Sunday, October 3, 2010

Who’s a missionary?

*Names have been changed for the safety of those mentioned in this post

Maya’s family’s home is situated in a lot behind a row of public restrooms in the middle of the city. To get to her front door, I passed the public water tap (her house doesn't have running water), and a sleeping dog, and shared the path with ducks and chickens. Maya greeted me with by putting her palms together and saying jaymashee, or victory in the Messiah.“My place is like living a village,” she laughed.

I’ve known Maya’s family for almost sixteen years now. She taught bal sangati, or children’s fellowship, at my Nepali church with my mother, and her husband, Phillip, has been one of the church’s elders for just as long. She continues to teach bal sangati, and while Phillip is still one of our church’s elders, he has been working abroad for almost 12 years now. While he was always able to find work in Nepal as a driver, the pay was never enough to support his family (especially to pay for his daughters’ school tuition). As a result, Maya and her two daughters, only see their husband/father for a few months every three years or so.

However, Phillip is essentially a tentmaker missionary. While his family’s situation compelled him to leave the country for work in the first place, God has opened up numerous opportunities for ministry abroad. Every year, thousands of Nepalis leave the country to work in service capacities in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. The majority of these are men, who work as drivers, factory workers, office assistants, restaurant and hotel employees, and the like. They often live in dorm situations, and send money back home to their families to support them. Phillip has been involved with a Nepali church in Dubai for several years now. I remember as a child hearing reports read aloud in church on baptisms, and the discipleship and evangelistic endeavors in which he was involved. While the church is in no position to support him financially, we regularly pray for him as a body.

Maya herself has been quite involved in church ministry. She has trained bal sangati teachers not only for our own church, but traveled to train teachers and start bal sangatis at our church plants in Western Nepal. Its important to her that children hear the Gospel as well as adults, for, as she puts it, they will be adults one day, and consequently the leaders in their communities, churches, and government. Bal sangatis are crucial in reaching these children with the Gospeal as many of them come to church on their own; they are not brought by their families. It excites her to see people like Niran and Ramesh (two guys my age, who are essentially my brothers as far as everyone’s concerned), and myself—children that grew up in our church—now involved in children’s ministry or other missionary work. “You’re like my children,” she told me, “and it makes me happy to see you also serving the Lord. You are regularly in my prayers!”

However, she was clearly frustrated at the current lack of “harvest workers.” According to her, two of our church plants have really good bal sangatis; the teachers there have come to Kathmandu for training by a local agency that publishes bal sangati curriculum as well as trained others in their villages for the work. Others however don’t have them, not for lack of children, but for lack of people willing to step up and serve. At one point, there were six bal sangati leaders at our church, but one had to leave the country for work, two left the city for further training (medical school and engineering), and one is getting ready to leave the country for further training as an accountant. “Its just like the Bible says—the fields are ready for harvest, but the workers are few!” she exclaimed. “I keep praying that God will raise up more workers!”

Maya gave me a few more details about the church plants in the Western part of Nepal. Because of the Maoist insurgency, only old people and children were left in many of the villages—all the youth and young adults had fled to urban centers like Kathmandu in order to avoid being drafted/forced into the Maoist army. Villagers remaining were often required to provide the Maoist armies with food. The church plant in one region was not ignored by the Maoists either. Maya said, “They told the church that they needed to give them [the Maoists] money, because we were supported by bideshis [foreigners]. The pastor told them ‘we are not supported by bideshis, all our work is our own. If you stay around and watch us you’ll see for yourselves.’ ” Even though the Maoist insurgency is technically over—the Maoists are now one of the primary parties within the national parliament, and have disbanded their guerilla forces—the face of these villages will continue to be changed.

Please pray:
~ For people like Maya and Phillip as they serve faithfully, yet apart.
~ That God will answer Maya’s prayers for more workers in the area of children’s ministry within our church and our church’s plants in other parts of Nepal.
~ For the current political situation in Nepal. I’m still learning details, but right now the country is run by an intern government while a constitution is drafted and elections are organized.
~ How you might become involved in ministry at your local church. Nepali churches aren’t the only churches lacking for help in areas such as children’s ministry.