It was in the darkness that the brightest light was seen.
Carol VanDyken, who serves in the development department of the TWR Americas Region, reflected recently on an unforgettable experience in Nepal as she remembered being deeply moved by those five days around the countryside.
Carol and her husband, Daryl, who works on TWR’s LinguaDMS project, led a group of TWR supporters from the U.S. to get a firsthand look at life and ministry in the Himalayan republic. Guiding them was Simon Subba, director of TWR Nepal.
One of the most memorable moments of the trip came during their prison visits. Carol VanDyken and her group had the opportunity to watch prisoners respond to alter calls by Bishnu Gyawali, a prison evangelist who himself had been imprisoned for 2 ½ years for being a Christian. The light of Christ was clearly seen in the darkness of the prison.
“It was impressive to see them come forward and kneel down in front of 100 or so other prisoners to make a public commitment to Christ,” Carol said.
Many of these men were already familiar with TWR, expressing their appreciation for programs they had been listening to.
Nepal is a difficult country to live and work in, according to Carol. Nepal has a population of approximately 27 million and is considered to be among the poorest countries on the planet. Yet the TWR Nepal staff is deeply passionate about getting the word out to their compatriots.
“It was deeply moving as we saw the results of their ministry, their hearts for their people, the hardship they endure, and their cooperation with TWR,” Carol said.
Along with the prisoner transformations, a highlight for Carol came when they had the opportunity to witness believers’ baptisms. Nineteen men and women had accepted Christ through listening to TWR and came together in the middle of a forest to become baptized. The seriousness of this decision was not overlooked. In this predominantly Hindu culture, the visitors were told, families often hold funerals for family members who become believers in Christ. Still, most showed their commitment to Christianity by wearing 3-inch crosses around their necks to identify themselves.
“One had a name of a Hindu god tattooed on his forearm,” Carol explained. “He told the pastors who baptized him that he wished he could cut off his arm at the elbow because of it. In lieu of that, he keeps the sleeve on his shirt rolled down all the time!” In response, the pastor reached around his neck, pulled up the big cross and reassured him, saying, “This is your identification now.”
Carol and her team saw many beautiful things, such as the sunrise at Pokhara, the base of the Himalayas. But nothing compared with the beauty of the faces of the people they encountered. The joy-filled faces of each person as they came up from the baptism water. The face of Santo, the Nepali elephant safari guide who told the visiting group that he prayed to whatever god he chose when in trouble. The face of Amrid, the team’s driver, who witnessed all the meetings and preaching.
It is this beauty seen in people’s faces that gives hope to the TWR Nepal staff. Simon believes that the number of Christians in Nepal will multiply in the next two decades. Over the past few years, Christianity has grown from 1 percent of the population to 3 percent.
“TWR is on 52 local FM stations in Nepal, and one-third of those are government stations,” Carol explained. “Some are playing TWR’s programs at no cost to TWR since they feel they contain valuable information for the Nepalese people.”
As the trip came to a close, the team realized the importance of ongoing prayer for Nepal and the amazing work God is doing in that country.
“TWR is doing a wonderful holistic ministry by not only preaching the gospel on the air, but partnering with pastors in the slums to provide toilets and clean drinking water, providing support for a Christian school and a children’s Bible program, and partnering with organizations that run literacy, sewing and computer classes,” Carol said.
After returning to America, a plea from one of the prisoners who had become a believer remains at the forefront of Carol’s mind: “Please pray for us. Don’t forget us.”