I have been serving in Nepal since March 2009 as a missionary with my wife and two sons.
Rapid social and religious changes in Nepal
According to Wikipedia, the population of Nepal was 29,187,037 as of 2017. Five million Nepalese were working abroad as migrant laborers, according to the 2015 Nepalese government statistics. Nepal is the newest democratic republic in the world. For more than 50 years, Nepal has been suffering from political turmoil, which has led to daily deterioration of its economic situation until it has become one of the poorest countries in the world. Due to lack of jobs in Nepal, many young adults are leaving Nepal for jobs in other countries.
Recently, more and more workers are heading to South Korea. In any given year, anywhere between 3,000 and 10,000 workers go to South Korea. In contrast to other countries, Korea provides legal protection and higher wages, so many young Nepalese go to work there. Nepalese workers earn 10 to 20 times more in Korea than in Nepal. In order to work in Korea, they must pass the Korean Proficiency Test. For that reason, many Nepalese youths flock to the capital of Kathmandu to attend Korean language schools.
Nearly 87 % of the entire population of Nepal adhere to Hinduism, 8% to Buddhism, 4% to Islam, and 1% to Christianity, according to the Embassy of Nepal in Korea. On October 16, 2017, the Nepalese government passed a law prohibiting proselytizing. If someone converts to another religion, he or she is subject to imprisonment of no more than five years; while influencing another person’s religion is subject to two years of jail time.
I’ve been thinking and praying about how to do missions effectively in the rapidly changing social and religious climate of Nepal. I decided to start running a Korean language institute for Nepalese young adults who want to work in Korea. I would teach them Korean and present the gospel of life to them. I also reached the conclusion that I needed to support myself financially by running a Korean language institute. Similarly, churches in the mission field could support themselves and become more financially healthy.
I began to wonder whether this was my own idea or whether others were thinking the same way. I also wondered about the direction of the 21st century mission. In order to find the answer, after eight years of work, I used my sabbatical year to enter the Doctor of Ministry program at Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas in August 2016.
As I started studying, I was exposed to the phrase “missional church.” What I learned about was that my methods and the direction of my missions were an excellent choice and not much different from the trend of world missions in the 21st century.
The church in Nepal has been heavily influenced by the Baptist Church since it brought the gospel to Nepal 50 years ago. Most churches in Nepal are following the congregational approach and are operating in the form of house churches. I am now looking for ways to go beyond a self-supporting mission to help Nepal’s house churches to form missional churches that can be run in a healthier and more effective way. To this end, we are seeking cooperative missions through the formation of a multi-faceted network of Korean churches, American churches, and Nepali churches.
I am deeply grateful to Central Seminary, many professors, including President Dr. Molly T. Marshall, who taught engaging classes and provided me with clear answers to the concerns I had about Nepal missions for a long time, and to the staff who do the administrative work diligently.
Intro to the ministries in which my wife and I’ve been involved
Early Ministry (2009 – 2013): Teaching ministry
I worked as an athletics and Korean teacher, while my wife taught art at a school founded by a Korean missionary.
Current Ministries (2013 – Present): Children Evangelism through After-school Classes & Young Adults Evangelism through a Korean Language School
This ministry is a Nepalese children’s Sunday School outreach program. Local churches run after school classes with activities, including a weekly worship service. My wife and I provide annual training to those who would teach these classes, and we also assist local churches with their special programs, such as Easter and Christmas events. This ministry now has two sites that are run on their own centered on local churches, and we are planning on starting another one in the future.
This is the ministry on which my wife and I have been focusing. Approximately 200 young adults aged 18 to 39 are studying Korean at my language institute to go to Korea as migrant workers. My wife and I have been leading a fellowship meeting and a Bible study to share the gospel with them. Now we’ve been worshipping with them after building a place of worship. Recently, we gathered those who had passed the Korean Proficiency Test and had been waiting to go to Korea and began conducting mission training for them. Our hope is that these trainees would serve the role of lay missionaries who would reach out to other migrant workers in Korea with the gospel.
My wife and I have made another plan for these Nepalese young adults. It’s a ministry for those young adults who would return to Nepal after working in Korea for five years. The plan is to train them in Korea and then send them back to Nepal as lay missionaries or pastor missionaries. Networking between Korean churches and Nepali missionaries and starting Nepali churches in Korea both need to take place first. Also, Nepali pastors need to be sent to these churches to minister to the congregants.
Ministries in the Making
Most Nepalese churches rely heavily on foreign entities or foreign missionaries. They continually ask for external help by starting NGOs within churches or creating various projects, instead of running churches on their own. Some Nepalese churches seek ways to support themselves, but it doesn’t seem easy. The Nepalese churches are in need of diverse ways of training and technical help that would ensure self-support. I am planning an agricultural ministry centered on raising chickens to help the Nepalese churches to support themselves.
More than 750,000 houses were damaged in the wake of the earthquake on April 25, 2015. More than 3 years have passed since then, but many people are still living in tents and make-shift houses that were built by relief organizations. These Nepalese are in dire need of homes where the whole family can live comfortably. I plan to help develop the community and plant churches by building mud-brick houses centered on the area which experienced most damage from the earthquake.