A Report on HIM-COE '98
20-24 April 1998
The official opening of HIM-COE '98 (Himalayan Congress of Evangelism) was scheduled for Monday the 20th of April at the picturesque Indian hill-station of Darjeeling. But it really began four days earlier, the evening of April 16th, when 20 young torch-bearers were dedicated to the Lord in a special torch-lighting ceremony at Siliguri, in the plains at the foot of the hills 88 kilometers away (the site of HIM-COE '96 two years earlier). At 5:00am the next morning they began a four-day Torch Procession up into the hills, a public proclamation of the torch of the Gospel being lit throughout the Himalayas. Open-air public rallies and prayer meetings were held at churches all along the route, where local Christians replenished the torch's oil and joined in the rally for miles at a time. Despite the searing heat of the plains, blistered feet, and rain and fog blanketing the upper hills, the young torch bearers' enthusiasm was never dampened, rather built to a crescendo as they approached the HIM-COE '98 conference hall in Darjeeling. Triumphant in spirit (although weary in body and soaked from the rain) they processed proudly into the hall with torches held high as the opening songs were sung. The torch became symbolic of the fire of the Holy Spirit being lit in the Himalayas, and a new missionary spirit being lit in the hearts of Nepali and Himalayan Christians.
Under the leadership of Rev. Adon Rongong, Chairman of Himalayan AD2000, the plans for HIM-COE '98 began to take shape even during the previous HIM-COE '96, when the emphasis was on evangelism. This HIM-COE the theme was "Missions", God's call to the Nepali and Himalayan churches to move from being mission receiving to mission sending, the call to engage in cross-cultural mission "unto the ends of the earth." About 1200 participants gathered: key Nepali and Tibeto-Bhutia Christian leaders from across the expanse of Nepal, Sikkim, the Darjeeling hills, Bhutan; including Nepali diaspora representatives from Burma, Singapore, Taiwan and Scotland; 13 pioneer missionary guests who served in Nepal, Darjeeling hills and Sikkim, and Bhutan; overseas speakers; representatives of overseas mission agencies and churches involved in the Himalayas; and 150 volunteers from local churches.
Special guest speaker, and chief encourager of the AD2000 movement in Nepal and the Himalayas since the first Congress of Evangelism held in Kathmandu in 1994, was Dr. Thomas Wang. Daily morning Bible studies and plenary sessions brought deeper understanding and inspiration to the theme of 'missions', while eight workshops on different relevant topics held on two afternoons filled out practical aspects of the theme. Two Partnership Forum sessions gave opportunity for key national leaders to meet with mission agency representatives and begin to explore how to link local needs with available resources. In two different sessions Nepali diaspora representatives shared about the situation and needs among Nepalis overseas, and pioneer missionary guests who served in Nepal, Darjeeling, and Bhutan shared from their early experiences and current-day observations. They were honored with special Nepali shawls and HIM-COE inscribed brass plates in a moving ceremony. The testimony of their lives was an inspiration and challenge to many young people, including one young evangelist who shared later that he had been ready to leave the ministry until he met these missionary guests.
On Thursday the Christian Partnership Rally and march through the streets and bazaar of Darjeeling town was a dramatic public demonstration of the strength of the local Christian community. Even pouring rain just as the march started did not deter them. Seventy plus year old grandmothers and mothers with babies in arm marched alongside top church leaders decked out in suit and tie under a sea of umbrellas and bits of hastily sought plastic, singing and yelling Jesus cheers as rain streamed down their uplifted shining faces enroute to the rally grounds two kilometers away. Hundreds came in groups to join in from churches of the surrounding villages and from as far away as Nepal, Sikkim and Kalimpong to the north, and Siliguri in the plains below, swelling the rally numbers to nearly 4000. Onlookers lined the hillside, providing a natural backstop to the football grounds, which although muddy from the rains, the majority of the participants cheerfully treaded through to find seats. Reverent silence filled the grounds as prayers were offered in the various languages of the Himalayas, beseeching God to bring revival to their land and peoples, and committing themselves to reach all those as yet unreached by the Gospel. Rev. Theodore Manaen, well-known former political figure and MP (Member of Parliament), gave a moving testimony, and Dr Thomas Wang challenged all present to work together to reach their people with the Gospel. Joyful clapping accompanied exuberant singing and cultural style dances by Nepal Tamangs, Tibetan, Dukpa and Lepcha groups. Smiles creased the faces of all when the sun finally broke through, and the snow-capped Himalayas could be seen in the distance, a sign to many of God's smiling on those assembled. The people of the Darjeeling hills had been awakened and united in a new way for the common task of completion of the Great Commission.
The Thursday Rally felt like an early climax and many from outlying areas began to leave throughout the next day, although there were important sessions yet ahead. Friday morning participants chose between three special forums on: 1) 'Literacy and Evangelism' and how to meet the needs of the more than 50% illiterate population in the villages; 2) 'Training Needs for Mission' as the church take up the challenge of moving out more in mission; and 3) 'Girls Caught in Brothels', the challenge confronting the church of the tens of thousands of Nepali girls sold into brothels in metropolises and urban centers of Nepal. During the latter presentation, three different interpreters broke down weeping with compassion and sorrow at this tragic situation as they struggled to translate the report given by Miss Liz Taylor of Bombay into Nepali language. Of all the sessions during HIM-COE '98, this merited front-page coverage in a local Nepali secular newspaper, praising the Christian community for their concern. The afternoon was taken up with strategizing for the future and regional planning groups.
The final evening's Closing Ceremonies, led by the HIM-COE '98 Chairman, Rev. H.D. Subba, were marked by a continuing stream of people flooding the conference hall, until more than 1500 crowded in with standing room only. Sounds of exuberant 'Hallelujahs' and 'Praise the Lord' punctuated the praise and worship time as the torchbearers brought the lighted torch back into the hall and set it before all the people. Dr Thomas Wang surprised everyone by leading the huge assembly in a Nepali-language cheer of "We are one!", emphasizing the new sense of oneness in Christ between the people of the numerous denominations and groups represented. Torches for all 16 Himalayan regions were then lit by the honorary missionary guests and passed on to the regional coordinators, who in turn lit candles distributed throughout the congregation. The hall was luminous in a brilliant display of dancing lights, culminating in a joyous expression of spontaneous worship and dance that spread throughout the hall. Mr Daya R. Pradhan, External Coordinator and organizer of the Torch Procession, led everyone in a final roof-raising affirmation of the conference slogan, "Himali Peoples -Missionary Peoples!" - which had taken on a reality in people's hearts throughout the week.
Prepared by Dr Cindy Perry, HIM-COE '98 International Coordinator
An Introduction by the Chairman, Rev. Adon Rongong
I want to give you a short description of what Himalayan AD2000 is all about. I am glad to say that this movement has been able to complete or fulfill some important and worthwhile programmes in cooperation with various Christian churches and para-church organisations in this Himalayan region.
In conclusion I would like to give a brief overview of what has been done so far:
In His Service,
Rev. Adon Rongong, Chairman
For more information, please contact Cindy Perry firstname.lastname@example.org.<>
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