fold of Jesus Christ, the Shepherd of our souls, I give my greeting and love (1 Peter 2:25). May you be faithfully seeking God’s will in your life and following Him without reserve wherever He may call you: to the other side of the world or just around the corner. Let’s tell everyone about Jesus.
I write now concerning the dry season here in Nepal. From June through September, the country is inundated with heavy rains making it difficult to do anything. There are mudslides throughout the country and all of the trails that lace the mountainsides are too slippery to do much hiking or travel. For the remainder of the year, however, Nepal is almost completely deprived of rain, so the trails are nice and dry. This is great for all of the tourists. In October, Kathmandu suddenly booms with tourists until the winter cold really sets in. Then tourism moves south into southern India. Then again in March, there is typically another surge in tourism until the rains return. For ministry, especially Jewish ministry, the best time to be in Nepal is during that autumn season from October to December. Back in October, when I arrived in Nepal, it was easy to go into the tourist areas of Kathmandu and find many Israeli backpackers. But now, in the middle of winter, the tourism is suffering its own dry season.
One of the shop owners who does most of his business with Israelis told me, “They don’t like the cold. So they don’t come in winter.” I can understand that. This time three years ago, Jesse Boyd and I did an outreach along the trekking route around the Mount Everest, and it was bitter cold with snow dumping down on us as we slogged the miles and miles of rugged trails. So, as far as Jewish ministry goes, this past two months has been quite slow. It’s a sort of dry season.
However, as I mentioned in my last update, I am also taking on the responsibilities of reaching out to the Tibetan-stock peoples. And, the winter months are a great time to do that. In Kathmandu alone, there are many Tibetan refugee areas and numerous Buddhist shrines where you find many oTibetan people toiling away in business and superstition. Watching them reminds me of a wise quote from an old shopkeeper I met in Ladakh. Jesse had asked him what some girls were doing (they were asking money for tribute to Hindu gods), and the man responded with: “Just passing the time.” Yes, my dear friends, though this man is lost in his sins and was partaking in the idolatry that day, he stated a great truth: The manmade religions of this world are nothing more than man’s way to pass time on the earth until we sink into the grave.
Over the past month, I have been reading an excellent book about ministry among the Tibetan people and the history of Buddhism. As with most religions, what you have today looks nothing like what Siddhartha Gautama, the Hindu sadhu we now know as Buddha, claimed to be the way to God. Over the past 2,500 years, Buddhism has been crawling its way into the belief systems of nearly every Asian country. One of FPGM’s foci has been to reach areas of Inner Asia with the gospel of Jesus Christ, places that have been suffering under the demonic ploys of Buddhism for centuries. This includes northern India, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, western China, and Mongolia. Throughout the mountainous areas of Nepal, you will find many different tribes and groups of people that are almost exclusively Buddhist. For the past month, during the Israeli dry season per se, working among these has been more of the priority.
The Gurung people in the Lamjung district of Nepal are one of those tribes. Back on December 30th, the Gurung people celebrated Tamu Losar, the new year holiday for the tribe. During this time, I and a Nepali brother led a small team from South Africa up into the mountainous Lamjung District to distribute the Word of God in a few Gurung villages. One village we reached is the largest in Lamjung. It is an interesting sight to see more than five hundred small houses hanging on to a mountainside. While distributing here, we met a young man that was visiting from a village in the south and who had been reading the New Testament. He told us that he really loved Jesus. He was standing there with the Hindu tika on his forehead, a sign of just having worshipped Hindu gods. I quickly responded, “No, if you love Jesus then you will obey him. He is clear about only worshipping the Creator and nothing else.” The young man was a little taken aback by my sharp response and explained that he had only been reading the Bible for a short time. Realizing what was going on in the boy’s life, I could sense the Lord drawing him to salvation. We then spoke about the Scriptures, and he assured us that he would definitely make a decision about only following Jesus. Pray for this young man. He was created in God’s very image but without Jesus regenerating Him from within, he will only ever fall short of God’s glory.
Brother Bishnu then met us on the road after we came down out of the mountains, and he joined us while we distributed the Gurung materials in a few towns along the main road. We then went back to the village of the local brother who helped us in Lamjung and spent the night in a small house giving counsel to a small fellowship of believers. There was a church in the area years ago, but the pastor had left the country to find work so the church was disbanded. As we fellowshipped with the small group of believers, they asked us to pray for them and bless them as they tried to reestablish themselves as a local church body. They wanted us to help them appoint elders and take communion with them. I know that there is a big push to focus solely on church planting in modern missiology, but in good conscience, Bishnu and I decided that we could not support this fellowship in their decision to become a church. None of the men were qualified to be a pastor (I Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are VERY CLEAR), and the fellowship was simply not ready to become a church. We did spend the night praying for them and talking to them about the difference between meeting for fellowship and meeting together in a structured manner modeling the New Testament church. They clearly understood and agreed that they were not ready to become a church, but they still had one problem. They were not taking communion. And out of a humble heart, they wanted to become a church so they could obey the Lord in this matter. The solution we found was to make contact with the nearest church and have the pastor make regular visits to this fellowship so that they could obey and take communion together and also have some type of leadership. Please also pray for the many small pockets of believers scattered throughout Nepal who face similar difficulties. There was a very old man in the house that night who simply could not walk to the nearest church anymore because of his old age. And, sheep like him are scattered throughout the world needing a shepherd and good Christian fellowship. When you start seeing people come to faith in countries or areas that have no established network of churches, it is often very easy to just put together a program and call it a church. Let’s not be hasty though and stick to the way of the Bible rather than building our own systems of worship (1 Samuel 15:22; Psalm 127:1).
Over the past month, we were also able to go out to an area two hours east of Kathmandu and help with a training of believers from five different churches. We all met in a central location at a church whose meeting place was a room in the same flat as a Maoist Political Party office. There were about forty people there that day who sat through several hours of preaching and teaching concerning bold evangelism. After the training was finished, the people gave much thanks and explained that they have never been taught anything about evangelism in their entire lives. Once the meeting finished, we gave each of the few pastors who attended each a box full of Project Jagerna Scripture portions and then split the whole group into nine small teams. From the church, we fanned out and covered three different villages with the gospel. When we finished DOING what we had just HEARD from the preaching, many of the believers said that we must return and give them more teaching. It is a precious thing to find believers who truly thirst after righteousness and hunger for the Word of God.
As you can see, during this dry season of Jewish ministry, there is still much to be done and opportunities for telling people about Jesus, whether it is half way around the world or just around the corner.
What is to ensue over the next couple of months will seem as it were a “latter rain” in the sowing and watering of the seeds of the gospel. Because of the present lull in Israeli tourism here in Nepal and the need to save enough days on my 2015 tourist visa to be able to return and reside here during the prime season from October 1st through the end of the year, I will be heading to Israel with Brother Jesse on February 16th. What better place to share the Gospel “with the Jew first” (Romans 1:16) than in the land given by God to the children of Abraham. For a little more than a month, this will be a time of evangelism and outreach to Israelis as well as a season to better equip me for future work in Ladakh and Nepal with regard to Israeli backpackers. As I have shared Jesus the Messiah with many curious Israelis in my travels, I am often asked: “Have you ever been to Israel?” It is exciting to think that I will soon be able to say YES, knowing this will open many doors. While in Israel, we will not only be able to see Israeli life first hand, but it is our prayer that we can reconnect with Israeli contacts I have made in Argentina, India, and Nepal the past couple of years. I am also hoping the time will better prepare me to teach about Israeli culture, language, and outreach to a volunteer team that I will be leading in Ladakh for the entire summer. They will be coming to learn about sharing the Gospel with Israelis and helping FPGM to DO it at the end of the earth where there will also be abundant opportunity amongst Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and tourists from all over the world.
Please be in prayer about our upcoming journey to Israel. It is still a month away, and the most important way for us to prepare is through prayer. The past few days, I have been reading in Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, and Zechariah. In these books, you can see the heart of the Jewish people when they returned to the land of Judah from Babylonian captivity to live and rebuild the temple of “the great God” (Ezra 5:8). While there was a remnant that had the faith of Abraham, there were countless people claiming the name of the Lord but walking in idolatry. Sadly, not much has changed concerning Judaism over the past 2,500 years. The heart of the Jewish people is still far from El Yeshuatenu, the God of our salvation (Isaiah 12:2; Psalm 68:19), but the Lord is doing something and will do a mighty work among them in fulfillment of detailed biblical prophecy. Pray for fallow ground in the hearts of the Jewish people; and “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee” (Psalm 122:6).
Oh, to preach the Gospel where our Saviour once walked and was rejected of His own . . . I am filled with joy just thinking about it.