As I was reading an article titled, “Now is the Time” by Bill Taylor, I saw the grander image of what a world mission looks like. The author emphasizes how dire the need effort and time it takes to create a Christian mission. However, my attention goes towards the couple of points where he explains different mission methodologies. Specifically, I am interested in the, “Initiative with the Relationship” and the other, “cross-cultural wisdom”. The entirety of the article is framed to show the growing hostility against Christians and churches from the government and the other interest groups in the country. We often read about the reports and notions that directly attacks the Christian community and churches. Considering this, I want to acknowledge the errors, which we Christian have committed, so let us be candid here. I would like to present some of the framework that would help our foreign friends who would like to pray for the Christian mission and the churches.
The mission of God works in different ways, and sometimes we can not even comprehend how exactly God operates with our minds. One cannot simplify God’s kingdom to point where everything makes sense in our own thoughts. Despite this, it is always good for us to make strategies, plans, and acknowledgments of how the master ultimately puts the steps in our plans. (Proverbs 16:9) We have finished six decades of the Protestant mission in Nepal. God honored the untiring labor of our heroes of faith, and their efforts towards the Lord’s work in Nepal, though one may question their methods. The people did their best, especially considering their abilities and understanding. It’s no surprise that today we all are reaping the fruits of what they sowed in early days. Their ways may not be perfect in our understanding, but it was the best they could do for the Lord and his kingdom at the time. Now, we have come far from the their start and their creation. People have been changed, the government has been changed, the political system has been changed. The laws and orders are new. However the questions still remain here! Where are we standing now? Have we changed our mission methodologies or we are coping the same from the past?
- Unpacking the minds: In the early days, Nepal had limitations in the mission, and needs were enormous then. Nepali churches, had to receive the help from the outside. We wholeheartedly acknowledge and respect our partnership with the foreign mission. Now, the question needs to be raised, “what if the the churches in Nepal could look at the possibilities on sustainability?” What if non-nepali missionaries would also think/act on the same line?
I understand that this would remain as a huge challenge to both the foreign mission agencies and Nepali churches. For the foreign mission agencies, it is because they do not want to lose their perceived values, which they inherit from their Christian heritage. They would try it in one way or the other to practice the same in the mission field. Their speculations about the people, culture, and behaviors have already predefined their ideology to the point where they have saturated their world-views with misunderstanding. We can see their views rooted into their values, and see how ultimately their values are reflected in behavior. Based on this observation, foreign missions need to think about how people should go about conducting a mission in a new culture. For example, how can an individual effectively make positive change in a new set of world-views when he/she is preoccupied with trying to make solutions for every problem, but denying the people ownership of making their decisions? This sometimes makes it difficult for non-Nepali missionaries to be able to relate to the local people and make the gospel relevant to them. Here, I do not mean the gospel is relative. Not at all! The Gospel is absolute, but it needs to find an a better way so it becomes more effective. Essentially, we need to create the best possibilities so that seeds of the gospel can germinate and bear the fruits of faith within Nepal.
Many a time, we often think that learning the local language would help non-Nepali missionaries to get to the people better. It may help them in some aspects. For some it might be for their personal edification or benefit. Unfortunately, learning a language alone does not take you to the heart of the people. Your overall living, dealing with the people, your responses to the locals also matters more than your experties on local language. The mission of God is all about the love and joy (Let us look at John 17). I have seen missionaries who have not learnt the language, yet they are well received by the locals.
Peoples vs principles: When it comes to, “Nepal vs West” I think it would be ridiculous to even use or frame the term “Nepal vs West.” I am not intending to put one against the other. Nepalis are found to be people friendly. We do not mind talking and chatting with an unkwon people. People seem to be flexible and do not mind mingling with newcomers.
The Nepali people are sincere and show potential for example, when somebody dies in a village, the whole community is affected no matter what the caste or religion is. It is so wonderful to see that people live in a community. Nepali churches come from the same perspective! Alas, those values are now coming under attack by a new set of rules from mission methods. The new methods are far from connecting to the true Nepali way! Even in spite of the westernization! Please understand me clear here, otherwise you would miss my main thesis.
Metro vs Village: In the earlier days of the journey, Christian mission work was not as easy as we think of now due to the restriction from the government. However, we have received a lot freedom after 1990, and the country turned into a federal democratic system in 2006. The change has made religious freedom much easier to obtain.
Nevertheless, the country is still under pressure both from various interest groups, including the ex-monarchy family, and from India who is ruled by the pro-Hindu political party. The recent changes in the constitution have put a lot of restriction on the Christian mission, and the government even narrowed the definition on ‘federal’ in the constitution. A new law was passed by the president, which is going to be implemented in August 2018. Over the last year, we have witnessed much of the harassment on news channels and mainstream news-papers. Churches were attacked, Christians were put into custody in different regions throughout Nepal. Yes, we do acknowledge that some of those cases took place due to our own mistakes. For example, lack of proper biblical teaching, seems to be a source behind the attacks from the government. The churches in Nepal should be mindful of this!
At the same time, the foreign mission agencies need to be watchful to keep the law and need to formulate alternative roads to support the mission work. How can that happen? When I write on this matter, I know vividly that I am an Evangelical and want to focus on the reaching out to the unreached. What if the foreign mission would continue to support in equipping the local leaders in the main regions rather than making a visit to a village where any foreigners rarely make his/her presence known! Let us think over this again and again. Please understand that abstaining from visiting the villages would actually help to the local church leaders more so than sending a foreign representative for short durations of time. Nepal has handed out much aid over the years. We do not need charity anymore, we need teachers who could understand the people and their context! We need the knowledge and equipment to locally train Nepali citizens. Effective change will not come from foreigners working on the outside, real change must come from within the heart of Nepal. We need our own people to take a stand. So in conclusion, the foreign mission could still fulfill their agendas by providing teachings to Nepali citizens who can then carry the teachings of God to the villages.
Head vs Heart: It sounds very strange when I put the term ‘head vs heart’. Yes, God’s work cannot be done with wishful ideas alone. A few years ago, one of the mission agencies decided that they would like to serve the needy community in the Karnali region. What makes me sad is that those outside missionaries have no idea how lives run here in the mountain region. Some of them do not even consult fellow missionaries and start making their own judgments. It’s as if the mission is not supporting the emerging Nepali Christians. The Mission is hampering the overall Christian mission instead of helping the church of God at large. I have come across many non-Nepali missionaries who have tasted Nepali hearts, they do not judge people based on their actions, but their hearts goes after Nepali people. I think it would be important for non-Nepali missionaries to look at the heart than the head and power.
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