Saturday, September 6, 2014

Saturday Worship at Lohmi Church

We are back in Kathmandu, Nepal. Saturday is generally when the local churches here worship together. That's because here, the weekend is one day, and that day is Saturday. Sunday is still considered the Lord's day, but most churches worship on Saturday. Makes me wonder...would we be committed to "gathering ourselves together" (Heb. 10:25) if we only had one-day-weekends? It seems we are many times too preoccupied to worship together with two days off. These people really make it a priority.
After breakfast this morning, we walked a mile or two across town to worship at Ghangri Church (which Madison calls, Lohmi Church). They meet in a simple rectangular block building (about 60 x 30 feet) that holds about 120 people in plastic chairs. It is the first Tibetan church (specifically, the Lohmi people in Tibet) started in Nepal. 
This day there are about 65 men (mostly young), and about 30 women in the main church building for worship. The men sit on the right and are separated by an aisle through the center from the women and children on the left (kind of like the old pioneer churches like in Cades Cove and elsewhere). There are some things about this arrangement that I actually like. There is a focus and lots of discipleship going on--friends sitting with friends they invited, singing loudly together--good stuff. What surprises me is that there are more than twice the number of men than there are women and children combined. [Correction: more women trickled in as the service progressed. I counted about 45 women during the sermon. The place was nearly full, with still more men than women. The children--lots of them--are having their service and activities outside. I'm guessing there is a total of 140-160 people here today.] 
The women are almost all dressed in traditional clothing (complete with distinctive Nepali aprons), and some have fans. I broke a good sweat walking here, and now I'm roasting--it's hot in here. The men mostly have on jeans and button-up collared shirts. The worship is mostly their own songs in their own music by traditional instruments. Their instruments include a dramyan (like a long-necked, 4-string, round-shaped, bass ukulele), and a yangzi (looks and sounds like a hammer dulcimer), a fish-shaped tambourine, and simple bass hand drum. Again, men are the ones on the instruments and a man leads the worship. There are three additional men and three women backup singers. 
After a few songs the worship leader asked them to take a moment to pray and worship God for his glory. This was a very sincere time of prayer and praise where people were closing their eyes and telling God of his goodness, grace, and power. Many had tears running down their faces. Some became quite emotional. After things calmed down a bit, first-time guests were asked to introduce themselves. Jesse and I were the only ones there for the first time. We introduced ourselves as a pastor and elder from the United States and expressed greetings from Providence Church and told them how honored we were to join them for worship. Jesse also shared that we were hoping to do work near there. They warmly welcomed us. An elderly woman then came to the stage and gave her testimony. She is a new believer--a Sherpa woman who had experienced a very hard life. She had had some dreams about heaven and hell which drove her to seek Jesus. She thanked the church for helping her believe and for training her to be a disciple. She ended by singing two Sherpa songs. Pretty awesome. 
This is Batahsh and his wife. This is a dear,
dear couple who are expecting their first
child. Batahsh was a guide and close friend
of Madison's when he was here. He's got his
long hair pulled back in a ponytail.
The worship leader then did the announcements and prayer requests. Next was a testimony from Dorjee the skinny, older-teen-aged cousin of Madison's close friend, Batahsh (who Jesse affectionately calls Jeronimo because he has long hair and totally looks like an American Indian). We had met Dorjee last week. He is from a Tibetan village. Madison said that when he became a Christian, his parents disowned him. He now has a sickness (perhaps TB?) that makes him weak and causes his hands to shake. Dorjee is an incredibly kind person who you can tell loves Jesus. He was very nervous, but shared a testimony and quoted a long poem he wrote. His hands were shaking. The central theme of the poem (in Nepali) was Jesus died and rose from the dead, therefore he has joy regardless of his circumstances. It also proclaimed that those who believe this are saved. The poem had a rhythm and repeated the line that Jesus died and rose from the dead. I think it is interesting that they incorporate testimonies and poetry (especially given our recent emphasis on the arts in Psalm 23). After another quick testimony, they passed the offering "pots" (they really look like flower pots). Madison had prepared us to only give 100 rupees (= $1). To do more (even $10) could be a problem, he said. 

Next, the pastor walked to the podium with a briefcase full of books, took some of them out and placed them on the podium, and then began preaching. He seems to be an articulate man, he's small and about 60 years old. Everyone has a Bible and is paying attention to his words. [Note: we are over an hour into worship when he is beginning to preach at noon.] Even though he is speaking Tibetan, I can tell he has all the marks of a good communicator. He seems very sincere, uses appropriate gestures, makes great eye contact, and uses vocal variation. He's not putting me to sleep even though I have no idea what he is saying. He seems to spend good time in the Scripture for his main text (he's preaching on John 6 where Jesus claims to be the bread of life) and more Scripture for his supporting texts. He might do well to smile more and give some humor breaks. He's been going 40 minutes now, with no laughter. 
The really cool old building behind Jesse's shoulder is the
office building for the church and has served as a temporary
residence for people who were in need. The two blue sheds
are the children's ministry buildings.
Then suddenly (after a 45 minute sermon),  the sermon was over and about a quarter of the people walked out. Batahsh told us they are preparing to do the Lord's supper. Only baptized believers can participate. Those who left are either not yet believers, or are new believers not yet baptized, and those who are discipling them. They went outside to discuss the sermon with them one-to-one and answer questions they may have. That's awesome. 
They sang a song and moved away some of the empty chairs, before reading the Lord's supper passage and passing out the unleavened bread and cups of new wine (grape juice).

After the Lord's supper was over all was concluded in a song. "I have decided to follow Jesus...Though none go with me I still will follow...My cross I'll carry 'til I see turning back, no turning back." I know this song. It sounded much different than the version I grew up singing, but it was unmistakable. I fought tears as I thanked Christ for taking up his cross for me and I committed anew to follow him, if needs be, to my own death. 
Some of the students at Lohmi Church. The guy in the Jack
Daniel's shirt was on the worship team. He has NO IDEA
what the shirt is about. Funny! The girl next to him looks
like Lainey Greer's Tibetan sister (even more in person)!
These are just a few of their very committed high schoolers.
I can't imagine the abuse they experience from their peers.
These people had endured much to follow Jesus. This was no easy thing for them. Many had lost families who shunned them, some were forced from home villages, some had scars from persecution--all had shared in the sufferings of Christ, and continue to do so in this world center for Buddhism. I am such a wimpy, soft, uncommitted, Christian. I want the love for God and faith in him that these people share. They are extremely poor by our standards. Yet they are planting churches. Five so far, and have plans to take the Gospel to villages in the Himalayas that have not yet heard. This is real Christianity, folks. I want this kind. 
After church, we greeted and spoke with many members. Experiencing the love for Christian brothers and sisters that crosses cultures and languages and is universally shared is reason enough to go on a mission trip. I pray all of you will experience it. 
I love how this mom carries
her baby. She was embarrassed
that I was taking her picture.

Lohmi church is the goal for our work in the target country. We want to plant a church that loves God's word, makes disciple-making disciples and plants more churches. I am reminded of why we are here.

I'm also better for worshipping today with God's people. I needed this. I pray for us, my Providence family, that we will love & encourage each other, and love & worship God like these dear brothers and sisters in Nepal. I pray that God will give us the great blessing of seeing what is really important in life. Will you make his people your priority? I miss all of you. I wish I could worship with you tomorrow in Knoxville. Brian Havely will be preaching about how God our shepherd anoints our heads and overflows our cups. You don't want to miss it. God willing, we'll be with you next week. 


Ellen Larkin said...

Wow thank you for the story of your worship day! I have heard many stories of how God speaks to people through dreams and visions as He calls them to Himself. Thank you for the story of testimony from the woman in that congregation. The sharing of testimony is powerful. I pray we do more of that at Providence! These precious believers are an inspiration to give our all to Jesus. Very anxious to hear your hearts and stories and future plans when you get home. Blessings! Ellen Larkin

We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 1 John 3:16

Ethioguatemama said...

Amazing! Jacob and I have loved following your blog and seeing your work there. It is so awesome to see what God is doing there and the path that He has laid out for you on your journey. Praying for safe travels for you all. Thank you so much for taking the time to share all of this with us...I pray that we will take to heart how blessed we are to live and worship freely. We love you all and look forward to hearing more when you are home.

john r said...
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Anonymous said...

It is Lhomi :) not Lohmi