A weekend youth rally in Nepal earlier this month, the first for the Seventh-day Adventist Church there, underscores how the denomination is growing in the formerly Hindu nation.Some 350 Adventists under the age of 30 from Nepal and Northern India met from May 4 to 8 for the Nepali Youth for Christ conference in Banepa, about 20 miles east of the capital Kathmandu.
More than 350 young Adventists attended the first Adventist youth rally in Nepal, held in Banepa, near the capital Kathmandu. [photos: Bhaju Ram Shrestha]
Many walked for days from their remote villages to bus stops to attend the conference, which included preaching and workshops on spiritual leadership, Bible study and health. At night, attendees slept on cement floors with a thin mat and blanket.
"These were some of the most earnest young Adventists I've ever met in my 10 years of preaching to youth," said Jeffrey Rosario, an instructor at the Sonora, California-based ARISE Institute in the United States, who spoke at the conference.
The conference leadership team was comprised of eight people, all between the ages of 16 and 21. Eighteen-year-old Madeline Cardona led in organizing the meeting.
Rosario said other young Adventists are helping to lead the church in Nepal. Flora, 20, helps run an orphanage that rescues children, many of whom are born and raised in prison with their inmate mothers. "For $400, a child can have food, clothing and shelter there for an entire year," Rosario said. "I felt like the guy at the end of Schindler's List: 'this car, it's worth 10 people, this gold pin, it's worth two more people.'" It made him think of his own possessions, he said.
"In my world, most 20-year-olds are more interested in Lady Gaga's new single or the latest gossip on Facebook," Rosario said.
Rosario's language interpreter for the conference, Philip Dangal, 19, and his younger brother David are recent converts and developing preachers. Their father was a witchdoctor who converted to Adventism.
"The gospel has clearly changed their entire family," Rosario said.
Attendees of the youth rally distribute literature to passers-by on the streets of Banepa, Saturday, May 7. Most of the Adventist Church's infrastructure in Nepal surrounds nearby Scheer Memorial Hospital, a church institution that was established in 1960.
Attendees spent Saturday afternoon on the streets of Banepa and surrounding villages sharing literature about Jesus, including church co-founder Ellen G. White's book Steps to Christ, translated into Nepali.
"It is heartening to see how the young people longed for the Adventist literature in the Nepali language, but that there are so few in print," said Bhaju Ram Shrestha, the first Adventist in Nepal.
"We want Jesus to come soon, and he is too kind to come soon because millions of Nepalese have not heard the sweetness of his presence, for what is the use of his second coming if the people have not experienced his first coming," Shrestha said.
Much of the Adventist Church's infrastructure in Nepal surrounds Scheer Memorial Hospital, an Adventist institution established in 1960.
According to the Adventist yearbook, there are about 8,000 Adventists in Nepal, up from about 5,400 in 2008. There are six ordained Adventist preachers in the country.
In 1993, Nepal had only 212 Adventists, according to the Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia.
Nepal's population is more than 28 million. Formerly a Hindu nation, the Nepalese parliament declared it a secular state in 2006.
The next Nepali Youth for Christ meeting is scheduled for June, 2012.