Looking back at the mountains in the Humla district from the Chankheli Pass.
Visiting and encouraging the growing church
Story and photos by Gary Fallesen, founding president, Climbing For Christ
Our Mission: Nepal team gathered for the daily devotional. The study, called “The Greatest” and based on John 3:16, was written by spiritual coordinator Jordan Rowley.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Jordan prayed and read from Day 8 of the study, “The Greatest Simplicity,” which focused on the word “believes” from this greatest verse of Scripture. He then led our group in discussion. This was often the most interesting part of our devotional time. North American members (Zach Herbert of Southern California, Jordan and I) brought completely different cultural baggage to the discussion with our Nepali brothers (C4C missionary Megh Gurung, his cousin Samuel, and Thana Raut, our church leader from Simikot).
On this particular day we also were joined by a blind man named Ganesh, a believer who was trekking in the direction we were coming from. Ganesh was navigating steep, slippery, muddy terrain in a steady rain that was challenging those of us who could see.
Jordan: “For discussion, what is the most challenging part of walking with Christ?”
Samuel: “We have so many challenges in Nepal.” (He was referring to the country’s Hindu majority population and the growing opposition to the church by the government.)
Ganesh: “We have no more challenges than Paul.” (That put a sobering perspective on the conversation, considering all that Paul endured for the sake of Jesus – and the fact that a blind man in this remote and rugged part of the Himalayas would question how “difficult” things really are for Nepali Christians.)
Samuel: “People will come when they have needs and then go back to worldly things” (after those needs are met, which sounded familiar to those of us from the West).
Megh then shared how detractors claim that Christians are “buying people” or paying them so they will accept Jesus. Thana added that they are accused of “believing a foreign religion” because Nepal is a Hindu nation, first and foremost, and then has a strong following of Buddhism because of Tibetan migration from China through the generations.
In the face of all of this, Jordan asked: “How can we stand with you?”
“The first thing is prayer,” Megh answered. “Second is visiting and encouraging us. Visiting is important.”
Climbing For Christ is called to many places. As of this writing we have completed 93 short-term trips (or Evangelic Expeditions) since 2005. Included in all of that travel are 14 visits to Nepal since 2008, and 11 in the past six years. Each and every one has been divinely orchestrated. These trips are done for and with a purpose; these are not vacations to exotic locations.
When we GO on a mission it is in service to the LORD and to encourage our indigenous workers by walking alongside them for a couple of weeks. It says, as Paul wrote in his second letter to Timothy, that we are willing to “share in suffering for the Gospel” (2 Timothy 1:8, ESV).
Megh, right, translates the daily devotional with (left to right) Jordan, Thana, Ganesh and Zach listening.
Climbing For Christ first met Megh during the inaugural mission, a trek to Everest Base Camp in 2008. He was serving with another ministry that was conducting medical clinics. Our team, headed by Jim Doenges, volunteered to help with the clinics. Megh introduced himself to me during my first visit to Nepal in 2011. He had joined C4C in 2009 and was eager to work with us, proposing that we help build a house of worship for the church at Korchabang. We committed the idea to prayer, and by 2012 that church was built.
Since 2012, Megh has served as our guide, leading us on treks throughout Nepal. He officially joined Climbing For Christ’s staff in May of this year.
We first went to Humla in November 2012. The district in the northwest corner of Nepal is a jump-off point for Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims who trek to “holy” Mount Kailash across the border in Tibetan China. It is one of the highest and least accessible districts in the country – perfect for Climbing For Christ!
We did not expect to find any Christians, but were blessed to immediately meet seven brothers in Christ in a tiny house church in the district headquarters of Simikot. One of those brothers was Thana. These young men asked us to pray for women to come to Christ so they would be able to marry. So lifted, Thana and another brother named Hari would soon marry Christian women and become fathers.
Climbing For Christ teams returned to Humla each year from 2012-2017. Another church build was proposed, and completed last year in Simikot.
The only route into Humla is a flight in a small aircraft from Nepalgunj to Simikot. The Simikot airstrip is the only pavement in the district, which is about the size of the U.S. states of Rhode Island or Delaware (but with Himalayan mountains). During the flight out of Humla in 2013, Jordan looked out the window of the plane and saw countless villages dotting the landscape below. He felt a burden to reach those villages. Other team members have as well.
Ultimately we knew we were the answer to the question: “Who will go there?!”
Last year, while sitting on a mountainside across the ravine from Simikot, Megh and Thana planned for me the trek we would do in September of this year on Mission: Nepal 2017, Part 2. We would walk for nine days, covering about 65 miles (more than 100 kilometers) and go up and down about 35,000 vertical feet.
Along the way, four men joined the family of Jesus followers and many, many more were exposed to the Truth of Christ.
Listening to His Word on an audio Bible on a rooftop in Lali.
Day 1: Lali. We worshiped with the church at Simikot on Saturday, Sept. 16, and then set out on our trek on Sunday, Sept. 17. The first stop was Lali, where a young girl seemed to be waiting for us along the trail. We invited her to visit our rooftop camp the following morning to hear about Jesus. She and several others showed up, eager to hear. She listened intently to the audio Bible we gave her. None of those who heard in Lali were prepared to surrender their hearts to Jesus. As we left the village, Megh said: “We planted the seed. Someday it will grow.” Amen.
Megh shares about Jesus with (left to right) a local teahouse owner, Gambir Nepali and Thali.
Day 2: Limne. On the way from Lali to Limne we answered a divine appointment. It began with a young boy with a cut foot, which Megh treated. But it led to the healing of a hurting heart. Gambir Nepali, an older man who watched Megh doctor the boy and then listened to his sharing, accepted Jesus as his Savior. This moment provided encouragement for a passing brother in Christ, a young man named Thali from the village of Lali. We gave Thali a Gospel bracelet to wear and share about the LORD. Both also received audio Bibles.
Day 3: Sarkeghat. We visited a larger village that is a Hindu stronghold. In Humla, Hindus dominate the southern part of the district while Buddhism is the prevailing religion to the north (because of the Tibetan influence). The Christian witness in Sarkeghat has been poor. We tried to change that. We were blessed with a joyful moment when, after a 6 ¼-mile hike in the heat of the day, a shop owner sold us a large bottle of frozen cola.
Day 4: Sal Sale. We camped along the Karnali River at a remote outpost for mule drivers and goat herders. It was the prettiest camp site we have enjoyed in Nepal and we were blessed by Samuel’s cooking of fried rice with cilantro and fresh French fries. We bathed in the river and enjoyed quiet time with God in His incredible creation.
New brother in Christ Datta sitting on the trail above the Loti River.
Day 5: Deuli. As we ascended through a village above the Loti River a man followed us. We paused along the trail to drink some water and Megh took the opportunity to share with this man named Datta about the Living Water. Datta desired to drink of Him. He became our brother in Christ.
That night we worshiped with and prayed for a family inside the troubled church of Deuli Darma. This led to our meeting the blind Ganesh the next day.
Day 6: Saththatle. Ganesh is finishing his Bible school studies in Kathmandu and was returning to his home village of Deuli to visit family. Ganesh shared with us his desire to serve the people in his home village, which was exactly what we’d prayed for the night before. We continue to pray for the man who cannot see physically but has perfect spiritual vision.
Basdur, second from left, and Dirat, right, joking around with Thana (“wearing” ram horns held by the hiding Megh) in Saththatle. Basdur and Dirat served as our team’s mule drivers. Mules are used to carry gear for the trek. Basdur and Dirat returned home to Simikot after our trek carrying something they did not leave with: Jesus in their hearts.
Day 7: Bam. We crossed the Chankheli Pass, stopping to look back at the mountains we’d crossed in Humla and looking ahead to the mountains waiting in the equally rugged Mugu district. That night our mule drivers, Basdur and Dirat, accepted Jesus Christ.
Day 8: Gamgadhi. We reached the district headquarters of Mugu, where a local pastor was waiting for us. We learned about and prayed for the growing church here. There are about 150 believers in a town of 5,000, but we have witnessed God’s multiplication in Humla – from seven men to several hundred. We have seen the sign: God at work.
Day 9: Talcha. We visited a popular Nepali tourist spot, Rara Lake (this landlocked country’s largest body of water), and awaited our flight out of the Talcha airstrip the following day. Talcha’s landing strip is unique in that it requires planes to make a sharp 180-degree turn on both the landing and the takeoff. As we took off, we looked out the windows: more villages. More people waiting to hear. Thankfully, God is growing His church here and we are encouraging them to join us in answering the call He has made for ALL Christians to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19, NIV).
“The harvest is plentiful, the laborers are few,” observed Zach, who was on his first Evangelic Expedition with Climbing For Christ. God showed Zach “the incredible size of the need” in remote and rugged places like Nepal. He urged us to “continue to seek out regions with little to no exposure to the Gospel.”
Zach now has firsthand experience that he can pray into the work being done (and needing to be done) in Nepal. He recognized the vital role of “encouragement” for our brothers and sisters there. He has walked alongside those workers.
He also met the beautiful children at Pastor Tej Rokka’s SARA Children’s Home supported by our Project 1:27. We visited the children before leaving Nepal on Thursday, Sept. 28.
“My trip was fantastic,” brother Megh concluded, “because we visited so many people in the mountains. They were excited when we met them. First of all I told them about the trek by Climbing For Christ. I told them, ‘I am a Christian and I would like to share about the Living God.’
“All the team members were so humble and incredible and precious men of God. We shared many times and in many places. We claimed (those places) in the name of Jesus Christ. Four people were saved on the trekking trail, and we shared the Good News among many more people.”
None of those people would have heard if Climbing For Christ had failed to heed the call of God to GO there, to visit, to encourage, and to pray. We planted many seeds. “What’s important is that God makes the seed grow” (1 Corinthians 3:7b, NLT). To God alone be the glory.
The C4C-aided church at Simikot.
PRAY for the church in Nepal, which was only a handful of believers 65 years ago and today comprises about 2 percent of the 29 million people in that former Hindu kingdom. This is one of the fastest growing Christian populations in the world. But conversion is illegal and harsher penalties are proposed for those leading people to change religion.
GIVE to the ongoing work, which includes buying property to build our sixth house of worship, supporting C4C workers and ministry partners, training church leaders, and caring for orphans.
GO on Mission: Nepal 2018. There will be two trips to Nepal again next year. The first (tentatively scheduled for late January) will include a visit to the church at Pokhara and a trek south of the less-traveled Annapurna Circuit. The second (later in the year at a date to be determined) will include a dedication of the church at Dharmashala, which is scheduled to be built in the coming months. Email info@ClimbingForChrist.org for information and a mission application.