This is the second in a series of blog entries that tells the story behind the filming on (+)MORE, the Awana Global Documentary. Over the course of five months I traveled with a crew of film makers to seven different destinations in order to capture the story of what our amazing God is doing through the ministry of Awana. One of my favorite places was Bhalche, a village in the Nuwakot District of Nepal, that sits at almost two miles above sea level. The homes and terraced farmland of the area are built into the hillside, carved into the rock.
To get to Bhalche, we packed the crew into two small SUV’s and headed out from a remote village at 4 AM in order to begin our ascent up the narrow mountain passes. The darkness at the beginning of our trek revealed only faint glances of large boulders from recent landslides and crippled trees that seemed to be trying to break free of their rocky soil. It was only when the sun finally started peeking over the horizon that we began to see that we were actually traveling on the edge of a rock faces. There were no guard rails, no soft shoulders, only the carved out dirt road and then the drop-off into the fogged-covered valley below. I loved it!
Once we got up to Bhalche (emphasis on up), we pulled up to a long, wooden church that was set into the hillside. Outside the church, on the edge of the cliff was a wooden pole with a wired bullhorn that was being used to broadcast the sermon, or in this case, the Awana large group lesson to the surrounding area. A young teenage boy had climbed to the top of the 30 foot pole in order to adjust some of the exposed wiring so the broadcast could be heard clearly throughout the valley. Later, during the church service, the building was packed wall to wall with men, women and families, their passion for the Gospel was apparent, even for those of us who didn’t speak a word of Nepali.
This wasn’t always the case. There was a time when this remote village was like the rest of Nepal, almost entirely Hindu or Buddhist. That was probably the most striking aspect of Nepal for me. The idolatry in Nepal is so evident and pervasive, it is everywhere. Shrines, temples, idols and altars are everywhere. Images of Hindu gods, Buddha (who was born in Nepal) and various holy men are plastered on buildings, hung across streets and painted on buses and public transportation. Much of the culture, its holidays and even the way people greet one another are heavily influenced by these two religions. Mix in an ever increasing amount of Muslims as well as the growing presence of Chinese developers who import their own religions, and it seems that the Gospel would be choked out of Nepal entirely. Yet this village is one of countless places where Christ is glorified and the Gospel is proclaimed. In fact, in Bhalche well over 80% of the area is made up of Christians! Perhaps the best story I can tell in order to illustrate the amazing work of our God in Nepal is the story of a leader named Enoch.
We met Enoch at the hotel we left to get up to Bhalche. The language barrier and our own weariness made it difficult to understand exactly who he was, but once we saw him lead the Bhalche Church Awana club, it started to make sense. Then we got to ask him about his story…
Like most of us, Enoch struggled with finding his purpose. He grew up the son of a Buddhist priest and was very troubled with his now identity. As a younger man Enoch fell into crime. By his own admission, during our time together, he told us he used to steal, kidnap people and that he had even murdered someone. Needless to say, Enoch (who changed his name once he came to Christ) was deep in sin. And like the idolatry in Nepal which is so present and unavoidable, Enoch’s sin was also incredibly present and seemingly unavoidable in his life. Then one day Enoch’s life was changed. He heard the message of the Gospel, the message of redemption, of forgiveness, of reconciliation and Enoch was done. Enoch, now converted and on fire for Jesus started to speak to his father, mother, brother and sister about the Gospel. They all ignored him. Over and over he tried and over and over they ignored him. Finally, one day, Enoch’s father accept Jesus as his savior. His whole family soon followed suit. Now Enoch is leading the Awana ministry in Bhalche and his father is pastoring a church as well.
I love Enoch’s story because it shows God’s radical love. To hang out with Enoch is to hang out with a man of pure joy. Enoch’s new name is a perfect fit for him. Enoch was a person from the Old Testament, a pre-flood Patriarch whose name means “dedication”. His fame however comes from Genesis 5 where the author describes him as a man who walked with God. Enoch, in Nepal is a man who walks with God, and it radiates from him.