From the Cabbage Patch to Kathmandu
As a young person, I dreamed of entering into state business and becoming the richest man in my village! I was good in mathematics and interested in economics, but there was no way for me to go to college. I had no source of income of my own and no one to support me. If I wanted to further my education, I had to figure out a way to earn money myself. So a strong determination began to grow in me—I would complete my education through my own self effort!
A Plan that Didn't Work
In India, children completely depend on their parents for their study, and even for getting settled in life. There were nine of us in my family—my parents, my two brothers, four sisters, and me. We lived in the northeastern part of Manipur State in India, in a remote village call “Peh.” We were farmers and lived a very poor life, because we did not have enough land of our own for cultivation. Sometimes we cultivated another farmer's field, but our hard work benefitted us very little. Half of the harvest had to go to the field's owner. Because our family was poor, the wealthy villagers often looked down on us.
Being the eldest son, I helped my parents in the field, took care of my younger brothers and sisters, and did domestic work at home. As a result, I didn't start school until I was ten. Still, I was good in my studies, always in first position in my class—even though I attended class without any textbooks or exercise books. Because I studied in government schools—almost all of which in Manipur State were hopeless in educational quality—my educational background was deficient.
I made a three-year plan for how I would earn money: I would do cabbage farming and sell my produce in the local markets. The first year there was so much rain that the seeds spoiled. The second year there was no rain at all. I worked hard, watering morning and evening for two weeks. Countless young plants sprang up. Then one day I watered in the morning, and when I came back to the farm in the evening, there was not a single seedling standing. Locusts had feasted the entire day. I was so shocked that not a single word would come out of my mouth. There were not even any tears in my eyes, because they had dried up in my heart. What a bitter experience! Even nature and insects did not favor me. Though I worked day and night to fulfill my ambition, I faced failure. It hurt me deeply. I had no clue how to move forward.
It is unfortunate when parents cannot afford to educate their children, but it was beyond my father's capacity to educate all of his children. My three sisters and one younger brother eventually dropped their studies. My father, however, always encouraged me to study. I continued to strive because I had a strong desire to become an educated person. Also, my mother was a godly woman who taught me to trust in the Lord for everything I did. Through word and deed, both of my parents taught me valuable principles about life. They were my best teachers. My father always reminded me that we were poor because he was not educated. He encouraged me to concentrate on my studies, telling me that an education would make me a great man.
An Unlikely Success
In March, 1999, a friend invited me to go with him to the house of an evangelist. While my friend and the evangelist were busy talking, I picked up a booklet which listed a number of Bible college addresses in India. As insignificant as it may sound, God touched my heart through that booklet, and the direction of my life changed. Though no one—not my friend, nor the evangelist—spoke to me, God spoke. He asked me to give my life to Him, to serve Him. Without a word to anyone, I committed myself to learn God's Word. I realized that all my self-effort, without God, was meaningless. I had worked hard, but without faith. Within a year, I would be at a Bible college.
Miracles started to take place one after another after my commitment to learn God's Word. My family, who could not support me to study even in my own hometown, allowed me to go outside the state for biblical studies. My father who could not get 1,000 rupees (Indian currency) for my admission was ready to arrange 10,000 rupees to send me to Bible college. He went out every day searching for ways to get the money. But when the day came to start my journey, I knew the necessary money had not come in. I was confused, not knowing what to do. Then suddenly my father burst in the room, saying, “My son, get ready to go! We've got the money!” To thank God for His provision and as preparation for a new journey in my life, I spent the day in fasting and prayer.
Some of my relatives warned me to think again about my decision to study in a Bible college. They said, “It is a sacrifice of life. It will be shameful to do another job later on.” But I knew my calling, and I dedicated my life to learn God's Word and serve Him. I enrolled in Grace Bible College and Seminary in Haryana, North India, in July, 2000. Up until this time, I had always considered myself a Christian, having gone to church since childhood and doing all the things that Christians do. But my knowledge of Christ was extremely weak. At Bible college, I realized I was just a follower of a traditional religion; I did not know Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. So I surrendered my heart, mind, and soul to Christ! With Him as my Guide, my life became purposeful. By God's grace—and through much sweat and many struggles—I finished my BTh (Bachelor of Theology) degree in 2003.
To Kathmandu I Must Go
As yet, I did not have a vision for how I could serve God, but I was ready to do any type of ministry. God had equipped me thus far, and I knew He would lead me in the right direction. When a group of graduate students from the Bible college decided to take a year of missionary training under Himalaya Evangelical Mission, I decided to join them. Living conditions at the mission were very spartan, and the training was difficult and intensely practical. But the most blessed thing I received through this training was getting a clear vision from God that I must serve Him as a missionary in a minor Christian area—in North India or Nepal where theologically trained persons are highly in demand.
I never dreamed that I would ever be able to study beyond this point in my life. But God, amazingly, opened the door for me to study for my MDiv (Master of Divinity) degree at New India Bible Seminary in Kerala, South India. I finished my degree in 2006.
In August, 2007, I began a journey of faith, sensing God calling me to go to Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal. I didn't know anyone or any place in Kathmandu—or what I would do there. I started my journey early in the morning and reached my destination at midnight. The bus driver warned me not to get off the bus, but to sleep on the bus until daybreak. But trusting the Lord to lead me, I asked to use his cell phone. Within a few minutes, Pastor Madhav Poudel arrived to pick me up. The two of us were meeting for the first time—at midnight, at a bus station, on a dark street in Kathmandu. This pastor would help me settle in a ministry, serving the Lord God in Kathmandu.
During the following years, I had the privilege of visiting many churches in Nepal and India, sharing the Word of God and training church leaders, while also lecturing part-time in Bible colleges. Then in 2015, I was offered a full-time position as Academic Dean and Registrar at Kathmandu Institute of Theology (KIT). My wife (whom I married in 2012) and I were extremely happy, as we experienced incredible blessings of God in our everyday life. God's faithfulness to provide was truly evident to us.
On April 25, 2015, a massive and destructive earthquake hit Nepal. I had experienced many earthquakes in my life, but never anything as terrible as this. Upon feeling the earth shake, I grabbed up my 23-month-old son and my wife's hand, and we rushed out of our house, praying that God would save us from this dangerous moment. Aftershocks continued, and the national television warned people to stay outdoors. We spent the first night out in the open, and the next day we moved to Jesus College, a large campus near our home. The immediate area of our home and the Bible Institute miraculously experienced very little destruction, but houses and buildings all around were shaking with each aftershock, sending fear into the hearts of all of us. It was horrifying to watch, as people screamed and wailed with fear and loss.
Even though my wife begged me to stay with her, I was compelled to go out time and again to help others. I encouraged my wife to take heart in the Lord, telling her that our lives were in the hands of God. If our time for death had come, we could do nothing to save ourselves, but if our time had not yet come, God would protect and save us from all the dangers. I assured her that neither earthquake, nor tsunami, nor cyclone could take our lives outside of God's will. My family was safe, and I thanked Him for that, but I could not forsake others. Seeing and hearing all the affected persons was heartbreaking, so much so that I could hardly control my emotions. I cried from the depth of my heart for those who lost family members near and dear, as well as much property. Relief funds from supportive churches and Christians began to come in to KIT for the students, alumni, and faculty. We were also able to extend relief funds to badly affected villages where students and alumni lived. It was comforting to be able to help others in a small way.
After the second earthquake on May 12, 2015, my family members and relatives in India urged me to come home for a while. They were troubled in mind and heart about our continuing on in Kathmandu, so I took my wife and son home to Manipur for a period of rest, away from the stress surrounding our lives. When the time came for me to leave, my family once again asked me not to go back to Nepal. But I am convinced that God called me to Kathmandu for such a time as this. My mother wept as I was leaving.
By the grace of God, until now, I have been kept safe. God has shown His goodness. He has used me to help people who are depressed, to encourage servants of God, to challenge disheartened students. The terrible situation that afflicted the people of my adopted city has opened some hearts to Christ and the Christian faith. For that we can be thankful. I know that if I have served sacrificially in Kathmandu, it is not of myself, but the grace of God upon me. I thank God that He does His work through His servants. And I thank Him that my wife and son will soon be joining me again to continue our ministry as a family in Kathmandu. Praise the Lord for His calling and His keeping—and the joy of being a humble servant of our Lord.