This is the greeting of Christians in Nepal. It means, “Jesus is victorious!”
In a country where the fledgling Christian community comprises roughly two percent of the predominately Hindu population, it rings out as an encouragement to the brothers and sisters of the faith who face persecution on a daily basis.
Women in Nepal are among the most downtrodden in the world. In a patriarchal caste system, they rank on the bottom. They are typically married off as young girls and immediately begin bearing children, caring for the family and tending the fields. They are the workhorses of society. If a woman fails to bear a son, dies in childbirth, or collapses under the weight of her heavy loads, her husband may simply find a new wife. Wealthier men may have several wives to care for their home and fields. Traditionally, women have been relegated to the cow barn during their monthly periods, considered unclean. This practice was outlawed by the Nepali government in 2007, but the stigma remains.
How would Jesus speak to the patriarchy within this culture? What would he say to these women? Oh, this is the beautiful part! Jesus has much to say. Scripture is full of his compassion, grace, and freedom for women. Janet George (author of Still Side by Side), Dr. Dawn Lindholm, and I had the privilege of speaking at a women’s conference for more than 240 Christian women in a rural area of western Nepal. Using Janet’s book as a template for the conference, we began with the creation story in Genesis. Here we celebrated God who created women equal to men, as partners, as ezer (strong helper) warriors. We shared stories of Jesus’ compassionate interactions with first-century women who faced much the same issues as women in Nepal. Women learned what the Scripture says about being one in Christ and that we, as believers, are given spiritual gifts that are to be used for the good of the body of Christ. The women soaked in the information as if their bodies were literally parched.
We invited women to talk about the teaching with their friends in small groups and report back some of their thoughts to the entire group. One young woman stood to say that in her tribe women must drink cow urine after their period each month to be cleansed before entering their home. She said, “The cow’s urine is considered more holy and pure than me. I know now that this is not true.” Another woman told how the story of the Samaritan woman had impacted her. “Jesus went out of his way to meet with a woman that the village had rejected. I am going to begin to love and pray for the prostitutes in my village.” A middle-aged woman stood to say that she was wearing a new kurta for the first time in her life. She had wanted to come to the conference and had begged her husband for some nice clothes to wear. He had paid for the kurta but failed to deliver it to her so she left home very angry with him. After a friend retrieved the kurta from the tailor, she was able to wear it at the conference after all. She had been so blessed by the conference that she was going to return to her husband, ask for forgiveness, and thank him instead.
CBE translated Still Side By Side into Nepali and each woman was given a copy of the book to take home with her. Although many of the women were illiterate, they accepted the book with gratitude. Fifty Christian businessmen and pastors who gathered in the village one evening during the conference received the book as well. They have requested a men’s conference to talk about the teachings and learn how to incorporate them into their marriages and churches.
We must never forget the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to change lives. It is good news for both women and men.