Beulah Wood left Pokhara, Nepal, 31 years ago after her husband Brian died in the mountains. Last December, Beulah, with her daughter Kaaren and Kaaren’s family, revisited Pokhara. Beulah works with both tranzsend and Interserve in South Asia. Her home church is Balmoral Baptist in Auckland.
Our walk along memory lane held some surprises. Replacing many of the traditional mud and stone houses were handsome homes with glass windows. Tractors carried loads previously pulled by oxen. Computers replaced typewriters at the boarding school where my husband had been the principal.
The church was something of a surprise too. We used to join about 20 adults in a home and Christians, local and expat, kept a low profile. To avoid being seen, some people attended at night only. But last year, when Kaaren and her children and I participated in the Christmas feast, it was held beside a purpose-built church with the 1000 people attending making no attempt hide from the rest of the village.
Normally about 400 people from the village and its surrounds attend the church but, for the celebration, they were joined by members from seven daughter churches they’d planted in villages in surrounding valleys and ridges.
Narayan the troublemaker
In February 1980, village youths started jeering outside our door when we held a Wednesday fellowship or Friday boys’ class, making others afraid to come inside. The troublemakers’ ringleader was Narayan.* He and a group of friends would sit on the grass outside our gate several evenings a week, talking or singing in a derisive tone. Whenever we tried to talk with him he gave dark looks and monosyllabic answers.
One Friday class the troublemakers came in. Narayan, quick-tempered and restless, laughed disparagingly and angrily tore a book in half. He threatened and shouted outside the house. One Wednesday night they stoned the Nepali pastor’s house. The church leaders cancelled all meetings except the daylight Saturday service; we kept our doors locked and were extra careful. Late one evening, Brian was travelling by motorbike on the little-used village road. He had to slow for a log blocking his way when suddenly a rock fell from the sky onto his head! Fortunately it glanced off his crash helmet and he was unhurt. Brian suspected Narayan was behind the ambush.
One afternoon I saw Narayan and his friends marching up to the school. When the guard allowed them inside I feared the worst. Had they threatened him? Was he afraid to stop them? Would there be trouble? I waited.
After two hours Brian came home beaming. In a stroke of genius he’d invited Narayan and the village boys to play soccer against the boarding school boys. With a 2-2 draw, the game got people talking to each other again. Then, two days later Narayan knocked at our door to ask Brian to bandage his thumb which he’d sprained during the game. Trust was restored. Two months later Brian and 20-year-old villager Surya* were able to re-start the Friday night boys’ class.
Seven years after Brian’s death, my daughters and I returned to the village for a visit. We were astonished and delighted to see Narayan among the church members celebrating Christmas. Beside him sat his wife and two children. He’d been baptised and worked as a hospital watchman.
Surya and the boys’ class
It was rare for a Westerner to have a regular opportunity to tell the gospel to Hindu boys. The Friday night boys’ class was attended by 10 to 20.
Surya had become a Christian just before we moved into a house near him; he had a winsome personality but struggled with school work. Life was not easy for Surya. He failed his school exams and there was no work and no money. His drunken father fell down a cliff breaking his leg, got gangrene and had to have his leg amputated. Then Surya developed tuberculosis, a common and often fatal disease. He received treatment but lost some hearing as a side-effect of the drugs.
We struggled with how much we should help Surya financially. We didn’t want to make him a magne manchhe (a person who is always asking for help). Brian helped him a little and encouraged him to read his Bible and pray. In return, Surya used to run round the village gathering friends, aged 9 to 19, to bring to the evening class. Most wore their only shirt and their only shorts. They were unwashed, rather lean and inclined to be cheeky. They were also very ready to respond.
I lost all contact with Surya. Then, one day, during a visit back to Nepal, in a street in busy Pokhara (a city of about 500,000), Surya saw me! He told me he was married and working for a development organisation in Kathmandu. After that we kept in touch and I met up with him last December.
One son has a good job and the other has completed training as a journalist. Surya has started his own small mission organisation, New Hope Ministry. He visits the villages of an isolated and economically weak tribe sharing about Jesus. In his most recent email he included photos from a hired camera of him preaching and baptising new believers.
He wrote, “I feel so blessed and privileged that God used me to preach His gospel among the people of Terai region. ... We shared the word of God and people were very eager to learn about Jesus Christ. ... Some brothers and sisters wanted to be baptised, and the village elders requested me to do that, so I baptised five of them. God is so good.”
God is indeed working in lives in South Asia.
* Names have been changed
• Originally published in Interserve NZ’s “GO” magazine. www.interserve.org.nz. Abridged and reprinted with permission.