Modelling how Jesus lived

15 May, 2017 | Nepal
Ellyn Schellenberg
A young boy uses a mini-SD card with the New Testament in his radio to listen to the book of Matthew for the first time in Mugu, Nepal.
When Nepal first opened to the outside world in 1951, there were only five known Christians. Today, there are an estimated one million believers. OM workers first visited Nepal in 1968 when they had truckloads of literature in India but, due to visa issues, had to cross into the small northern-bordering country. Initially they opened a bookshop in Kathmandu, but soon teams were sent throughout the country to rural villages where few books and resources were available.

In 1990, OM began a training programme for national leaders to serve their own countrymen. This three-month, and later one-year, training paired solid biblical teaching with hands-on outreach that taught students to care for the physical and spiritual needs of villagers. Through this, deep and trustworthy relationships with local churches all over Nepal were forged. “They knew that our heart’s desire was to equip believers to help their church and local communities,” shared Mike* a previous country leader.

Over 26 years, these programmes grew from 21 to upwards of 130 students annually, who received classroom teaching in Kathmandu and then were sent on several-week practical outreaches to needy villages. Although students were making disciples, many of these had no local church so, in 2010, Village Partnership Teams were formed, with teams of men and women living in pairs in villages, offering literacy classes, sanitation teaching, and basic discipleship.

They were later renamed Community Mobilisation Teams (CMT), and participants were given more training in discipling young believers to form fellowships and grow in their faith. Through these trainings, hundreds of thousands were impacted by the Good News.

To the least reached

A shift came in late 2012, when leadership realised the need to focus resources, manpower and outreaches on eight of the least-reached parts of the country with a combined population of over 1.5 million but less than .02 per cent known believers and few other organisations present.

“We are working where there is no church, but we are establishing local fellowships,” Bahadur* an OM worker said. By empowering local workers, using simple and reproducible training methods, and allowing national workers the freedom to determine what is best in their local context, the number of local fellowships has increased. Bahadur continued, “We’re seeing entire communities, where there were no believers before, transformed by the truth.”

For six months in 2014, two CMT workers served a village with very few believers and the nearest pastor a several-hour walk away. One class offered uses 40 key Old and New Testament stories to disciple believers and share God’s plan with the unreached.

Weekly, 20-25 people gathered to study God's Word and  when the local pastor visited, they talked through key aspects of their decision with those interested. After questioning the locals, the pastor turned to the CMT staff in surprise and said, “These people are able to answer my questions better than some Christians who have been attending church for years.”

In late 2015, OM partnered with several other agencies to distribute literature in every home. OM teams were sent to focus districts to distribute literature door to door. This involved a several-day bus ride and dangerous hike along narrow rocky paths. Team members carried boxes and bags over the rough terrain and gave away mini-SD cards with audio files for the illiterate.

“We continue to encounter believers in remote areas who hear truth through a piece of our literature,” Mike stated. “A local contact, whose number is on our material, receives seven or eight calls every day from people wanting to know more!”

OM in Nepal continues to evaluate and change its style of disciple-making. Rather than students from all over Nepal attending classroom teaching in Kathmandu and being sent to the least-reached parts, students will be recruited from those parts that have the fewest believers, and teachers will travel to where the students live.

“We want to model how Jesus lived and served alongside his disciples,” Bill*, another OM leader, said. “So our workers will live in the least-reached villages, training local people and establishing new fellowships where there are none.” This new model will be put into effect from early 2017.

*Name changed

Ellyn S. grew up as an American overseas in Europe and has continued to pursue her love for travel, writing and photography. She studied creative writing and works as a writer for OM. She is passionate about using her skills to capture moving stories of what God is doing in Asia.

Credit: Ellyn Schellenberg · © 2017 OM International This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

OM exists to see vibrant communities of Jesus followers among the least reached.

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