Here is a testimony of a man named Gilsung who is half Helambu Sherpa (a ethnic group) and Tamang (another ethnic group) and grew up in a Tibetan Buddhist village in the Langtang region of Nepal. When he was 13 years old while tending his flock he lay down on his back on the grass to took a nap and during his nap two men appeared before him and everything around him went black. The two men who appeared to him spoke to him and told him that Buddha would lead him to the truth. For an entire day he could see nothing. He yelled to his parents and they came and took him to their home which was a little wood hut where the animals slept as well. He lay there all night and early the next morning the two men in his vision told him to tell his parents not to worry about him and that he would be fine. The vision then told him to add the name Jesus at the end of his devotions. As a Buddhist their prayers involve worshipping all their gods in an order. He would usually kneel and bow down 108 times for each of the 35 gods he would pray to and at the end pray to the Dalai Lama. But this time he added the name Jesus at the end. He continued this devotion and everyday would receive a message from the two men in his vision which he would write down in a book. The writing was neither Nepali or Tibetan but something no one could read or understand but Gilsung. Slowly slowly the name of Jesus was being pushed up higher on the list of the gods and Gilsung continued to listen the voices and follow the messages of his vision along with his parents. Soon enough the name of Jesus was just about at the top of the list of gods. Then one day he was told in his vision that disciples would come in 15 days to him. His brother who was working at their family’s lodge for trekkers had 3 men from Thailand come through his lodge who were Christians. They prayed the name Jesus over their food which sparked the brother of Gilsung’s attention. He then started conversation with these men and told them that him and his family would pray to the name Jesus. He then called Gilsung over and on that day marked 15 days of which his vision had told him he would meet more disciples. Before Gilsung was beckoned by his brother that morning as he awoke it was if he was naked and he described it like when you don’t wear your watch which you always do and then you don’t, the feeling of nakedness you have. The men in his vision then spoke to him and said, “Buddha’s kingdom no longer is in the world for you.” From then onwards as he met with these men from Thailand they shared the Bible with him and took him to Kathmandu where they were able to bring him a Bible in Nepali. From then onwards Gilsung went back to his village and started to preach about Christianity and start up a church there. He now has 35 followers but faces much persecution. He was banned from his village for an extended period of time and luckily did not face the worst which for many Christians in Nepal means being martyered. He owns a guest lodge with his family for trekkers but faces trials such as the other lodge owners telling trekkers their lodge doesn’t exist or giving it bad reviews etc. To be a Christian means you are the lowest of all castes in their caste system and will be faced with persection everyday of your life. The struggles Gilsung is up against were made evident to me as I trekked through the mountains and realized how much of a stronghold Buddhism has in these areas. Historically if we look at the Himalayan mountains ranges they literally have been a barrier for Christianity to reach to these people. Missionaries reached to areas of China but this stopped at the mountains. The Himalayas are an unattested land for the Gosepl due mainly to the reasons of nobody wanting to venture there. There are a few interesting facts about these mountains and the territory and culture surrounding these areas, in particular Tibet and Tibetan Buddhist traditions. The Indo-Tibetan Buddhist belief is that when the world divides into darkness and war and greed the 25th King of Shambhala -a mythical kindgom or Pure Land- is prophesied to bring about a Golden Age and vanquish all the darkness. In 1938 the Nazi regime sent a team into Tibet including professional doctors to take cranial measurements and perform anthropological and scientific studies of the people there to see whether Tibet was the cradle of the Aryan race. This just shows the power that this area had on the world and the mysticism behind the Tibetan Buddhist beliefs. The stronghold of Tibetan Buddhism in the mountains is evident not only in religious practices seen in these villages and communities but their cultural practices as well.
I do see hope in Gilsung’s mission to share his Christian faith with others in the mountains by his personal relationships he has developed with the surrounding villages. Along the path whomever we would encounter Gilsung would know what village they were from, their family and their name and would greet them and chat. He has also written close to 200 Christian songs which are accompanied with guitar. He has planted a seed and things will grow. It was also beautiful to see the banners outside his home and guest home with Scripture passages written upon the silk flapping in the wind next to the Tibetan prayers flags powerfully overtaking all of the surrounding hills.
There are many more difficulties that Gilsung faces along with all of the other Christians living in the remote mountain villages of the Himalayas but that would take me another whole blog entry. I will simply comment that we in North America are very fortunate to have access to materials, resources and support at our fingertips all of which are in our own language for us to grow in our faith and to worship God more fully.
Let us unite in prayer for all those Christians who are being persecuted not only in Nepal but in every corner of the world. Let us also pray for those missionaries throughout the world who are trekking into remote areas to bring the Word of God to those who have never heard it and also that more people may respond to God’s call to go forth and bring the Gospel to all the ends of the earth.
On one last note, it brings me to the unknown fact about the first ascent of Mt. Everest – the Top of the World- where Sir Edmund Hillary buried a crucifix on the summit. The crucifix was given to him from a Benedictine monk which had originally been given to him from Pope Pius XII. Sir Edmund Hillary saw Tenzing Norgay, the Sherpa, place his gifts to the gods and was reminded of the crucifix he was given and then buried it on the top of the world. On the top of these mountains we can look to the heavens and believe in the power of One God and Creator and give him all honour and praise. It is a highly powerful image: on the highest point in all of the world is placed a crucifix of Jesus Christ and it is through His sacrifical love that we have received Eternal Salvation.