I first met Gita at one of our leadership meetings. We had organized a gathering of our village pastors and their wives in one of our main churches in Dang, a rice-growing region near the India border. Our churches in this area are filled with Tharus, an indigenous group that, until just a few years ago, was totally unreached.
She was organizing the line to a huge caldron of biryani, a delicious rice dish that is easy to cook for large crowds. We had about 300 leaders gathered that day. She was an unusual Nepali woman, commanding and no-nonsense, with a bright intelligent gaze. Seasoned pastors followed her direction like sheep to the watering trough. She scuttled about in a simple sari, directing traffic with well-defined cinnamon arms. On the back of her left hand I spotted the remnants of a crude tattoo.
“Who is that woman,” I asked one of our leaders.
“That’s Gita,” he answered. She’s a former Maoist.
Her raw leadership temperament impressed me. Later in the day, when she came forward to give herself to a call to leadership, I remember speaking over her life about the Lord’s plan for her.
She attended our training school that year and proved to be a capable leader. She was a little rough around the edges but her faith was unshakeable. She returned to her village to start a church and met immediate opposition from her relatives and the villagers. She was the only believer in that area, and none of them were impressed with her new faith.
She started her church with three women, and within a year the congregation had grown to about 75 adults. I visited her in her first year and we sat in a tidy mud- walled church that looked like it would seat about 50. The roof was thatch over hand-hewn timbers, and the floor, hard packed earth.
“Nice building,” I said.
“I built it myself,” she answered.
It turns out she had literally built it by herself. Though only three women would come to meetings in her home, she built a church on a piece of government land her community had squatted on. She cut trees from the jungle, shaped the timbers with an axe, drug them out of the forest, placed them with the help of her three female converts, and thatched the roof. The women dug mud and shaped the walls in the Tharu fashion, plastering the thick damp earth onto a grid made from bamboo and heavy reeds. The three of them started meeting to the ridicule of all of the villagers. By the end of the year her building was full.
In October 2016, I visited her again. Her church has grown to over 250. They meet in a new brick building made from bricks that the church members kilned themselves. They couldn’t afford bricks so Gita figured out how to build a kiln and took charge. The building is metal roofed, accurately squared, and has a concrete floor. The old mud building is still standing but it’s beginning to disintegrate.
“Why don’t you tear that old building down?” I asked.
“It’s a reminder to our people of what you can accomplish when you have faith,” she said.
Gita is about 35 years old now. She told me that she wants to remain celibate—that a husband would be too much of a distraction from her work. She has a bicycle and is starting churches in nearby villages. Three so far!
Though her lifestyle is unique, her work is not. Something unexplainable has been happening among the Tharu people who live in the border region straddling Nepal and India. The Hindu system they lived under for more that 3,000 years had enslaved them. They are beginning to understand that the Gospel is a way to freedom—from religion, from cultural tyranny, and from economic slavery. The transformation has been rapid and astonishing.
About 20% of our leaders are women. A few are single, like Gita, but most of them are married. The work they do is astounding. In the past ten years, the Lord has helped us through the Surge project to plant nearly 300 churches in Nepal, representing about 20,000 believers. Over 98% of these believers are first generation Christians coming out of Hindu and Buddhist backgrounds. They’re becoming a force. We now have over 10,000 attending our annual gathering of the churches.
Many of these village churches are over 200 believers; some of them are over 500. Entire villages are undergoing revolutionary change. In Gita’s village the believers are helping one another build new homes from the bricks they make from their homegrown kiln. They even stamp the bricks with a Christian symbol. A village that ten years ago was a ramshackle cluster of mud homes is now an organized community.
“Potential Meets Provision”
When potential meets provision, it is amazing what capable leaders can accomplish. Surge has provided resources, and the harvest field is producing multiplying leaders who are truly making a difference. Organized hostility is increasing in South Asia and we do not know what the future holds, but in this season the harvest is ripe.
As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest. Genesis 8:22 (NLT)
This story was written by Rick Zachary, one of our Surge Regional Directors located in South Asia. He works primarily in India, Pakistan, and Nepal.
If you would like to give to plant churches in his region, go to surgeproject.com/plant-a-church/and select “South Asia”.
You can also read more about Rick Zachary’s ministry by going to www.churchasia.com/
2017 is going to be an incredible year as we continue to reach people with the gospel.
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