New relations and shared visions were established 19-21 March 2009 when the Himalayan people journeyed from different parts of the globe to the Baptist Conference Centre in Jomtien Beach, Pattaya, Thailand, for the Himalayan Global Summit 2009. It was a gathering of 250 leaders from the Himalayan Nepali Church and the Nepali Diaspora Church representing fourteen countries.
The opening ceremony hosted a flag procession representing the many nations home to the diasporic Himalayan people. As the flag bearers made their way inside the hall and lined up in front of the stage, excited delegates all prayed in accordance to the theme of the conference: “From the Himalayas…to the ends of the earth,” based in part on Acts 1:8.
Engaging with Nepali and Himalayan Churches Today
The summit was an attempt to go beyond the Himalayan borders in order to understand and engage in the present-day growth of Nepali diaspora churches around the world. Today, hundreds of Nepali churches and fellowships have been started and established by Nepalis who have left their homes seeking better job opportunities in different parts of the world. It is reported that in Malaysia alone there are about sixty churches of the diaspora. However, most of these churches are temporary establishments which may not exist when the current leaders return home, shared Dr. Adon Rongong, chair of the summit. “One of our objectives should be to reach out to the native people of their adoptive countries, train local leaders, and give a permanency to the Church,” he explained.
At home, the Himalayan churches are also experiencing a growing mission vision and sending missionaries to other countries. “It was important to bring the Himalayan Church into the mainstream missionary sending movement,” said Daya R. Pradhan, national coordinator for the summit. It was thus a chance to share the vision and also make known the opportunities and resources between Himalayan churches within and beyond the region. In sharing what God is doing in different parts of the world and the kind of role that needs to be taken by the Himalayan Church, this meeting was a great opportunity to share a common vision to fulfill the Great Commission.
Expanded Mission Vision
The slogan “Himalayan people, missionary people” has also taken a transformed meaning since it came to use in 1998. During its initial use, it was understood as Himalayan people reaching out to Himalayan people in the Himalayas, with focus on Nepal, Darjeeling, Sikkim, and Bhutan. At the turn of the millennium, it was understood as Himalayan people reaching out to the Himalayan diaspora in urban India, East Asia, Gulf countries, and other parts of the world. Now, it has a broader meaning as it indicates Himalayan people reaching out to the world despite the cultural and linguistic differences. With emphasis on cross-cultural missions and the need to reach the ends of the earth, the Himalayan people now have a broader mission field.
Dr. Thomas Wang, president of Great Commission Center International and the main speaker at the conference, added a new rendition to the existing slogan: “Asian people, missionary people.”
It has thus challenged and encouraged the Himalayan people to identify themselves as part of a larger movement. “It is timely and stretching our tent,” said Solon Karthak, Nepal coordinator for the summit.
In many ways, Wang has been a key patron and a visionary to this movement. He has been a part of the Himalayan Congress of Evangelism (HIMCOE) from its early days in 1994. His prayers and guidance thus far has been an encouraging and an inspiring story for most Himalayan leaders. “He is the father of this movement,” said Pradhan, who feels that Wang has always come and given awakening calls to the Himalayan people.
Another speaker at the summit was Dr. Sadiri Joy Tira, Lausanne senior associate for diasporas and international director of the Filipino International Network (FIN). Explaining the diaspora phenomenon in today’s world, he gave examples from the Filipino movement and equally challenged the Himalayan diaspora. FIN has also helped start Nepali Christian fellowships in the Philippines.
From revered speakers like Pastor Robert Karthak and Dr. Mangal Man Maharjan from Kathmandu to Jigme Norbu from Bhutan, delegates from Myanmar, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Germany, and a host of other representations shared the stage in the three-day conference.
On the third day, six workshops were conducted on topics like cross-cultural missions, diasporic ministry, women’s issues, children’s training, linking of returning new believers to church, and ministry in Malaysia.
Indeed, the summit demonstrated an outstanding support and cooperation from both the Himalayan and the diasporic churches in their first ever gathering outside the Himalayan region. There was a sense of historic achievement.
Dreaming Big into the Future
True enough, the future is exciting for the Himalayan people. “It is a big dream, but I can see Himalayan churches sending professional missionaries to unreached nations,” said Pradhan. There is also a need for young, emerging leaders to help carry the movement since plans are being made to organize many regional programs and perhaps a few more global summits outside the Himalayan region.
The Himalayan Global Summit 2011 will be held in Hong Kong.
On the final evening, representatives from various countries unanimously agreed to purse the goal and objectives outlined in the Jomtien (Pattaya) Declaration. It was resolved to:
- continue for greater revival and impact of previous resolutions,
- bring awareness among believers about the diasporic community,
- expose new believers in the diapsora to scriptural foundational teachings for their growth, maturity, and fruitfulness,
- enhance communication among Himalayan and diasporic churches,
- create unity,
- and develop relationship to better equip the churches.
We pray that this networking and linkage would be an asset in times of adversities and persecution. “The climax of the conference was the candle-lighting ceremony,” said Tira, referring to the time after communion during the concluding ceremony when each delegate held a candle and waited for the flame to be passed on from the stage. The room soon lit up as each delegate came forward and made their commitment to world missions by putting down his or her signature on the world map laid out on the table before the stage.
It was truly a wonderful time for both Himalayan and diasporic Himalayan representatives from different places and backgrounds with widened goals and common visions. The celebration would continue as the jubilant delegates sang and danced to the theme song of “Himalayan people, missionary people…” before the night came to an end.