When we hear of a revival of true religion, we usually assume that there has been a decline in the work of the Lord and then God has come again by His Holy Spirit and revived His people to new service and fresh desires to extend His kingdom. The result is usually the salvation of many souls through faith in Jesus Christ. The advance of God’s work in Nepal, if measured by this yardstick, is not so much a work of revival, as an awakening similar to that of the early church after the day of Pentecost.
From 1769 until the early 1950s Nepal was a closed country with very few foreigners gaining access through its borders. Since it was a Hindu state no Christians were permitted to remain in the country. The only missionaries permitted to enter were a couple of Roman Catholic priests in the mid 1700s and they were eventually expelled when they were accused of spying for the British. Yet two hundred years later the gospel of Christ is prospering in this land which is eighty percent Hindu and ten percent Buddhist. The question might be asked, How did the gospel of Christ ever gain a place in Nepal?
For many years it had been the practice of Nepalis to travel to Darjeeling in India to work on tea plantations. Over a period of time missionaries came and labored in those tea plantations and many Nepali people were converted. In the third part of the 1800s much of the ground work was done for the advancement of the gospel in Nepal through the missionary efforts of men such as F. C. Page of the Baptist Missionary Society and William McFarlane from the Church of Scotland. When the borders of Nepal opened to foreigners in the early 1950s these Christian Nepalis returned to their villages and brought the gospel with them. Gurkha soldiers who had been converted also contributed to the spread of the truth as they returned to their homes in Nepal.
The first Protestant congregation in Nepal was the Ramghat Church in Pokhara, the second largest city in the country. It was the direct fruit of the Nepal Evangelistic Band. When democracy came to Nepal, a small group of Nepali Christians and missionaries trekked from Nautanwa in India into Nepal and established the Ramghat Church in 1952. The churches gradually grew and gained a stronger foothold in the land. Although there was opposition until about 1990, the number of believers continued to increase. Within fifty years the number of Christians living in Nepal increased from one in 1950 to 600,000.
Much of the growth among the churches was in the main population centers such as the Kathmandu Valley. This situation stimulated Paul Thapa to lift his eyes towards the isolated villages of Nepal, where believers were not so plentiful. Coming from a village in the mid-western part of the country, Paul felt the need to reach out to his fellow countrymen with the gospel. In March 2003 Paul and his wife, Mandira, set time aside to pray and fast about this matter. They met together with one other lady in the small room that they rented. All they had was a bed and a mat on the floor, but they had the Lord. After a few days the Lord saved five people whom Paul had come to know—clearly an answer to prayer. This was a token to Paul and his wife to press ahead with their efforts to reach out to the villages.
Subsequent to this encouraging start, a number of men came to Kathmandu to get work, and, in the providence of God they came into contact with Paul. This resulted in these men coming to faith in Christ. Paul then sent them back to their villages to spread the gospel, which eventually led to many people being converted and churches being formed. Those men became the leaders and pastors of the congregations.
In those early times these churches joined together to become what was known as the Nepal Mission to the Unreached. Church growth was remarkable in the initial stages and within three years over twenty churches were constituted. Of course this growth did not take place without a major effort by the pastors. It has been their practice to go to neighboring villages and preach the gospel there as well. This can mean walking hours, and sometimes days, to reach needy people.
Paul Thapa was concerned about the training of his men and in a remarkable way God put him in contact with the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster. Through this connection, training of the men was commenced and this has led to a certain stability in the overall work.
A radio ministry was started in 2006 with one program in English and has grown to programs in Nepali being broadcast on 26 stations. The radio broadcasts have resulted in the formation of over twenty-five churches.
The growth of Christianity in Nepal is not confined to this one group that Paul Thapa was instrumental in forming. Many other groups have also been working and seeing much blessing in the salvation of thousands of precious souls. The awakening and then the growth of the church in Nepal are the result of divine and human factors. In the first place, we must attribute this progress to the sovereign work of God. Nepal is a Hindu country with no gospel heritage, but the Lord in His wisdom and sovereign power has chosen to visit that people with His salvation. On the other hand, the human element has been employed, with God using His people to spread His Word. It seems evident that the work had prayer as its foundation and grew through the subsequent efforts of zealous evangelism.
It has been both humbling and thrilling to witness the power of God at work in Nepal saving souls, raising up churches, and preparing ministers to preach the gospel. We know that God is still on the throne and that the One who sent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is still sending forth His Spirit today to turn men from the power of sin and Satan unto God.
Rev. Wesley Graham, a minister in the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster, has spent time in Nepal assisting Rev. Paul Thapa.