"Many Hindus in the Himalayas may have been born in a place where they have almost no chance of hearing and believing in the name of Jesus, but I saw the image of God in them," shares Andy.
One morning, I found myself walking the cobbled alleys of an old city nestled deep in the Himalayas. As with most other mornings, hopeful shopkeepers laid offerings of garlands and smouldering incense in doorways. Schoolchildren scurried by ringing the bells of the countless street shrines. At every tree and street corner sat an idol with people lined up to lay out an offering of rice, bananas or coins.
The sun crested the hills as I stepped into the bus station; the early morning rays cut through the smoke of a hundred idling bus engines. Motorcycles zipped among the people and buses. Vendors’ voices filled the air, promoting their wares.
Looking over this bustling scene, I saw that most people had something in common: a crimson mark on their forehead signifying they had completed an act of worship that very morning. The people of this city — and most of this country — are Hindu.
I found my bus, a rickety old thing crammed with goats, chickens and sacks of potatoes. With a rumble, we began to snake our way up the mountain. Once above the smog of the city, there lay before us an endless sea of jungle-clad hills dotted with terraced rice patties and thatch villages.
For the next 30 hours, the bus drove the rough switchback roads to the far edge of the country. We passed through countless villages and saw that, indeed, this is a nation with “more gods than people” like ancient Athens. Each home and shop had a shrine. Each village featured a temple laden with offerings and brimming with worshipers. At every stream, bridge, fork in the road and prominent tree, there was an idol adorned with objects of worship. For Hindus in the Himalayas, there are gods everywhere and in everything.
We stopped occasionally for tea or meals of rice topped with curried vegetables and a spicy lentil sauce. Excited to see a foreign guest in their town, people unashamedly smothered us with questions. Their kindness and hospitality were second to none as they declared: “Guests are god.” This gave us the opportunity to share that we are Christians and ask what they believe. Most had no idea how to explain their faith; it was just something they lived, but we surmised a few things. First, there are main gods that everybody worships, but an endless number of other gods everywhere, none of which are excluded from respect or worship should the opportunity arise. Every god anywhere (including ours) was welcome in their limitless pantheon. However, the idea of one all-powerful and personal God was foolish and even offensive to them. Second, they believed life is an endless cycle of birth, death and reincarnation, controlled by karma. Do good, and you will get good things and a better reincarnation. Do bad, and bad things will happen to you, and you will get a worse life in your next reincarnation. Amazingly, at every stop, people were almost always interested to learn more about Christianity and take a gospel tract.
Go and tell
Eventually, we came to the end of the road. To this day, many villages are accessible only by footpaths. For a week, we walked deeper and deeper into the hills, talking with people and sharing the gospel as we went. In every village, we were invited into homes for tea, a meal or even to spend the night.
Even deep in the Himalayas, we met a few local believers in Jesus. Each had incredible stories of persecution and struggles they endured for their faith. Their Hindu communities and families may be very inclusive of all gods, but when one of their own puts their faith in Christ alone, they are persecuted. Despite this, the believers were radiant, and their eyes shone with a joy, hope and peace that their neighbours did not.
Seventy years ago, there was not a single Jesus follower in this whole country. But around the world, the Church was praying, and believers were waiting for the opportunity to share the good news. Through those prayers and persistence, the doors opened to the world in the 1950’s and slowly, people came to know Christ. The local Church grew very slowly under intense persecution for the first few decades. But then, in the 1990s, it became the fastest-growing church in Asia. Through the prayers of many, we see that God has built His Kingdom here from zero to hundreds of thousands — if not millions — in only 70 years!
We must continue to pray and go and share the good news among those who do not know it. From big cities to remote villages, there are still families and whole communities that have never heard the gospel. How can they believe and have the abundant life of joy, freedom and hope that we have found in Christ unless someone preaches to them? How can we not share such good news!
Deep in the mountains, I became very sick, unable to eat or sleep. I developed a high fever and coughed so hard that my lungs started to bleed. I have never been so afraid in my life. A Hindu family took me in and cared for me, making tea and encouraging me to eat. They never once made me feel like an unwelcome burden. Neighbours visited with gifts. A man walked three hours to bring me a chicken. A few boys ran for two days to get fruit for me. After two weeks, I was well enough to leave, and as I thanked the family, they said, “It was our joy to have you as our guest and serve you.”
They shared their lives with me. Loved and cared for me in my need. Many Hindus in the Himalayas may have been born in a place where they have almost no chance of hearing and believing in the name of Jesus, but I saw the image of God in them. Like us, they are His creation, made in His image and loved by our heavenly Father. He so loves them that He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. How can I not share this life with them?
Pray for the unreached Hindus of the Himalayas. Pray that God would send workers into this harvest field. Pray that they would have ears that hear and hearts that understand the gospel.
Andy, his wife and three young sons have served with OM in the Himalayas since 2011. They began their journey largely doing outreaches to remote villages. The middle years of their career were spent creating an agricultural business as missions project that continues to this day. Through it all, their passion and now key focus is sharing the gospel with the least-reached people groups living deep in the Himalayan mountains.