Grown out of prayer, committed to service

LWF general secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge (right) offer a Latin American cross as a gift to the Nepal Evangelical Lutheran Church, handing it to NELC president Rev. Joseph Soren (left) and NELC general secretary Rev. Patras Marandi (centre). Photos: LWF/Albin Hillert

Nepal Evangelical Lutheran Church celebrates 75 years

(LWI) - Song, dance, music and prayer filled the night in Laxmipur, Nepal on 14 September, as the Nepal Evangelical Lutheran Church (NELC) gathered to celebrate its 75th anniversary.

NELC joined the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in 2010, and with a membership just short of 1200, some 500 people were expected to gather for the celebrations. In the end, more than 800 congregants, including dignitaries, ecumenical and interfaith guests, filled the church to celebrate the jubilee.

A choir of traditional songs and cultural dances gave life to a vibrant celebration.

“Many valuable contributions”

The church is a remarkable witness to the power of prayer, as it originally grew out of a movement of lay people in the 1930s, NELC general secretary Rev. Patras Marandi said, reflecting on the history and origin of the church.

Mr Phagu Murmu, a devout Christian from India came to Nepal to earn a living. Murmu was no missionary, but sincere in his Christian faith, and over the years more and more people took an interest in his way of praying and following Jesus. In 1943 they were then established as a church through support from the Northern Evangelical Lutheran Church, Dumka, India.

Alongside a range of ecumenical guests from Nepal, India and beyond, the anniversary celebration saw the attendance of various civil authorities, among them the Honorable Minister for Social Development Mr. Jiwen Ghimire; Parliament member of Province 1, the Honorable Lila Ballabh Adhikari; and Dilip Agrawal, mayor of the Rangeli Municipality.

Celebrating 75 years of the NELC has been made possible only through the contribution of many people: from church elders, from youth, and originally from the mother church in India, Rev. Marandi observed: “These are many valuable contributions to establish the Christian faith in Nepal, and they have done a marvelous job,” Marandi said.

“At this momentous juncture let our first action be to turn in gratitude to God. God has been steadfast, nurturing the church, raising leaders, fostering unity, motivating for loving service,” reflected LWF general secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge, who on his visit to Nepal was participating in the celebrations.

“At this day of celebration, but also during the many other days that will follow, I want you to always remember: you’re one with 148 other churches in the world, you’re one with 75 million sisters and brothers, we take keen interest in your life and presence in this beautiful country,” Junge added.

“While we as visitors will be leaving, your Lutheran communion will continue staying here in a very particular way, which is how you have known the communion for many years already: I’m talking about LWF World Service,” Junge continued.

“I’m encouraged to see the good cooperation between the LWF World Service and our local member church,” said Junge. “I have seen how you are working together and supporting each other. I encourage you to move on in this spirit, and to continue to be such good model for the entire global communion.”

A church committed to service

In his word of welcome at the jubilee, NELC president Rev. Joseph Soren described the historically delicate situation for Christians in Nepal.

There was a time when Christians had to remain altogether “underground”, Soren said, noting that it was only when democracy came in 1990 that “the Nepali Christians came out openly and got their identity as Christians”.

Today, NELC employs seven pastors who are serving 11 congregations. Though a small church, and one that lives as a Christian minority in a primarily Hindu country, NELC is deeply engaged in support for the poor and the vulnerable.

“I have been impressed to hear how NELC has taken such firm roots in the east of Nepal,” reflected Junge. “The message of the Rangeli Municipality mayor, emphasizing that ‘you are one of us’, was a special gift in view of how the presence of Christians is still a sensitive issue in Nepal.”

Alongside the LWF World Service country programme for Nepal, NELC runs a social wing, the Lutheran Community Welfare Society (LCWS). Established in 2010, the LCWS is rooted in the core values of humanity, justice, peace, transparency and accountability, and led by the belief in God’s grace.

Community outreach in south east Nepal

Rev. Marandi, who is also vice chairman of the LCWS, highlighted how the church has reached out to many Santal and Musahar communities in the Morang and Jhapa districts in the south east corner of Nepal.

“Through the LCWS we have been working for the marginalized and poor communities to uplift them,” said Marandi. “The Santal and Musahar are very poor and most of them are landless, so we have been working on the livelihood and for the reduction of disaster, for education, health and sanitation.

“Their awareness levels have been increased, and educationally, their levels have been increased, so we are very proud of this.”

Rev. Soren concluded, “In this manner NELC is giving its contribution in the spiritual and social area and expanding its tent, and today joyfully celebrating 75 years with you all.”

Contribution by LWF correspondent Albin Hillert.


Related news