"So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”
What does it mean to be dedicated to the Body of Christ?
What does it mean to “not forsake the assembling of ourselves together?”
What does it mean to be part of a congregation?
What is a Church?
For one small body of believers in Nepal, to be a church means to dedicate all you are and all you have to the Body of Christ. It means sacrificing your own comfort, your own schedule and your own finances. It means giving all for the sake of something larger than yourself.
It means everything.
Tucked high on a hillside in central Nepal sits a small green and white church. The congregation is made up of roughly 60 believers who live in the tiny village surrounding the church. The sounds of rural life penetrate the air here, floating on the breezes that stream up the valley. Chickens cluck their way through morning meals. Goats bleat out calls to their young. Water buffalo bellow low.
On the hillsides, the colorful fabrics of the women’s clothing dot the landscape. Workers call to one another, tilling, planting and harvesting the small agricultural plots lined across terraces carved into the topography of the land.
For outsiders, a trip to this church takes commitment. First, a 90-minute car ride from Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. From there, the current season and weather impacts the final stretch of travel to the church. Either a ride standing in the back of a truck, bumping up the mountain over rain-rutted roads, or, in the wet season, a multi-hour hike up steep terrain. It is no small matter to visit this church or to live in this place.
Challenges creep into life daily, be they related to weather or travel or illness or poverty. Life is bare here, stripped down to core. Any commitment outside the daily requirements for life and livelihood requires sacrifice.
As with most places in Nepal, Christianity is relatively new in this place.
Three years ago there were only 10 believing families; 10 families bound by the Truth and the blood of Christ. For those families, their belief in Christ made life more difficult. Persecution was rampant from neighboring Buddhists, individuals who wished to stifle the truth of the Gospel.
And there was no church. No place to meet and offer one another encouragement, to come together as a body, to gather in corporate worship.
To find fellowship, these families set off each Saturday morning to hike to a neighboring village and the closest church. On trails of hard-packed earth they walked, one at a time, single file, Bibles in hand. Walking toward fellowship, encouragement, and the nourishment provided by the Word. For miles each way they walked, never questioning the necessity of the trip or the worth of their goal.
Slowly, an idea began to form. The idea that perhaps it would be better if there was a local church, a place in their own village where they could gather. A place that would stand for Truth and give believers a place to be together. Maybe they could build their own church.
One man, especially, recognized the importance of the church and knew there was something he could do for his fellow Christians.
“I wanted to be a rich person,” said Kysab. “But I had sadness and trials and worries. I needed Jesus. After I believed in Jesus and started attending church God gave me a vision. I knew there were so many people without christ and I had a vision to start a church in this village.”
Kysab donated the land necessary to begin work on a church building and partnered with Lila (pronounced Lee-la), a recent graduate of Vision Nationals’ church planter training. The church had land and a shepherd. But how would the work be completed? Where would the resources come from? The people of this village had little to offer. Would it be enough?
“The land was donated and we didn’t ask for money,” Lila said. “We just wanted to glorify God. We knew the church would be built.”
Work began. The 10 families started construction together, gathering stones from the river in the deep valley at the base of their mountain, bringing them up to the land. Slowly, a foundation was formed. Solid and secure, like the foundation of Christ in the lives of the men and women dedicated to raising the structure.
“Everyday we worked,” Lila said. “We did not go anywhere or do anything until the church was done.”
In four short months it was finished. There was a church.
“We decided to test and see how the Lord would provide,” Lila said. “And He provided. He provided everything.”
At the onset of the project, Lila had 100 rupees in the construction fund, roughly $1.05 in U.S. currency. By the time the church was completed, the local believers had raised over 43,000 rupees, just over $452. God had provided, just as they knew He would.
At the end of construction the church leaders contacted Vision Nationals, asking for help with funding for the roof. It was a cost the ministry gladly met, more than willing to support this body which had worked so hard to support itself.
“The believers have done it,” Lila said. “What happened here, it is because of the grace of God. Ministry is not about money, ministry is about the vision. This church had the vision and worked so it happened.”
This church belongs solely to the believers - the congregation. Now 15 families strong, the church is a testament to the power of God in the life of believers.
Standing on the edge of the hill, the wind at your back, gazing at the church in front of you, it is easy to believe this sort of community is the Church Paul wrote about in the book of Acts. A church of believers committed to the cause of Christ and each other. A group of people who put God’s work ahead of their own, who surrendered to the leading of the Spirit and the call of God in their lives.
The challenges have not left. The poverty, hardships, and persecution still exist.
But there is joy for this body, knowing they are where God wants them: ministering to their community, standing tall for the Gospel, rejoicing in trials, patient through persecution, resting in hope.
This church has become the model for Vision Nationals’ church planter training program; a thriving example of what a village church can be. Every session finds the students in the program making the trek to the church on the hill. They come to meet the believers, speak with Lila, and see what commitment in the Body of Christ can accomplish.
And when they come, they don’t just see the animals along the path, or the workers on the hillside, or even the individual members of the congregation. They see more than a building and a group of people. They see the Church, in her frailty and strength, her humility and glory.