It takes about 2 days of travel for our teachers to reach Nepal. Many of the trainees here travel for 8 or more hours for the training. For that reason, what is usually a 5 day training is condensed into a 3.5 day training.
That means our teachers here need to walk through the book of Galatians in
about 2.5 days so that there can be enough time on Wednesday afternoon and
Thursday morning for the students to preach expository messages from this book
of the Bible. We’re not just here to teach the important theological content of
Galatians like the role of the Law or justification by faith alone, but we want
to train these ministers of the Word to preach the Word.
With the condensed schedule there’s a not-so-subtle feeling
of stress as we attempt to faithfully communicate the message of Galatians and
interact with the students. Oh, for an extra day or two!
Mike and Tracy each have between 8 and 10 students in their
classes and over the first two days have enjoyed getting to know these men and see
them interact with the book of Galatians. Yesterday, I (Josh) skipped out so I
could attend another meeting. You can read a full account of Suraj’s story by
clicking here. It’s a pretty amazing story. Suraj’s dream is to start a
seminary in his hometown of Bakhtapur, part of the bustling Kathmandu
metropolis. He’s exploring a partnership with TLI and since I was in town, we
found some time to meet.
We walked through the center of the city, surrounded by
Hindu and Buddhist temples, and dodging motorcycles. As we drank Cokes on the
roof of a café, we watched a processional proceed beneath us as part of the
Dya? J?tr?. A cart with a 60 foot tower constructed on it was slowly making its
way through the city, celebrating a time when Avalokites'vara, the god of compassion visited the city ending
a devastating drought. As throngs of festival-goers gather their energy for
another pull, the crowd encourages them as a priest stands on the cart
directing those pulling the giant cart. Inside the cart is a miniature statue
of the god that’s been removed from its temple for a tour of the city.
ancient Israelites had their ceremonies and rituals to honor God. Sacrifices at
the temple, feasts, and obedience to the Mosaic Law were how God was present
with his people. But in Jesus something radically changed. To the Jewish
people, Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up”
(John 2:19). Two verses later, we’re told that “he was speaking
about the temple of his body” (2:21).
Earlier in John’s gospel we read, “And the Word [Jesus]
became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the
only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (1:14). So rather than us going to the temple and performing various rituals to merit the
favor of God, God took on flesh and came to rescue his people. Jesus is the
temple where we meet with God.
Nepali society is built around a caste system. At the top are
the Brahmin, the priests, and at the bottom are the Dalit, the “untouchables”.
In Nepal, Dalit make up 10-20% of the population and are barred from various
acts of Hindu worship. Specifically, they’re not allowed to enter temples.
Enter the gospel. The Good News of Christianity says that the
death and resurrection of Jesus means temple rituals are no longer necessary.
Jesus is the true temple where God is present with his people and rather than
calling us to journey to him, he came to us. No one is excluded from Christ.
All that is required is faith in Jesus.
Nepal is experiencing a rapid growth of the church and much
of it started with the conversion of the Dalit. While excluded from the Hindu
temples of their hometown, they are welcomed into the Christian church. Rich
and poor take the Lord’s Supper together, united to Christ and to each other.
Some early estimates of the Nepali church say that 80% of the church is made up
of Dalit. It makes sense, doesn’t it?
Nepali Hinduism says, "You’re not worthy. Stay out of the temple."
The Christian Gospel says, "You’re made in the image of God. Christ, your temple, has made you right with God. Join
all who believe in being united to him."
The idea of Jesus as our temple has particular—and glorious—relevance
here in Nepal, where so many have been kept out of participation in worship.
We’ve got a day and a half of teaching left here and I’m currently
listening to Tracy teach Galatians 3. The students are asking a multitude of
questions on the mode and methods of baptism. They’re good, practical
questions, but Tracy is trying to move things back to the centrality of the
gospel that Paul is so intent on communicating in his letter to the Galatian
church. Faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection alone makes us right with God.
never doubted the relevance and beauty of the gospel. Seeing it’s particular impact
within a culture so foreign to me has been an amazing experience.
Tracy Singleton Teaching