Freeing the Prisoners in Tibet
We’re republishing this as part of our 25th anniversary series featuring favorite stories from our archives. This story by Robert Hewitt appeared in ANM’s Adnamis magazine in 1997. Enjoy!
Stephen and Susie were spending an evening at home when they heard the noise. It was coming from next door. Looking out their window, they saw the neighbors’ house packed with people, a hundred or more curious faces jammed into a tiny room. Some were sitting, some standing, some in windows—the crowd overflowed out of the doorway and into the street.
The couple walked over for a closer look and stood at the doorway. From there, they saw a Buddhist priest in one corner of the room, banging a silver spoon and plate. Opposite him, beside a fiery hot coal furnace, a man sat cross-legged on the floor. The priest began to call upon the “household god,” which soon came and possessed the young man. Soon he was flying around the room, about three feet off the floor, still in his cross-legged position. Coming to rest, he reached his hand into the flaming furnace, grabbed some live coals, and ate them. Then he began to levitate again.
Alarmed at what they were seeing, Stephen turned to his wife and said, “Listen, this is something we don’t believe in. We believe in the power of God, in Christ and His resurrection power. This is the power of the evil one. We need to pray.”
The events of that night were not Stephen’s first introduction to the occultic power of Tibetan Buddhism. By the age of eight Stephen was rising as early as 4 a.m. to memorize the Buddhist scriptures for two to three hours at a time. His father had been training to be a monk in the Tibetan order, but even though he renounced his vows and built a successful business, he remained loyal to the Tibetan Buddhist faith. Part of that loyalty meant to train his son to become a Buddhist monk.
A mixed heritage
Buddhism’s entry into the mountainous heartland of the Himalayas sometime around the seventh or eighth century was strongly opposed by the shamans or witch doctors of an older Tibetan religion known as Bon. Replete with magic and the worship of many spirits, Bon has today become an integral part of popular Tibetan Buddhism, creating a philosophical system that deceives its followers into spiritual slavery, and overpowers them with fear.
Stephen recalls that fear. “As a young boy I offered holy water to the shrine gods, bowed to them, and remained as far away as possible the rest of the day. The very sight of the idols scared, with their big eyes, angry faces, daggers in their hands—great fear dominated my life. Death to a Buddhist means total darkness. Reincarnation does little more than provide some degree of psychological comfort.”
Before Stephen turned twenty-one, both his parents had died. Through a series of providential encounters with Christian believers, he was introduced to Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, and eventually he enrolled in a Canadian seminary. By 1989, at the age of thirty-seven, he was married and pastoring a church in Ladakh. That’s when the trouble began.
Stephen wrote a book in which he presented the Gospel and took a stand against Buddhism. When the local Buddhist leaders became aware of it, they took a vow and passed a decree that he should either be eliminated or removed from Ladakh. For about four months some 300 Buddhist monks surrounded his family’s home. Seventeen policemen were ordered by the government to protect him, and the news made headlines in the national news. Realizing the situation was not likely to change, Michael moved his family to Ladakh.
What seemed like defeat soon showed itself as the guiding hand of Almighty God. Since Communist China’s subjugation, Tibetans have been a dispersed people, living throughout Central and South Asia. To reach them required a ministry able to cover thousands of miles and rugged terrain. The very next year Stephen and Susie launched Gaweylon (“Good News”) Radio, a five-minute variety program for Tibetans which included a Biblical message. It was an instant success, and today has grown into a full thirty-minute program. Though there are fewer than 200 known Christians in Tibet, Gaweylon generates some 65 to 70 letters per month. The message is being heard, and its liberating power is freeing the captives.
Starting with one
That night as Stephen and Susie bowed in the doorway of their neighbor’s home, they invited the Lord Jesus Christ to be present and to show his power. Suddenly the young man who had been levitating around the room fell straight to the floor, bewildered. After some moments of confusion, the Buddhist priest walked over to where they were, paid the highest respect to them by bowing down, and politely asked them to leave. Clearly, a greater power than what he knew had been at work.
It is a reminder to us all that the victory belongs to Jesus. In His triumphant procession, you can already hear the prisoners shouting for joy.
ANM continues to partner with Gaweylon to transform lives in Tibet and the surrounding region.
Twenty-five years after we started partnering with native missionaries to reach the unreached, the work continues, and we are closer than ever to seeing the Gospel proclaimed and lived out among every people group in the world. Thank you for your partnership in the Gospel!
There’s more to be done, and just $25 a month can equip another missionary. Learn More