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The triumph of grace in the life of Baptists of Nepal

By Denton Lotz

It was an honor and joy on April 11 to celebrate in Kathmandu with hundreds of pastors and leaders the Silver (25th) Anniversary of the Baptist movement of Nepal. As former BWA General Secretary it was a joy to see how a convention helped in its start by the BWA is now growing. General Secretary Vijay Thapa and his excellent team are to be congratulated on a job well done.

Hari Gurung, founding General Secretary of Nepal Baptist Church Council (convention), and other Baptists from Nepal had been in Calcutta in January 1993 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of William Carey’s arrival in India. It was in Calcutta that individual Nepali Baptist pastors had come and were impressed with the large celebration of Baptists in India. There the Nepal Baptists met with BWA leaders.  

Soon after I returned to BWA headquarters in the United States, I received an email from Pastor Gurung. He asked, “How do we become a Baptist convention?” I wrote back that I would immediately fly to Nepal and consult with them on how to become a convention and member of the Baptist World Alliance.

With Edwin Lopez and Bonny Resu of the Asian Baptist Federation, we flew to Kathmandu and then on to Pokhara. In Pokhara, we met with Pastor Gurung and Daniel Subbha, as well as other local Baptist church pastors. With 15 Nepali Baptist pastors and leaders we met in the home of a former Indian Army captain. We met around candles since there was no electricity. They informed us of their desire to become members of BWA and to become a Baptist denomination.

For hundreds of years Christianity had been forbidden in the Hindu kingdom of Nepal. Individual Christians were persecuted and forced to flee the country. In 1951, the new king appealed for help in development. Eight Christian denominations, including Baptists, formed the United Mission to Nepal (UMN), which was allowed only to provide social work, medical services, education, etc. They were strictly forbidden to proselytize or evangelize. Gradually more freedom was granted. The Christian population grew from 100 in 1966 to 400,000 in 1999.  However, the UMN, because of a contract with the government, was opposed to denominations forming churches. Nevertheless, denominations began to form and found churches. The Assemblies of God and Pentecostals grew quickly and refused to obey the UMN, which wanted a united church and no denominations. Even some Baptist mission agencies opposed the forming of a Baptist convention.

The social misery of the people was so bad that many young people thought communism would bring relief and prosperity. The government persecuted these young communists, many of whom escaped to Nagaland. In Nagaland, they met Baptists who gave the young people Bibles and introduced them to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Today, many of the present-day Baptist leaders are former communists led to the Lord by the Naga Baptists of India. They then returned to their country of Nepal and began to tell the story of Jesus. One of these young men was Daniel Subbha of Ithari, Nepal. Now he leads a church of more than 1,000. Hari Gurung, who became the founding General Secretary of the Baptists, was teaching in India and came under the power of the gospel there.

These young Christians insisted they wanted to become Baptist believers. Thus, on April 11, 1993, Baptist leaders came together and, with only eight churches and 250 baptized believers, formed the Nepal Baptist Church Council (NBCC). What a joy to see God’s leading among young Baptists, who are eager to share the good news of Christ. The Nepal Baptists now have 219 churches and 248 fellowships, for a total of 467 meeting places! They have 20,000 baptized believers. But there are probably another 10,000, if you include children, families, friends, and visitors.

The recent celebrations were held in a rented hall that could hold only 500. Nevertheless, 700 came, many of whom had to stand outside in the courtyard and listen through the windows.

Although the new constitution declares Nepal to be a secular state, the fact is it is still very much a Hindu country supported by the state. Christian evangelism is prohibited, and many people fear another era of persecution could come.

Nevertheless, after visiting with our brother and sisters, hearing their enthusiastic singing, their dynamic preaching, and seeing their social programs, one comes away rejoicing at the triumph of grace in the life of Nepal Baptists. One is impressed with the youthful leadership. Their seminary now has 48 students and has graduated hundreds from a basic Bible course to diplomas and Master of Divinity programs.

NBCC has 192 ordained pastors and 300 leaders involved in running the churches and fellowships. After the main celebration, 250 pastors and lay leaders remained the next day for seminars on Christian leadership. I was impressed with the indigenous leadership. Nepal Baptists are not a Western missionary-led union; they are led completely by local pastors and indigenous leaders. They are enthusiastic about the power of the gospel and the joy Christ brings to their lives.

Walking along the holy river seeing where bodies are burned, a young pastor told of how his father, a former priest, had the joy now of knowing Christ and a changed life.

Itinerant evangelists, mainly retired pastors, roam Nepal telling the good news. There is no retirement for pastors. After retirement, they are sent to unevangelized areas of the country.

Pray for our brothers and sisters in Nepal as they stand firm in their faith in Christ and rejoice in how God has led them these past 25 years.

Pray that the next 25 years will be even more glorious and that our new BWA General Secretary, Elijah Brown, who sent video greetings, will help Nepal Baptists celebrate their 50th anniversary.

Pray that Baptists of the world, through the BWA, will continue to defend religious freedom and support the social development programs of our Nepali brothers and sisters in Christ.

Denton Lotz is General Secretary Emeritus of the Baptist World Alliance.

Elijah Brown bio

Elijah Brown, originally from the state of Texas in the United States, assumed the position of general secretary on January 1, 2018.

The general secretary is the CEO of the BWA and has overall responsibilities for the administration and operations of the organization, and is its chief representative to global organizations and institutions, ecclesial and secular, and to governments.

Brown had more than a decade long involvement in the international umbrella organization for Baptists before joining its staff, starting in 2005. In 2007 he was named one of 35 global emerging leaders by the BWA. He is past BWA regional secretary for North America and general secretary for the North American Baptist Fellowship.

He formerly served as a member of the BWA General Council; the Constitution and Bylaws Committee; the Nominations Committee; the Congress Committee; and the Mission, Evangelism and Justice Advisory Committee. He is vice chair of the BWA Commission on Religious Liberty and is a member of the Commission on Theological Education.

Brown was executive vice president of the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, a Christian human rights organization based in Virginia, in the United States, and was previously associate professor of Religion at East Texas Baptist University where he was founding director of the Freedom Center.

The son of a pastor, Brown was ordained to the Christian ministry in July 2002 and was associate pastor at Taylor’s Valley Baptist Church in Temple, Texas.

Brown earned a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Texas with a double major in religion and history, and a Ph.D. in Divinity with a focus on World Christianity from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

Brown’s specialties lie in human rights and religious liberty. His dissertation focused on issues related to world Christianity, including mission and church growth, peacebuilding and conflict resolution and the interaction of religion and politics. He helped to launch the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative and became its executive vice president.

He conducted research on, led training events in and did human rights advocacy work in several countries. He submitted reports to the United Nations and the US Department of State, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom and several foundations and groups.

Brown is married to Amy and is father to Hudson, Sahara and Keziah.

Baptist World Alliance®
©January 5, 2018

Weihnachtsbotschaft 2017

Ein lebensverändernder Durchbruch

Wasserfälle! Es gibt sie in unterschiedlichen Formen und Größen und sie sind oftmals einfach nur wunderschön.

Nur wenige übertreffen die Pracht der Wasserfälle in Foz do Iguaçu in Parana in Brasilien. Allein das Ausmaß der Wassermassen! Millionen von Litern ergießen sich hier über die Klippen stark und fest wie Granit. Herabstürzendes Wasser, Kilometer um Kilometer, jahrein, jahraus! In ehrfürchtigem Staunen angesichts ihrer erschütternden Schönheit und der großartigen Vielfalt dieses Schauspiels mag man sich an verschiedene Ereignisse der Heilsgeschichte erinnern.

Manches Mal erwecken Wasserfälle Erinnerungen an die Morgendämmerung der Schöpfung, als Gott die Wasser des Chaos schied und die Erde bildete. Gott erschuf den Lebensraum für die aufblühende Natur und für Lebewesen, dass sie wachsen und gedeihen können und jedes füreinander sorgen kann innerhalb eines wohlgeordneten Gartens des Lebens.

Andere Male inspirieren uns Wasserfälle dazu, uns an Lebenswege durch bedrohliche Fluten zu erinnern, als wir unserer eigenen Verletzlichkeit gewahr wurden; doch zugleich öffnen sie uns dann unsere Augen für Gottes souveräne Gnade gegenüber den Menschen, die Gott erwählt. Das Volk Israel durchquerte die Fluten des Chaos ohne Schaden. Sie erlebten die heilige Reise, auf die sich die Menschen Gottes durch die Geschichte hindurch begeben, unter dem Schutz des Einen, der uns bewahren kann vor Bedrohung und Gefahr.

Am Ende des Weges, von Menschen markiert für etwa zwei Kilometer, ergießen sich dann die Wassermassen in besonderer Weise am Rande eines Berges, der diese Schönheit Tag und Nacht verhüllt, nahezu ohne Unterbrechung. Sie springen einfach nur wild über das herein, was wie Felsen aus Feuerstein zu sein scheint und stürzen dann erbarmungslos zu Boden. Die Wasser ergießen sich erneut mit Getöse, jeden niederwerfend, der ihnen nahe kommen will.

Wasserfälle können einen an den Durchbruch erinnern, der im Mutterleib bei denjenigen stattfindet, denen der Schöpfer das Privileg des Gebärens von Kindern geschenkt hat. Die Wasser brechen durch und das neue Leben erscheint in all seinem Mysterium, seiner Verheißung und Hoffnung.

Maria, selbst nur ein einfacher Teenager, war ja dem Geheimnis von Angesicht zu Angesicht begegnet, als der göttliche Bote ihr von dem wunderbaren und zugleich Furcht einflößenden Handeln Gottes an ihr berichtete. Schockierende Worte, die doch eine ruhige Bereitschaft in ihr auslösten, sich dem Willen des Herrn zu ergeben.

Später dann, in Bethlehem, an jenem großen und erinnerungswürdigen Tag, brachen ihre Wasser hindurch und das Geheimnis kam hervor als ein Kind, das sie in eine Krippe legte. Geboren im Verborgenen kündigt sein Erscheinen doch einen mächtigen Durchbruch an in der Geschichte der Menschheit.

Schreiend, wie dies neugeborene Babys zu tun pflegen, trat Jesus heraus aus dem Schutzbereich einer liebenden Mutter, um der Welt mit all ihrem Leid zu begegnen. Früh schon lernte er die Verwüstungen des Lebens eines Flüchtlings kennen. Später ging er seinen Weg als ein Mensch ohne Obdach. Noch einmal später gab er sein Leben hin aufgrund einer Verhöhnung von Gerechtigkeit. Nun aber hat er sichtbar gemacht, wie Liebe Leben hervorbringt, wie Vergebung Sünde bedeckt, wie Leben im Überfluss den angstbesetzten Tod übertrumpft.

Die Wasser, die hervorbrachen an jenem ersten Weihnachtstag, ebneten den Weg für das Leben, das nicht einmal der Tod zerstören kann. Golgatha kann dieses Leben nicht auslöschen; es bleibt nichts als ein Pfad hin zu einem leeren Grab. Der Tod hat den Weg frei gegeben für den Sieg der Auferstehung.

Woran uns die Wasserfälle in Iguaçu vor allem erinnern wollen ist die Gute Nachricht, dass Weihnachten ein Durchbruch ist in Raum und Zeit, ein mächtiger Durchbruch, ermöglicht durch die aus dem Mutterleib einer jungfräulichen Mutter her fließenden gewaltigen Wasser. Eine enorme Veränderung im Ablauf der Geschichte, ein historisches Ereignis, das die Macht hat, den Lebenslauf eines jeden einzelnen Menschen und jeder Gemeinschaft zu verändern.

Das Baby, dessen Ankunft wir feiern, ist Immanuel, Gott mit uns! Wie hat diese herrliche Nachricht von Weihnachten dich verändert und diejenigen, denen du in Liebe verbunden bist?

 Neville Callam
Baptistischer Weltbund

(Übersetzung ins Deutsche durch Hans Guderian)

Ujumbe wa Krismasi 2017

Mlipuko Unaobadilisha Maisha

Maporomoko ya Maji! Yanaweza kuwa ya ukubwa na umbo mbali mbali lakini mara nyingi huvutia macho. Ni maporomoko machache yakiwepo yanaweza kushinda yale ya Foz do Iguacu kule Parana, Brazil. Uhalisia wa wigo wa maporomoko! Mamilioni ya lita za maji yanayoporomoka juu ya jabali. .

Maji yanayotiririka mfululizo, kilometa baadaa ya kilometa, mwaka baada ya mwaka! Pamoja na uzuri ulo dhahiri na mchanganyiko wa mwonekano,unamkumbushia mtu nyakati maalum za historia ya wokovu.

Nyakati zingine, maporomoko ya maji yanaamsha hisia za mwanzo wa uumbaji wakati Mungu alipotenganisha maji ya ukiwa na kuumba dunia. Mungu aliumba anga kufanya viumbe vinawiri and na kusitawi, kila moja ikitunza nyingine ndani ya bustani ya uzima iliyositawi vizuri.  

Mara nyingine, maporomoko ya maji yanaamsha hisia za safari ya maisha kwa maji yanayotisha na kudhihirisha udhaifu wetu, lakini pia kufungua macho yetu kuona ukuu wa neema kwa watu ambao Mungu anawachagua. Wana wa Israeli walivuka juu ya maji yaliyochafuka bila madhara. Walipitia safari iliyotakatifu waliyosafiri watu wa Mungu katika historia yao yote chini ya ulinzi wa yule ambaye anaweza kutuokoa kutoka maangamizi na hatari.

Hasa mwisho wa safari, katika njia iliyochongwa na mapitio ya wanadamu yenye urefu upatao kilometa mbili pembezoni mwa mlima unao akisi uzuri huo usiku na mchana, maporomoko ya maji huacha kutiririka. Maporomoko hayo huonekana kwa mbali kwa muonekano unaofanana na miamba na hatimaye kudondoka ardhini. Maporomoko hudondoka kwa umbali na kwa kasi inayorusha maji yanayomrukia kila anayethubutu kusogea karibu nayo.

Maporomoko hayo yanaweza kumkumbusha mtu mlipuko unaotokea ndani ya mimba kwa wale Mungu anaowajalia kuzaa watoto. Maji hulipuka na kutokeza maisha mapya pamoja na usiri, ahadi na matumaini.

Kwa habari za Mariamu, akiwa bado kijana mdogo, alikumbana uso kwa uso na siri wakati yule mjumbe mtakatifu alipomwambia kitu kizuri, lakini chenye kutisha, kitu ambacho Mungu alikuwa akifanya ndani yake. Maneno ya kushutua yalitokeza muitikio tulivu wa utayari kufuata mapenzi ya Bwana.

Baadaye, pale Bethlehemu, ndani ya hiyo siku kubwa ya kukumbuka, maji yalilipuka na kukatokea kiumbe cha miujiza aliyemlaza katika hori la kulia ng’ombe. Yeye aliyezaliwa katika uharibifu, kuonekana kwake kulisababisha mlipuko mkubwa katika historia ya wanadamu.

Akilia kama vile watoto wachanga waliavyo Yesu aliachana na usalama aliyokuwa nayo ndani ya tumbo la mama yake mpendwa na kukabiliana na ulimwengu uliojaa maovu. Alianza kwa kujifunza uchungu wa maisha kama mkimbizi. Baadaye alitangatanga kama mtu asiye na makazi maalum. Aidha, hatimaye alitoa uhai wake kama fidia ya haki. Wakati huo huo alionyesha jinsi upendo unavyotawala maisha, jinsi msamaha unavyofunika dhambi, na jinsi uzima wa milele unavyoshinda tishio la kifo.

Maji yale yaliyochuruzika jioni ya Krismasi ya kwanza yalifungua njia ya uzima ambayo hata kifo haiweze kuharibu. Hata Kalvari haikuweza kuondoa ule uzima; na ikabaki tu njia ya kufikia kaburi tupu. Kifo kikapisha ushindi wa ya ufufuo.

Tuseme nini basi, zaidi ya hayo yote, maporomoko ya Iguaçu yanakumbusha habari njema kwamba Krismasi ni mlipuko ndani ya wakati na mahali, mlipuko mkubwa kupitia maji yabubujikayo kutoka kwenya mimba ya mama aliye bikira. Maporomoko hayo yanahusu mabadiliko makubuwa katika historia, tukio la kihistoria ambayo ina nguvu ya kubadilisha muelekeo wa maisha ya kila mtu na jamii kwa ujumla.

Mtoto tunayesherekea kuja kwake ni Emanuel, Mungu yu pamoja nasi! Je habari hii tukufu ya Krismasi imebadilishaje maisha yako na ya wale uwapendao?

Neville Callam
Katibu Mkuu
Ushirikiano wa Dunia ya Wabatisti

(Translated by/Imetafsiriwa na : Harrison G. Olan’g)

Messaggio di Natale 2017

Una frattura che trasforma la vita

Le cascate! Ce ne sono di varie dimensioni e forme che spesso creano uno spettacolo affascinante.

Non molte però superano lo splendore delle cascate delle Fosse di Iguaçu di Parana, in Brasile. L’enorme distesa delle cascate a precipizio! Milioni di litri di acqua che scivolano su scogliere solide come il granito. Acqua che scorre in continuazione, chilometro dopo chilometro, anno dopo anno! L’incanto di quella toccante bellezza e lo sfoggio di tale splendore ricordano momenti straordinari della storia della salvezza.

In alcuni punti, le cascate risvegliano il ricordo dell’alba della creazione quando Dio separò le acque del caos e formò la terra. Dio creò lo spazio perché la natura si sviluppasse con esuberanza e le creature prosperassero, prendendosi cura l’una dell’altra nel lussureggiante giardino della vita.

In altri punti, le cascate suscitano immagini del cammino della vita quando attraversiamo acque minacciose che espongono la nostra vulnerabilità e al tempo stesso aprono i nostri occhi alla grazia sovrana di Dio verso le persone che Dio sceglie. Il popolo d’Israele attraversò incolume le acque del caos, fece l’esperienza del sacro percorso che il popolo di Dio intraprende nel corso della storia sotto la protezione del Dio capace di liberarci dalle insidie e dai pericoli.

Soprattutto alla fine del loro percorso, intagliato dagli esseri umani per circa due chilometri lungo il bordo di una montagna che assorbe tutta quella bellezza notte e giorno, le cascate cessano di essere mere cascate. Saltano con furia su quelle che sembrano rocce di pietra chiara e poi precipitano al suolo inesorabili. Le cascate si schiantano a un altro livello con forti scrosci, schizzando chiunque osi avvicinarsi.

Le cascate possono ricordare la frattura che avviene nel grembo delle donne che ricevono dal Creatore il prezioso dono della maternità. Le acque si rompono e viene fuori una nuova vita con tutto il suo mistero, piena di promesse e speranze.

Nel caso di Maria, ancora adolescente, s’incontrò faccia a faccia con il mistero quando il messaggero di Dio le annunciò la meravigliosa - seppur spaventosa - opera che Dio stava iniziando in lei. A parole impressionanti seguì una calma risposta d’immediata disponibilità a seguire la volontà del Signore.

Più tardi, in Betlemme, in quel memorabile giorno, le sue acque si ruppero e venne fuori la creatura misteriosa che lei pose nella mangiatoia. Nato nell’oscurità, la sua apparizione rappresentò una potente frattura nella storia dell’umanità.

Piangendo come fa ogni bambino appena nato, Gesù uscì dalla sicurezza del grembo di una madre amorevole per affrontare il mondo con tutti i suoi dolori. Apprese subito gli effetti devastanti di una vita di rifugiato. Più tardi, vagabondò come una persona senza tetto. Ancora più tardi offrì la sua vita come risultato di un travestimento della giustizia. Nel frattempo, mostrò come l’amore conduca alla vita, il perdono copra il peccato e una vita abbondante trionfi su una terribile morte.

Le acque che si ruppero in quel primo Natale prepararono il terreno per una vita che neanche la morte può distruggere. Il calvario non è riuscito a spegnere quella vita e rimane un semplice percorso verso una tomba vuota. La morte ha ceduto il passo alla vittoria della resurrezione.

Più di ogni altra cosa, le cascate di Iguaçu ricordano la buona notizia che Natale rappresenta una frattura nel tempo e nello spazio, una potente rottura mediata dalle acque tempestose che scendono dal grembo della madre vergine. Si tratta di un grande cambiamento nel corso della storia, un evento che ha il potere di trasformare la traiettoria di ogni vita umana e di ogni comunità.

Il bambino la cui venuta celebriamo è l’Emmanuele, il Dio con noi! In che modo l’evento glorioso di Natale ha cambiato anche te e coloro che tu ami?

Neville Callam
Segretario Senerale
Battista World Alliance

(Tradotto da: Marinetta Cannito Hjort)