Saturday, January 30, 2016

Getting Ready For The Big Day

The Wedding Banner Ready To Be Hung Tomorrow Morning

The Groom, Bride, and Father of the Bride
The Groom and his brother/best friend
The Bride, Groom, and some Pastor from the U.S.

Friday, January 29, 2016

God’s Grace Shines Upon Siddhi and the Shaktikor District

I want to tell you about a far flung region of Nepal where very few Nepalese will ever visit, let alone visitors from the west. The village of Siddhi is located in the Shaktikor district of Nepal which is to the North and West of the capital city of Kathmandu. To reach the town of Shaktikor from Kathmandu the locals will ride a series of buses for about 7 hours. This trip will take you up and over several of the foothills of the Himalayan mountain range as the road winds along the picturesque and sometimes wild Trisuli River that cuts a deep path through the very steep hills of the remote district. 

Siddhi is located near the red X west of Kathamandu
Once you have arrived in Shaktikor you are not even close to the village of Siddhi. If you are fortunate enough to have the financial means to rent or hitch a ride in a rugged and high clearance four wheel drive vehicle, then you will be able to cut about three hours off of your journey and you will only need to hike the final one hour of your trip. But that final hour will be a brutal hike straight up the steepest “hill” you will ever see. The hike will take you up switch-back trails that hug the side of the hill and on rugged steps made of rocks and boulders of various sizes. If you can’t find or afford a 4x4 ride then your trip will take more than four hours; three hours of walking up the gradual incline of rocky roads and trails that don’t seem possible to drive, and then the final one hour hike straight up. 

Once you arrive in Siddhi you will find rock-wall homes and out-buildings scattered among the hillsides that have been terraced for farming. The other thing you will find in this village that is very unique to the 1000s of villages throughout Nepal is a church building in the most prominent part of the village. How this church building came about is a story of God’s grace and love.

Road to the bottom of the "hill" where you begin the one hour trek to Siddhi
This is the second time I have made the long journey to visit the Chepang tribal people of Siddhi, but this is the first time I have heard the story of how the Himalayan Church of the Lutheran Confession of Nepal came to be involved in this region of Nepal and how the Lord has blessed this effort. Not long before the CLC and HCLCN started to work together in 2007. Pastor JB (Raju’s father) had learned of opportunities to spread the Gospel among these tribal villages and had made several trips. What he initially found among these marginalized tribes was a mixture of Hinduism, Buddhism, ancestral worship, and tribal superstitions mixed with a rather wild and Pentecostal form of Jesus worship. Apparently the Gospel had come to this very remote region at some point in the past but thorough training in the Word did not follow and the people were left to without a firm and solid foundation in the truths of Scripture. There was also very little formal education taking place among the people so there was an inability to study the Scriptures on their own since most could not read. Pastor JB saw and very real opportunity to proclaim the truth. There were a few young and middle-aged men in the villages who had managed to go attend school in the distant and larger town of Shaktikor who JB identified as possible future leaders and perhaps pastors for the congregations that were beginning to form under his tutelage. But he also knew that there was much work to be done if these young men were to one day serve as pastors. It was situations like this and others that led Pastor JB and his son Raju to get on the internet to find help in training men to be faithful preachers and teachers of the Word of God. Pastor Raju did a search for Lutheran Pastoral Training and “stumbled” upon an internet blog that mentioned Lutheran pastoral training seminars that had been conducted in India. His first email to the CLC was a simple request; “will you please come to Nepal to offer a pastoral training seminar?” The rest is an amazing demonstration of God’s grace, mercy, and blessings.

30 minutes into the trek to Siddi that began at the buildings in the distance
Just ten to twelve years ago the village of Siddhi served as a central location for the Chepang people in the surrounding hill villages to gather. This area, about the size of a football field, had leveled many years ago and had served for centuries as a place to gather for the many Hindu and Buddhist festivals that take place every year. From what I was told, it was not uncommon in the past for 1000’s of people to gather for these idolatrous festivals. What is truly amazing is that this flat spot among the hills of this region is now the place where a HCLCN church now stands. 

HCLCN church building sits where Hindu festivals were once held
No longer is this area used in the worship of false gods. Instead, children of God are worshiping in spirit and in truth. No longer are people gathering there with the false hope of garnering the favor of an idol. Instead, sinners are receiving the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit through the water and Word of Holy Baptism. No longer are tribal people offering prayers to Jesus alongside the long list of Hindu gods who they hope will bring them earthly blessing and a better reincarnated life. Instead, they are gathering regularly to confess their sins and rejoicing together in the full and free forgiveness of their sins through the perfect life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ!

The pastor of the Siddhi congregation is Pastor Bhimlal Chepang. This man has faithfully made the long trip by foot and bus to attend pastoral training most every month for the past eight years. He has demonstrated a solid understanding of the truths of God’s Word and has successfully completed a study of Luther’s Small Catechism among other doctrinal studies.
Pastor Bhimlal Chepang is sitting on the far left
Pastor Bhimlal graduated from his formal training and was commissioned and ordained as one of the first pastors of the Himalayan Church of the Lutheran Confession of Nepal on January 28, 2016. While he continues to patiently work with and instruct the people of Siddhi, his work has recently increased as pastors and elders from other independent Christian congregations have been inquiring about training for themselves and those they are serving. These men have not had the opportunity, nor do they have financial means to attend a Bible school or seminary. Through their contact with the HCLCN they now recognize the importance of having the firm foundation of God’s word upon which to build a congregation. Most of the congregations that these men are leading are involved in the mix of Hinduism, Buddhism, ancestral and tribal religion, along with a Pentecostal mix of Jesus worship. So there is much work still to be done here.

Praise be to God who has opened this door of opportunity to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and all that He has revealed to us in His Word.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

First Class

The first class of students at the Himalayan Bible Institute of the HCLCN.

The Lord will bless their study as they prepare to serve the sheep of His HCLCN flock

The Graduates

The five graduates who were commissioned and ordained today

Welcome Students

The ordination/commissioning service is complete and now Pastor Rob Sauers (Rajan Bhitrakoti translating) welcomes and encourages the new and first class of students of the Himalayan Bible Institute of the Himalayan Church of the Lutheran Confession of Nepal with the Word of God from Mark 1:16-20.

I can't find the words enough to describe the joy that is in my heart at this moment! Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Tomorrow we dedicate and officially open the Himalayan Bible Institute of the Himalayan Church of the Lutheran Confession of Nepal. To God Alone the Glory!


The banners decorating the walls and honoring our Savior at Eternal Life Church (the main church of the Himalayan Church of the Lutheran Confession in Kathmamdu) were made and donated by the CLC Women's Conference that was held in Nebraska last fall.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

HCLC-NEPAL Pastoral Conference

Eighteen pastors, evangelists, and church elders of the Himalayan Church of the Lutheran Confession of Nepal  have gathered at Eternal Life Lutheran Church in Kathmandu for a one day Pastoral Conference (Missionary Peter Evensen teaching on Isaiah with Pastor Raju translating) before the commissioning/ordination service of five pastors tomorrow. 

Praise God from whom all blessings flow as He continues to bless the proclamation of His saving Word among the nations!

Catching Up in Kathmandu

I'm back in Kathmandu and seem to have pretty good internet access on my laptop. We'll see if there is enough bandwidth to upload some pictures.

I'll be in Kathmandu for the next several days for the HCLC-Nepal Pastoral Conference on Wednesday and the Graduation/Ordination service for the HCLCN pastors who have successfully completed their training on Thursday. Friday will be spent making preparations for Raju's wedding and worship service on Saturday. And then on Sunday (1/31) will be the big day for Raju and Sanju as they begin their new life as one together in service to the Lord!

Yesterday (Monday) Pastor Rob and Kate Sauers, Missionary Peter Evensen, and David Lueck arrived. Rob and Peter were in seminary together with Raju at ILC and David is a friend from the congregation in Mankato, MN where Raju did his seminary vicarage a couple of years ago. Today is a down day while Raju makes some final preparations for the HCLCN Pastoral Conference and Graduation/Ordination ceremony.

We drove around Kathmandu this morning and took a walking tour of Bhaktapur. This is the most ancient part of the Kathmandu Valley and some of the buildings date back to the 12th century AD from the time when the Gurkha King united the three kingdoms of the valley into one kingdom. Since this is the oldest part of Kathmandu many of the buildings are very old and thus suffered the most extensive damage in the earthquake. I was told that a good percentage of the 9000+ deaths occurred in this part of the Kathmandu valley. I've visited these ancient buildings several times before and it was hard to see so much destruction. Since this is a UNESCO world heritage site there will resources for these historic buildings to be rebuilt with much care being taken to do so with construction and artistic techniques that are authentic to the time period of each building. Much of the materials, such as timbers and bricks, are being salvaged so they can be re-used in the rebuilding process. I was a bit surprised at how saddened I was to see the destruction of this treasured place.
Building at Bhaktapur...picture to the right is what the building looked like before the earthquake

Bricks from the 12th-16th century that have been salvaged for reconstruction

Over the past week, Rajan and I have walked together through several earthquake devastated streets and villages where local residents have simply returned to life. Out in the rural areas where most of the HCLCN congregations are located, walked through the hillside villages where were often stopped by fellow believers who have come to know and grown to love Rajan, his family, and their pastors very much. At every home we visited we were offered a cup of tea and some sort of snack as we walked around and looked at homes that are half destroyed and have been repurposed into barns and grain storage while the families were living in shelters that have been constructed by tarps and corrugated metal sheeting that have been supplied through donations to the Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund. While much better than living in a tent or out in the elements, I heard stories of the difficulties that the people are facing in these cold winter months where temperatures regularly drop into the low 30's at night. They are not able to have a fire in the shelters because of the lack of ventilation and flammable nature of the timbers, tarps, and blankets that have been used to construct the shelters. And yet, as Rajan and I commented several times as we observed and visited with the folks, simply goes on. I heard no complaining or begging from anyone. The people who live here are incredible. Life goes has to...there is really no other choice. And so we saw so many people just going about the work of survival and rebuilding their lives one rock on top of another as they rebuild a wall of a home. Or one strike of the hand-held plow/hoe into the winter-hardened ground as they ready the soil for the spring plantings. It is amazing to see such resilience. And even more so, it was amazing to see the joy in the eyes and smiles of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ as we so many set aside their work for a few hours, or even the whole day to worship together and be encouraged by God's word. I was told that some of the folks that came to the special Bible seminar in the Dhading district walked 4 hours to be there. In the midst of such loss and suffering and uncertainty, the Lord has given these believers a confidence and a hope that is awe inspiring. God is Good!
The home in Maidi where other Mission Helpers and I slept in 2014

A three story rock-wall home in Dhading district that has been rebuilt into a one story barn for the animals
The temporary shelter where the local HCLCN pastor is now living
It looks like we have some errands to run so I'll sign off for now. Hopefully I'll have some time over the next few days to describe the events of the past week spent among some of the pastors and members of the HCLC-Nepal in the hills, villages, and towns west of Kathmandu.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

An Earthquake, Worship, and Rest

I'm in Chitwan for the the night before we head to Shaktikor tomorrow to hike to another village congregation that was affected by the earthquake.

I'm typing with one thumb on my cell phone again so this will be short. Please forgive the typos.

Saturday is the day off in Nepal so it is also the day of worship and rest. We worshiped in Hetauda with Pastor Milan and those he serves.

I'll try to fill in some details and post some pictures when I get back to Kathmandu in a couple of days.

I almost forgot to mention...I was awakened by a 4.6 tremble two nights ago in the Dhading district. All is well and everyone is safe and unharmed. I even managed to get back to sleep after enough time passed and we were assured that there were no more coming.

I'm healthy and doing fine. Your prayers are much appreciated.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Just Checking In

After a long couple of days of travel and visiting earthquake victim homes and one congregtion, we're in a motel with limited wifi so I thought I'd check in to let everyone know that all is well.

When I get back to Kathmandu in a few days I'll fill you in on the details and hopefully I'll be able to post some pictures too.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Arrived, Rested, and Ready In Kathmandu

The wifi doesn't seem to be working with my laptop but it does with my phone.  I'm terrible at typing on my phone but I wanted to let everyone know that I made it safely to Kathmandu.

I was greeted by Raju and Rajan at the airport and the by the children and Raju's parents and then treated to a home cooked  Nepali meal!

I slept like a rock last night after being up for nearly 48 hours.

Today (it's Thursday morning here) Rajan and I head to the hills to assess earthquake relief efforts and to encourage our brothers and sisters in  Christ with His Word. So I'll most likely be without internet access most of the time until Monday when we return to Kathmandu.

Due to the suuply blockades on tbe Indian  border there is a fuel shortage and virtually no electricity except what they can generate with individual solar panels on their homes. Which allows those fortunate enough to have one enough power dor a couple of light bulbs in the evening and a cell phone charge. My room at the hostel has a light bulb and one outlet for cell charging only. Many have gas generators but no fuel available. Each adult gets a fuel ration receipt that allows them to purchase one gallon of fuel every 45 days and the wait In line for three days to get it. The black market fuel business is alive and well again in Nepal. The going rate is around $12/gallon.

While Rajan and I are out in the hills Raju will stay in Kathmandu to make preparations for the pastoral conference, pastors ordination, and the wedding.

It's going to be a busy and exciting couple of weeks. What a privilege to be here!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Istanbul Layover

One really long layover and one more flight to go.

Time to find a quiet corner where I can take a nap. But first I think I will wander around and get my fill of the the free Turkish Delight samples that are being peddled everywhere.

Thank You Lord for a safe and uneventful trip so far.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Leaving on Monday - 1/18

On Monday afternoon I'll be leaving for Nepal. While I've been to Nepal several times on visitations and CLC Mission Helper Trips in 2011 and 2014, this trip is going to be special for several reasons as I will be privileged to see first hand what the Lord has been accomplishing since He brought the Bhitrakoti family and the CLC together back in 2007

The three weeks I will spend in Nepal will take me to many familiar faces and places as I visit and work with pastors of the HCLCN. These pastors and those they have been called to serve have benefited from the truth of God's saving word as they have grown in their faith and understanding of God's word as Raju, along with his father JB and brother Rajan have been faithfully training these men to be faithful preachers of the Word of God! This is part of the reason for this CLC visit to Nepal; to be on hand for the graduation and ordination of many of these men as Lutheran Pastors of the HCLCN. These men have faithfully attended training seminars for the past seven years! The Lord has certainly blessed this effort to prepare shepherds for this portion of His Nepali flock!

Raju and Immanuel Lutheran Seminary Classmates-May 2015
As many of you may know, Pastor Raju spent three years in the U.S. attending Immanuel Lutheran Seminary

His graduation was moved up a few weeks in the Spring of 2015 so he could return to Nepal to offer assistance and leadership to the earthquake relief efforts that have continued to this day. Ever since the news hit the airwaves and internet on April 25th, I have wanted to be in Nepal with our brothers and sisters. I knew that my presence would have slowed the relief efforts rather than being of assistance so the CLC Board of Missions made the decision to hold off on a visitation. Over the past nine months I have received weekly updates on the relief efforts which we have had the privilege of offering our financial assistance. While I am in Nepal I am looking forward to making the long treks necessary to visit the villages that
received the most damage. Three village congregations that we are in fellowship with were within 10 kms of the epicenter and were virtually destroyed. Over the past several months, after much frustration with the rains of the monsoon season and a shortage of needed building materials, much progress has been made and several church buildings, homes, and farm buildings have been rebuilt or repaired. I am very much looking forward to visiting these villages to rejoice in God's provision and care with our brothers and sisters Christ as we dedicate these new church buildings to the Lord and His kingdom!

As outlined in a recent CLC Bd of Missions video, our number one priority in the foreign fields where we are privileged to work, is to train men to be faithful preachers and teachers of the Word of God. This was also the goal of facilitating Raju's three years at our seminary. Now that Raju has received this thorough training in the Word, he is now ready to begin training other men for the ministry back in Nepal. While in Nepal, I will have the privilege of being on hand for the dedication and inauguration of new Himalayan Bible Institute where, we pray, the Lord will bless this effort to train many men to carry the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the throngs of people who are lost for eternity in worship of idols. It is going to be a wonderful day to see this next step forward in Nepal.

And finally, it is going be a great privilege and honor for me to officiate the wedding of my dear friends and brother and sister in Christ, Raju and Sanju on January 31st. They are excited and thankful for your prayers. It's also going to be fun to have Rob and Kate Sauers and Peter Evensen on hand for the wedding as well. Rob (Raju's seminary classmate) will be preaching for the wedding. And Missionary Peter Evensen (of India) will be teaching at the pastoral training seminar the day before the graduation/ordination ceremony. I'm looking forward to spending time and working together with these brothers in Christ and fellow servants of the Lord.

With God's blessings, all of this will be accomplished during the fifteen days that I will actually be in Nepal. Your prayers for:
  • Beth and the kids along with the congregation I am privileged to serve
  • safe and uneventful travel
  • good health and stamina
  • faithfulness to the Word
  • wisdom, love, and compassion
  • guidance in planning and schedules
  • good weather
  • blessings upon the marriage of Raju and Sanju
  • blessings upon the newly ordained pastors of the HCLCN and those they are called to serve and reach out to with the Gospel
  • blessing upon the new Himalayan Bible Institute 
  • for those who have not heard the Gospel in Nepal; that they be led to repent and believe in all that our Savior has done for sinners like us! 
I hope to keep this blog updated fairly consistently throughout the trip, but often times we are in places where the internet just isn't available. Please check back often or subscribe by email at the top left side of this page. 

Thank you for your prayers!