Even I Am Welcome Here

Even I Am Welcome Here

Andrew & Ellen Collins – Nepal

Nima had been coming to church for weeks, and you’d think she had always been a Christian.  She knew all the songs, raised her hands and prayed out loud like everybody else, and read the scriptures half a syllable ahead of the others.  But when communion Saturday came along, just before the elements were served Nima, like all the other non-baptized worshippers, would quietly get up and go outside.  In Nepal, communion is offered to all who have publicly declared their faith in Christ and who have been baptized.  The pastor makes it very clear that everyone else is welcome to the church service, but must step outside at communion time.

I would watch Nima go and I silently prayed that she would not feel rejected.  I hoped that this seeming lack of inclusiveness on the part of the church would not dampen her interest in Christ.  “Are you kidding?” she answered, when I finally got up the courage to ask her.  “The church is the only place in this country where I, a woman, am truly welcome.  Where I, rejected by my family for marrying out of my caste, am accepted.  This is the only group of people who welcome me in, despite the fact that I have been treated for mental illness.  Even untouchables and lepers are allowed in!  Here I find rich and poor—educated and illiterate—sitting together, singing together, sharing a Bible or a hymnbook.”  Yes, but…communion…I started to say.  She had already walked off, arm-in-arm with a lady deacon of the church.

Several months had passed and one Saturday I missed church for some reason.  Later that day a Christian friend phoned to say that I should have been there – Nima had stayed for communion!  I found out that Nima and her husband had been baptized earlier in the week, and I had missed her first meal at the “welcome table”!  I had known she was attending a class for new believers, and I knew she was growing in her faith, but I did not know that she had been baptized.  When I met Nima at her tiny rented room the next day she beamed at me.  “I am a baptized Christian.  And now I stay in church for the whole time!  What a great privilege!” she exclaimed.  Nima was delighted.  I was delighted too. 

But the thought did cross my mind how some Saturdays, after sitting through two hours of church—my legs half-asleep from sitting cross-legged on the floor and my brain exhausted from following the sermon in Nepali—I chose to exit with those who had no choice but to leave before communion was served. I so easily passed up what Nima considered a prize.  I am constantly amazed at how God has taught me and humbled me over the many years I have spent in Nepal, through people like Nima.  She rekindled in me that day the passion to be present at the table, because, like she said, it is truly a great privilege. 

Andrew & Ellen Collins are missionaries with the United Mission to Nepal
Andrew works as an audio-visual consultant with the Development Communications Productions of the United Mission to Nepal in Pokhara.  Ellen is responsible for the primary health care training and the development of training skills, curricula and materials in conjunction with the Rural Development Center in Pokhara.