Hungary – Week 12 – Szekszard & Budapest

Have had a wonderful and relaxing end to an amazing Sabbatical. I arrived in Hungary on Wednesday (22nd June). Met by Pastor Zoltan who has very kindly hosted me for the final few days of my trip.

Hungary is a beautiful country of wonderful historic sites and outstanding natural beauty. But once again it was the people I met who made it so memorable.

Zoltan & Eva were wonderful hosts and we shared many long conversations about ministry and mission.

I shared some of the stories of people I’d met through my sabbatical. He was deeply interested and moved by the persecution people faced and their unwavering commitment to the gospel.

He asked me to share some of the stories at two of the churches he leads on Sunday.

This is the church and village which John & Anita Barnes are from and it was by their arrangement that I was able to go. John came out to spend the final weekend with me and showed me the sites of Szekszard & Budapest, including his favourite Vintner and the beautiful Spa Baths in Budapest. It’s been a lovely ending to a remarkable Sabbatical.

Back home now for a few days readjustment before starting Parish work again on Sunday!

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St Stephen’s basilica (appropriately named church for the end of my sabbatical)
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Lake Szalka
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John Barnes & me in Budapest
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My hosts for the week – Zoltan & Eva
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Sunday Morning Worship

Poland – week 11 – Poznan

I have had a wonderful week in Poland as a guest of Piotr & Christina Zaremba.

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Christina, Piotr & Dorothy Zaremba

Their story is remarkable. Growing up in communist Poland, evangelical Christianity was illegal, as was owning and selling Bibles. Piotr’s grandfather and father were Bible smugglers and used to transport Bibles through Poland to Russia and other communist countries. An old Volvo (which Piotr was having lovingly restored) had been in the family for 34 years and had been used for smuggling Bibles for much of its life. Piotr’s father also used to befriend Russian air force pilots and do a little black market business with them for boots and food… whilst doing this he persuaded some of them to take Russian Bibles back to Russia in their Mig Jet Fighters.

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34 yr old Bible Smuggling Volvo being lovingly restored

Partly because of this and partly because of his theology professor at college who persuaded Piotr that the source languages were the best for Bible Study, Piotr devoted himself to learning Greek and Hebrew at University. There was no modern translation of the Bible into Polish, so Piotr decided that he would do one. He thought he’d get some help along the way, but none emerged, so for the past 16 years Piotr has translated the whole Bible himself from original languages into modern Polish.

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Some of the NT & Psalms translations so far. Full Bible due out 1st July

However, for Piotr, it wasn’t just about translating the books of the Bible, but he was passionate about meeting Jesus through the Bible, and he had the heart of an evangelist and pastor. So, during these 16 years he did street evangelism and ministry in Poznan and planted 5 churches (one of which now has over 1000 members). The current church he regularly pastors started 10 years ago and is an international church which now has 300+ members. It meets in a theatre which they rent each week and it was wonderful to be part of for their Sunday worship.

Piotr is extremely disciplined, structured and ordered. But there is a ‘certain something’ (his words, aka Holy Spirit) a person finds in relationship with God, which really excites him, which is unpredictable and unstructured and it’s this which fires his work and ministry. He is constantly hungry for more of God, and somewhat dissatisfied with things as they are because he wants a greater awareness of God in his own life and for others. There is a bright twinkle in his eye. This made a deep impression on me. For most of us ministers we’d be more than happy to have a church of 300+ to pastor. For Piotr, who has planted 5 churches and single handedly translated the whole Bible, he is hungry for more of God.

It was a joy to share a little at their Sunday service and to meet some of the other ‘guests’ in the church that day.

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Piotr interviewing Aaron & Daniel
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Their church

Aaron is a young American missionary who is working with some of the thousands of refugees from Syria in Germany. He’d come to visit his friend, who worked at Piotr’s church, and he shared a little about his work during the service. They minister amongst the refugees (in a temporary village of 2000+ refugees). They are predominantly Muslims, so, as missionaries, their approach is to share the stories about Isa (Jesus). They have done this by teaching gospel stories and parables from the Bible and asking people to consider 2-3 questions in the light of each Bible story. This has resulted in many becoming Christians and then in turn they share their new found love for Jesus with others. The message of the gospel is now spreading throughout the refugees without western missionary input and purely by the witness of converts. There are hundreds turning to Jesus.

For me, it was a lovely week. Not so much bush ministry as in previous weeks, but a chance to reflect on what God has been teaching me through the people I’ve met on this remarkable sabbatical.

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A field of Poppies & Cornflowers

Ukraine – Week 10 – Izmir & Bolhrad, Odessa

My final week with Ken has been in the wonderful country of Ukraine.  Quite a cultural contrast from the Far East & Nepal! Historically rich in Orthodox Christianity but greatly affected by years of communist power. Now, with more freedom, the non-denominational church is growing rapidly and it has been wonderful to spend the week here in a number of different churches and Bible schools.

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The main Orthodox Church in Izmir, where we’ve been staying

We’ve been hosted by Serge and his family and their lovely church. Serge was a professional drummer and musician and was converted later in life. He said that as he started to listen to the worship in church the music, and musicians, were awful… but … something amazing happened when the people worshipped – the presence of God was felt. And he loved it!

He really didn’t want to become a pastor, but God called him to plant a church in Bolhrad (about an hour north of Izmir). The testimonies of the people who have come to faith are wonderful and humbling.

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Serge & Gallina with their son, Andrew and Daughter-in-law Veronica

Daytimes were spent teaching at a daily Bible School which Serge had set up for his own church and other local churches. Then after sharing a lovely meal in the home of a church member we taught in an evening meeting in one of the churches in Izmir. There is a real hunger for God and His word here and it’s been a privilege to hear people’s stories.

Most people we met are not well off. This is a poor region of Ukraine.

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Ken teaching at an evening meeting in Izmir
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The end of our Bible School in Bolhrad

We’ve met some amazing people and heard some beautiful stories. None of this would have been possible for us without the amazing Svetna, our wonderful translator, stood next to Ken in the picture below.

Her own story is an incredible testimony to God’s grace. She was saved out of a life of utter spiritual rebellion against Jesus (which is a whole other story). As a university student she gave her life to Jesus and was baptised. When she came home to tell her parents, her father was furious! A committed communist and atheist (and alcoholic) he was utterly opposed to her decision and insisted that she renounce her faith. She wouldn’t, and at times her life was literally in danger at home.

An agreement with her Father was made that she wouldn’t attend a church until her studies were finished (he hoped she’d forget about it all by then). So she agreed. As soon as she left university she found a church and got involved.

By God’s grace her Father has recently had a miraculous conversion. He now loves the Lord Jesus, is completely sober and his wife, who was also utterly opposed to Christianity, has given her life to the Lord. We had a great time with them all!

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Our amazing translator, Svetna… if we were ever parted from her we were helpless!
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The incredible Pastor Natalia leading worship in her church

Every lunch and evening meal we were invited into the homes of Church family members where they served us the most lovely food and made us so very welcome by their hospitality and love.

Their stories were always so moving and humbling. Every story was unique and too many to tell.

One family that made a big impact on both Ken and me was the family in the picture below. Their story is one of sadness and joy intermingled with deep faith and love for Jesus and people.

It was Oxana’s 40th birthday on the day we went for lunch. Her face just beamed with the love of God and her warmth and love was infectious.

She was a very talented child with a real gift for music. But her whole life changed when she was 8 years old and went to have a vaccination. The equipment was not properly sterilized and she contracted hepatitis from the vaccination. This went to her brain very rapidly and she has suffered with Cerebral Palsy ever since. She’s been learning English recently and so she was able to tell us in her own words that it’s ‘only been by the love and presence of Jesus that she hasn’t descended into depression and has been able to keep going’.

Sadly, her father, has recently had a stroke and was severely affected. He lay on the sofa in a different room watching TV and unable move well or join us.

Valla, Oxana’s mum, has brought her up and cared for her. About 10 years ago Valla started to get ill herself. She became paralysed in her legs and was hospitalised for 4 months. The doctors couldn’t locate a cause for the paralysis.

Valla was in despair. Who would look after her daughter if she wasn’t able to? She wasn’t a Christian and knew nothing about Christianity, but in desparation she prayed and cried out to God one night. As she fell asleep she had a dream – it was full of imagery that she later found out was from the Bible. But in the dream she was assured that she would be okay and she would be able to care for her daughter.

When she awoke she began to get some feeling back in her legs. Little by little over the days that followed she got more feeling back into her legs until one day she got up and was able to walk for the first time in months. The doctors couldn’t believe it – and wouldn’t believe that she was really better and told her to stay in bed.

She knew she was getting better and in the end called a friend to come and help her get discharged. She went home to look after Oxana, and made a complete recovery. Still not a Christian at this point she and Oxana were invited one day to hear a visiting evangelist. They knew very little about Christianity but went and at that meeting gave their lives to Jesus.

Life is still very hard. But the love of Jesus shone from Valla and Oxana. It was a real privilege to spend some time with them.

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One of many lunches with the amazing Valla  (near left) & Oxana (on my right)

It has been an inspirational week in Ukraine and tomorrow I fly to Poland as Ken flies to Moldova.

Nepal – Week 9 – Kathmandu

Please note – I have had to take pictures off this post and change names for their security.

Have had a great couple of days with Pastor AT and his lovely family.

AT is a contact of someone we met in Malaysia on our last day there – so neither of us knew each other. He is a man with a huge heart for God and for people.

He was converted through a Christian Tract that he discovered by ‘chance’ one day. He’d never met a Christian and didn’t know anything about Jesus. But the tract explained the gospel very simply and he was amazed, and convicted. He found a new testament and read it a couple of times and gave his life to Jesus.

Since then his ministry has been broad and busy. He pastors a ‘small’ church in Kathmandu, which I had the privilege of speaking at this morning.

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Gathering for Church on Saturday morning

However, the work he loves to do more than anything is schools and children’s ministry in the remote villages in the mountains around Nepal. Some of them are so remote they take three days of trekking to reach and there you’ll find village schools with 500 children.

He works with the Nepal Bible Society and takes Children’s bibles into schools and gives one to each child with full permission of the Head Teachers and staff. He also explains what the message of the Christian gospel is. Over the years he’s handed out 20, 000 + bibles to children and adults.

Inevitably they come across heartbreaking stories of children in villages who are orphaned – some through HIV and others through similarly tragic circumstances. Often the children are cared for by other family members but some are abandoned. He works with the local village pastors to make sure children are cared for and sponsored. It’s all approved through the government but they sponsor 60 children across Nepal in remote villages (with help from individuals and churches in China, America and the UK). He and his wife also have 10 orphaned girls in their home too.

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Bibles ready to take up to the schools in the villages

 

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The adults love getting Bibles too.

Added to this he regularly gets asked to help village pastors rebuild their church buildings, most of which have been devastated by the earthquake last April. Many village churches are meeting outdoors because they have no building and are too many to fit in anyone’s house. To date they’ve helped rebuild 5 village churches (which costs about $4000 per church).

Pastor, Rajendra's distroyed church by the earthquake
A church building after the earthquake last year
Bunpung Church believers raising their hands to worship the Lord..
The congregation is still meeting out in the open

Along the journey he shared some remarkable stories of how God has worked in some of these villages. In one remote school in the mountains they were invited by the staff to go in with Children’s bibles (these are modern, simple translations with beautiful pictures and illustrations) – so this they did. However, when the parents found out they were furious that Christians were trying to convert their children. So they surrounded the school and started attacking the Pastor and his helpers – they pelted their jeep with rocks and told them to leave. The parents tried to get the Bibles off their children and destroy them, but some of the children refused to give them up. These children used to wrap their Bibles in plastic bags and bury them in a hole in the ground so they wouldn’t be found by their parents. The children used to read the stories in secret and started going to the little church in the village and asking the pastor to do a worship service. This grew and grew till 80 or so children would go every week for a service. Inevitably their parents started to go to see what was happening, and their initial hostility dropped as they saw how happy their children were and many of them found faith in Christ. The little village church now has two services on a Saturday. The first is for children and is packed each week and the second is for the adults, and their work continues.

Another story involves a brickworks here in Kathmandu, where children and adults come from some remote villages to work for 6 months of the year and then go back to their villages for 6 months to farm. These are very poor people. A local pastor contacted AT and asked him to take Bibles for both the children and adults who worked in there. This they did and both parents and children were really pleased. There was only one problem. None of them could read. But the children’s Bibles had pictures and they were fascinated by the stories. So a few weeks later a group of the parents went along to the village church and asked the pastor to explain the stories to them and their children because they really wanted to understand what they were about. As he explained the stories many of them became Christians and the church grew from 20 or so in the village to over 200 over the course of a year.

God is doing an amazing work here in Nepal and who knows what the future holds with so many children receiving the Word of God. It has brought quite a lot of opposition but they faithfully persevere.

It has been an adventure spending 12 days in Nepal. Tomorrow is my last day here and then I fly to the Ukraine on Monday and Tuesday to meet up with Ken again for a week of ministry there.

Nepal – Week 9 – Janakpur

Please note – names and photos have been removed/changed from this site for their security

So, it’s been quite an interesting couple of days. I met up with a pastor Mike and have spent the last two days with him. His story and ministry and life is so remarkable it was a real privilege to spend a couple of days with him. For those who’d like to read a bit about him I’ve added a short biography at the end of this blog that will take a short while to read, but is worth it.

He took me to the south of Nepal. A 6 hour jeep ride over a mountain range into the jungles on the border of India. There he has planted a cluster of churches over the past 25 years with his wife, Sarah. We left Kathmandhu at 4.30am to get there for a meeting of his village pastors at 10.30. We arrived and went straight into the meeting.

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The church
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Beginning to gather for worship, testimony and teachin
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Focussed and concentrated

The meeting lasted 4 1/2 hours and was two hours of singing and worship and testimonies. Songs which they had written in their own dialect. No hymn books, no projectors, no instruments – just voices singing with loud praise and overwhelming happiness.

Mike explained that the songs were all bible stories/texts put to tunes which they used to sing Hindu songs to. So everyone knew the tunes and had changed the words to wonderful hymns of praise. They also had a an hour of testimonies and words of encouragement from what was happening. They then wanted an hour and half of teaching before we finished with an hour of prayer ministry.

There were about 80 pastors and trainee pastors, men and women, there who had ridden, driven and walked miles to be there. The room was crammed and they spilled out into the corridor behind the church.

It was amazing to hear their stories and see their zeal for the Lord. They were all going back to villages where they faced real persecution and opposition to their work. This monthly meeting was a lifeline for them and they wouldn’t miss it for the world.

We then drove back for 6 hours arriving back in Kathmandhu at 10pm – a long, but wonderful day.

The next day I joined Mike and Sarah at another ministry they’ve started in Kathmandhu. A safe house for girls who have been rescued from trafficking and abuse from the villages. Their village churches have been working closely with the police to stop trafficking into India for the sex trade. This house was a safe house for them and every week they have a bible study and time of fellowship. It was a great evening with them. They were lovely, full of happiness and building a new life.

The stories were heart breaking. And the healing is very very slow, but the work was so good and valuable it was a joy to see it.

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The girls at ‘New Leaf’

It’s been a wonderful, humbling and life-changing couple of days.

Here is Mike’s story (the bits I can remember)

He grew up in a small village in the south of Nepal in the jungle region just a few miles from the border with India. He was a Brahmin cast and came from a wealthy family. His grandfather brought him up as a strict Hindu and taught him to recite mantras and give offerings (drinks, animals, food) to appease the gods every day. This he did with relish and utter conviction.

When he was of student age his family, who were very wealthy, sent him to America to get his pilot’s license so he could return to Nepal and become an airline pilot, which was very prestigious and earned a lot of money.

So he went to Texas, Fort Worth. He obtained his pilot’s license and then tried to apply for jobs in Nepal to become a pilot. However, at the time Nepal was ruled by the royal family and you needed ‘connections’ with them to get a job with the Royal Air Line (the only airline in Nepal at the time). There were no jobs available.

In order to pay for his keep he got a job in America as a traveling salesman and decided he liked the comfortable lifestyle in Texas and that he would stay a while.

On one trip to a hospital he was selling his products to the staff and it turned out to be a Christian hospital. He’d never met a Christian before and he had never heard of the name of Jesus.

A very kind man had a conversation with him and asked him where he was from. Then he asked him what Religion he was. Mike explained he was from Nepal and that he was Hindu. The kind man (his description) enquired gently where was his god now? – so Mike explained that his gods lived in things – in a tree, or in an idol, or in the sofa they were sitting on. The man nodded in understanding and said that his God was living in his heart.

This statement was a revelation to Mike who’d never imagined such a thing. You appeased the god’s with offerings but he’d never heard that a god would come and live in you.

He wanted to find out more, and over the next 9 months he got hold of a bible and read about Jesus Christ. He was amazed that a god would sacrifice himself for us. In the end he submitted his life to Jesus and asked him to come and live in his heart. His life changed that day. For ever.

He’d been going to a church, but wanted to serve God in some way. Whilst listening to a Christian radio station he heard an interview with a man who said he went into the city every night and worked with the homeless, the poor, the prostitutes and drug addicts. Sharing practical love with them and telling them about the gospel of love. The man said anyone was free to join him and he gave the time and place of where to meet him. Mike couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Poor and homeless people in America – he hadn’t seen any and thought all westerners were rich.

He went along to meet this man and got involved in his ministry. The man taught him about caring for the poor and how to preach the gospel and win people to Christ.

After doing this for a few weeks he went along to the meeting place one night and the man wasn’t there – so Mike decided to do it on his own. For the next few months he loved and cared for the drug addicts, and prostitutes in the downtown area. If they were serious about stopping drugs/alcohol and about finding out about Jesus he would take them home, feed them and talk to them. Many found Christ and a new life.

He didn’t know it, but God was preparing him for future ministry.

He planned on staying in Texas and carrying on his ministry there. But God had different ideas. He didn’t want him to be a pilot and he didn’t want him to stay in America. God started to challenge him to return to his village in Nepal. In their village region they spoke a different language to the rest of Nepal and there were no churches at all in the region. God told him to go home and start a church.

Mike didn’t want to. Even though he knew God was telling him to, he argued with God that he was doing God’s work in Texas and that he was seeing people come to Christ there. Also he’d got married to a girl from Kansas who wouldn’t be able to speak the language and wouldn’t be accepted in the villages.

His wife Sarah, however, was more than prepared to go with him to Nepal. She’d been raised in a loving Christian home and her parents had read stories to her about missionaries whilst she was growing up. So, after a year or so of arguing with God he realized that he was being disobedient to God’s voice, and one night he repented, with many tears he said he would return to Nepal and to his village and begin to plant a church.

Now with a baby in the family they came to Nepal in 1982. At that time the country was closed to missionaries and it was illegal to proselytize.

They went to the village and Mike started faithfully to share the gospel with his people.

It was terrible. The heat was unbearable, the conditions were horrible. His wife and children got sick and no-one was interested in his message about Jesus. They couldn’t understand what was going on. God had called them there – they knew it. But they began to doubt it. What was more his family were very angry that he’d converted to Christianity and on one visit to the family home to get a bit of respite from village life they found his parents had destroyed all his belongings and did not want them to visit any more. He was also cut out of the inheritance (being the oldest son in their culture meant he would have inherited everything).

It was awful.

However, they endured, and day after day they continued to share the love of Jesus in the villages and after 18 months they eventually saw one young man come to faith in Christ. They were elated, and within a few months one had turned into a few and a small church came into existence.

Things were still very hard but his young church were beginning to grow and they were sharing their new found faith with others in the villages. Over the coming years the small church grew to about 80 or so.

Then two things happened. Persecution started and they began to see miracles.

As the church had grown to a good size it had drawn the attention of the Hindu leaders who weren’t happy that people were converting from their gods to the Christian God. They would physically attack the Christians and bombard the church building with stones and fire during their services.

At the same time there was spiritual attack. Some of those coming to faith were severely demon possessed. Hinduism teaches that the gods can possess you and they have witchdoctors who offer sacrifices to the gods when you are sick and say prayers over you. When people started to convert to Christ the demons within started to react and manifest.

Mike and his church had never encountered this and didn’t know what to do. So they read the bible and did what Jesus did, commanding the demons to leave in the name of Jesus. Demons were cast out and they started to see people healed of various diseases and ailments.

The church continued to grow. But the persecution from the Hindu leaders increased, driving the Christians from their village to other villages in the area. When they went to these other villages they started to share the gospel and more churches were started until there was a network of young churches across the whole region with about 5-600 new believers in small churches in every village. Mike would travel between them, encouraging each church and setting up young leaders to oversee them in his absence.

At that time (late 1990s) another threat emerged. Maoist extremists, akin to those with Pol Pot who’d invaded Cambodia, started to seize power in Nepal. They targeted the wealthy and the educated, so Mike and his family came under direct attack.

It wasn’t safe for them to stay. So, reluctantly, and with great sadness, Mike and his family had to leave their network of churches in 2002 and go to Kathmandu to find safety. It was desperately hard to leave them, but he called them regularly and visited them as often as possible, and the leadership and churches grew stronger and stronger as they faced things and relied on Jesus themselves for each step.

Mike saw how the church grew when he was not present. And little by little over the past few years he’s been handing over leadership to others in the churches. The persecution and opposition in the villages is still very strong, but the faith of these amazing young churches and the joy that shines from their faces is unmistakeable.

I am sure there is a lot that I’ve missed out and I’ve forgotten. Mike shared all this as we drove down to the village along a road of hairpin bends over a high mountain at 5am. I was utterly amazed at his story and was almost in tears at some points when he described what they went through and what they saw of God’s faithfulness when they were obedient.

I also had the privilege of meeting 80 or so leaders from these young churches and seeing their vibrant faith and hearing some amazing testimonies.

Two things have left an enduring imprint on my mind from meeting Mike.

  1. The joy of the Lord shone out of his face, and the face of those young church leaders.
  2. His obedience to the voice of God and his willingness to endure suffering and hardship and to rejoice in the growth in faith this resulted in.

It has been an utter privilege to meet Mike & Sarah and hear their amazing story. At times it was like listening to another chapter out of the book of Acts. I hope they will come and visit us in the UK

Nepal – Week 9 – Pokhara

On Wednesday last week I flew to Nepal (whilst Ken returned home for a week or two). I flew in to Kathmandu and stayed there a couple of nights before flying across to the beautiful town of Pokhara at the foot of the Annapurna mountain range.

I have been working here with the amazing Hom, who is the national ‘Young Life‘ Missions director. That evening he took me to a young life youth meeting in a nearby village where we had great fun singing worship songs, playing games and doings some Bible Study together. There are 5-6 groups that he manages locally and many of these young people are becoming Christians and getting baptised.

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Hom on the edge of lake Phewa with the beautiful mountains in the distance
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Playing games at young life

Their day of rest in Nepal is Saturday, so all their church services happen on Saturdays rather than Sundays. We went to visit and speak at a small village church up in the mountains about an hour’s drive from Pokhara Town.

The church had about 40 people of all ages from the local villages and was started about 7 years ago. The Story of its beginning is quite remarkable.

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Hom is a part time Pastor at a church in Pokhara with 3 other Pastors. Together they went trekking in the hills one weekend and as they neared a village they felt led to stop and pray that God would begin a work in this village and that there might be a church started here. They then carried on with their trek.

About 6 months later, whilst they were having a meeting in the hall where the young life group meets (in the picture above), about an hour’s drive from the village, a young family turned up. They were looking for a church. They weren’t Christians, but their 12 year old daughter had been very ill for 2 years and the doctors could not make her better and they’d been told that maybe the Christian God could help to heal her.

They asked the Father if he was willing to believe and put his faith in Jesus. He said ‘If Jesus heals my daughter I will think about it.’

So they began to pray for her. As they talked to her and her family about the background to the illness (bad swelling of the abdomen and severe pain and breathing difficulties) it transpired that some relatives of the family had a deep grudge against the father and had called down curses on the young girl a few years earlier. It quickly became clear that the physical problems had a spiritual root. This was not something the church elders were experienced in but they began to pray for spiritual deliverance.

Over the next 2-3 days they prayed with her a lot until there was a real breakthrough and the young girl was freed from the evil spirits who were present because of the curse. Within a week or so she was dramatically better and two weeks later the father came back and said that he and his family would like to follow Jesus. They were all baptised, and a small Bible Study was started in his home. As news spread about the girl’s healing more people in the village started to believe and came to the small home church. After 3 years or so they outgrew the home and a larger church building was built next to his house. This is where the church has been meeting for 4 years. Virtually all the church members are converts from the local village and there was a wonderful atmosphere of praise and joy in this small village of rice farmers up in the foothills of Annapurna.

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The Father of the family with his elderly mother outside the church

The young girl who was healed is now 19 and has done a YWAM Discipleship Training Course and is now going on to work for YWAM in Pokhara.

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The young woman in the story above

Hom & I stayed up in the hills and did a bit of a trek further up in to the mountains to stay at a remote hostel. I’d love to say the views were spectacular but it rained most of the time so we didn’t see much. However, it was great to spend some time with Hom and chat and get to know him a bit.

We returned on the Sunday and today (Monday) I did some teaching for the ‘Young Life’ leaders and some of the Church staff. It was a joy to meet with a great bunch of Christian leaders in this small town and to hear all about the work.

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The local Young Life and Church leaders.

It is a truly beautiful place and God is doing some wonderful work here and adding to his church.

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After it had stopped raining the sunset was spectacular

Malaysia – Week 8 – Old friends and new

Have been having a great week in Malaysia. Catching up with old friends and making some new ones too!

We are staying with Alan & Lai Forng Tan. Their church, Klang Harvest Assembly, which started 20 years ago with 60 people is just about 800 people strong now. It’s exciting to see the ministry and the work going on there.

I also got to catch up with a small group of business men whom I met last time for a lunchtime meeting of the Full Gospel Business men’s fellowship at their offices.

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Business men’s lunch time fellowship

There was a visitor to the group who wanted to take me out after lunch and chat to me. He was particularly interested in the fact we’d been to Cambodia and wanted to talk more. His story is fascinating!

His name is Joshua Lee. After a strong Christian upbringing in the Brethren Assemblies in Malaysia he went in to Bank management and quickly rose to be a senior bank manager and extremely successful. He said that he became very wealthy and worked long hours. But his faith suffered for it. He took less and less interest in God or Church.

When he was about 48 God challenged him and ‘called him’ to leave his job as a bank manager and become a missionary to the poor.

The call was so strong he obeyed and left his job, with no clear missionary work to go in to. His friends and colleagues (and family) thought he was crazy.  His church suggested he train and become their pastor to begin with. He started down this line but knew it wasn’t for him – he’d been called to be a missionary to the poor. Eventually God led him by a series of meetings with people to some remote villages in Eastern Cambodia about 10 years ago. These were fairly similar to the villages I’d visited in the North West of Cambodia. No electricity or running water and very basic accommodation. He took food and medical aid into these small villages and people with the specialist skills to help the villagers dig their own wells and develop small businesses. He would plant a small church and then move on to do the same thing, by local invitation, in the next village. He’s been doing this for 10 years, and each time he returns to Malaysia God takes him back to look after the churches in the small villages and then on to a different part of Cambodia to do more work.

He is a remarkable man. Supported by individuals and his local church he’s faithfully taken physical, spiritual and social aid into these remote villages for many years. He’s also spent a number of months going in to the ‘Golden Triangle‘ in Burma, one of the most dangerous places on earth, with the gospel.

He’d come to the meeting on the spur of the moment and found the content of the message that day was especially relevant and gave specific answers to his prayers about the timing and content of his next mission trip.

We had a great couple of hours together and I hope we can stay in touch because I’d love to follow his fascinating ministry. But, keeping ‘tabs’ on him might be quite a challenge!

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Joshua Lee. Bank manager and Missionary.

The same evening I went to a ‘Cell Group’ in a local home. All the groups meet on Friday evenings. They have a meal together and then share testimony, sing and bible study together. The evening started at 7pm. We got home at 11.45pm – and we were the first to leave!

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Mark’s Cell Group

Today (Sunday) I had the great pleasure of going back to ‘Alpha Colours’ Church which I’ve  been to the last two times we’ve been to Malaysia over the previous 5 years. So it was great to catch up with people and see how this small, young, church has developed. Virtually everyone was under 35 (bar me and one or two others) and full of energy and love for the Lord. We had a great morning and lunch together. I look forward to catching up with them again in a few years time, God willing, when they will hopefully have moved in to bigger premises to house their growing congregation.

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Alpha Colour’s Church
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Chang Hai, Pastor Justin, me, & SJ & Joey Ng