Read the sidebar, “Tibetan believers find God in music,” here).
KATHMANDU, Nepal (BP) — Elderly women walk clockwise around a Tibetan Buddhist temple in Kathmandu, Nepal. Their hands bear sculpted calluses earned from years of rolling prayer beads between their thumbs and index fingers.
Tibetans are known for their resistance to the Gospel, International Mission Board representative Tal Bratcher* tells those who’ve come to work with him.
Before they return home, seven recent high school graduates will see some of the spiritual calluses soften when they tell how God softened hard spots in their own hearts.
The students came from Concord Baptist Church in Jefferson City, Mo., to help Bratcher and his wife Janice* start churches in two Tibetan areas of Kathmandu.
The Bratchers are responsible for planting churches among 10 Tibetan unengaged and unreached people groups in Nepal. Unreached and unengaged people groups have never heard the Gospel, have no one actively spreading the Good News and have no known believers. Many of these people groups in Nepal live tucked away in the Himalayas.
It’s a daunting task, and that’s why the Bratchers are investing in national believers and short-term teams like Concord to help them fulfill the Great Commission among the Tibetans of Nepal.
English, Jesus & Coffee
Though the students had just graduated from high school, the Bratchers had big plans for their venture to Nepal.
“Really try not to put God in a box and feel like He won’t be able to use you because you’re young, or because you don’t have any missions experience or don’t know the language,” Bratcher told the students during their orientation.
Their ministry time centered on English clubs, scheduled times where anyone could come practice English for free. Tibetan and Nepalese children learn English in school but rarely have the chance to practice.
Concord students spent time walking and prayerwalking through neighborhoods trying to start conversations. Everyone the students met received an invitation to come practice English for an hour in a local coffee shop.
This allowed the students to meet one-on-one with Tibetans and build relationships in order to share the Gospel. In the afternoons, they hosted sports camps and shared the Gospel at the end of the camps.
“By having the team here and sharing the Gospel in the English clubs, it’s helped tremendously because it’s multiplied my own efforts,” Bratcher said.
Discipleship & Transformation
Bratcher plans to continue with one-on-one discipleship with the contacts the team made. One-on-one discipleship is the reason Bratcher is in Nepal today.
Before he found Jesus, Bratcher also had spiritual calluses. The former high school football player was “a hooligan,” the Kentucky native said. If he hadn’t become a believer, Bratcher believes he’d “either be dead or in jail.”
Kevin Hall, Bratcher’s former high school and college youth group leader, trained him as a disciple. Now Hall ministers to students at Concord, and he led the summer team’s trip to Kathmandu.
Bratcher is using the same model Hall used, life-on-life discipleship. Bratcher has been discipling Lobsang Sherpa*, a believer from the Dhokpya Tibetan people group, one of the 10 groups Bratcher is trying to reach. Lobsang is the only believer in his people group.
“I see his [Hall’s] influence in my life overflowing into Lobsang, in that his methods weren’t really orthodox,” Bratcher said. “We spent a lot of late nights together, going to these really greasy diners and praying over the Word together, having accountability times.”
Bratcher said Hall saw potential in him that he didn’t see. It was the same with Lobsang.
“As we’ve looked in the Word together and seen God’s heart in the Scripture and in the Gospel for him, saving Lobsang for a purpose — and that’s not for Lobsang’s happiness or his mere joy — but God has called Lobsang out of his people group as the first believer, to be that light to his people and see more of them into the Kingdom,” Bratcher said.
Lobsang came alongside the Concord team, translating and acting as a cross-cultural guide for the American students.
Equipping the next generation
Just as Hall discipled Bratcher and, now, Bratcher is discipling Lobsang, Hall is investing in a new generation of students at Concord and instilling a vision for reaching the lost.
Five of the seven Concord students have expressed a calling to serve overseas. The trip was a chance for the students to see what life overseas is like. One of the students is Hall’s daughter.
“My whole life, I’ve been fighting a call,” Kalee Hall said. “That’s what pastor’s kids do.”
God used a summer camp her dad led to change her heart.
Kalee, now a freshman at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., had the chance to talk with a Tibetan girl during an English club.
The girls bonded quickly. Both are 18 years old and have three younger sisters.
Kalee told her how God would take her sins away and the consequences of not believing.
“I’m saying this because I care about you,” Kalee told her new friend. Soon, both girls were in tears.
“My family, I can’t go against my family,” the girl said when Kalee gave an invitation to become a Christian.
Though her new friend left without accepting Christ, Kalee is still praying God will work in her life and continue to soften the calluses on her heart.
Now Kalee is able to say, “Wherever you want me to go, God.”
After graduating from college, she plans to move overseas and teach English as a Second Language.
Jake Wise, now a freshman at Columbia (Mo.) College, said he also feels called to serve overseas. The pianist in a band, he thought of pursuing music as a career but said the Lord called him to minister cross-culturally instead. He plans to study English in college so he can teach overseas.
Wise had the chance to plant seeds of the Gospel with children in a Tibetan refugee camp during one of the team’s sports camps.
Richard Donnelly, who now works in Missouri, had the chance to talk about his faith during an English club.
One of Donnelly’s English students listened intently when he shared about God, but like Kalee’s friend shied away from firmly committing because of loyalty to his parents and culture.
The converse was true for Donnelly. He was raised in a Christian home but felt no loyalty to his parents’ faith. “I wasn’t a believer at all. I was a pretty big sinner,” Donnelly said.
Donnelly was sent to a correctional facility in high school. There, surrounded by godly people, he accepted Christ as his Savior.
Donnelly prays his new friend also will act on his faith.
Though many spiritual calluses remained at the end of the week, Laura Smith, an adult leader on the Concord team, shared the Gospel with a young Tibetan man who accepted the message. Bratcher is following up with this Tibetan man and hopes to begin the discipleship process as Hall did with him and as he currently does with Lobsang.
Hall continues to invest in students. The Concord students are taking the Gospel to their campuses and workplaces and will look for people to disciple so they also may find the life Christ has for them.
*Names changed. Caroline Anderson is a writer for IMB who lives in Asia. For more stories specific to Asia, visit AsiaStories.com