For years I dreamed about trekking in the Himalayas and walking among the highest peaks on planet earth. The awe and wonder of those majestic mountains simply have no rival. Any backpacking enthusiast can easily relate to such sentiments. In April 2014 I had the opportunity of a lifetime to visit Nepal. The mountains in my dreams became the landscape of my reality for two weeks.
It was most certainly a trip I will never forget. However, it wasn’t the mountains that stole my heart—it was the people.
Lay of the Land
Nepal is one of the smallest and poorest nations in the world. Nestled among the rocky slopes and river valleys are numerous villages fighting for survival against the brutal elements. The physical needs in Nepal are great. Things we take for granted such as clean drinking water, basic sanitation and any form of medical care are often nonexistent.
And as great as the physical need is among the Nepalese, it doesn’t even compare to the desperate spiritual need. There was a feeling of hopelessness in the air and on the faces all around us, almost like an oppression one could not escape. I was well aware of the tremendous need among the unreached people groups long before I went to Nepal, but there is simply nothing that could have prepared me for what I saw and experienced myself.
This was particularly evident when our group had the opportunity to visit the Hindu Pashupatinath Temple, one of the most significant religious sites in the whole nation. It is known for being one of the few locations in the world where open air cremations are still conducted. When a Hindu passes away, the family will bring the body of the deceased to Pashupati where a series of cleaning and ceremonial rituals are performed. At the completion of these steps, the body is then placed on a pyre and burned.
I saw this take place. It’s hard to describe exactly what that felt like. As I stood there on the bank of the Bagmati River and looked across, watching the smoke rise to the sky, I became keenly aware of how great the need for hope was. In front of me was a physical body burning, but I knew that what I saw with my eyes was simply a picture of the greater spiritual reality. Apart from Christ, there was no hope—and I could feel it.
Desperate spiritual need doesn’t easily translate into numbers. Hopelessness isn’t conveyed well on a pie chart. The need for the Gospel among the numerous unreached people groups of Nepal is very real. We traveled from village to village for eight days and did not encounter a single follower of Jesus Christ. For centuries these mountains have been a stronghold of darkness. The enemy’s reign on the highlands has left a profound impact upon the people of Nepal.
We were reminded of this again in the village of Kyanjin Gompa, nestled around 12,700 ft above sea level in the Langtang region. In our guest house, there was a little girl who worked tirelessly helping out with meal preparation and cleaning. Initially, I thought she could not have been more than 8 years old, though I later learned she was 11. She had an amazing smile and bubbled with youthful energy. As we got to know the family who owned the guest house, I was shocked to learn her story.
Originally, I assumed this little girl was just one of the family relatives lending a helping hand, which isn’t uncommon. However, I learned that this particular girl had no relation to the guest house owners whatsoever. Instead, she had left her home village and traveled many, many miles in hopes of finding a better life. The area she grew up in was one of the most heavily affected regions by the sex trafficking industry.
In some towns, there were simply no women left.
Rather than allow their daughter to experience the certainty of this horrific future, her family sent her off in the hopes of finding provision somewhere else. I know many parents reading this could never imagine making that decision for one of your children. But this is the reality many parents and children face each and every day in Nepal.
Yet there is hope. Even now there is a resilient band of men and women who have given their lives to the cause of making Christ known among these forgotten people. As we walked among these villages and talked with the people there, we encountered the seeds of the Gospel seeking life among the rocky soil.
In one village, we met a 13-year-old girl who had come in contact with the organization we were working with just a few months prior. Over the course of time, the opportunity came and the Gospel was presented to her. She wrestled with the claims of Christ and even acknowledged that she believed everything about Him was true. But she was afraid to trust Him. To be the first follower of Christ in a remote mountain village is no small thing as it is often met with intense opposition, even persecution.
Her fear was not surprising, yet the Lord’s work in softening her heart was evident. I wish I could write that we had one of those life-changing conversations where the Gospel suddenly burst through the darkness of doubt and Christ appeared glorious in her eyes. However, that conversation did not happen. At least not yet.
Jesus told his followers, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2). I’m praying for more workers to enter the harvest in Nepal. We need more labors to set their hands to the plow and break up the rocky soil of a land lost in darkness.
I have been there and seen what the Lord is doing. He is calling a people to himself “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev 5:9). Much has been accomplished already, but more is required. I believe there are people reading this article right now whom the Lord would desire to send to the uttermost parts of the earth. Maybe you are the one to continue the conversation with the young girl above? Or maybe He is calling you somewhere else. One thing is certain: He has invited you into this great story. Will you join Him?