For TEAM Nepal – and the Nepali church – this is a time of transition. TEAM Nepal no longer focuses entirely on mission hospitals, as it had for 40 years. There are expanding opportunities and people are working in agriculture, in the schools, in government hospitals, in pastoral training, and even in missionary training.
“We’re teaching the teachers how to teach,” said TEAM’s Steve Knoble. “We’re teaching medicine – that’s what I’m doing on a regular basis – teaching mid-level healthcare workers clinical medicine. It’s the old adage: rather than giving them a fish, teaching them how to fish. But that’s kind of where missions in this whole country has gone.”
Steve also teaches with MCN, or Mission Commission to Nepal, an indigenous mission organization established several years ago to give Nepali missionaries cross-cultural training. “They come here for about three months and we give them basically cross-cultural missionary training – Biblical foundations of mission, history of missions, strategy, practice, cultural issues,” he said. “Because even though Nepal is one country, there’s about a hundred different ethnic groups here, so actually many of these folks are ministering in completely cross cultural contexts.”
MCN has trained approximately 85 missionaries. Most are now serving throughout Nepal, although some have left the country to live in India, Bhutan, and Malaysia. One recently trained couple live in Mumbai, India, ministering to commercial sex workers in the red light district.
Training is also important for women in the church. Becky Martin has been in Nepal for 23 years, originally working as a nurse in the Dadeldhura hospital. Now she works with the Church Leadership Training Center under the National Church Fellowship of Nepal. Her focus is on women.
“They don’t realize that they have a role in the church and in the work that’s being done for God,” Becky said.
Four years ago, she realized that the wives of Nepali church leaders had no input, no education, and were not equipped to help their husbands. Most rural women are not accustomed to traditional teaching formats and cannot leave their homes for more than a month, so Becky had to create a shorter, less formal training session for them. The quality leadership training they receive is rarely afforded to women in Nepali society.
As the Nepali church grows, MCN hopes to promote the concept of missions.
“Historically, the Nepali Christian concept of missions was Western missions coming, operating hospitals, operating schools and stuff like that,” said Steve. “Up till now, Nepal has always been kind of the receptor of missionaries and missions. It’s only been in the last five or six years where the church has really gotten the vision that says, ‘You know, we shouldn’t be just the receivers of missions, we now should be the senders of missions because the church is getting bigger and they say we have the capacity to reach out’.”
The Nepali church has grown most rapidly in the southern and eastern regions around Kathmandu, so now it is sending missionaries into the northern and western areas – areas with the least amount of development and fewest number of Christians – especially as travel has opened up since the end of the civil war.
As he looks at recent changes in the Nepali church, TEAM’s Steve Regnault has an idea of what it will become.
“I see a strong church, that’s what I see – a really good church,” he said. “I think there needs to be encouragement to the church that they can fulfill the great commission, not only in their country but outside of their country. I think God has further plans for that for the Nepali church.”
-Written by Megan Darreth
-Photography by Robert Johnson
[Originally published in TEAMHorizons, March 2011]