Many have had the privilege of meeting and getting to know Raju Bhitrakoti over the past few years as he attended Immanuel Lutheran Seminary and visited many CLC congregations. The Himalayan Church of the Lutheran Confession of Nepal (HCLCN) has also become rather well known in our circles due to the earthquake that rocked Nepal back in April and the relief efforts that have been carried out by Raju and several others.
But many may not be as familiar with Raju’s family. I would like to introduce to you three individuals with whom Raju works closely in carrying out our Savior’s Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).
Raju’s closest friend and partner in spreading the Gospel is his twenty-seven year old brother, Rajan. Having attended public schools and universities, Rajan can tell many stories about the challenges of growing up as a Christian in a nation that is predominately Hindu in culture and religion. And yet the love of his Savior sustained him through his younger years as he was taught the Word of God from his parents. Rajan recently completed his master’s degree in rural development. He now uses his education, experience, and network of contacts to do humanitarian work as chairman of a government-recognized charitable organization that his father established several years ago. He works closely with the pastors and congregations of the HCLCN in providing the basic needs of food and clean water to those who are struggling in the rural areas of Nepal. Rajan spends most of his time conducting youth Bible studies and visiting church members. He also leads treks to tribal villages where the Gospel has yet to be proclaimed. As if this weren’t enough to keep Rajan busy, he also does translation work for a publishing company to help support his family, those in need, and the orphans his mother cares for in their home.
Raju and Rajan’s mother, Rama, is forty-nine years old. As with most Christian mothers, she dedicated most of her younger years to bringing up her children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. She herself had been raised in a very impoverished Hindu family. While most of us have spent our youth going to school and playing with friends, those are not the memories that Rama has of her childhood. Rama received very little formal schooling, because most of her time was filled with work. Although her formal education was not extensive, her wisdom, and her love for the Lord and her family, have been a blessing to many.
Rama married at the age of seventeen. Her conversion to Christianity led to additional hardships in her life. Her father, a Hindu priest, rejected her and her family when she became a Christian. Through all the trials of life, the Savior’s love for Rama has led her to give much in service to the Lord. It was Rama’s idea to take seven orphans into their home in 2010. She didn’t know how they would find the resources to feed and care for these children, but she trusted that the Lord would provide. And, as always, the Lord was faithful. Through the generous support of sponsors in the CLC’s Project KINSHIP, Rama currently provides care for nine orphaned children in her home. She gladly undertakes this task in addition to traveling with her husband to visit church members.
Raju and Rajan have been blessed with a loving and caring mother. They have also had the privilege of growing and maturing under the guidance, example, and tutelage of their dedicated and faithful father. Jeet Bahadur (everyone knows him as J.B.) Bhitrakoti is fifty-one years old. Like many in Nepal, he wasn’t always a Christian. In 1980, while J.B. was still in secondary school (high school), he found a Gospel tract lying in the gutter. He wasn’t sure what it was all about, but he decided to tuck it away in a text book he was carrying. The simple Gospel tract was titled “Jesus Loves You.” He read and re-read the little tract over the next few months. At some point, the Holy Spirit worked faith in his heart. J.B. would later explain that the word of God in the tract “. . . gave peace to my heart.” In the small village where he lived, there was no Christian church and no other Christians that he knew of.
A few years later J.B. moved with his new wife to Kathmandu to look for work. When he arrived, he set out to find a Christian church where he could learn more about the Bible and his Savior. He attended his first church service in 1985. He dedicated his life to serving the Lord and telling others about the Gospel. He was given the opportunity to attend Foursquare Bible College, and he graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biblical Studies in 1990. He then set out to the very rugged and undeveloped western regions of Nepal to spread the Gospel. J.B. faced many difficulties as he went from village to village proclaiming the Good News. But the Lord was faithful to His new servant and sustained him through much persecution and threats against his life from those who were opposed to the Gospel.
As time went on and J.B. became more familiar with the Scriptures, he began to see discrepancies between what was being taught in the Foursquare Church and what was actually taught in the clear words of Scripture. He was led to separate from that fellowship, and he began an independent congregation in Kathmandu. Over the years, he has spent much of his time and family resources in starting congregations and in training men for the pastoral ministry. In 2007 he decided that it would be good to seek out fellowship and assistance in training pastors. Reading a copy of Luther’s Small Catechism, Pastor J.B. became convinced that confessional Lutheran theology was faithful to the Scriptures. He asked his son Raju to search the internet for a Lutheran group that would be willing to help them train pastors. It was through the guiding hand of the Lord that Raju “stumbled” upon a Mission Helper Trip blog that mentioned Lutheran pastoral training seminars in India. An email was sent with one simple request: “Would you be willing to come to Nepal to help train pastors?” The rest, as they say, is history.
Pastor Raju Bhitrakoti recently graduated from the three-year seminary program at ILC and returned to Nepal. He has been very busy organizing and carrying out earthquake relief efforts since arriving home in early May. Only the Lord knows for sure what the future holds for the HCLCN, but plans are well underway to begin a Bible Training School in the not-too-distant future. Please continue to pray for the Bhitrakoti family, along with all the pastors and members of the HCLCN with whom we have been given the privilege to work, as they proclaim the forgiveness of sins through our Savior Jesus Christ.
Todd Ohlmann is pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Manchester, Missouri, and chairman of the CLC Board of Missions.