Written by: INcontext International 
Article source: www.incontextinternational.org

In addition to the numerous challenges faced by Nepal over the past year, including the effects of natural disasters and political crises, the unprecedented challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic have been far-reaching.

Nepalese residents are currently navigating an extended but more relaxed lock-down after a devastating ‘second wave’ that peaked in May 2021. As of Friday 16 July, Nepal’s total number of coronavirus cases reached 662,570, with 1,782 new people testing positive for COVID-19 in 24 hours, while the country’s deaths increased to 9,463 coronavirus-related fatalities.

Over 3.3 million people have received coronavirus vaccines, of which about 2.6 million have only received the first dose. The Himalayan nation has struggled to secure vaccines after India stopped vaccination exports to meet its domestic demand.

Experts have criticised Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli’s government for its handling of the country’s ‘second wave,’ which reportedly led to a serious shortage of oxygen, hospital beds and medicines. An INcontext contact confirmed that at the height of the pandemic’s ‘second wave’ in May, crematoriums were overflowing, hospitals were forced to turn patients away due to a lack of beds, oxygen, and supplies; and COVID-19 tests took up to two weeks to process.

While the surge in cases is subsiding, many Nepalese are suffering the devastating effects of the pandemic, including the loss of loved ones, economic hardship, and emotional and mental distress. Many are also concerned about a potential ‘third wave.’

From a Christian perspective, the pandemic has ushered in a new season for the Nepalese Church, which comprises around 1.3% of the Hindu-majority nation (according to the Joshua Project, however, it is growing and could constitute a greater percentage).

An INcontext contact shared how the church has been known for miracles in recent years, with many initially coming to faith through their experience of witnessing or receiving healing.

However, the pandemic has led to many deaths within the Church, including the loss of over 130 pastors during the ‘second wave.’ In this time, Nepal’s Church has experienced the side of God’s character that sometimes chooses to be silent and not heal the way people desire.

A leadership vacuum has developed, and some Christian ministry workers believe that this season has revealed a widespread gap in succession planning, as well as a general lack of effective discipleship for daily living. Many churches have also been struggling due to closure regulations for nearly one-and-a-half years, especially in urban areas.

While there are members who have continued to faithfully meet online, pastors have battled to bring back those who have wandered and even abandoned their faith during this time.

The Church has also been under financial strain, reflective of the general economic distress among Nepalese people, many of whom have lost employment or income and are struggling to meet their basic needs. Nonetheless, the Christian community has sacrificially served their neighbours with food and medical supplies, awareness campaigns, and prayer, seizing the opportunity to work together as the body of Christ to demonstrate God’s unconditional love.

The Nepalese Church does need to be cautious about how it raises funds to aid neighbours within a politically suspicious climate – since 2017 the government has attempted to crack down on proselytization.

As a global Church, we can celebrate the lives of the faithful workers who have left a legacy in Nepal, and gone to be with the Lord, while mourning with those left behind and interceding for them, that they will persevere in the work the Lord has assigned them in advancing His Kingdom in Nepal.

Please pray with us for the following:

  • For wisdom for the Nepalese government as they lead the nation through the coronavirus pandemic and work to prevent a ‘third wave’ of infections
  • For those grieving the loss of loved ones – including respected leaders and pastors – to experience the comfort and peace of the Lord, and for the Church to continue courageously and creatively reaching out to their suffering neighbours in love
  • For the Nepalese Church to grow in its effectiveness in discipling and planning for succession, for new leaders to be raised up and for churches to help each other address leadership and discipleship needs

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Date published: 18/07/2021
Feature image: Image for illustrative purposes only. pxhere.com

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