By Mr Paul Lim
OUTREACH IN NEPAL DURING COVID-19: MAN CURTAILS BUT THE HOLY SPIRIT PREVAILS
This has been a particularly difficult year for our church planters (CPs) in Nepal. Covid-19 restrictions have resulted in economic hardship and ministry challenges for them. A lockdown imposed throughout Nepal since 24th March has caused whatever income-flow they had to dry up and ministry activities to be curbed. Economic difficulties are easier for us in Singapore to help with. The generous giving of church members has enabled us to provide relief aid to more than 200 Christian families. CPs were given a one-time monetary gift followed by monthly top-ups of their allowances that will continue till year-end. These gifts have reduced their worries for personal and family well-being and enabled the CPs to focus on how to advance their ministries during these difficult times.
With lockdown restrictions it has not been possible for most CPs to continue open “Gospel-sharing”. Such outreach efforts had already been made difficult with the passing of the “anti-conversion” law in August 2018. Even with some easing of lockdown regulations they have to be cautious that they do not catch the attention of security (police and army) personnel when they move around. Human beings may be curbed but the Holy Spirit cannot be. So despite the difficulties, souls continue to be won for the Kingdom of God. Church Planting Overseer Jonathan Tamang recently wrote, “I thank God whenever I hear from CPs that new people are accepting Christ and churches are growing even during the lockdown.”
Hinduism is by far the most prevalent religion in Nepal and women tend to be more ardent in their practise of the religion which includes worshipping a multiplicity of gods. In the rural setting evil spirits dominate many of them, some from a young age. Every calendar quarter we receive reports that persons who were possessed by evil spirits have been delivered by the power of the Holy Spirit through the prayers of the CPs. This has become a familiar scenario: Someone (often a woman) is possessed but is deemed to be physically or mentally sick because of symptoms like frequent fainting or unnatural behaviour like running into the jungle. The family seeks treatment in hospitals but when there is no healing they seek help from witchdoctors (sometimes the order is reversed or they may be concurrent). Witchdoctors often prescribe costly animal sacrifices. After spending huge sums of money which may be borrowed and finding no progress in the well-being of the afflicted person they meet someone who suggest going to a church or pastor to be prayed for. Out of desperation, some of them do just that. Encounters that our CPs have are often scary for those watching. The evil spirit speaks through the possessed person who is often shaking uncontrollably and sometimes threatens to kill him or her or even the CP. Prayers sometimes last for hours before the evil spirit leaves the possessed person who then goes on to accept Jesus Christ as Saviour. The CPs need much prayer support because exorcism is spiritually, physically and emotionally demanding. Thankfully not all conversions go through this route. During the lockdown we continue to see dozens coming to Christ each quarter.
As lockdown regulations do not allow most churches to continue to meet as a whole, many CPs have organized their believers to meet in smaller groups in homes. This is more logistically demanding as each temporary house church requires a worship leader and someone who can deliver a sound sermon. There is however an unplanned benefit – more people are being trained to lead and preach. Some CPs are hoping and praying that some of these ones will one day have the calling and leadership to start a new branch church in some other village. In fact, even during the pandemic, we are seeing new branch churches being started.
Man-made regulations (admittedly much required during the current pandemic) may curtail efforts for outreach but the Holy Spirit will prevail in orchestrating the growth of God’s Kingdom. Let us not fail to pray regularly for the Nepali CPs as they continue to labour to reach the unreached in the villages of Nepal.