Over 60,000 souls from refugee camps in eastern Nepal began coming to the US in 2008. Mostly from Hindu or Buddhist backgrounds, they have no knowledge of the One true God. What follows is a brief report of how the Lord worked to reach some of these families in the Hartford, CT area.
From the start, this work has been one of fellowship between local assemblies. Believers in Saugus, MA contacted the assembly in Brookfield, CT regarding two Nepali refugee families moving to the area. As a result of the labors of the believers in Brookfield, these families began attending meetings. In 2011 they moved to Hartford to be with a larger Nepali community and were introduced to the Newington assembly.
A young man from one of those two families, Milan, recently said, ”I believe God brings us to this place. When I was in Nepal I knew nothing of Jesus or the cross or the love of God, only the gods of my father and the traditions of my ancestors. I had no peace. I had dark thoughts and dreams.” At his baptism Milan said, “I was saved on 4th July, 2012, when I understood the love of the Christ and knew He died for my sin. John 3:16 is the verse which I was saved through. When I take these words in my heart and think of the love of God to me, my heart fills with happiness and joy and also felt sad when I remembered the cross.”
These two families opened up contact with more than 30 families already living in Hartford. The assembly began working to bring them to Sunday school and gospel meetings. Despite a language barrier, they seemed eager to listen and learn. Two sisters (Patti Tornaquindici and Kaitlyn Brescia) began a daily work in Hartford, helping the families adjust to their new life by offering transportation, market visits, doctor visits, etc. The result was a growing number showing interest in attending.
Another young brother helping in the Hartford work, Tim Kroeze, was also reading the Bible with them, seeking to explain it in English. This exercise on his part resulted in the present weekly gathering in Milan’s home for gospel and Bible study with a few of us there to help, and many of those attending in need of salvation.
When one family moved to Ohio in 2012, Patti and Katie made a trip to Akron to connect them with the believers there. The assembly was in a gospel series with brother Dan Shutt who had previously met and worked with the Nepalis in Newington. The believers took genuine interest, and their work continues, with about 14 Nepali children attending Sunday school in Akron.
The Newington assembly began to pray about the need for a gospel series in the Nepali language. The Lord put us in contact with Jiwan and Rachel (Vance) Rai from the Gangtok assembly in India. When they came in January of 2013, the first night of the meetings revealed something of the marvelous work the Lord had done. Jiwan came directly to the hall from the airport and sat looking over his notes. The seats behind him began to fill. When he stood to preach, his surprise to see such a crowd of Nepalis was evident. And when he began to speak, the crowd was just as surprised to hear that his dialect perfectly matched their own! There were more than a few tears among the believers as the story of the Cross was finally unfolded in the peoples’ own tongue. The meetings continued with 45-65 in attendance each night. Jiwan and Rachel visited daily house to house with Patti and Katie, opening the Scriptures when possible. Rachel’s warmth and knowledge of the language was a source of intrigue and endearment. Jiwan’s easy connection with them won their hearts. Some in the community opposed the gospel, but the relationships built, through God’s love displayed, were not so easily shaken. (1Peter 2:12.)
In April 2013 Jiwan and Rachel returned for another gospel series. Som, a young man saved a few months prior, saw his wife Usha reached. Milan’s sister Puja, along with others, professed faith in Christ. Milan was baptized, with many from the Nepali community there to witness it.
In July of 2013 Katie and I had the privilege of visiting the Gangtok assembly to thank them in person for their faithful prayer in support of the work. We were warmly received, the bond between the two assemblies was strengthened, and we continue in prayer for one another. There has been recent blessing in Gangtok and Nepal with many souls saved and added to the assemblies. Shortly after this India visit, ESL classes were started in Hartford, with about 17 adults attending two classes per week, with Puja helping as translator.
Jiwan and Rachel returned for a third visit in January of 2014 with between 15 and 45 out each night. Puja was baptized and four young Nepali boys were saved. During this latest visit, an influential man in the Nepali community began “Hindu revival” meetings to distract some from attending. These continue today in an attempt to “preserve tradition,” but also to discourage anyone from coming to hear the gospel. Gene Higgins was with us in April when another Nepali teenager, Ram, professed faith in Christ. In July, Katie traveled back to India. Language studies with Jiwan helped her connect in a new way with some of the adults in Hartford who speak little or no English. There are currently five weekly classes (ESL and Citizenship) taught in the homes, and daily work continues among the families – all with an end to the gospel and their salvation. We are looking to the Lord to continue to open doors.
Many of the original families have relocated where larger groups of Nepalis have settled in Ohio, Nebraska, and other states, but a good number remain. The Sunday school work continues with 5-10 children each week, and we look forward in the Lord’s will to Jiwan and Rachel’s return visit. Please pray for the work here and in other places where some of these families have moved. We have heard wonderful news of a large number of Nepali children attending the Sunday school in PEI, Canada and pray for blessing there as well.