If you would’ve asked me a few months ago to point to Nepal on a map, I would’ve been in trouble. The fact is that though I’ve spent the last 10 years traveling to different countries, Asia has remained a great mystery to me; basically, uncharted territory.
But that was about to change. I was at a convention earlier this year when an eighteen year old foreign student approached me and asked, “Would you be open to accepting a preaching invitation to Nepal?” I wanted to discreetly locate it on Google Maps with my iPhone.
Not long thereafter, my plane landed in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. I had no idea what I was in for. I was about to get a taste of an entirely different world––like going to an unknown planet to live in some unknown time.
No, seriously. When you step out of that airplane you’re in another time. They’re on the Bikram Sambat calendar and the current year is 2068. No wonder I was confused when I saw this sign:
Up until three years ago, Nepal was the last standing Hindu kingdom in the world. Not surprisingly, Hinduism is practiced by a higher percentage of the populace (over 80%) than any other country. Nepal is the home of Kumari, the only living goddess on the planet. From the poorest peasants to the highest ranking nobility, including the king himself––all bow down, kiss her feet, and worship her.
She’s a child in an unfortunate situation because as soon as she hits puberty she’ll lose her status and another little girl will replace her. Meanwhile, she will struggle fitting into society after becoming a mere human being. Not that this is anything strange, she’s no different than the hundreds of Kumaris before her.
Everything I read about Nepal turned out to be true. I was in a medieval kingdom that had been entirely closed to the outside world until the first tourists arrived in 1955. That was apparent with every experience. It remains one of the world’s poorest countries.
I went with some friends to explore some of the sacred sites throughout Kathmandu. We went to the Temple of Pashupatinath, one of the primary holy places of Hinduism and home to the largest temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva.
The main attraction is the aroma of burning human flesh that rises from the cremation sites on the banks of the holy Baghmati River. The family members of the deceased march in circles in a sacred ritual before the ashes are swept into the holy river to send the departed on a journey toward heaven. This is all done right there in public. I guess it’s just a little different than what I’m used to. I couldn’t help but pull the camera out:
This is a different kind of world, to put it mildly.
What an amazing place to share the Gospel in! What impact can the Three Angels Messages have in the land of Shiva and Krishna and Brahma? But how can they hear without a preacher?
And that’s where the big six come in. That’s right, six. There are only six ordained Adventist preachers in Nepal. And the population?
This is their world. And this is the kind of world I went to preach to…