Abhaya's story: A vision of light
Thursday, March 8, 2012
Western Nepal
By Gina Pottenger, Eurasia Region Communications

For nine days, Abhaya could not sleep. The elderly missionary named John had turned her thoughts and beliefs upside down.

Abhaya was devout in her worship of numerous gods in western Nepal, and her father-in-law was a priest in the local religion. Her husband and her parents were also devout worshippers of many gods. And until she met John, Abhaya, who was 26 at the time, had never given any other spiritual path a second thought.

John had stayed in her home as a guest for a week, and during that time he had talked to her about Jesus and asked her to consider following Him. He’d bought her a Bible, but she wasn’t interested in reading it. Then he invited her to join him on one of his home visits, and she agreed.

John took her to the home of a man with a mental illness. The man was very sick, but none of his family members were willing to care for him. Abhaya watched as John prayed over the man, who was confined to a bed. Startled, she watched as the sick man gave a giant yawn, then sat up, suddenly full of energy and healthy. John then bathed the man, gave him a haircut, trimmed his nails and brought his physical hygiene up to date.

Abhaya was moved by the missionary’s gentle care for the sick, lonely man. Before John left, he told her that he was praying and fasting for her.

Now he was gone, and Abhaya was alone in her house, as her husband, Dinesh, was out of the country on business. And she sat alone on her bed at night, torn between her dedication to her religious beliefs and her doubt over whether there might be something true about this Jesus.

On the ninth night, around 1 a.m., she was sitting on the bed with her eyes closed, thinking and questioning for what seemed like the thousandth time. A white, bright glow filled her eyelids, and she opened them in alarm. But looking around the empty bedroom, there was no light.

That’s when she knew: God had given her an answer. She felt light, almost like she could float away. Abhaya found the Bible that John had bought for her and began to read it.

The next time she talked to her husband on the phone, she told him that she now believed in Jesus and wanted to go to church. Dinesh refused. Yet, she couldn’t stay away, and soon she found herself at the independent church John had been involved with and prayed to accept Christ.

When Dinesh finally came home, she “preached” to him. He had been exposed to the story of Jesus Christ while he was working abroad. So it only took two months before he accepted Jesus as his own savior.

Things weren’t so easy with other family members, however. Her mother cried and cried. Her father was less disturbed, but not supportive. It was most difficult with Dinesh’s father, Kalash, however. As a religious priest, having his son and daughter-in-law abandon the family religion to follow just one God was like a slap in his face, even though they tried to share with him.

Kalash, who lived with the couple since his wife had died from a snake bite, directed most of his anger at Abhaya, verbally tormenting her and criticizing everything she did. He refused to eat the food she prepared, and grew angry when she closed the family’s small grocery store to attend worship services and other church activities.

One day, Kalash gathered the neighbors around him and, in an attempt to embarrass Abhaya, declared that he could no longer live with his son and daughter-in-law because of their new religion. However, he didn’t actually move out.

No matter what Kalash said or did, Abhaya continued to dutifully carry out all the responsibilities that the Nepalese culture expected of a wife – and more. Her quiet perseverance began to have an effect.

Three years ago, through Abhaya’s and Dinesh’s persistent witness, Kalash accepted Christ as his savior. The experience transformed him. Although in Nepal there are strict barriers between what constitutes “women’s work” and “men’s work,” Kalash cheerfully helps Abhaya with her work, despite the cultural boundaries that would ordinarily prohibit him from doing so.

The family knew Pastor Manu, a Nazarene leader in Nepal. He introduced them to the Nazarene denomination, and the family helped to plant the first Nazarene church in western Nepal.

Dinesh is now a pastor of three Nazarene churches that they have planted, and is the area coordinator for western Nepal. Abhaya teaches Sunday School, and also teaches in a Nazarene Compassionate Ministries child development center (CDC). Although it is illegal to provide Christian teaching in the CDC, they are allowed to integrate Bible stories into the lessons for illustration. As a result, about half of the children who receive educational assistance at the CDC now also attend the Nazarene church. Recently she was elected Nazarene Missions International president at one church.

The missionary named John is gone, but Abhaya carries on his ministry to the sick.

“Many sick people come in my house,” she said. She provides healing care and invites them to accept Christ for spiritual healing as well. “Many of them come from far away.”

It’s been nine years since Abhaya accepted Christ. Today, her parents are both Christians. She reflects that it was Joshua 1:6-9 that gave her the courage to become a follower of Jesus:

“Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
--Church of the Nazarene Eurasia Region 

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