CMS - Inspire July 07
How God is using Nepali Christians to change lives
In recent years, Christianity has experienced rapid growth in Nepal, but Ram Prasad Shrestha remembers a time when becoming a Christian in his country was synonymous with becoming an outcast.
Raised in a Hindu home, Ram began questioning the family (and at that time the national) religion when he was a teenager.
“I became a Communist during high school. I was involved in terrorising people. I always had a bag with me, in case police came to arrest me. Once, I had to flee to India for six months to escape arrest.”
Ram recalls: “I thought I would have a good life as a Communist.” But something was missing. “I started saying, why do I say there is no God? There must be a God – but which is the right God? I was searching for God.”
In 1986, while Ram was studying political science at college, a friend told him about Jesus. “I heard about how he paid the sacrifice for sin once and for all. Hindu[ism] has a sense of sacrifice and sin. I thought, ‘This is interesting’ and I started reading the Bible.”
Ram’s growing faith endured a variety of tests: severe illness that resulted in the loss of a lung; ostracism from family and friends and then came perhaps the most devastating blow. Doctors told Ram he would be unable to have children – often seen as a curse in Hindu society.
Though he was devastated and angry, Ram clung to his faith. “I prayed day and night that God would give me children. One year later God gave me a son, Amulya.”
Ram then went to Korea for a year’s pastoral training and on his return he and his wife, Keshari, had a daughter, Ashama.
As Ram’s faith in Jesus grew, so did his desire to serve God.
South to South mission: a great investment
There was a time when missionaries to Asia came mostly from western countries. Today, there are more Christians in the global south than in the west. Many of these Christians, like Ram, are eager to become missionaries in their regions.
The Church Mission Society (CMS) believes it makes sense, financially and culturally, to support “South-to South” missionaries, which is why they paid for Ram’s training. While it can cost around £25,000 a year to send a UK missionary to Asia, to support a local missionary can cost as little as £1,500 a year.
As he studied, Ram says God gave him a vision for sending Nepali missionaries to parts of Nepal that had never heard the name of Jesus. Five years later, Ram is director of the Missions Commission of Nepal (MCN), and is training and sending out approximately 10 missionaries a year to unreached areas of Nepal as well as to Bhutan, Malaysia and India. Within three years, each missionary is expected to plant at least one church.
Nepali missionaries are able to make inroads that foreigners simply cannot. Ram says: “I recently went to visit one of our missionaries east of Kathmandu. Working among his own tribe, he has been able to plant two house fellowship groups. I was pleased to see how the Lord has used him.”
More growth to come
Along with training and equipping Nepali leaders for mission, it has been Ram’s desire to send missionaries to India to rescue Nepali women who were forced to be sex slaves. He and his wife visited Pune in February to survey the situation.
“We met a Nepali lady whose prostitute name was given as Ashina, but her real name was Maya. A relative sold her at the age of 18. She has been in Pune and Mumbai doing sex work for 23 years. Now she has HIV and was thrown out of the brothel. There is no place for her to go.
“When I asked her to go back to Nepal, she told me that she does not have any people to stay with. When we talked to her in a Nepali language she just burst into tears. We prayed together for the restoration of her life. There are thousand of girls like Maya.”
It may seem like an insurmountable problem, but with his passion, faith and knack for beating the odds, it seems likely that with a bit of support, Ram Prasad Shrestha will continue making a difference in his country.
Ram Prasad Shrestha exemplifies how a little bit of funding and training can go a long way. For more information on how you can support the work of south to south missionaries with CMS or participate in a CMS sponsored trek to support their work, call 0845 620 1799 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org