by Michael Wright with Karna Lal Pandey
Michael and his wife, Elizabeth, served in Cyprus, 1988-2016, in evangelism, Bible teaching, pastoral and prison visitation work. Karna is a national worker serving in Nepal.
Nepal is known for Mount Everest and Kathmandu, Gurkhas and Sherpas, Buddha’s birthplace and the last Hindu Kingdom. The Himalayas form its northern border with China, and India surrounds its eastern, southern and western borders. Its population of about 30 million people is spread throughout a mountainous terrain with Kathmandu and Pokhara being the largest cities. It is a fascinating country visited by many and yet still one of the poorest in the world.
Nepal was a Hindu kingdom until 2008, when it became a secular democracy. That was after a brutal civil war between the royalist forces and the Maoist People’s Liberation Army (PLA), in which more than 17,000 died or were declared missing.
Hinduism is the main religion in Nepal. In fact, as a Hindu kingdom, the kings had outlawed other religions including Christianity. As recently as 1951, there were no known Nepali Christians in the country. Although the first evangelical church was established soon after by Nepali Christians from India, proselytising and conversions were prohibited, and evangelism carried a possible criminal sentence of three years or more. Mathew Philip was an Indian missionary who served the Lord for 45 years in Nepal’s second city, Pokhara. He and his wife served through difficult years when evangelising and baptising believers was illegal. They were involved when Nadipur church was formed in the city. As Nepali Christians throughout the country continued to share the gospel, the number of Christians grew. In the early 1970s, about 500 believers were secretly baptised, then 50,000 by 1990 when conversion was decriminalised. Today, in the new secular democracy with freedom of religion, it is estimated that nearly a million believers are gathering in about 8,000 congregations. Christians still face persecution and restrictions, both officially and informally, but God continues to extend His Church in this wonderful country.
This was the backdrop into which Karna Lal Pandey was born in 1984. As the son of a communist MP from an outlying province, he was brought up as an atheist with Hindu traditions. Within a year of being at university, he was elected to serve as the communist party’s representative in the mini parliament and soon after got involved with the PLA, an armed Maoist wing of the Communist Party of Nepal. In one of many skirmishes, he ended up being badly beaten by royalists, thrown into a rubbish bin and left for dead. But he didn’t die. After over 40 days in ICU and seven months in hospital with some chronic disabilities, his family sent him to Cyprus, ostensibly to study but mainly to get him out of the civil war.
Within days of arriving in Cyprus, Karna was cheated out of all his money. He walked from town to town looking for work and eventually arrived in the northwestern town of Polis. There he spent two nights sleeping on the floor of the public toilets, before getting a job serving petrol for a kind garage owner. It was there, serving a customer, that he received the invitation to go to the Upper Room where Christians met.
The first Sunday he met with the believers there, he stayed the whole day for the Bible study, breaking of bread and evening service.
He later testified that he knew that day that he was in the right place. Then followed a year of spiritual challenges, battles and teaching. How he wanted to trust Christ as Saviour – but how he wanted to control his own life too! Eventually, God’s Spirit broke him down, he repented and this atheist, terrorist, pauper, accepted the Lord as his Saviour. Karna’s baptism in the Mediterranean Sea was a highlight for him and the fellowship that met in the Upper Room. Karna grew in the Lord and as he took opportunities to share the Scriptures, it was evident that God had His hand on him and was patiently nurturing him for the work that was ahead.
In 2008, after four years in Cyprus, it was no surprise when Karna felt called of God to return to his beloved country, Nepal. The first thing he had to do was be reconciled with his young wife, Santa, whom he had abandoned, and to share his new faith with her, teach her and lead her to her own relationship with God. Santa proved to be the perfect partner for Karna in their desire to live for the Lord and serve Him.
There followed the birth of their first son, Joshua, and then the decision to leave their little IT shop and go full time into the work of the Lord. One of the first tasks was to invite an evangelist to work with a mission outreach in the heart of Kathmandu, which happened at the same time as the birth of their second son, Caleb. Many trusted the Lord as a result of that mission; among them was Karna’s father. What a thrill that was for Karna. Now he had support within his family and his father was indeed supportive. This was all the more important because, within a couple of years, Karna’s father passed away after illness and went to be with the Lord. This led to a period of fierce persecution. Karna was unwilling to join in many of the Hindu funeral rituals that would have been his responsibility as a son, choosing rather to honour his Lord. That angered the family leaders. He was beaten and his wife and small children were put out of the family home onto the street in the middle of the night. Ostracised and disowned, they were totally dependent on the Lord.
After helping in a new church in Kathmandhu, Karna and Santa were led by the Lord to move to a village on the outskirts of the city. They didn’t know of any believers there but as they walked down the main street, they heard some singing of Christian hymns. They discovered a handful of ladies meeting together and praying for someone to lead them! As they fellowshipped with them, it became obvious that the Lord had sent Karna to teach them the Scriptures. That group grew into a small church and, within a few years, they built their own building and grew numerically as many came to know the Lord as Saviour. That village of Dadhikot, in the Bhaktapur region, is growing fast as a dormitory town and business centre outside Kathmandu. The church now numbers around 50 believers and continues to reach out to their community with the gospel.
Karna and Santa continue to serve the Lord, looking to Him for all their needs and His guidance. Karna has been able to help other churches in bringing God’s Word and encouraging His servants in their service for Him. He had the joy of baptising their eldest son, Joshua, this year. There has been a softening in relationships with his extended family. His mother stays with them from time to time and has even come to the church to hear Karna preach, although she is not yet trusting in Christ.
A Growing Church
The church that was planted through the mission work of Matthew Philip grew through the salvation of souls and still stands strong today. Mathew went to be with the Lord this year in January. His funeral was in India and some of the leaders of Nadipur church travelled to be at it. On returning, three of those young leaders were on the plane flying from Kathmandu to Pokhara that crashed with all on board perishing. Those three young men went to be with their Lord, their work on earth finished. Pray for the Nadipur church with the loss of these four servants of God. Pray as the Lord calls others into ministry and church eldership.
Nepal with its fledgling government, continues to be a Hindu dominated country and still makes things difficult for Christians. However, despite the opposition, Christ is building His church in Nepal, and opportunities for the gospel are bearing fruit. Pray for Nepal.