For 26-year-old Smiti, the journey to faith in Christ began seven years ago with a desperate search for healing from a serious illness.
Like many Nepalis seeking help with their health, her first stop was a local witchdoctor — but he could do nothing for her. Then someone suggested that a nearby Christian church might be able to help.
When Smiti’s family took her to the church, she was so sick that she was hardly aware of what was happening. But Christians prayed for her, and she experienced healing.
“Before that, my Christian friends used to talk about Jesus,” she said, “but I did not feel that Jesus was for me. That was for somebody else. But after I experienced the sickness and went to the church, from that point I needed Jesus for myself.”
Growing Faith, Facing Opposition
Smiti had studied agriculture in school and was passionate about learning more. So when she heard about a discipleship training programme that focused on teaching agricultural techniques as an opportunity to share the gospel, she was very interested. She joined the programme as an intern in 2019, and a year later she received additional discipleship training.
“Before, I wanted to share the gospel, but I did not have the practical skills and was not doing it regularly,” she said. “But once I joined the programme, I had to go out and share more. This training really helped me to learn more, and I became more mature as I shared more.”
After completing her discipleship training, Smiti helped train others in evangelism and discipleship. “Giving to others [as a teacher] brings me joy,” she said. “Whenever I teach others, it is really helping them and it is preparing me for the future.” Smiti said she teaches the same simple discipleship principle that she was taught: while working to share the gospel and make new disciples, make sure you are teaching the next generation of disciple makers to follow in your footsteps.
As a front-line worker in remote areas of Nepal, Smiti has faced many challenges. In some villages, local Hindu leaders have barred her ministry work, and others opposed to her work have tried to cast curses against her.
Nepalis sometimes reject the gospel for fear that their gods or spirits will be offended and abandon them. “These communities are strong Hindu communities,” Smiti said. “They say, ‘You cannot share about Jesus in this place’.” Nepalis who do come to faith in Christ often face harassment and violent attacks from Hindu nationalists, who seek to make Nepal a ‘pure’ Hindu nation. Laws passed within the last decade have made sharing the gospel and following Christ risky.
Another thing that scares many people away from the Christian faith, Smiti said, is the stigma of being a non-Hindu in Nepal. “When someone comes to faith [in Christ], automatically their social status will become very low,” she explained. “Their reputation is lost, and their honour in the village will be gone. This is what it means to be low caste. Christians are considered as a low caste in the society.”
When Smiti speaks with someone who fears this kind of social pressure, she gently reminds them that there is no discrimination in God’s kingdom. “Sometimes even other believers are discouraged [by] this kind of thing,” Smiti said. “I urge them to not be discouraged. I am not discouraged with those things, because whatever the persecution and difficulties that I have seen, I also see that actually God is working … in their situation. That makes me so excited.”
Empowered to Witness
‘Simple’ and ‘practical’ are key words in Smiti’s ministry. When she first arrived in the village where she has been working for a while, she quickly realised she would need to learn the minority language used locally.
“When I first came here, I used to talk with people in Nepali,” she said. “When I would ask, ‘Do you understand?’ the people said, ‘I don’t know what you are talking about.’ So then I knew there was no point for me to share in Nepali.” Determined to tell them about Jesus Christ, she learned the Maithili language in just five months.
Through faithfully proclaiming the gospel, Smiti has seen many Nepalis come to faith in Christ and many believers begin to grow in faith. Her work has been especially effective among women, who are not accustomed to seeing other women in a teaching role.
“When we started this training, we encouraged them to spend time in the Word and go back to share their faith,” Smiti said. “The women used to think [they] can’t do anything because society tells them that they are kind of useless. But when they learn and they share with others, they become more active and their voice is heard, and others are coming to faith.”
Smiti’s family members at first pressured her to leave ministry work, but they have become more supportive after seeing the joy it brings her. Being unmarried at 26 in a culture where most girls marry by 14, Smiti dreams of one day having a husband who shares her heart for reaching the people of Nepal with the gospel. In the meantime, she continues to seek new opportunities to make Christ known while training and leading others to do the same.
“Please pray, as I am planning to move to a Muslim area to work in a Muslim community,” she said. “Pray that God would prepare me to go there. Pray that whatever God has asked me to do, His will would be realised in my life.”