January 2012 Gospel for Asia
Bright Future for Bhutan
It was the first time Thaye saw his father cry. This was the same man who had chased him out of the house three times (once with a knife), mercilessly beat his own wife and children for their faith in Jesus Christ and falsely accused a pastor of kidnapping his family. This same man now stood before a church congregation with tears streaming down his face as he testified of his personal encounter with Christ— the very one he used to loathe and oppose.
In Bhutan, many people feel the same way about Christianity that Thaye's father, Zinjay, once did. They fight it and do everything in their power to turn believers away from their faith. They beat them, harass them, threaten their lives, disown them and even revoke their citizenship. But Thaye is one of many Bhutanese believers who are standing strong despite the odds against them.
Safe and Secure
Thaye remembers the night he thought his life was ending. His father had barged into his room while he was studying for his year-end exam.
"I thought he was there to wish me good luck," Thaye states. He was only 16 at the time.
"But as my father entered," he remembers, "I saw him throwing my books and all my things around. I was nervous, not knowing what to do or what not to do."
"When he finished, he shut the door and nobody was able to come in. He started beating me."
Thaye's body buckled with each blow. His mother rushed to find neighbors who could rescue her son. They broke down the door and somehow managed to pull Thaye outside. He collapsed on the ground under the brightness of the full moon. Half an hour passed; then suddenly his father ran out of the house, a knife in his hand—and straight toward Thaye.
"I was not able to run away; I was badly beaten up," Thaye says. "I just lay there, thinking it was the end of my life."
But that's when thoughts of Jesus entered his mind. As he lay crying on the ground, he felt a warm presence engulf him. At that moment, Zinjay ran by—but never saw his son. This happened three times. The house was located in an open area and everything was clearly visible under the light of the full moon, but Thaye remained unnoticed.
"I could feel his feet touching my back," Thaye recalls. "But to my surprise, he didn't see me at all. I was safe and secure in the hands of God."
Unable to find his son, Zinjay exchanged Thaye's life for the boy's bicycle, chopping it to pieces in his rage.
'Jesus is Right Here'
For 10 years, Zinjay remained antagonistic toward Christianity, but the battle he waged against his family and their faith began to tire him. Nothing he did could separate them from Christ's love in their hearts. He was exhausted.
Thaye and his brother and sister sensed their father's weariness.
"We saw a change in him and took bold steps to share our faith," Thaye says. "He agreed in some points, but that stubborn nature was still there." But then Zinjay woke up one morning completely paralyzed. Thaye and his siblings saw this as another opportunity.
"There is sin in you," Thaye's sister told her father. "If you confess, Jesus is right there to heal you."
After listening to his children, Zinjay decided to pray and confess his sins, though he wasn't ready to surrender his life. His body was instantly healed.
The believers in Zinjay's village heard about this miraculous event. Zinjay had banished them before, but now they were free to visit him and pray for him. Their love and forgiveness convinced Zinjay to take the next step and trust Jesus for salvation.
Trusting the Lord to Work
The country Zinjay grew up in shaped his mind to resist Christianity and believe that it was a Western religion accepted only by low-caste people—"not at all Bhutan," as Thaye put it.
But today, just as Zinjay's spirit has softened to know the true God, so also the heart of his nation is gradually opening to receive the Gospel.
All across Bhutan, people are experiencing miracles in the name of the living God. The lame walk, people are healed from mysterious, life-threatening sicknesses and countless people like Zinjay are experiencing the mighty power of Jesus firsthand.
One missionary team is working in some of the most remote areas of the country where the illiteracy rate is high. They've discovered that the best way to express the love of God is through Christian films, and so they're prepared to hike through dense forests and high mountains, often carrying all the equipment.
"Sometimes the film teams encounter wild animals like elephants, snow leopards, tigers and bears," notes a Gospel for Asia leader.
Today, the first residential Bible college in the country has sprung up in Thimphu, Bhutan's capital city, offering believers a place where they can grow spiritually and be equipped to reach the ones around them.
"It was absolutely a historic event in this Buddhist nation," a GFA field correspondent reports of the inauguration.
In addition to a well-rounded course of study that includes subjects such as Christian Leadership, New Testament Survey and Missionary Biographies, students at the Bible college are regularly involved in a special program.
"Students and staff members go two by two to areas where Christians have no access to proclaim the Good News openly," the correspondent explains, "and pray for the salvation of the nation while walking."
Jesus is Worth it All
While the Bhutanese way of life is still heavily entrenched in keeping the ancient traditions and preserving a cultural heritage, Christians see a bright future for their nation. Even with threats of persecution and imprisonment, missionaries and new believers alike continue to stand firm in their love for the One who delivered them out of darkness.
For Thaye—who has made it his life's passion to bring the Good News to his own people—and thousands just like him, Jesus is worth it all. These believers want that same life and hope for everyone in Bhutan. One leader sums up that desire:
"We trust that the Lord will be working in the hearts of the people and help them open their hearts to Jesus Christ."
first published: January 2010 Gospel for Asia