Part I — Nepal: People & Places
Nestled in the Himalayan Mountains between Tibet, China; and India sits the nation of Nepal. This is a land full of nearly anything you can imagine. From Hindu pagodas and Mount Everest to villages filled with evidence of the 2,500-year-old Nepal culture and history;2 you can find people from around the world, history like nowhere else, and the majestic mountain vistas offered only by the Himalayas.
Nepal has a lengthy history tied to Tibet, China, India, and some influence from the British colonial days.3 According to a Library of Congress article, Nepal has existed as a kingdom in the Kathmandu Valley for some 1,500 years.3
In 1743 modern Nepal rose from the slopes and valleys of the Himalayas valleys under the House of Gorkha led by King Prithvi Narayan Shah.4 King Prithvi desired to unify the many separate kingdoms throughout what is now Nepal. By force he conquered many principalities until he held strategic positions around the Kathmandu Valley. When Kathmandu was captured in 1769, it became the capital of the future Nepal. King Prithvi continued to extend his kingdom until his death in 1775. (Compare to US history, this was one year before independence was declared from Great Britian.) The influence of King Prithvi had brought many ethnically and religiously diverse people together under one national ruler and established guidelines for the nation’s foreign policy for centuries to follow. 4
In the early 19th century, the House of Gorkha came into conflict with the British East India Company and sparked the AngloNepalese War (1814 -16) which proved disastrous for Nepal and reduced the kingdom to its present size.3 Soon after, a period of Nepal’s own politics followed under what is called the Rana Rule. This was the rule of hereditary dictators which began in 1846 and lasted more than a century.3 These dictators used their positions as heads of state and the support of the military to build stability for the country. This provided Nepal with a time for growth but the oppressive dictators greatly inhibited political and economic development by secluding the country from other nations and strictly limiting internal affairs.
In 1951, the Ranas were compelled to allow the restoration of a monarchy. A pseudo-democratic rule, called panchayat, was developed in 1962 but failed to be anything more than the hand of the king reaching deeper into the people’s lives.3 Panchayat lasted for 28 years and ended when King Birendra approved a new more democratic constitution based on the people not on the king in November of 1990.3
The transition from traditional one-ruler governments to a democracy was difficult for Nepal. Pro-democracy changes are still being put into place in this nation bounded by strong traditions and economics challenged by geographic location.3
In the midst of political changes, Maoist extremists attacked in various rural areas. Since February, 1996, about 75 people have died due to the Maoist uprisings. In reaction several U.S. Peace Corps volunteers have been evacuated from certain districts.5
Even with the new democracy in effect “public demonstrations and strikes are popular forms of political expressions.”5 These strikes, called bandhs, are not directed toward foreigners but can be the cause of difficulties for travelers. Travelers should also be aware of the dangers of crime. Petty crime is common and violence is rare but precautions can be taken. Women should avoid inappropriate dress as a preventative against harassment especially in remote villages.5
Avoiding Crime in Nepal(5)
- Travel in groups.
- Do not carry large sums of cash.
- Change money at proper exchanges.
- Beware of pickpockets.
- Carry passports and cash protected pouch.
- Report loss or theft of passport to police and embassy immediately
Nepal’s current judicial system is a mixture of Hindu legality and the English common law system which was adopted from their Indian neighbors who were under British colonization. Both of the Hindu and English influences are evidence of the affect India has had on this neighbor. The peace between India and Nepal is governed by the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship.
In 1990 there were an estimated 19.1 million people in Nepal.3 The majority of these are from three major ethnic groups: Indo-Nepalese, Tibeto-Nepalese, and the Nepalese. Each ethnic group is defined by their particular language, and dress.
Nepali is the official language of Nepal and is spoken by nearly 60 percent of the population.6 Beyond the official language, there are twelve or more languages and even more dialects which are normally spoken only within their respective ethnic groups.
Their ethnic identity determines much of their social interactions — from marriage and occupation to friendships and religious practices.3 Women are placed in secondary roles in society but each caste varies in their treatment of women. Prejudice against women in education is waning but social class and geographic location continues to promote bias.
Literacy rates in 1990 were 33 percent although males had higher percentages than female and urban centers were also higher. Even with five years of compulsory primary education for free, only 52 percent of school-age children (70 percent male, 30 percent female) attended in 1984.6 Enrollment continues to rise as the nation better establishes its political and educational programs.
Other than education there are few social service programs for the people of Nepal. There are few modern medical care facilities, and clean drinking water is scarce.3 In 1991 infant mortality was rated at 98 per 1,000.6 Inadequate sanitation and poor nutritional knowledge have resulted in prevalent gastrointestinal diseases, intestinal parasites, diarrhea, leprosy and tuberculosis. In 1990 there were only 951 physicians in the nation. That is approximately one doctor per 19,000 persons.6
The people of Nepal are very religious. Hindu is Nepal’s official religion but most actually practice a combination of Hindu and Buddhist beliefs. About 90 percent of the population are Hindu, five percent Buddhist, and three percent Muslim and the rest are minor percentages for Christians and shamans.7 Since reincarnation is so predominate the Nepali people apply the theory that if they don’t get it right this time then maybe in the next life.
I found information about the basic Hindu beliefs on an internet web site which identified three classifications of the Hindi scriptures. The first is Shruti which means “heard”. This refers to something heard by a sacred seer or priest and determined to be directly from one of the gods. It goes unquestioned by the Hindu. The second is Smriti meaning “remembered”. That is: written down and recalled. Between shruti and smriti the latter is considered of more authority than the former. The third classification of scripture is called nyaya which means “logic”. Both shruti and nyaya always agree with smriti since it is supposed to have come directly from a god through the spiritual experience of a seer.8
Hinduism is said to be the oldest religion and has 700 million followers most of which are centered in India and Nepal. This religion has been established for thousands of years and is well rooted in the daily lives and activities of Indians and Nepalese alike. Hinduism is a daily belief which is acted out in what is called “Dharma” — “code of life”.8
Nepal is a small nation of only 91,399 square miles9 (compare to the United States’ three million square miles10). The rugged hills in the south slope are part of the beautiful landscape which yields to the rugged Himalayas and even to the peak of Mount Everest at 8,796 meters high. The nation is separated into three regions: the Lowland Tarai Region in the south; Hill Region with low central mountains; the Mountain Region in the north, made up of high Himalayas.9 Nepal has plains in the south, valleys of very fertile land in the midlands and deserts in the high altitudes in the north.7 Nine of the world’s tallest mountains are in Nepal.3
A variety of climates are found in Nepal. They range from subtropical and humid in the south to cool summers and severe winters in the Himalayan north.9 The seasons are divided according to the monsoon which governs the yearly cycles all across Nepal. The dry season extends from October to May and the wet season is from June to September. Often during the rainy season, the southern plains are flooded by the monsoon rains.7
Nepal has been declared a “least-developed” country.3 Ninety percent of the population works in agriculture. In the late 1980s 75 percent of Nepal’s exports were agricultural products. Major food crops: rice, wheat, millet, and corn. Major cash crops: potatoes, oilseed, sugar cane, jute, and tobacco.6
A small industrial base was begun in the 1930s, yet Nepal still struggles to improve in this field. Both the United States and communist nations have supplied aid to help with development since the 1980s.3
Since India is such a geographically strategic position, the Indian government has been able to show control over much of Nepal’s trade routes. During trade feuds this control can prove disastrous for Nepal commerce.3
Part II: Ministry
As part of the proposed internship through the Oral Roberts University Missions Department, I will be ministering through a variety of means in an effort to reach the people of Nepal with the love of Christ.
They have long lived under the power of Hinduism and the rituals this religion requires. Taking into account that Hinduism is a very inclusive religion, I will be cautious of adding another version of religion to their polytheistic beliefs. An important aspect to emphasize is the oneness of God in a way that they understand. They need to know the love of the one God who sent His Son to die for their sins.
With the caste system being so dominate, I would suggest ministering through a simple life of love. By showing the unconditionality of Jesus’ love, doors can be opened to speak into the Nepalese lives about who gave me love. Mother Teresa of India is a prime example of one who has shown the love of Christ and been able to minister within a similar culture and tell about Christ her Lord.
Our contact in Nepal has set up opportunities for Team Nepal to fulfill the needs of locals through medical assistance, teaching at a three to five day youth conference, and by playing Bible tapes on hand powered tape recorders. Also, we will minister through one-on-one fellowship and by openly sharing the love of Christ on the streets of Kathmandu.
Some of the topics for the youth conference are: Godly Self-Esteem, Knowing God’s Will, Friendship Evangelism — Out of the Salt Shaker Into the World, and Values, Faith and Dreams.
I anticipate that I will be ministering through a daily witness both when I am actively ministering and when I am performing my daily routines.
We will be ministering both to the physical and spiritual needs of those we work among. Medical assistance will show the practical help that many who are sick and wounded. This is the practical means for showing Christ’s love to people who have grown up in a society characterized by castes. The youth conference will target those who are both Christians and those wanting to know Christ. The conference will be a time of discipleship within the established churches so that when Team Nepal leaves the work will continue by the indigenous peoples.
When ministering in Nepal it is necessary that results take time. Roy Dare, a former missionary to Nepal, said the Nepali people are open to discussion of religious topics but one of the best ways to minister is to “fire up the local believers” and encourage them to minister to their fellow Nepalese. Dare also said that “medical ministry will touch lives. Once, I ministered with Vaseline! It was medicine to them.”11 He said the people of Nepal are open to medical ministry because they understand the team wants to give and to help them. Then it is the team’s duty to turn their eyes to Christ. When Dare was in Nepal he attempted to use his personal experiences with his family and children and farming to relate to those he spoke with. By finding things in his life which related to them, he found a way to break through the barrier of culture and build a point of contact with them.
Since literacy was at 25 percent in the 1980s, books will draw attention in the countryside of Nepal like a public movie draws attention in the U.S. Public readings are very popular. I feel that the tape players will allow us to “read” the Bible to them even though we can’t speak their language.
This will be a challenging place of ministry, especially since we will be working with people who have a totally different mind set and perspective on the world. Yet as ministers we will have to do our best and pray for the rest. We will see through their eyes so we can understand how best to exemplify the love of Christ and His salvation for the people of Nepal.
1. Map of the World. American Map Corporation, 1993.
2. Compton’s. “Nepal,” “Kathmandu, Nepal,” and “Hindu.” Compton’s New
Century Encyclopedia and Reference Collection II. Version 4.0.
CD-ROM. 1992-1995 Compton’s Learning Company.
3. Federal Research Division, Library of Congress. “Nepal.” Nepal
Ed. Savada, Andrea Matles.
4. Department of Tourism, Nepal. “History.”
5. U.S. State Department. “Nepal – Consular Information Sheet.” May 14, 1997
6. Federal Research Division, Library of Congress. “Society.” Nepal
Ed. Savada, Andrea Matles.
7. Lonely Planet Publications. “Destination Nepal.” Oakland, CA . 1998
8. “Hinduism” Introduction to Hinduism. April 1998.
9. Federal Research Division, Library of Congress. “Geography.” Nepal
Ed. Savada, Andrea Matles.
10. Franklin Quest Co. Ready Reference “U.S. Geography.” U.S.A. 1992.
11. Personal Interview. Roy Dare, former missionary to Nepal. April 30, 1998.