Ascending a Mountain Higher Than the Himalayas
THE Himalayas! What do those words conjure up in your mind? Awesome, icy peaks with gale-force winds? The thrill of conquest, standing atop earth’s highest mountain? For most of us, to scale Mount Everest, in the Himalaya Mountains in Nepal, would be impossible. Yet, today many people in Nepal are climbing a mountain that is higher than the Himalayas! Before finding out about this trek to the grand mountain, let us take a look at the tiny but beautiful Kingdom of Nepal.
Nepal—The Mountain Kingdom
The Kingdom of Nepal is unusual because it is one of the few remaining monarchies in the world and also because it is, not a secular, but a religious kingdom. Nepal is the only Hindu state in the world. The majority of its 20 million inhabitants are Hindus. There is, however, great diversity in the ethnic origins of its people. Those living in the northern mountainous region are mainly of Tibeto-Burman origin, whereas in the southern plains, the people are predominantly of Indo-Aryan background. Nepali is the official language of the country and the mother tongue of about 60 percent of the people. The remainder speak more than 18 ethnic languages.
Nepal is somewhat rectangular in shape, 550 miles [880 km] from east to west and 120 miles [200 km] from north to south. The awe-inspiring Himalayas, which form the northern boundary, include Mount Everest, the tallest peak in the world at 29,028 feet [8,848 m], and eight other peaks over 26,200 feet [8,000 m]. In central Nepal are the lower mountains and the lakes and valleys. Farther south, bordering India, lies the fertile Tarai, the main agricultural region.
Kathmandu, the capital, located in the central region, is truly a tourist’s delight. It offers airplane flights over the majestic mountains, trips to wildlife parks, and plenty of local sight-seeing. Nepal is sometimes called the valley of the gods because religion plays a large role in the life of its people. Religion is also the reason why millions around the world are trekking to the “mountain” higher than the Himalayas.
About 2,700 years ago, the Hebrew prophet Isaiah was inspired to foretell that “in the final part of the days . . . the mountain of the house of Jehovah will become firmly established above the top of the mountains . . . Many peoples will certainly go and say: ‘Come, you people, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah . . . He will instruct us about his ways, and we will walk in his paths.’” (Isaiah 2:2, 3) Here the exalted pure worship of Jehovah, the Creator and Sovereign Ruler of the universe, is likened to a mountain, elevated high above all other mountainlike forms of worship. It is the subject of a worldwide educational work that helps truth-hungry people to learn about Jehovah’s ways. How did this work get started in Nepal?
A soldier in the British Army in World War II was searching for true religion. His Nepali-Hindu parents had converted to Catholicism. As he grew up, he saw the folly of idolatry, rejected teachings like the hellfire doctrine, and began to examine the beliefs of the Protestant churches. But he was not satisfied.
Taken prisoner by the Japanese in what was then Rangoon, Burma, this soldier prayed that he might survive the rigors of the labor camp to continue his search for true worship. Later, he managed to escape from his captors and was helped by a schoolteacher in whose home he found the booklet Where Are the Dead?, written by J. F. Rutherford. Recognizing the ring of truth, he eagerly agreed to study when Jehovah’s Witnesses called on him in Rangoon in 1947. Within a few months, he was baptized, followed shortly by his young wife. They decided to return to India, settling in their native Kalimpong, in the northeastern mountains. Here their two children were born and educated. In March 1970, they moved to Kathmandu.
The Constitution of Nepal prohibited proselytism. Anyone found propagating a so-called foreign religion was liable to seven years’ imprisonment, and a person who joined such a religion could be given a three-year jail sentence along with a heavy fine. So witnessing had to be done cautiously. The house-to-house ministry meant calling at a home, then moving to another area and making a call there. Understandably, informal witnessing played a major role in spreading the good news.
Results were slow in coming. With a population of about ten million, the field seemed daunting. Seeds of truth were sown as this lone family witnessed to friends, acquaintances, employers, and fellow employees. They held regular meetings in their home and invited interested ones to join them. Finally, in March 1974, after four years of persistent planting and watering, the first fruitage from Nepal came—and that from an unlikely source!
Visiting a home, the publisher spoke to a wealthy man who was secretary to a member of the royal family. “Talk to my son,” the man said. The son agreed to a Bible study. In time he changed his employment, since he worked in a gambling casino. His father, a devout Hindu, opposed him. Still, this young man took his stand for Jehovah. The outcome? His father later stopped opposing him, and a group of close relatives accepted the Bible’s truth. He now serves as an elder in the Christian congregation.
To remain spiritually strong and to heed the Scriptural command not to forsake the gathering of themselves together, the small group in Kathmandu held regular meetings in a private home. But to a great extent, the brothers missed out on the larger gatherings. Those who could afford to do so traveled to India for the assemblies—a long and expensive journey over the mountain ranges.
What a joyful occasion it was when the entire district convention program was put on in the home where they held meetings! Imagine four brothers, including a member of the India branch, handling the entire program! Even the Bible drama was put on. How? Slides had been taken at a dress rehearsal in India. In Nepal, these slides were projected on a screen, accompanied by taped dialogue. The audience loved it. How large was that audience? Eighteen people!
Help in the preaching work from outside the country was limited. Missionary work was out of the question, and it was not easy for foreigners to get secular work. Two Indian Witnesses, however, did find employment in Nepal at different times, spending several years in Kathmandu and helping to build up the newly formed congregation. By 1976 there were 17 Kingdom publishers in Kathmandu. In 1985 the brothers built their own Kingdom Hall. With its completion, the annual district conventions, as well as other assemblies, began to be held there regularly. The hall truly was the center of pure worship in that remote, mountainous territory.
Expansion Despite Difficulties
In those early years, the preaching work, done with great caution, had not aroused much notice from the authorities. Toward the end of 1984, though, restrictions began to be imposed. A brother and three sisters were arrested and kept in custody for four days before being released with a warning not to continue their activities. In one village, nine persons were arrested while having Bible studies in their homes. Six were held in prison for 43 days. Several other arrests took place, but no legal action was taken.
As recently as 1989, all the brothers and sisters at one Congregation Book Study were arrested, detained three days, and released. At times, they were asked to sign a statement saying that they would not preach. They refused. Some were released only after they had signed a statement that they would be willing to face the consequences if caught preaching again.
Despite such difficulties, the brothers continued to preach the Kingdom good news zealously. For instance, in 1985, the year after government intervention began, there was a 21-percent increase in the number preaching. The 35 publishers spent an average of 20 hours a month talking to others about pure worship.
As time passed, the winds of political change started to blow in Nepal. Government officials began realizing that Jehovah’s Witnesses were no threat. In fact, their Bible educational work had a fine, upbuilding effect on the people, making them better citizens. Officials saw that honesty, hard work, and upright moral behavior were stressed as basic requirements for worshipers of Jehovah.
A fine witness was given when a formerly devout Hindu woman became a Witness and refused to take a blood transfusion. The doctors were astounded by her resolute, educated stand. This woman was helped to learn the truth with the aid of the brochure Enjoy Life on Earth Forever! Despite opposition and ridicule from her family, she got baptized in 1990 as she neared 70 years of age. Later she broke her leg and, suffering with other complications also, had to face major surgery. For two weeks she held out against pressure from doctors and relatives to accept blood. Finally, the surgical team operated successfully without blood. Though now limited in movement, this faithful sister sits at her gate every morning and invites passersby to sit with her and hear some delightful good news.
What is it like in Nepal today? Jehovah’s Witnesses enjoy a good measure of freedom to worship as their brothers do worldwide. From the time when one or two figurative trekkers began to join those climbing the mountain of true worship, an increasing number of people have said, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah.’ By 1989 there was an average of 43 each month sharing in the preaching work, and 204 attended the Memorial of Christ’s death that year.
Then, as promised, Jehovah began to speed up the ingathering of truth-seekers to his house. (Isaiah 60:22) Not long ago a second congregation was formed in Kathmandu, and there are now two isolated groups outside the capital. In April 1994, there were 153 Christians who reported preaching activity—a 350-percent increase in less than five years! They conducted 386 home Bible studies with interested people. At the Memorial in 1994, there was a thrilling attendance of 580. For a special assembly day, 635 packed into the hall, and 20 presented themselves for baptism. So the great increases enjoyed by Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide are taking place in tiny Nepal too.
In recent years the amount of literature produced in the Nepali language has greatly increased, helping humble ones to get a firm hold on the truth. Translators trained at the India branch office in translation techniques and computer use now serve full-time in Kathmandu. Geared for expansion, Nepal’s theocratic mountaineers are on the move!
Climb Higher Than the Himalayas
You too can enjoy the trek up the mountain that is higher than the Himalayas. Doing so, you will be joining not only those from Nepal but millions “out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues.” (Revelation 7:9) With them, you will enjoy being instructed by the Creator of majestic mountains like those in Nepal. You will see the Creator “set matters straight,” and you will be able to look forward to living forever on a cleansed and beautified earth.—Isaiah 2:4.
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Outside the Kingdom Hall in Kathmandu
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Many Nepalese are benefiting from Bible studies