From spy to pastor on the roof of the world

By Stephen Cauchi

February 6 2020 

Nepalese pastor Grishma Parajuli – who was in Melbourne in January for the Church Missionary Society’s Summer Under the Son conference – has gone from being a Hindu teenager who spied on Christians to a preacher of the gospel.

Head pastor of Nyagaun Church in the city of Pokhara, Mr Parajuli, 53, now faces the challenge of leading a thriving church in a country hostile to Christianity.

Mr Parajuli told TMA that his first contact with Christianity was as a 17-year-old in 1983. At the time he was volunteering at the Christian Green Pastures Hospital in Pokhara, Nepal’s second-biggest city, helping to read and write letters for illiterate patients.

He heard a rumour that hospital staff were refusing to treat patients unless they converted to Christianity. Outraged, he decided to take action.

“Being a Hindu boy, I was so upset to hear that and I got so angry. And I went to a government officer to complain about that,” he said.

“The government officer suggested to me to bring an application with a list of the people who are involved in conversional work and with the preaching of the gospel in the hospital.”

Nepal, now a democracy, was at the time a one-party state. The government officer suggested to Mr Parajuli that he do some reconnaissance work at the hospital to find out who was refusing to treat patients.

“He said to me: ‘Go back and spy.’ So I started attending the hospital’s Christian fellowship as a spy. But they did not know my intention.”

The Christian fellowship “were so happy and gave me a warm welcome”, he said. “After the service someone gave me a New Testament Bible. I said no thanks, but someone said please, accept it because this is our gift for you.”

Mr Parajuli’s perception at the time was that Christianity was a Western religion, opposed to Nepalese culture and its predominant religion of Hinduism.

“It was not good for us, not fit for us, we should not accept it. That’s the rumour I used to hear from people,” he said.

Mr Parajuli said he finally decided to accept the Bible so he could make “better arguments” against Christianity.

However, reading Matthew first, he came quickly to the Sermon on the Mount. “The teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ touched my heart,” he said.

Meanwhile, one of the nurses at the hospital shared the gospel with Mr Parajuli and offered to pray for him. “I challenged her. ‘OK sister, you can pray for me, but … I will not be converted’,” he said.

Mr Parajuli found no evidence of the hospital refusing to treat non-Christian patients. On the contrary. While some Nepalese families were forcing lepers to leave home, Christian missionaries were actively seeking them out.

“Missionaries from different countries were collecting lepers and bringing them to the hospital and giving them care with love and compassion.

“And that gave me a great impact. I was so impressed.”

Those three things – Jesus’ message in the Bible; being prayed for; and the example of Christian service – changed his life.

“I was converted. I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Saviour. So I never went back to that government officer.”

Mr Parajuli was baptised the following year, 1984, in the river Seti and started attending church in Pokhara.

His high-caste Hindu family – his grandfather was a Hindu priest, his father a secondary school principal – were not impressed.

“They were so upset, angry. They tried to bring me back … but I was not convinced,” he said. “They challenged me to leave or reject Jesus Christ or leave home. I was 17.”

Although he later reconciled with his family, he was forced to leave home. He stayed with a Christian friend for a few months before finding a job and living on his own.

“And in that way I became Christian,” he said.

In 1987, he founded the non-denominational evangelistic Nyagaun Church in Pokhara. It’s grown from 15-20 members to more than 1000, including children.

The vibrant church has a busy program of fellowship and home groups, blood donation programs, health and marriage education, hospital visits, food distribution to the needy, food and shelter for older members, outreach ministries and 11 church plants.

Church Missionary Society missionaries assist the church. The church, in turn, sends missionaries to regional Nepal and abroad.

Nepal’s Christian community is rapidly growing, he said, although only about 2 per cent of Nepalese are Christian (Hindus make up about 80 per cent, Buddhists 10 per cent and Muslim 5 per cent). In recent years, however, the government has passed legislation prohibiting most forms of Christian proselytisation.

“There is difficulty, hardship and persecution in Nepal. So it’s not otherwise easy in the ministry and Christian life,” he said.

But Christians around the world are praying for the church, Mr Parajuli said, and the Christian denominations within Nepal are working well together. His church’s outreach strategy has changed as the government legislation forbids evangelism in public, but permits it within churches and homes.

“We used to do open-air meetings and door-to-door evangelism,” he said. Now, “people in the congregation share their faith testimony with other people who they know – their friends, relatives, neighbours – and they can invite them into the church.

“Before, we used to do that evangelism outside the church. Now, people are invited inside the church.”

Although the strategy has been changed, it is working with great success. “People are very committed and we encourage our whole congregation, each member of the church, to be part of witnessing in Christ,” he said.

“We encourage each believer to share their faith with their friends, and co-workers. They witness Christ, they share the gospel, they tell other people.

“They invite their friends, neighbours, relatives to the church. And they come to church and they hear the gospel or read the word of God.”

Evil practices such as witchcraft exist in Nepal and part of the church’s work is dealing with that.

“Sick people, demon-possessed people” come to church and are healed, he said.

“People pray for them and many times, God heals. They are delivered from these kinds of situations and they get healed … God is doing lots of miracles in the church.

“Then they witness and their families and sometimes even (others in the community) also come to the church.”

The Summer Under The Son (SUTS) conference was held at Syndal Baptist Church from 15-18 January.

Photo: Andrew Hinge, CMS