Major celebrations took place in Kathmandu as United Mission to Nepal (UMN), a BMS World Mission partner, marked its 60th anniversary.
Nepalese government representatives and other guests joined more than 150 staff at their headquarters in the capital on March 5 – 60 years to the day after UMN was formed in 1954.
UMN is improving the lives of the neediest in Nepal by providing healthcare, engaging in reconciliation and peace-building work, helping to improve the education system and enabling people to have more sustainable livelihoods.
For the last 54 years, BMS has been sending personnel to UMN and supporting many of its projects.
UMN is not allowed to proselytize but shows the love of Christ practically through its work. These restrictions have forced the Nepali church to develop indigenously, allowing it to flourish.
From being a state where no Christians were permitted in the 1940s, today Nepal has one of the fastest growing churches in the world, according to Lyn Jackson, UMN communications director.
UMN is now trying to support churches as they look to increase their role serving their communities.
“Many churches are looking round their communities and saying, ‘How can we engage with your community? How can we be Christians in this village, in this municipality?'” Jackson said.
“This consciousness that relating to your community is more than just preaching, it’s also serving, loving and showing compassion, is rising in the church,” she said. “UMN is really trying to connect with that, to provide the training programs for churches that want to get involved, to help them work out how they do that.”
Until a revolution in 1951, Nepal was a closed country that allowed very few foreigners to enter.
When the Nepalese government relaxed the rules, two things happened that would have implications for the Christian church there.
First, American missionaries Bob and Bethel Fleming and Carl Fredericks visited Nepal on bird-watching trips – Bob was a keen ornithologist – in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
During two of those trips, Bethel and Carl, who were both doctors, set up a temporary clinic in Tansen to respond to the desperate need for healthcare in an area of extreme poverty.
The positive response from the governor and local people in Tansen led them to apply to the Nepalese government for permission to establish a clinic there and in Kathmandu.
After two attempts, their application was accepted and the clinics were opened in 1954, becoming part of UMN’s early work.
Second, when the opportunity to operate in Nepal became a reality, a group of eight mission agencies working on the Indian border decided that instead of having just one mission organization going into the country, they would work as an interdenominational cooperative – something that was not common practice at that time.
UMN was formed at a meeting in India on March 5, 1954.
BMS World Mission has been a supporting partner of UMN since 1968, although it sent its first mission worker, Margaret Robinson, to work at a former UMN clinic in 1962.
Since the 1960s, the number of BMS personnel in Nepal has grown considerably, with 22 now working in the country, including four at UMN – Jerry and Ruth Clewett, Martin Butterworth and Phil Rawlings.
“The story of UMN in Nepal is an exciting one, and countless lives have been blessed by the service that they offer,” said Peter Dunn, BMS’ director for mission. “Their faithful service is a witness to the love of Jesus Christ in a country where the church is growing fast. BMS greatly values working in partnership with UMN.”
Chris Hall is the editor of BMS World Mission’s Engage magazine. A version of this news article first appeared on the BMS website and is used with permission. You can follow Chris on Twitter @chrishallnewb and BMS @BMSWorldMission.