Beyond the Classroom—Bible College Graduates Reaching Every Corner of Nepal with the Gospel
May 08, 2014
Many of the Bible college graduates will return to their own tribal communities to serve as church planters and pastors. The school is operated by a ministry that has sent missionaries to work among 47 of Nepal’s 300 ethnic groups.
With graduation set for this Saturday, 18 students from a Bible college in Nepal are eager to don their caps and gowns and race off to chase their dreams. But these students aren’t seeking fame or fortune.
They are the newest crop of missionaries and church leaders who are willing to sacrifice all so they can bring the good news of Jesus Christ to their own people.
Sharing their faith won’t be easy. Some were rejected by their families and kicked out of their villages when they became Christians. Although the Nepali government has relaxed some of its religious laws, persecution still rages across the country. And choosing a vocation in the ministry virtually guarantees a life of hardship and deprivation.
But Nepali believers take their faith in Christ seriously. They count the costs worth it to serve their Lord. Before these students ever stepped foot onto the Bible school campus, they had already made the following pledge as part of their rites of baptism:
- I am willing to leave my family if necessary, if persecution comes.
- I am willing to give up my family inheritance.
- I am willing to lose my job.
- I forgive the people who persecuted me and I will lovingly share the gospel with them.
- I am willing to be beaten and go to prison.
- I am willing to bring my tithe and offering to honor the God I serve.
- I am ready to die for Christ.
Challenging, yes. Impossible, no. Only the most committed to the Lord and their calling will survive the tests that lie ahead.
A Shining Light in Nepal
Christian Aid Mission contributed funds to help build a women’s dormitory.
“When we started our ministry, we found that many churches had no qualified leader,” said the founder of the non-denominational college. “We also had a vision to reach out to many tribal groups in Nepal where the gospel had not been preached. We wanted to equip new believers with the Word of God so they could become effective leaders in ministry.”
In 1988 the ministry leader and his wife started a training program in their home. Fifteen students made up the inaugural class. They needed a larger facility and eventually found a small building to rent, but the landlord reported their religious activities to the authorities.
Due to the persecution, they had to keep moving the location of the training center—21 times in fact during the next several years.
With special gifts from Christian Aid Mission, they purchased land in 1994 on which they constructed a permanent building. Later Christian Aid also provided funds for the building of a men’s dormitory and more recently, housing for women. Most students live on campus since their home villages are located several days’ journey from the city.
Applicants to the school must meet specific criteria. They must be a follower of Christ for at least three years. They also have to present a letter of recommendation from their pastor and a baptism certificate from their church.
However, the students cannot afford tuition, and very few congregations have the resources to sponsor them, so the ministry covers the majority of the expenses. The average cost for tuition, meals, and classroom materials per student is $35 a month.
“We ask the student’s family or church to give two dollars a month, or whatever they can,” said the ministry leader.
Through word of mouth, prospective students hear about the school’s impact and want to receive their missionary training there. Some have to be placed on a waiting list. The college’s enrollment could easily double if they had more resources.
What started as a series of short training sessions in 1988 has now developed into a full-fledged college degree program. Most students complete their 96 credits of course work in three years.
The curriculum includes foundational classes in Biblical studies, church history, and world religions, with a focus on church administration, evangelism and church planting, and discipleship training.
Students spend nine months of the year taking classes at the school. The other three are spent in the field where they work under the mentorship of a village pastor and go to an unreached area to preach and establish house churches.
As a requirement for graduation, each student must plant three church fellowships (approximately 15 people per fellowship) during their three years in the program.
The goal is two-fold: on-the-job training for students, and an opportunity for the ministry to assess the character and mettle of these future Christian leaders.
“We want to make sure they are committed, and we want to know that they are called by God, and that they love the Lord and love the people,” the ministry leader explained. “If they are serious about their work, then they will follow these requirements.”
Since 1992, 300 men and women from all over Nepal have done just that and received their diplomas. Some become pastors and Sunday school teachers. Others serve as missionaries to different tribal groups, planting churches and discipling new believers.
After graduation, these now equipped and enthusiastic missionaries return to serve in their home villages. If they are no longer welcomed there because of their Christian faith, they receive assignments to work in a different community or even with other ethnic groups.
The key to success, says the ministry leader, is to develop relationships with people in the village and assimilate.
“They become a part of the community. People in the village see them working hard alongside others. When people get sick, the Christians pray with them. The believers ask God to bless the crops and to give the villagers good health,” he said.
“When the people hear this about a Christian, they want to know more about his faith. They see him as a blessing to their village. Over time he is accepted and so is the gospel message he shares.”
Preparing a future generation of leaders
Some of the Bible school graduates are among the first believers in their villages. When they return home, they lead more people to Christ and help them grow in their understanding of God’s Word.
This missionary sells carpets as a part-time venture to earn income for his family.
The 50 students comprising the current Bible college enrollment represent 26 different tribal groups in Nepal. Collectively, the ministry’s missionaries have worked with 47 of Nepal’s 300 tribes, many of which were formerly unreached people groups.
One graduate works with the Musahar tribe in a jungle community, where the greatest source of danger isn’t from persecutors—it’s from wild animals. Snakes, tigers, rhinos, and elephants roam the territory. Seven families in the area have received Christ, and last year the ministry held a baptism service for them. They meet for worship but there is no formal church building.
“Paul,” a member of the Mondol people, was severely beaten when he decided to follow Jesus. The ministry leader took care of him in his home for three months and arranged for him to serve as a missionary to the Tharu tribe since he could not return to his own community. He went alone and began preaching there.
Since then God has abundantly blessed the efforts of this faithful servant. Paul has led several people in the area to Christ. The ministry bought a small parcel of land and construction is underway for the first church. On a personal note, Paul also found a wife among the Tharu. The couple is expecting their first child later this year.
The biggest challenge for the church planters and pastors is finding a stable means to support their families. When these gospel workers begin their outreach, the ministry provides them with some financial assistance. They also receive “seed money” to start income-generating projects like cultivating crops or raising livestock.
The local congregations, though limited in resources, contribute what they can to support their pastor. Grateful for what they have, these humble believers take their first-fruits, sometimes goats or chickens, other times radishes and cucumbers, and set them beside the altar as their offering to the Lord. The gifts are later distributed among the poorest of the poor in the village.
Already hundreds of churches have been started by Bible school alumni, and this year’s graduating class is ready to make their mark on Nepal for God’s glory too.
They realize there will be difficulties and opposition, but as courageous soldiers of the cross they can move forward with confidence, knowing God will give them all they need to accomplish His purposes.