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Namaste. Tapaai~ Angrezi bolnu hunccha?
It's not all that uncommon for an Assemblies of God church to have a visitor who was born outside the United States. It's a bit more uncommon if that visitor came from a Hindu or Buddhist background. And it's fairly uncommon for that same visitor to be from the Nepal/Bhutan region of the world, but perhaps not unheard of.
Still, when a non-English-speaking Hindu visitor shows up with nearly 220 of his Hindu and Buddhist Nepalese/Bhutanese family and friends—nearly half of whom have never even heard of Jesus—on Christmas Day at an AG church where attendance is about 100 (on a good day) ... well, that's a God thing!
And knowing the phrase, "Good morning. Do you speak English?" in Nepalese, could come in handy for anyone found in that rare situation—like AG Pastor Chris Dawes did last Christmas.
One might imagine that with such an influx of Nepali refugees from Bhutan that Dawes' church is likely located on a coast—east, west, even southeast. But North Dakota? That's more on the "coast" of Canada than anywhere else.
Dawes, who pastors Valley Christian Center in Grand Forks, N.D., admits that he doesn't know what God is up to, only that He's up to something!
He explains that his church—and the community for the most part—has historically been overwhelmingly white. But recently God has been doing something totally "unexpected" in his small church.
Dawes said last year he had heard some talk about refugees from the Nepal/Bhutan region of the world being in the Grand Forks area, but the information was sketchy. And really, with a church that runs between 60 and 100 on any given Sunday, there didn't seem to be a way for Valley Christian Center to make any kind of significant impact on first-generation immigrants who likely didn't even speak English.
Then, six days before Christmas, Dawes received the most unexpected of calls.
"Pastor Deepak, who leads this growing group of Christians, called me out of the blue and asked me if our church would be willing to host a Christmas Day outreach meal for maybe 100 Christian and an additional 100 or so non-believing Nepalese and Bhutanese," Dawes recalls. "The refugees had been meeting in apartments and some were meeting at a local church, but they needed a place to meet where being openly Pentecostal was not going to be a cause for concern. I told them they were welcome to come and use our facilities."
On Christmas Day, a sea of nearly 220 new faces arrived at Valley Christian Center for a special service and meal. Deepak later told Dawes that 130 of the guests were non-believers made up of Hindus and Buddhists, indicating many of them had never before heard the gospel message.
Deepak, who had been with the Nepalese American church in Georgia under Pastor Silas, had recently come to Grand Forks to pastor this group of believers and was the speaker for this event. A former refugee and Buddhist from Nepal, Deepak had accepted Christ and was later healed from the effects of a debilitating stroke when a Pentecostal evangelist prayed for him while he was living in a refugee camp in Nepal.
"Fifteen Hindus and Buddhists gave their lives to the Lord that day, with many more wanting to learn more about Jesus," Dawes says. "I just really feel this was prophetic in that this happened on Christmas Day—it was like the Lord handed us a gift on a silver platter. God entrusted to us the commission to reach out and touch these precious people with the love of Jesus."
Since that Christmas Day, the Nepalese believers and their guests have started meeting regularly at Valley Christian Center. Every week, more people are accepting Christ as their Lord and Savior.
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