Thursday, January 29, 2009

Overnight in Kathmandu

Back in Kathmandu -- Two days ago we taught another seminar at a congregation in the Chitiwan area. We spent the night in a town near the Chitiwan National Forest that is very near this area. We got up early and took an elephant ride into the jungle and were lucky to see a black rhino, monkeys, and some spotted dear. After a 6 hour ride, we are back in Kathmandu for the night and then an early 5:00 am bus to Dhunche which is near the Tibet border. From Dhunche we will walk 3 hours into the mountains to visit a congregation there. We will teach and preach there on Saturday and then hike back down the mountain to return back to Kathmandu on Sunday. There are a few congregations in this area and several house churches among the tribal peoples. There is an evangelist there who will be attending the pastoral training classes that will be taught by the HCLCN. We will be very close to the Himalayan mountain range.

Power gets cut soon so I had better sign off for now. Thank you for your prayers! You are all in my daily prayers as well.

In Christ,
Pastor Ohlmann

Five Days Later

Power Shortage – It has been four days since we have had Internet access. Or perhaps, it would be more accurate to say that it has been four days since we have had reliable electricity to access the Internet. It is really amazing how far the Internet now reaches. A couple of the towns we have stayed in are (by western standards) very primitive and yet you find an Internet café on virtually every corner. The problem in Nepal right now is the power shortage. The explanation I was given is that after 10+ years of terrorism, political turmoil, and poor leadership from the ousted monarchy the power plants are in such disrepair that many of the turbines are no longer in working condition. On top of that, there has been a drought that has lowered the water table to a point where there is not enough water to move the turbines to generate the enough power to meet the demand. There is hope among the people that all of this is being worked on now that the monarchy has been replaced with a democratic form of government, but they are at the same time skeptical. So what does all of this mean? It means that all non-industrial power grids are shut down for 16 hours a day. In theory, that leaves 8 hours of power a day divided into two periods. The first period is supposed to be from 4-8 am and the second from 4-8 pm. In reality, the power comes on sometime in the early morning and then fluctuates for 3 or 4 hours and the same in the evening. So that is why it has been four days since the last post.

Travel and Mountains – We traveled the long and winding road from Kathmandu to Hetauda on Saturday afternoon. This road takes you over the highest pass south of the Himalayan range. Mt Damon has an observation point from which you can see (on a perfectly clear day) seven of the highest mountain peaks in the world. It was a cloudy day and we were assuming that we wouldn’t be able to see any mountains, (although to us it sure seemed like we were in the mountains already) but then as our vehicle climbed above the clouds and the sun began to shine you could see the mountain peaks. We stopped for 45 minutes or so to climb to the observation point. The sight was beyond anything I could have imagined. Aw inspiring does not do justice to what I saw and felt. I just simply do not have the words to describe the view and beauty of what I tried (unsuccessfully) to take in. Pictures just do not do justice to what God has given our eye the ability to behold. “O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the world Thy hands hath made…then sings my soul, My Savior God to Thee, How Great Thou Art, How Great Thou Art!” As I stood their gazing at the mountains, thinking how fortunate I was to have come here on a day when we could see the mountain range, the Bhitrokothi family was apologizing that we came on such a cloudy day. I can’t even imagine how amazing it must look on a clear day. Reluctantly we got back in the jeep and drove the remaining two hours to Hetauda where we gladly checked into our hotel for a good night of sleep.

Seminar Sunday in Hetauda – On Sunday we conducted a one-day seminary in the local congregation. The pastor’s name here in Milan and he is one of the pastors I met back in June. We had over 100 in attendance. We explained what it means to be saved by grace through faith with sermons and Bible studies. At mid-day a meal of rice, chicken curry, and dal (lentils) was served to everyone. The Nepali women really know how to cook. Their food is very similar to Indian food but without as much spice. I really love the food here. You get all the flavor of the spices without the extreme heat that is common in India. Following the seminar the folks stayed around to introduce themselves and to visit with each other.

A Humbling Experience – After most everyone had gone home Pastor JB asked to talk to me privately. He led me to a quiet corner of the church and began to explain to me that Pastor Milan, his family, and one other member of the congregation had been fasting and praying for 21 days in preparation for this seminar. A few months ago when the details and schedule for our trip were confirmed, Raju informed the various congregations and pastors when we would be coming. Pastor Milan marked the date on his calendar and counted back three weeks. He and his wife, daughter, and one member of the congregation have only eaten a small portion of plain rice each day and have spent 1 hour in prayer each of those days specifically praying for our safety, health, our families, congregations, and for the success of the Gospel to be preached in the congregation. Then they all gathered around Matt and I as we sat in a circle in the middle of the church and we prayed together a prayer of thanksgiving for all that God has done for us. I can’t tell you how humbling it is to know personally that a group of people sacrificed so much out of love for the Lord and His people. To think that these folks spent so much time in prayer for my personal safety and the well being of my family and the congregations I serve just takes my breath away. I am getting a little emotional again as I write this. On a morning when I woke up grumbling and complaining about the lack of warm water, the dirty towel I had to share with Matt, and the lack of electricity the Lord brings home to the reality of His love for me and His people through the dedicated service of these four humble Christians. The other thing that is amazing is that no one else in the congregation knew that they had fasted and prayed for these last 21 days and they waited until most everyone was gone before I was told. They asked for nothing in return except that I lead a prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord for the blessings they had received through the Word that was taught and that we come again to teach to and preach. The Lord willing, we will come again. The Lord is good and greatly to be praised!

The Nepali Context – What we take for granted when it comes to theology and doctrine is a precious gift from the Lord that we ought to daily thank Him for. The past two days have been spent with the original 9 pastors of the Himalayan Church of the Lutheran Confession of Nepal (HCLCN) that we met last June in addition to 14 more who have since become interested in learning more about Lutheran theology. Pastor Koenig and I have often talked about the need to be flexible when doing mission work. These past couple of days have proved this to be true. We came prepared to present a thorough introduction to Luther’s catechism but one hour before we were to begin we were told that since there were many new pastors who were going to attend it would be good to go through the CLC Statement of Faith and Purpose (SFP) again. In June we went through this document with the original 9 but at that time it had not yet been translated into Nepali. Since Raju had now finished the translation, it was available for all the pastors to read and study. So we quick dug out the one copy of SFP in English that we could find and quickly began to make notes and prepare to teach and discuss.

The above paragraph didn’t quite go the way I had intended so let me get back to the point.

What we take for granted…Most of us have grown up in the Lutheran church knowing that the Bible teaches that Baptism is a gift from God, it is something He does for us rather than something we do for Him. Such is not the case here. These pastors have never heard of infant baptism before now. As one would expect, they had many questions. What was good to see was that the 9 pastors who we taught months ago were the ones answering the questions posed by the new pastors. They have spent the past six months, just like the Bereans in the book of Acts, comparing the things we taught them back in June with God’s Word and were now explaining the truth of God’s word with boldness and conviction. The problem that they are now facing with infant baptism is that within the Nepali context there is a fear of baptizing anyone under that age of 16 because of former government policies. In the (not so distant) past the Christian church was completely underground in Nepal. It has only been in the past 40 years or so that Christianity has been legal. While it may be legal…it is still not widely accepted and is still persecuted on many levels. When the monarch first declared Nepal a secular nation some 20+ years ago there were regulations that came along with “conversion.” There was a concern that there would be forced conversions so a law was passed that the church was not allowed to baptize anyone against their will. In Nepal, a person may apply for the rights of citizenship at age 16 so the government also decided that no Christian “conversions” could officially take place until the age of 16. Since baptism was considered an act of conversion on the part of the individual, no baptisms took place before the age of 16. In addition to this, the government required that the individual sign a document that declared that he was converting by his own decision and there was no coercion involved. While none of this is required by law any longer there is still a fear among most Christians that the government is still watching everything they are doing and waiting for a reason to persecute them. So it is still the practice of most all congregations to follow this practice of baptism after the age of 16. They now understand that Baptism is God’s gift to sinners and that since children are sinful from birth they too need to receive the benefits of baptism but it will take some time and patience for them to instruct the people and put this into practice. Again, it was wonderful to see the men that we taught last year taking hold to this doctrine and explaining it to the new men.

The Power of the Word – Another example of the Holy Spirit at work came after our lunch break. Before we stopped for lunch I asked if anyone had any questions about anything we had discussed or what they had read on their own in the SFP. One of the new men raised his hand and asked about giving the Lord’s Supper to infants and children. He was wondering if we taught that since infants could be baptized then could they also receive the sacrament? I told him that we would be discussing the Lord's supper later in the day and his question would be answered then. He was satisfied with that and we stopped for lunch. After lunch the man raised his hand and asked to speak. He held up his Bible and then the CLC Adult instruction manual (Shadows and Substance) that has been translated into Nepali as he spoke rather excitedly for quite awhile. I wondered what he was saying. He seemed quit happy to be sharing something with the other men. When he finished, Raju turned to me and told me that he was reporting to the other men that he had found the answer to his own question in “Shadows and Substance” and the Bible. He explained that infants could and should be baptized but that they could not take the Lord’s Supper because they were unable to examine themselves. He went on to explain that as soon as children are taught enough to examine themselves and know what they are receiving they should be accepted to the Lord’s Supper. He then told them that he had learned this in “Shadows and Substance” and then told them where to find the Bible passage in 1 Corinthians. Thank you Lord!

Prayers – As we travel to various congregations we receive lots of varied prayer requests. Not that any one request if of greater importance, but I just don’t have the time to write them all down. My journal has several pages of names and requests. I want to share a couple of them with you and ask you to include these in your own prayers.

Dhau Bahadar – a young man of Tribal descent who came to Kathmandu from a remote tribal region about 180 KMs east of Kathmandu when his wife almost died from an emergency cesarean section delivery of their first and only child. He is currently working in Kathmandu to earn enough money to pay the hospital bills and then they plan to return home. The village he is from has no Christian church. The Lord called him to faith through a mission organization that came to his village and distributed hand-powered radios that are set to receive Gospel broadcasts through out Asia. The radios are given free of charge and have a little hand crank on the side that generates the electricity to power the radio. This young man wants to return to his village and start an HCLCN congregation with the help of Raju and JB.

Masucha – A woman in her mid forties who was brought up in Kashmir as a Muslim. She married a Hindu man against her parent’s wishes and moved to Northern India and then to Kathmandu. She and her husband were converted to Christianity through the Gospel preached by JB. She has become a very strong Christian and member of the congregation and is very supportive of the work of the ministry. She asks that we pray for her family back in Kashmir, that they too may know that love of their Savior.

Maya – A middle-aged woman who was brought to faith about seven months ago. Since that time she has faced many troubles in her life. Her husband has lost his job and they are having financial problems. Her husband is not a Christian and he says that demons have entered their life because she is going to the Christian church. She has also been very sick and the devil is tempting her to return to Hinduism. She also asks for prayers for her two children…Laxshmi—a daughter and Raj Kumar—a son.

Wishing I Could Sleep – If you have made it to the end of this post you are probably wondering how I had time to write all of this with the power and Internet problems. Well…my body has not adjusted to the 12-hour time difference yet and so I have been falling asleep around 8 pm every night and waking up at 3 or 3:30. Fortunately, the power comes on at 4:00 am so I am able to type all of this on my laptop in my hotel room while Matt sleeps so peacefully in the other bed (grumble, grumble…yes I am jealous and coveting Matt’s ability to sleep) and then I copy it to a stick drive and post it to the blog the next time we find an Internet Café. It is now 5:00 am and I am ready to get this day rolling.

Until next time…please continue to pray for our health, safety, and the success of the Gospel message. And please keep Beth and the kids in your prayers. Hannah and Caleb have been sick.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

48hours later

We made it...after being awake for basically 48 hours we arrived in Kathmandu right on time. Our flight from London took about 5 hours longer than expected due to a medical diversion. A passenger dislocated his shoulder lifting his bag into the overhead compartment and started having trouble with his heart and blood pressure. The plane was turned around and we flew 1.5 hours back to Warsaw Poland where the man was taken to the hospital and the plane was re-fueled and de-iced.

After a, much needed, good night of sleep we held our first of many seminars. We taught lessons on the grace of God and how the doctrine of election God's grace in our lives.

Not much to report so far...I was great to see Raju and his father at the airport and to see so many of the familiar faces of my brothers and sisters in Christ at the church today.

The weather is cool and overcast. The temperature was great for sleeping but didn't provide any warm water this morning because their water heater is a big black tank on the roof that needs sunlight to heat to the water. I think I Will try for a shower this evening since the sun has been shining a bit today.

In Christ,
Pastor Ohlmann

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Heading to the Himalayans

On Monday, January 19th I will travel to Kathmandu, Nepal to meet with the pastors of the Himalayan Church of the Lutheran Confession of Nepal (HCLCN). I will be traveling with Missionary Matt Ude who is on his way back to India after spending time with his family over Christmas. Our schedule includes a training seminar in Kathmandu before we head west to Hetauda for a one day seminar and then to the Chitwan valley where we will conduct three days of training with pastors of the HCLCN. Then we return to Kathmandu for a day before we travel to the northern Nepal/Tibet border to meet with former Buddhists who are currently serving the Lord as Christian evangelists. You can see a copy of our schedule at the bottom of this blog along with links to other blogs, websites, and reports.

If you would like to know more about how we got involved with the work of spreading the Gospel in Nepal, please read the report from the 2008 visit. Just cut click here:

I am not sure what kind of Internet access we will have during the trip, but I plan to update this blog as often as possible. Please check back often.

Your prayers for the proclamation of the Gospel and for my family and the congregations I serve in Missouri are greatly appreciated.

In Christ,
Pastor Todd Ohlmann