Not many outsiders get to travel to the remote and mainly Buddhist region of Tibet, but that’s where we get to visit today as part of our Advent calendar. Read how one man’s testimony changed the lives of many.
Sonam* travelled from his Tibetan village, perched on the Himalayan mountains, to the city to attend Buddhist school. He left his wife and family behind and set about preparing himself to become a lama (Buddhist priest). While studying, Sonam met a Christian man and started hearing the gospel for the first time. He was confused about the different things he was learning about Buddhism and Christianity.
He soon met a second Christian who told the same story as the first and Sonam decided that he needed to understand Christianity. He took a two-month break from his studies to investigate the gospel more seriously. Sonam put his faith in Jesus Christ and never returned to Buddhist school. He then volunteered to work in a Christian children’s home.
Sonam returned to his village and was keen to share his new discovery with them. The villagers knew that he was now a Christian and would not allow him to come home. So Sonam went back the city. Some of the villagers were unable to keep their children and Sonam soon had four children living with him. It was at this point that Sonam met a Christian mission organisation. They found he was unable to support himself but was caring for these children. He was also going back to his village, taking clothes and medicine, and trying to take the gospel as well – without success.
The mission agency had recordings in Sonam’s own language. Sonam returned to his village with medicine, old clothes, and this time with recordings in his village’s own language, along with picture books to illustrate the message.
Hearing the good news in their own language, the villagers welcomed Sonam home and listened with great interest. It was the first time he had been welcomed back. The villagers gave him a place to stay. They were so keen to have their own MP3 players and picture books that they traded eggs and chickens to get their own copy of the gospel message from him.
Sonam went back to his village soon afterwards with vegetable seeds, clothes, medicine, and more recordings and picture books. Donkeys were hired for the long and arduous trek along narrow mountain trails. Two donkeys lost their footing and fell off the trail – they and their loads were never seen again.
Sonam put his faith in Jesus Christ and never returned to Buddhist school.
They arrived in the village and were welcomed along with their cargo. People continued to hear the good news with great interest. Soon the chief lama realised that Sonam was bringing Christianity into his village. He was angry with Sonam, and once more he was banished from the village.
However, 11 young men wanted to learn more. They left the village and met with Sonam in the city for two weeks of intensive instruction in the gospel. At the end of the time, seven wanted to be baptised. When the day of the baptisms came a strike was called in the city. There was no way they could reach the church to be baptised. A bath was found, but it leaked, so plastic sheeting was found to line the tub. Finally, all was ready and the seven young Tibetan men were baptised and the event was celebrated.
The men went home. As they approached their village they were stopped and forbidden to enter. They didn’t know what to do and so they prayed. Sonam decided that he was going back to his village and if they killed him he would die. He set off on the journey.
Two days from home he met the recently baptised men who accompanied him. When they all arrived at the village together, the chief lama was drunk. He pulled out his Gurkha knife (a normal part of a man’s clothing) and went to stab Sonam. As he swung the knife he fell off the cliff edge he was standing near. Sonam and the new Christians climbed down, rescued the drunken lama, dressed his wounds and carried him back to his house. The lama’s family were very impressed that they and not the other villagers had come to his aid. When the chief lama came to and understood what had happened, his heart was softened.
The recently baptised men were allowed to return to their families. The chief lama came to faith in Christ soon after this event and the entire village soon followed his lead. Today three Tibetan villages are Christian as a result of these events. The villagers are now taking the Good News to a fourth village. A mission agency has helped the village construct a church building. The children’s home where Sonam worked is now providing a safe place and education for more than twenty children in the city.
Sonam died a year or so ago. Leaders had been prepared in these villages and so the church continues to grow.
*names changed to protect identities
Pray for Tibet:
- for new Christians in Tibet, who may face opposition from their families and communities
- for Bible translations and Christian resources to become more available to Tibetan people
- for this region, which has faced tension and protests over the years.