By Sarah Wilke, Special Contributor…
Every year, hundreds of adventurous climbers attempt to reach the summit of Mount Everest, the highest on earth. But not all challenges in Nepal involve trekking to a mountaintop. Two pastors in Nepal, the Rev. Ratna Chapagain and the Rev. Prem Maharjan, have sought another lofty goal.
I met Ratna and Prem during the World Methodist Council gathering in Durban, South Africa, in August 2011. The two pastors approached me and Dale Rust Waymack, director of international ministries of The Upper Room, for conversation. We learned that the Methodist Church in Nepal has over 25,000 members in 264 churches, but few Christian resources. Burdened by the deep spiritual hunger of their country, they asked, “What do we need to do to start an edition of The Upper Room daily devotional guide in the Nepali language?”
Over the months that followed our first meeting, we offered assistance to Ratna and Prem as they dedicated themselves to the task of introducing The Upper Room to Nepal. They built a team of church leaders who came together twice a month in Kathmandu to worship, plan and celebrate. Their commitment has never wavered, even though it has been a challenge to find translators and to coordinate distribution amid political and economic instability.
In June 2012, the first Nepali edition of The Upper Room reached 1,000 new readers. When it came off the press, church leaders gathered again in Kathmandu to collect copies and bring them back to their communities for distribution and use. Like other Upper Room ministry partners around the world, the Nepali team now follows a regular bimonthly cycle of receiving meditations from our Nashville office. They work to translate, print and personally distribute the devotional resource throughout their mountainous country, where Christians represent about 2 percent of the population.
Ratna, who is the general secretary of the Methodist Church in Nepal, now serves as the Nepali editor of the devotional guide. By making The Upper Room available, Ratna and his team are providing readers access to the faith stories of people who have firsthand experiences of God’s work in their lives.
“It’s a struggle to present God’s word and teachings in a way that encourages deeply meaningful biblical practice,” he says. “We don’t give up because The Upper Room is an effective tool to support our church and to reach others with the gospel of Jesus. These are life-changing inspirational messages.”
The Upper Room, first published in 1935, is available now in over 100 countries and in 35 languages. I am humbled by the fact that when I read today’s meditation, I am joined by millions of Christians around the world, including our brothers and sisters in Nepal.
Ratna and Prem’s passion and boundless energy has refreshed and energized those of us working at the Upper Room Ministries in Nashville. We celebrate their success as they bring the message of God’s great love and grace into one of the most challenging places in the world. As we step into a new year, I’m encouraged by the prophet Habakkuk who prayed: “God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, and makes me tread upon the heights” (Habakkuk 3:19). Like the church leaders in Nepal, may we all reach high places in 2013.
Ms. Wilke is publisher of The Upper Room (www.upperroom.org) and associate general secretary of the General Board of Discipleship in Nashville, Tenn.