Rudra and Sara grew up in a small Hindu village in central Nepal in the 1970s. There was no electricity, and the only form of transport was by foot.
Rudra was the eldest son of the village Hindu priest and Sara was the youngest daughter of the tea-shop owner.
“There didn’t seem to be any hope.” – Sara
“My parents were Newari,” said Sara about her family tie with the traditional people of the Kathmandu Valley. “So they followed the Hindu religion, with a mix of Buddhism and their own customs thrown in as well.
“There were so many gods… 30 million of them. My mum would pray to them, every morning and night. And I knew that if I didn’t do the right thing, the gods would be upset and bad things would happen to me… so I tried to be good, but I was never sure if I was good enough.
“There didn’t seem to be any hope.”
Meanwhile, Rudra spent his childhood reading the Hindu scriptures in Sanskrit, and then helping his father to enact the ceremonies. “I knew the Swasthani and the Satyanarayan almost by heart,” he said. “But I was always fearful of the gods. I knew what would happen to me if I did bad things… so I tried to be good. But my one life goal was to leave the village as soon as I possibly could… and never go back!”
Rudra and Sara left their village when they were teenagers, and then they were married in Kathmandu some years later. “We didn’t know how to get married,” said Sara. “So we went to the temple and we told the gods we were married. And then we had a baby. It was very hard at first. We had no money and not much to eat. Rudra started looking for cauliflowers in people’s gardens… and then our daughter became very sick. She was seven months old and she started rolling her eyes.
“I thought the gods were angry with us, because I had sinned.” – Rudra
“After a week, we took her to the hospital and they said she had meningitis. She stayed in the hospital for nearly five months. We couldn’t pay the bills. We had nothing.
“I thought the gods were angry with us, because I had sinned. So I told the gods that I would give them a big sacrifice if our daughter got better – I would give them a goat or a buffalo. But it didn’t work. Our daughter got worse and then she died… and I thought it was all my fault.”
“A long time after that, we both found work and we were able to come to Australia,” said Sara. “That was when my cousin invited us to go to her Christian church. I had never heard of a church before, or seen a Bible, or heard of the Christian God… so I went there.
“I walked into the building in Sydney and I looked around me and there was no god anywhere. There were people singing. As soon as I heard the singing, I felt like I needed to cry. I had goosebumps all over my arms.
“I wondered if the Hindu gods were angry with me because I was going to the white person’s temple. Then it happened again – the crying. And my Hindu gods didn’t save me. Someone told me, instead, that Jesus was calling me. I said, ‘Why would Jesus be calling me? We have 30 million gods.’
My friend said, ‘Jesus answers prayer and Jesus loves you.’ It was soon after that, that I prayed myself, and I realised there is something very strong and very powerful in the Christian God. I had never felt it before. I decided I would stop praying to the Hindu gods, and I would read the Bible…”
In the meantime, Rudra said he was never going to church. He wanted to earn money, and stay in Australia. However, the following year, Rudra and Sara heard about the work of the International Nepal Fellowship (INF) – the Christian medical mission that had been working with the neediest people of Nepal since 1952.
One day, both Rudra and Sara went along to an INF event in Sydney. “There were speakers,” said Rudra. “Australians who had been working in Nepal for many years. They were on home leave, telling their supporters about their work in Nepal – in the really hard, remote places.
“There were photos of flooding, and the surgery they were doing with the most disabled people in Nepal whom no one else would care for. And these people had been specialists back in Australia, doctors and health professionals. And they gave it all up to go to Nepal! Why would they do that? I would never do that!
“So afterwards, I asked one of them… and he said that he went to Nepal because the love of Jesus compelled him. It amazed me. I kept asking questions, and I decided to read the Bible for myself. And that’s when I found out that there really is a God and he cares for all of us. He made a way for us to be right with him, through his Son, the Lord Jesus. I read 1 John 1:9, ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’ That’s when everything changed for me…”
Rudra and Sara are now a key part of the United Nepali Christian Community – a Nepali church that meets in Liverpool, Sydney. They both regularly return to their village and support the work of International Nepal Fellowship. “Everything about me has changed,” said Rudra. “I don’t think about how much I can earn, now. The Bible says that we brought nothing into the world and we will take nothing when we go.
“So I trust God and I do what I can with my money. I love to go back to Nepal and I help in my village. I support what INF does … and we have good relationships with our family in the village. Some of them have even become believers! And it’s true what that man said at the INF event. ‘The love of Christ compels me’. And now it’s the same for me. It makes me want to respond, with everything I have!”
This is an edited extract from Naomi Reed’s new book, Finding Faith – Inspiring conversion stories from around the world. (Authentic Media, UK).