November is peak tourism season in Nepal.
The monsoons are over, leaving everything green. Average temperatures are 60 degrees and the sun shines for nearly nine hours a day. The capital, Kathmandu, is the gateway to the Nepali Himalayas, which host trekking and outdoor activities. Kathmandu is a living museum filled with ancient temples, shrines, and seven world heritage sites. TripAdvisor ranks this city third among the top ten tourist destinations in the world and number one in Asia.
Last fall four women from four different churches in Charlottesville, Virginia, went to Kathmandu for another reason. They went to teach 35 women who are leaders among six ANM ministry partners serving in Nepal. The theme was from II Timothy 4:5, “But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”
One of the four teachers was ANM’s Sikha Pandagade. Normally seen as a shy, modest, and reserved woman in the office, she assumed an outspoken leadership position during the conference. She unashamedly shared her testimony about being the only Christian working in a state-run Hindu school in India. She was snubbed. No one respected her as a person or a teacher. She ate alone. Refusing to comply with the school’s Hindu agenda, she did not work on Sundays or take part in the Hindu festivals at the school. She felt extremely isolated. Her only solace was prayer.
The principle called her into his office one day and told her she would lose her job if things did not change. Sikha stayed true to her faith and continued to pray. To her surprise, the principal was fired. Her colleagues had observed her joyful continence and how she suffered persecution in peace, so when the principal left they began to confide in her. They found her trustworthy and asked for her counsel.
Because she and the other three women were vulnerable enough to talk about their sufferings with the group, others talked about theirs during the lunch break. Bimla’s father was a Hindu priest in India. In high school, Bimla lost her eyesight. A classmate told her about Jesus and then prayed for her. Bimla was totally healed! When her mother found out the truth, she threw Bimla out of the house. Bimla traveled to Nepal and through the years planted 22 churches. Today she is married to a pastor.
Another woman, Punja, told Sikha that after she accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, her husband left her. Punja quietly prayed for him, and today they are reconciling.
Women teaching women
Sikha told me, “This was women teaching women. We convinced them through the Word of God that they were equal, precious, and dynamic in his sight regardless of what was told to them by their patriarchal society. We showed them dignity and value.”
One Nepali woman said, “I was reluctant to come, but after the first day, I went home and encouraged other women from our church to come.” Others did the same. By the end of the three days, 56 women were present, all influential leaders in their communities. This one small event will have a multiplied effect throughout Nepal.
One leader commented, “Nowadays, so-called revival or mission conferences are filled with loud music for hours and hardly any emphasis on the Word of God. This one was totally different. We heard powerful testimonies and lots of solid Bible teaching. Our hearts are overjoyed, satisfied, and charged beyond imagination. We need more conferences like this in Nepal in the future. Thank you ANM!”
Sikha overheard a delegate say, “If these women can do it, so can we! We too can stand firm in all circumstances, whether in the face of opposition or fierce persecution.”
Photos by Kishor Pandagade for ANM (2018)