In May 2016, a little over a year after the devastating earthquakes in Nepal, four of us (Laura Dahl, Erin O’Neill, myself, Natalie Hamm, pictured above) from the Vineyard School of Justice travelled to Nepal to be with the Himalayan Region Vineyard churches there. This is the first installment of what will be a four part report.
There are currently six established Vineyard churches in Nepal – in Kathmandu, Kotgaon, Chhampi, Gatlang, Nessing, and Gorkha. Our team visited all six churches, which is a particularly special feat given geographic considerations – it takes an eight hour drive from Kathmandu followed by a two hour trek in the mountains to get to the Vineyard in Nessing, for example.
“The Mother Church”
One of the first things you notice when you arrive at Kathmandu Vineyard is that it’s a complex. There’s a large sanctuary where the Saturday service (Sunday is a work day in Nepal) and other meetings take place, a spacious courtyard in the centre of the premises, and an assortment of rooms surrounding the courtyard.
Children who live in outlying Nepali villages frequently have insufficient access to education; some also experience unstable family situations. As a result, the Vineyard has faithfully taken in children over the years, providing them with a place to live and a healthy family environment, and facilitating their education. One of the joys of staying at Kathmandu Vineyard is being able to live and interact with these children. Though people refer to Kathmandu Vineyard as “the mother church” because it’s the biggest, oldest Vineyard in the HRV and serves as hub, the phrase is also an apt description of practical ways the community promotes the wellbeing of children.
Wednesday Prayer Meeting
Wednesday is a day of prayer and fasting and since our first full day was a Wednesday, we joined the prayer meeting. It began to rain as we started. During worship, a woman began to manifest a demon – engaging with these sorts of realities is a common occurrence in the HRV. The leaders told us that they’d been praying for this woman to be free. Several of us gathered around and prayed for her, rebuking the evil spirit in the name of Jesus and hearing it retort (in Nepali) things like “I’m not going to leave!” and “She belongs to me!” Eventually, the woman reported some respite and peace, though she sensed that she needed more prayer to be completely free. A few weeks later, one leader told me that she had since been totally freed.
Moments such as these are good reminders – especially for those of us entrenched in a Western cultural mindset – that we struggle against “powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil” (Ephesians 6:12). Being a kingdom people committed to the Lord Jesus Christ and to bringing his rule and reign everywhere inevitably puts us in conflict with the enemy’s schemes. Few things so poignantly illustrate the reality of this conflict (and ultimately the supremacy of Jesus and his kingdom) like deliverance from demonic oppression.
Saturday Services, Youth, House Fellowship
We attended two services at Kathmandu Vineyard. The first was “combined” – every first Saturday of the month, Kathmandu Vineyard hosts the Vineyard communities from Kotgaon and Chhampi (both villages are within an hour’s drive). The second service was a normal gathering with just the Kathmandu Vineyard community.
Though the former was more packed with people, both were equally electric. I have been with the HRV several times, and I am always undone by the sheer vitality of the worship and prayer. The passion and zeal with which people pursue Jesus is almost palpable. This is no doubt a testimony to the fact that so many have come to faith because of personal experiences of healing or deliverance. Such experiences render Jesus as real and as far as I can tell, the earthquake has in no way diminished people’s passion and zeal.
I preached at the two services: first on the story of Jesus raising Lazarus in John 11 and second on the story of Jesus healing a man with leprosy in Luke 5. On both occasions, many people came forward for ministry – it was awesome, to say the least. After the combined service, four people got baptized, which was a wonderful way to end our gathering together.
After the services, everyone mingles in the courtyard and enjoys juice or tea together. Several smaller gatherings follow – for fathers, mothers, youth etc. Natalie and Erin shared at the youth fellowship on the first and last Saturday we were in Nepal, respectively.
We also attended a house fellowship one evening. The host family has the farthest commute to Kathmandu Vineyard of anyone in the congregation. Natalie, Erin, and Laura shared spectacularly on women and the importance of women in ministry. As we were about to close in prayer, the family asked that we would pray for their son. He was traveling home from India and the family had not heard from him in a week. As we began to pray, the mother burst into tears – how unimaginable the torment of not knowing your own child’s whereabouts. Amazingly, the son got in touch two days later!
The exciting, beautiful things that happen within the walls of Kathmandu Vineyard are but one facet of the community’s life. A great deal happens outside, as a result of the leaders’ faithful commitment to go and share the love of Jesus with those on the margins.
Once a week, a group from Kathmandu Vineyard visits the so-called “riverbed” – a crowded slum alongside the highly polluted Bagmati River. There is quite a long, beautiful history of connection. Recently, the Vineyard began visiting a different part of the riverbed where people haven’t heard the gospel. The Vineyard provided a water tank so that those living in the area could access clean water.
We went to the riverbed one Monday afternoon, handed out food hampers, met with people in their make-shift shelters, and prayed for whatever needs arose as a result.
Afterwards, we visited several single mothers who are part of Kathmandu Vineyard. Single mothers are often heavily stigmatized in Nepali culture, not to mention impoverished, so it’s entirely fitting for the church to make a bee-line for them and surround them with compassion and support. The Vineyard has provided seed money to many of these women so that they can start small businesses (managing a little snack or vegetable cart, for example) with a view to becoming self-sufficient.
We visited one woman (Sushila Didi, a leader in Kathmandu Vineyard who was in our School of Justice two years ago) in her home. She lives in tiny quarters with her children, three floors up in a precarious building that is especially so after the earthquake. As we prayed for her, she felt the tangible warmth of God’s presence on her head. Afterwards, she brought out Sprite and snacks that she had especially bought to share with us.
During our time in Kathmandu, we also visited two men who were sick: one in hospital and one resting at home. Though the latter is a believer, he’s not part of the Vineyard. Both men are friends of leaders from the Vineyard, which is why we visited them. It was yet another great example of how the people in the Vineyard care for those outside their own walls and circles.
Raju and Amit
Kotgaon is a 200-year old village, about an hour’s drive from Kathmandu, and situated in the hills above the Kathmandu Valley. Two years ago, our Nepali School of Justice went to Kotgaon and prayed for a man, Raju, who hadn’t left his bed in weeks due to depression and physical ailments. That evening as we prayed, we saw Raju walk to the other side of his home and by the end of our time in Nepal, he was sitting in Kathmandu Vineyard during a combined service.
I have often thought of Raju and the experience as it was a profound window into the compassion and power of God. As our team drove towards Kotgaon this time, I asked about Raju and was told that he was doing well. Even more exciting, we were going to visit him.
Raju’s family home was entirely destroyed by the earthquake. His new home is replete with light and colour, as is his countenance, which is a stark contrast to the way he appeared that evening when we first met him two years ago. We sat and talked with him and his father, Amit, who loves praying for healing and has acquired quite a reputation in the village. Hindu neighbours bring him their sick animals (goats etc.) and as Amit lays hands on them and prays, they get healed! We prayed for and blessed his passion for healing and he had a tangible sense of God’s presence touching his body. A few of us received prayer from Amit and Raju afterwards. Interestingly, just as with the Kathmandu Vineyard prayer meeting, every time we started to pray, it began to rain! By the third or fourth time, we felt delighted at the realization that the natural was somehow speaking of the invisible.
We stayed for two days and one night in Kotgaon, at a guesthouse with a spectacular view of the Kathmandu Valley. During the days, Pastor Madan (pastor of Kotgaon Vineyard) took us around the village. Given its location, Kotgaon is in desperate need of water; Pastor Madan is involved with a drilling project and drilling was to commence the day after our arrival. He took us to the prospective drilling site and we prayed that water would be found and that somehow, even as the rains had come whenever we prayed earlier, that God would provide water for the village. We later found out that the project had successfully found water 300 feet deep into the mountain! The village is still in need of financing for all the associated costs of the water project.
Pastor Madan arranged two special mid-week services at Kotgaon Vineyard for us to do some teaching and ministry. At one service, I shared on the story of Jesus forgiving and healing the paralyzed man who was lowered through the roof. At another service, Natalie shared on the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well; how Jesus gives and is living water. On both occasions, many people came forward for ministry and we had a chance to lay hands on and pray for lots of people. The Spirit was moving deeply, and it was particularly humbling to see people – some very elderly and hardly able to walk – respond to the invitation to receive forgiveness by coming forward and falling to their knees. These people then prayed for others who were responding to the invitation to receive healing. What a touching glimpse of the kingdom.
We were shown such remarkable hospitality in Kotgaon. A Vineyard family prepared a wonderful dinner for us in their home, we were invited to breakfast at another lady’s home (the first believer in the village, in fact!), and had a fantastic lunch at Pastor Madan’s house on our last day.