Well we woke up to a 6.8 earthquake whose epicenter was about 30 miles away. Jim and I were already up so we headed out the door and rode it out behind the hotel with an Australian in his underwear. The rest of the guests either stayed inside or slept through it. It was a pretty good shaker. Yesterday was a big production day. we were able to set the solar panels to run the pump. We also put the pump into the well. Today we pump water.
Pastor Sanchang Phago leads a church of about 40 people in a village called Jhiljeli in SE Nepal. His church is in a region of serious unrest as Nepal wrestles with its identity as a secular nation. Just this past September Nepal’s Constituent Assembly rejected calls to re-declare Nepal as a Hindu state and remove the term ‘secularism’ from the new Constitution. This triggered protests by Hindu activists and four churches in this area were bombed. To add to Nepal’s trouble, India is rationing shipments of petroleum and other essential goods into Nepal, forcing them to seek trade relief from China. Prices are spiraling out-of-control in a nation that is among the poorest on Earth. Caught in the struggle are the low caste people who simply lack the resources to deal with these changes.
Pastor Phago has his work cut out for him. He and the Christians in his congregation are being squeezed from every side. There is no economic advantage in Nepal to being a Christian. On the contrary, it may derail any economic or social opportunities a man or woman had previously enjoyed. His congregation is reeling under the weight of converging forces they are powerless to affect.
The stories I read of Rome in the Book of Acts remind me of India and Nepal. Hinduism is essentially polytheist, relying on a complex system of traditions and sacrifices led by an elite priest caste, much like the Paganism of Rome. Hindus have no problem adding Jesus to the pantheon of gods. It is not unusual to meet a Hindu who will tell you that he loves Jesus, was saved by Jesus and had his life changed by Jesus… while at the same time he is on his way to the temple to offer incense to Ganesh, the elephant god. However, if you reject Hinduism and call yourself a Christian, you are no longer part of the community and are likely to be ostracized.
Pastor Ajay, a church planter and friend (and former worshipper of Ganesh) has been encouraging church leaders in this part of Nepal. He runs a leaders training institute and has had a significant impact on the unity of churches in this region. He is a sacrificial advocate for the church leaders in this part of Nepal, like Pastor Phago. When I was in India last week he asked me to come and encourage the pastors of the region.
I couldn’t possibly turn him down. But it is humbling to think that he would ask me to encourage these men. I live in a country where we do not pay a price to be Christians. We may not have the endorsement we have previously enjoyed from society at large, but we are free to believe and to express the love of Jesus to the hurting world around us.
I met some amazing people — men and women who are struggling and have been discouraged of late. As privileged as I was to bring a word of encouragement, it was not my empathy, wisdom or experience that could make a difference – it was the word of God. And it was the dedication of an advocate named Pastor Ajay who knew what they needed in times like these when they are being squeezed from all sides.
“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places” (Habakkuk 3:17-19)
He is a teacher, a builder, a technician, a handyman, a driver, and a quick learner no matter what you throw his way. He is one of the members of the leadership team at Bright Hope English School in India. Jonathan was born in a small village in Northern India. His “caste” would have prevented him from making any significant contribution to society, but he was born into a Christian family, so he never saw himself from the perspective of the caste system, but rather as a son of God…
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:28).
Bright Hope English School is a Christian school that provides a free education for 100 minority girls in Northern India who would otherwise have very limited and difficult lives. We assist them by raising support for the girls ($40/month per girl). You can be a part of that by giving here.
Next week and through the first weeks in November, a team from Beaverton will have the privilege of coming alongside Jonathan and the amazing teachers at the school to encourage and teach. Please pray for the team and for the school!
“We had 4 minutes to flee our home. It took 5 more minutes for the fire to consume it.” (Brent Blanchard, Oroville, WA)
The wildfires that burned throughout the West in the past months wreaked havoc on many communities, including north central Washington. Brent and Ashley saw a mushroom cloud of black smoke rising up from the other side of the mountain where they live. The air was thick with smoke and it was hard to see what was going on. They didn’t even see visible flames until they were practically on top of them and then they had to flee their home.
Brent and Ashley, like 170 other families, lost their home to the Okanagan Complex fire – the largest wildfire in Washington State history. Overall 8.8 million acres burned in Washington State this year – three times as many as in California, which also saw a record wildfire season. When the media coverage is at its height it seems that everyone is sympathetic and wants to help those who have lost their homes. But when the ash settles, most are left to work through a long recovery alone. Even when insurance is eventually going to help with replacement, it is a long time before life resembles anything normal.
The families who were hardest hit are not able to deal with the loss. Many are living on the land and do not have clean sources of water. They might have limited sanitation and no electricity. And they are remote — very hard to get to. Brent and Ashley had a very nice home with electricity and all of the modern conveniences, but getting it rebuilt before winter is impossible. Temporary shelter comes to an end. Winter sets in. Emergency funds run out. Hope fades. Resources simply are not there.
Brent said they felt forgotten. Who cares about a couple of folks living in the remote wilderness when the fires are long gone and the media left town? But a pastor from a church in the area got a hold of him to tell him that a few folks from Oregon were coming up to help him build a shelter for the winter. He was overwhelmed. Prayers were answered. God had not forgotten him. A miracle was taking place. People he had never met were coming from far away to help him. Sometimes prayers are answered in overalls and hard work.
Our Beaverton Foursquare construction teams are currently at work building. It has been encouraging to see the faith of Brent and Ashley. They cried many tears, but they did not complain. They felt abandoned by people but kept turning to God. They trusted in Jesus when calamity struck, believing that He would come through somehow. Like Habakkuk, they found a way to rejoice in the midst of trials…
Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. (Habakkuk 3:17-19)
The church will be alive with activity tomorrow. Barnes Elementary School has its In-Service Day. That means that the teachers are working, but the students have a day off. It occurred to us that we could help out the families and extend a message of Jesus’ love to the community by opening the church campus for an all-day science camp, which we call Brain Break. We are expecting 140 kids… we have many, many volunteers… and we are going to have a great day!
Talk about Family on Mission! We have been serving foster parents in association with Washington County… it is called Foster Parents Night Out. It is our way of extended the love of Jesus to people who are in the foster system and giving the parents a chance to have a night away. We do this the first Saturday of each month with a group of servants who open their hearts and lend their hands to make it work. Many thanks and much love to all who serve monthly with Foster Parent’s Night Out.
Pastor Ajay is a husband and a father of two. We support his work in Nepal. He devotes his ministry time to planting churches in the primarily Hindu region of Southeast Nepal and to strengthening local church leaders. He travels from town to town on a motorcycle. His weekly travels take him to the dry plains and high into the mountains. In the past two weeks four churches in the area have been bombed by Hindu extremists. Fortunately, no one has been killed. But tension has been rising in the area since the government ratified a secular constitution. Many Hindus wanted Nepal to be declared a Hindu nation. In response there have been growing threats and violence. Pastor Ajay says he is not fearful. Will you please pray for Pastor Ajay and for brothers and sisters in Southeast Nepal? Pray for the end of violence. Pray that regardless, the Gospel will continue to go forth in that region by their faithful, steadfast presence.
He sees possibilities in this humble school that others might miss. When asked what his goals were, Bright Hope Headmaster Ruben Mizar (pictured at the right) replied, “I want to make this the best school in India.” That’s not just naked ambition, but a Spirit-led sense of possibility about what Bright Hope English School could become with God’s blessing.
Founded by his Aunt Premila more than ten years ago, the school has become a jewel nestled among the tea gardens of Siliguri, India in West Bengal. It serves the poorest young girls in the surrounding villages with a first class English education. It’s the proverbial golden ticket—a chance at a life beyond virtual slavery in the tea gardens or a nearby plywood factory.
India’s poor have few options and no one knows that better than Ruben. Based on his ethnicity and social status, his options would normally be very limited, but Ruben was fortunate to receive a good education. Rather than use that to his advantage, he chooses to serve at Bright Hope.
It’s that kind of passion that attracted Missions Pastor Mark Nicklas to the school. He observed, “They’re commitment is second to none. Their motivation is the Gospel—most of the girls who study there come to faith in Christ—but they’re resource constrained. That’s where we can help.”
In the last five years, Beaverton Foursquare has vastly improved the property, creating new residential space, new classrooms, clean water systems, and enhanced security for the girls. Commenting on the progress, Nicklas observes, “We’ve come a long way, but there’s more work to do and more opportunity to realize God’s Kingdom in this most unlikely of places.”
It’s the same thing Ruben sees.
You can also partner with us to support the work at Bright Hope School.
Fah is bellicose and says whatever enters into his mind. Ahm is introspective and carefully chooses his words. Both 12 year-old Somali boys were with me in the front of the bus. We were talking about Ramadan, which is happening now.
Fah, in a voice much louder than it needed to be, boasted, “We fast for 50 days for Ramadan. You Christians don’t fast.”
“We do,” I answered. “I am even fasting tomorrow.”
“No you’re not,” Fah insisted.
Ahm’s curiosity was peaked, “You do?”
“Yes. Many Christians fast regularly. We even have a 40 day fast. It is in the spring and culminates on Resurrection Sunday, one of our most holy days. We call it Lent.”
“So you fast from sunrise to sunset?” Ahm asked.
“No, tomorrow I will fast completely from morning until morning the next day.”
“Wow, we get up before sunrise to eat as much as we can and then eat right after the sunset. Why do you fast?”
“I fast because I want to. I want to take a day to set food and other distractions aside so I can focus on Jesus,” I said.
“That is the heart of Ramadan,” said Ahm, “we are supposed to remove distractions, focus on God, and change our attitude towards other people.”
“What happens if you don’t fast?” I asked.
“You get in trouble,” Fah blurted.
“It is allowed in some cases, but you are always supposed to do it after you are 15 years-old.” Ahm clarified. “What is Lent?”
“For 40 days we fast. Not all Christians do it though—like not all Muslims fast for Ramadan.” I explained, “We usually try to sacrifice something that specifically distracts us. Some people give up television. Some give up Internet games. Some give up a food group.”
“That’s not real fasting!” interrupted Fah.
“I didn’t know Christians fasted,” Ahm responded.
That led to a conversation about what Christians believe. Ahm was asking thoughtful questions and Fah was interrupting with senseless boasts and taunts.
This year, our fifth, is a breakthrough year for our soccer camp. We have been serving kids in the community for whom a soccer camp like this would not be possible. And after five years we know these kids. We’ve watched them grow up. Alan and I can have a conversation like this because he has learned to trust me. What had been very foreign to him is now seen on familiar terms. As an ambassador of Jesus, I first enter into another culture with an attitude of serving. Then I give expression to the beatitudes as Jesus taught.
This is why we have come to such a breakthrough. There is trust. The kids are curious about who we are and why we do what we do. In fact, this year a few of the kids who aged-out of camp (turned 15) have returned to serve as coaches and helpers. It is our hope that some of these kids will come to know Jesus and will one day carry the gospel to their own kindred.