Guru is an old Sanskrit word used in South Asian contexts for a “spiritual teacher.” It’s actually similar to the Hebrew rabbi. And sadly, as in Jewish culture, South Asian cultures are rife with so-called “spiritual teachers” who are nothing more than snake oil charlatans:
“ . . . having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. . . they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth (II Timothy 3:5-7).”
But, my Guru, my Rabbi, He opened the eyes of the blind. And “since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind” (John 9:32).
Back in December, I traveled to Nepal to help the Trents finish out the Israeli tourist season and to bring the year’s labors for the Word of God and the Testimony of Jesus the Messiah to a close. It was a privilege to host a local church team (including two FPGM Board members), to press beyond previous journeys in a remote corner of Far Western Nepal, and to have a couple of encounters with regard to Jewish outreach. It was also a huge blessing for me and for the Trents to get back to our families for the holidays. Thanks to those who prayed for us during this time.
On this journey, I carried two small leather-bound Bibles, the perfect size for backpackers (sometimes it is difficult to distribute the hardback Hebrew New Testaments on the trails simply because of the size and weight). One was a Hebrew New Testament and the other an English King James. These new samples from our supplier are very nice, smaller, and really lightweight: the Hebrew NT’s for Israeli backpackers, and the English King James Testaments for Gentiles the Lord puts into our path as we go seeking lost sheep from the House of Israel. I thought I would put these samples to the test and prayed the Lord would give us opportunity to get each into someone’s hands. One morning, Eric took a couple of the guys from the team on a hike up Champa Devi, a mountain on the south rim of those that encircle the Kathmandu Valley. There are very ancient idols up on that mountaintop that pilgrims have been vainly worshipping for centuries. The guys hailed a taxi, and as it climbed a random dirt road out of the valley, two obvious bideshis (i.e. Nepali for “foreigners”) were walking alongside and looked very out of place. Thinking them to be Israelis (the Columbia hiking pants were a surefire clue), Eric flagged them down. He was right; and they happened to be staying in the area and doing some volunteer work. The guys hopped out of the taxi and walked with them back to their domicile, and after some blunt conversation about the Messiah and an explanation as to why Gentile Christians appreciate the Jewish people (i.e. God used the Jews to give His written Word to the world, Romans 3:2), each gladly received a Hebrew New Testament and promised to read it. One of those Testaments was the sample mentioned above. This was great, but as for my experience, ‘tis not my fondest recollection.
Regrettably, I missed that hike up Champa Devi because I had injured my knee and needed an MRI. In Nepal, praise God, this only costs about $100. As it turned out, the injury was nothing serious, and the knee can get back to 100% with the proper treatment and rest (still working on that). Interestingly, the young doctor I saw at Kathmandu’s Alka Hospital had attended medical school in Israel, of all places, and he had many Israeli friends. I normally only give the Hebrew-English Bibles to Jewish folks, but I sensed the Holy Spirit leading to make an exception here. On my second visit to Dr. Bista, I shared with him about the Jewish Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, and why the people of Israel have a special place in my heart. I talked about how the Bible came to the world through the Jewish people and expressed a desire to give him a copy of the Hebrew-English Bible to remind him of his studies in Israel. His face lit up instantly, and this Hindu man was so grateful. He asked if we could have a photo together because “I want to show this to all my Israeli friends.” So, we stood there together as he showcased his Hebrew-English Tanakh and New Testament. I realized in that moment why I was led to make such an exception. It was to be a testimony to Jewish people back in Israel who knew this man. Even the way he held the two books in the photo was a testimony, for he placed the smaller New Testament on top, exactly as it should be. The Old Testament is the solid foundation of Abraham’s faith. The New Testament, full of Old Testament references, is the fulfillment of that faith, the building erected upon a strong foundation. Without a solid foundation on the bottom, a building cannot stand atop. “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33). This was great, but as for my experience, neither is it my fondest recollection.
Sometime later in the back alleys of Thamel, we found ourselves still hanging onto that English King James Testament, hoping for an opportunity to give it away. Brother Daniel, and one of the team members and one of the instructors at my martial arts dojo in Hickory, NC, suddenly got into a conversation with two young Arabs from Jordan, Israel’s neighbor. It is very rare to run into Arab peoples in Nepal. He spoke of Jesus the Messiah and asked if they would take a copy of the Injil (i.e. Arabic for the New Testament). Mentioning that they weren’t very religious Muslims (a good thing), they were glad to accept it and promised to read it. So, the Lord answered my prayer, and both copies of those new backpacker-sized samples went into the hands of others, a Jew and a Gentile. This too was great, but again, as for my experience, it is not my fondest recollection.
Brother Brandon Gwaltney pastors Pleasant View Baptist Church in Harmony, NC and has been a member of FPGM’s Board of Directors for more than a year now. Brandon loves Israeli outreach, and he loves to hike. Amazingly, he does these things with a terminal lung disease. Recently, the Lord provided him with a rechargeable oxygen device that he can travel with in lieu of difficult oxygen tanks. And going to Nepal was that thing’s test run. We marveled at how the Lord provided electricity as we traveled in remote areas exactly when Brandon needed it to recharge the batteries. And we rejoiced to see him do a lot of walking and traveling at higher altitudes without any real problems. His presence and his zeal was a real blessing to all of us. When we were tired and aggravated over any of the million things that can greatly aggravate in Nepal, Brandon was rejoicing. I recall him standing in the trail as we met up with the other half of the team after a long day of slogging and evangelizing along separate paths in a remote area. He said, “Look, I hope everyone had a blessed and fruitful day, but if you are going to complain, I simply don’t want to hear it. Complaining is contagious, so keep it to yourself.” I was so proud of Brandon for summiting two peaks over 8,500 ft. in the Baitadi District. This was so great, fond memories for sure, but they aren’t my fondest recollection.
In Bhajang District, Brandon, Mindy, and I (with a bum knee) took a jeep taxi up a horrible, horrible road to a village area in the mountains. Brother Bishnu, Eric, and the rest of the team (including my twelve-year-old nephew) hiked to that same place from the main road and up a river valley. I knew looking below from that jeep that it would take them all day. Enroute, they stopped in a small village atop a ridge where sat a Hindu temple. The people of that place had never had anyone preach the Gospel to them, so Brother Bishnu did so open-air, right there in front of the shrine, and printed copies of the Word of God were distributed. It was glorious, but still, ‘tis not my fondest recollection. I wasn’t even there.
For two days, we stayed in a high village area with a local pastor and some new believers who needed encouragement and exhortation. Some of us slept in the small one-room church, others of us in a nearby school. I slept outside under an incredible night sky. Nepalis are so afraid to sleep outside on the ground, very superstitious people, and they warned me against this. I did anyway and was rewarded with a glorious sunrise over the Himalayan foothills. Anyway, the poor pastor’s wife cooked for all of us twice, a true labor of love; and we had good fellowship with new believers. Interestingly, this pastor came to the Lord by reading one of our Perfect Sacrifice Tracts that he had obtained in Chayanpur, some miles away at the end of the paved road far, far below. Back in 2014, we tried to go out to the end of the road in Chayanpur, but it didn’t work out. Sometime after that Bishnu, made it out there and delivered a supply of Bibles and Gospel tracts to some believers living in that place. Apparently, one of these believers gave one of the tracts to this man. He came to the Lord and now shepherds a handful of new believers in his village. And by God’s amazing Providence, we showed up to encourage him. Those who say Gospel tracts don’t work are very, very foolish. The time with believers was memorable, truly amazing, but believe it or not, ‘tis no my fondest recollection.
Wow, time would fail me to speak of the police who followed us around and harassed our team (something I have never seen happen in Nepal); a local mayor who threatened us after we saturated a village with the Gospel; hiking up and over ancient hillside terraces; the opportunities to preach and teach in Brother Bishnu’s new church building just outside Kathmandu; giving fresh warm socks with the Word of God to the blind and to the poor in faraway villages; Hindu taxi drivers who very angrily rejected the Gospel (also something I have not seen before in Nepal); witnessing opportunities with Muslims; an incredible divine appointment with the driver we hired to take us up into the mountains; and new batches of Gospel tracts coming off the presses in the Maithili and Eastern Tharu tribal languages, historical firsts. Shortly after we left Nepal, Bishnu and his family traveled to distribute these with blankets to the elderly, pregnant women, and children in the tribal area. All of this is cause for rejoicing, but in my experience, none of it comprises my fondest recollection.
One afternoon, as Brandon, Mindy, and I sat on a wall wondering what to do with the afternoon, for the rest of the team was hiking up, and it would be after dark before they arrived. Suddenly, a blind woman approached and sat down beside of me. She began speaking to me in Nepali, and I responded: “Hey, let me tell you something. My Guru once opened the eyes of the blind.” Curious, she listened as I shared the Gospel. It turned out she was a teacher at a local school that had an unusual number of blind students. She invited us over to the school and asked us to wait outside while she retrieved something. The blind lady brought out two large and tattered books and invited us to sit down on the grass. She opened one and began to run her fingers across the page very rapidly while reading aloud in Nepali. Very quickly, I understood her to be reading about the birth of Christ from the Gospel of Luke. She somehow had a copy of the Gospel of Luke and a copy of John’s Gospel, both in Nepali Braille. I was shocked. As we sat there, a large group of school children gathered around (see top photo). I seized the opportunity, stood up, and started preaching to those who had gathered to hear. I spoke of my Guru, my Christ, my Saviour. He had the power to open blind eyes, to make the lame walk again, to open deaf ears, and to raise the dead. He Himself died for our sins, was buried, and rose again three days later. We then distributed some tracts, prayed over a couple of blind folks, and again exhorted this woman, a Lydia of sorts (cf. Acts 16:14), to trust the only true Guru, the Lord Jesus Christ. That, my friends, is my fondest recollection. My Guru opened the eyes of the blind, and He opened my eyes that were so spiritually blind. Hallelujah!
It’s hard to believe 2018 has already come and gone. By God’s abundant grace, much was accomplished through for the Word of God and the Testimony of Jesus. The Gospel of the Messiah was faithfully proclaimed to Jewish people first, and also to the Gentiles, in North America and across both South Asia and South America. A new missionary family was sent to the foreign field, and they fulfilled their ministry commitment. In the spirit of true colportage, the Word of God was also printed and freely distributed. In fact, more than 50 copies of the Hebrew Scriptures (both Old and New Testaments) were placed into the hands of Israeli travelers far from home. This was a great victory.
Here at the beginning of 2019, FPGM’s 16th year, we have already taken some big steps of faith and endeavor to keep doing what we have always done. Eric and Mindy have formally committed to two more years of full-time service with FPGM. And like Jamie and I when we made a similar commitment back in 2003, they do so trusting the LORD with a pregnancy. The ministry will continue its work in North America, South America (My family and I plan to return to Peru for an extended period of time come June) and South Asia; and we will soon be heading to Israel to answer invitations into the homes of some of those with whom we had the privilege of preaching Messiah last year on trails in the Andes and Himalayas.
Please join us in praying for the Lord’s provision in these matters and that He will raise up Gentile local churches in 2019 who will offer more than lip service concerning Israel and the Jewish people, local bodies of Gentile believers who will actually support Great Commission labor amongst a people that Jesus referred to as “my brethren” (Matthew 25:40).
God promises to preserve four things: His creation (Nehemiah 9:6), the Scriptures (Psalm 12:6-7), the Church (Matthew 16:18), and the nation of Israel (Malachi 3:6). Moreover, the Gentile Body of Christ owes the Jewish people a debt of gratitude; for through Israel, the God of Israel gave to us the Holy Scriptures (Romans 3:1-2), the Messiah (Romans 9:1-5), the Prophets & Apostles (Ephesians 2:19-20), and the first New Testament churches (Acts 11:19-23). To obey the Great Commission is to remember these and support those who labor amongst them.
For those of you who did so in 2018, may the promised blessings of Genesis 12:3 and Psalm 122:6 fall upon you abundantly in 2019.
An Unprofitable Servant (Luke 17:10).