devotion, Previously Published

inspired word of God

Age Group: High School

Key Text: All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16, NIV)

Materials needed: Paper, pens, chalk board

One cold night, a colporteur encountered a robber who ordered him to light a bonfire and burn his books. The colporteur lit the fire, and then asked to read a little from each book first. He read the twenty third psalm from one; the story of the good Samaritan from another; the Sermon on the Mount from another; 1 Corinthians 13 from another. At the end of each reading, the robber said “It’s a good book. We won’t burn that one; give it to me.” In the end, none were burned; the robber left with all the books. Years later the man turned up again. Only this time he was not a robber; he was a Christian minister. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible, The Letters to Timothy, Titus and Philemon, St. Andrews Press, Edinburgh, Scotland, 1975, p 201)

Option 1: Give each several pieces of paper and pen. Ask them to put their Bibles away and say: “Pretend all our Bibles are destroyed. You have to rely on your memory. For the next five minutes, write down all the Bible verses you can say from memory (once verse per piece of paper), including the reference if possible. Post the verses on the wall under the categories Law, History, Poetry, Prophets, Gospels, Epistles.

Then ask questions like What made this exercise difficult? Why is it we reproduce so little of the book we use so much? What difference should the Bible make in our lives? Why do we feel more comfortable with some parts of the Bible than others? What is it that keeps us from studying and learning more from the Bible?

Option 2: Distribute portions of a recent newspaper. Have them glean stories of people who were in a difficult, happy, sad, or strange situation. Encourage the class to contribute recent, personal experiences. Draw a 2-column table on a chalkboard. The heading of the left column is “In this the situation.” The heading of the right “The Bible says.”

As the class finds stories, write a brief description of each in the left. Stop when you have about a dozen stories. Now have the class find encouraging, faith-affirming Bible texts   that can be encouraging to the individuals in the stories.

Bible Study:
Option 1: Divide into five groups and have each study 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 along with one of these passages: Hebrews 4:12; James 1:22-24; Luke 16:17; 2 Peter 1:20, 21; 2 Timothy 2:15. Questions they could tackle: What do these verses say about the Bible? What is function and purpose of Scripture? What results can you expect in your life from studying the Bible every day?

Option 2: Divide into five groups and have each rewrite one of the following passages to give it a personal and contemporary application. Then have each group read aloud the original passage from the Bible followed by their paraphrase: Matthew 5:13-16; Romans 8:38, 39; 1 Corinthians 13:4-12; Philippians 4:4-7; Hebrews 13:1-3; James 1:2-8. After the sharing of these paraphrases, emphasize the relevance of Scripture and the importance of personal application in the studying of Scripture.




  • If you know the Word and don’t do as it says, what does that say about your respect for God and His authority?
  • How can you develop a personal checklist to ensure you say and do what is biblically right?
  • If someone told you the Bible was just a how-to book for good moral behavior, how would you defend it as being the inspired Word of God?
  • How can you communicate the message of the Bible with confidence and yet without arrogance?
  • How can you safely compare what people say about God with what the Bible says?
  • What can you do when you find it difficult to believe without seeing?



Life in Nepal, Previously Published

the club

(published 2003, Adventist Review)

Ten feet tall, it stands in my front lawn on a well worn patch of dirt, symbolizing the differences between the worlds on either side of the fence. The basketball hoop is as uncommon a sight in Banepa as is a 225-pound, 6-foot, bearded 17-year-old.  And it doesn’t take long for a crowd of children to gather on the other side, wagering on Jez’s shot and his age!

The differences between both sides of the fence are many, caused mainly by the dark cloud of inescapable poverty that hangs over the other side. Undernourished and underprivileged, children here are small in stature, resigned to their fate and starved for fun. Often they have only their imagination and someone else’s trash to provide entertainment–A bicycle wheel turns into a hoola-hoop, the discarded wheels of a chair convert to a skateboard. I’ve even seen a rock take the place of a ball! Such is their life–void of childhood, forced into the role of breadwinner before reaching puberty. In their world only the fit and tough survive and principles are dictated by the lack of equity: For example, it is acceptable to take from those who have more; it is foolish to aspire to be more than what your caste dictates; it is unnecessary to say thank you when the gift is given out of abundance. Theirs is a world where life is what the gods have predestined one to have—or not to have.

Befriending those on the other side sometimes has a negative effect on their already low self-esteem and feelings of inferiority. One-on-one relationships oftentimes only emphasize the disparity that is very real and cannot be combated with gifts or goodwill. In an effort to address this bleak, fatalistic attitude, the Club was begun by the Shrestha family where the father is Nepali and the mother American.  The Shresthas’ bicultural environment helped steer the kids across the fence into a non-threatening group setting, away from the seeming opulence of our lifestyle.

They came in little groups—curious yet intimidated by and apprehensive of the mixing of the worlds. Soon The Club was the talk of the town. There was basketball, volleyball, parties, games, crafts, and lots of fun. However it wasn’t long before they discovered that in order to experience the “fun,” they had to sit through a Christian meeting. This was a “Pathfinder” Club!

Like forcing dinner down just to have dessert, they sat in polite silence through our worship. This was understandable since the majority of them were Hindu and what was said had little relevance to them. But a few months later, they began to show some interest: They actually listened to the stories, asked questions, memorized verses, and even came on time for worship. A few more months went by and they were attending Friday night vespers and Sabbath School classes. By the end of the first year, several joined the pastor’s baptismal class and some formed a music band called “Mukti” (Salvation).

When the Shresthas moved back to the US, Jez took over as Pathfinder leader. Watching him take pride in his “children,” I remembered his days as a member of the Spencerville Pathfinder Club in Maryland. Of course, the Pathfinder Club of Banepa SDA Fellowship cannot be compared to the one at Spencerville where fun involved ski trips, theme parks and Camporees. Here donations are needed even for the paper needed to make airplanes. And the Banepa kids will probably never get to a Camporee. However, be it The Club in Spencerville or the one here in Banepa, the end product is the same: an environment that fosters relationships– with Jesus and with one another.

The Club here initiates young men and women into a new kind of life and gives them a fresh perspective. At The Club they learn that life has possibilities, not limitations; that talents are to be nurtured, not stifled; that fulfillment comes from sharing and not hoarding; that the future is what you make of it, not what is handed to you; that God is not someone who sits on a pedestal but one stays beside you—no matter what.

Life in Nepal, Previously Published

Jesus among other gods

In the end I leave Jesus among other gods.

Having done so, I feel like a traitor, betraying who I really am.

Inside out, through and through, I am a Seventh-day Adventist Christian. You know the forms that ask for details about yourself—height, weight, race? There needs to be a place for me to simply check off “SDA.” That would better describe me than my skin color or ethnic origin. To be honest, I am a biased, prejudiced Christian who has a difficult time making allowances for anything remotely different.

I’m at the corner of a crowded street, waiting for my ride. A man comes up to me. His typical, curious Nepali nature compensates for his deficiency in English. Soon he’s asking me questions about the pimple on my face, Bush and Iraq, and even about my married life. I’ve done this before so I take it all in stride—Intrusive as the questions may be, every step of invasion into my privacy leads closer to my soapbox. Throwing him the bait, I begin reeling him in. Sure enough, the conversation swerves to religion. And I give him the “my-way-is-better” spiel.

Why only one God? He asks.  Before I can respond, he lists the benefits of having more: There’s power in number.  It’s more versatile. You have a choice. Each god has a specialty (Kali for vengeance, Laxmi for wealth, Ganesh for success, Parvati for power)

I try other angles. Grace. State of the dead. Eternal life. The Cross. We go back and forth. Obviously he’s not impressed by Christianity.  And for an unusual Nepali moment, there’s awkward silence.

One god, only! He exclaims with sympathetic head wagging. I’m indignant now. The conversation has gone far beyond a friendly discussion. I’m offended by his sympathy. The car arrives. And just before I get in, I tell my new friend in my best smug, Christian tone, I don’t need more than one God–because my God is an all-purpose God!

A few months later I run into my new friend. Excitedly he waves and shouts Good news. Good news. Jesus now is in my house! He proceeds to give details. I am thinking I need all-purpose God. So Jesus I have put right in the middle of my other gods. So I am doing puja (worship rituals) to Jesus also every morning. Before I can respond, he says he’s in a hurry and leaves.

I am shocked by the man’s grave and sacrilegious felony. I am disturbed by mental images of Jesus in a pagan home. Is Jesus in the form of an idol or a painting? Does Jesus now sport a red, rice flour and yoghurt tikka on His forehead, and a marigold lei around His neck?  Pictures of Jesus at the breakfast table with my friend and his gods haunt me. Nightmares of me leading lambs astray keep me up at night.

The verdict is in: I have single-handedly put Jesus in the slammer with other gods. How do I make it right? Maybe I’ll run into the man again and I’ll have a chance to bring Christian clarity into his life. But then, maybe I will never see him again.

Where it is illegal to proselytize, evangelism cannot be neatly packaged into 12, easy-to-understand lessons or long Bible studies over hot cocoa. Usually you have only one, five-minute opportunity to share Jesus. You either use it or blow it.

I, the Christian, squirm at what I’ve done. But, now and then, when the guilt wears thin,  I say to myself: I did the best I could.  After all, isn’t witnessing about sharing Jesus with whomever whenever you can—and the convincing and conviction the work of the Spirit? It’s not like Jesus is throwing His hands up in the air and saying, “Look what Fylvia’s done! How am I going to get out of this mess?” My Jesus can take care of Himself. My Jesus will defeat the other zillion gods and rise victorious. My Jesus will show the man that ONE all-purpose God is ALL he needs. Right?

After all, isn’t Jesus among other gods better than no Jesus at all? I remain confused. My biased Christianity continues to have trouble making room for any thing but.

With those thoughts I leave Jesus among other gods.

Life in Nepal, Previously Published

sleeping with the enemy

A few years ago and a few mountains east of us, Kathmandu University began felling trees. The first phase of a mammoth educational center to accommodate a kindergartener straight through medical school.

While construction progressed, paperwork for the medical school crawled its way from one government office to another. In Nepal, it isn’t unusual for government approvals to take years. But for some strange reason, this one came through quickly, way before the campus was ready. So there they were—approval in hand to begin their medical school, but without a building to house it.

Meanwhile Scheer Memorial Hospital was studying its large unfinished third floor. Handicap inaccessible, it couldn’t be used for patients. One thought was to convert it into an educational complex to generate income. But there was no money to build.

Hearing of both predicaments, a mutual friend of the hospital and the university suggested collaboration. Business-wise, it made sense: The university was even willing to bear 50% of the building cost, making the balance an amount we could afford. But Adventist-wise, it was taboo: One well-meaning missionary was livid. The voice of traditional church structure, he thought it preposterous that a solid Seventh-day Adventist hospital would consider doing business with a Hindu government institution. It was a compromise of values. It was a proposition to be unequally yoked. It was sleeping with the enemy!

Were we really headed towards debauchery? Much prayer and discussion followed. An official letter from the church cautioned us of problems that could arise; an unofficial letter from the same office commended the hospital for this innovative business venture. So with some anxiety, we hitched ourselves to our Hindu neighbors.

It’s been a good relationship. Besides sharing construction costs, the hospital gets to conduct educational programs of its own and gets 10 admissions into the medical school over 10 years. (This year a Nepali Adventist joined the medical school as its first Christian student)

The university has adapted well to our no-drinking-no-smoking, closed-during-Sabbath-hours lifestyle. In turn, even the most conservative SDA’s have accepted our strange bedfellows with grace.

As for me, the day the University moved in, I asked the Holy Spirit to be loud and specific about when I should unleash my witnessing zeal and about when I should shut up. The first few months, all He said was “Shut up and share your cake. Do nothing more.” I obeyed. Opportunities to share Jesus came my way, but the Spirit zipped my lips! Then one day, I heard Him say “Drop off Jesus CEO (a book by Laurie Beth Jones) at Dr. Shrestha’s* (the director) office.”  As I dashed out with the book, Roy shouted, “He’ll never read the book. Shrestha’s not the type.” I didn’t care. I was moving past the stage of sharing desserts and smiles.

Months went by. More gestures of friendliness; but no comments about the book. Finally I gave up, crediting my wild imagination for the voice of the Spirit and putting up with Roy’s “I told you so’s.” In defeat, I asked for my book back. No one in the office could find it. Great! Now I lost a soul and a book.

More months went by. It was Christmastime when I got an email from Dr. Tamrakar,* a prominent Hindu doctor and CEO of a large hospital in Kathmandu, and who is also a professor at Kathmandu University Medical School. The message read:  “Best wishes of the Christmas season. I took the book Jesus CEO from Dr. Shrestha’s office. It has made me read the Holy Bible to find out more about Jesus. I am enjoying the book and the Bible. Thank you.”

I had underestimated the Spirit—again. I guess the book’s lost (I couldn’t possibly ask for it now); but not the soul. The Holy Spirit is at work. And from my experience, He can be pretty loud and forceful.

As for “sleeping with the enemy”—at least in this case, it’s been a gratifying experience!

*Fictitious names used

Life in Nepal, Previously Published

life after death

She was a mother six times over. Six times she experienced the gut-wrenching pains of labor. Six times she hoped; but every time her hopes were shattered and her heart broken.

After watching six babies die in her arms within 48 hours of birth, Maiya came to Scheer Memorial Hospital, discouraged and depressed, tired and in labor with her seventh child. Accompanying her was her husband, indifferent and resigned to their fate. Ashamed of being a man without a son to carry his name, he was an alcoholic.

Maiya’s blood group is Rh Negative; her babies were born Rh Positive. Following the birth of each Rh Positive baby, Maiya should have been immunized. This simple immunization would have prevented the deaths of her babies. However, Maiya has never been able to afford the $50 for the injection. Each pregnancy without the immunization decreased the chances of survival of every consecutive baby.

Fortunately for Maiya, the hospital’s pediatrician, Dr. Jevlyn Frias, identified the problem shortly after the baby’s birth. Theoretically, a blood exchange transfusion could save the baby. However, hearing the mother speak despondently of having lost six children, Dr. Frias realized that the situation needed more than medical theories. She watched the parents gaze upon their child with resignation. There were no smiles, no balloons, no cooing to welcome this child, only fear in anticipation of his fate.

Putting her arm around Maiya, Dr. Frias spoke with great confidence—woman to woman, mother to mother, Christian to Hindu. “We will pray for your baby. You and your husband should also pray. We will do all we can and God will surely help us.”

Over the next 48 hours, the baby had two exchange transfusions. Each transfusion involved 48 cycles of removing 10 ml of the baby’s blood and replacing it with 10 ml of Rh Negative blood. Dr. Frias did the transfusions herself, continuously watching over and praying for the baby. Like Jacob of old, Dr. Frias wrestled with God “You cannot let this mother lose another child. Stay with me, help me”

By the third day, the baby’s sallow face began to turn a healthy pink. Both father and mother never dreamed they’d see a baby of theirs alive on the third day. A tired Dr. Frias stood at the doorway watching the mother breastfeed her baby, the father tickle his young son’s toes.

Day five was the Sabbath and the baby was out of danger. Dr. Frias, along with Maiya, shared with the church congregation their story of God’s mercy and grace. The testimony began with Dr. Frias, the pediatrician, explaining the medical condition but ended with Dr. Frias, a servant of God, crying tears of joy.

To the few of us Adventists in Nepal, incidents like this remind us of the powerful role we are privileged to play in God’s scheme of things. In a land where we cannot be the voice of Jesus, we can be His hands and feet. What an honor to be part of this church and its great commission.

Each of us, no matter where we live or what we do, have a vital purpose. It is not always about profound ideas, large baptisms and spectacular presentations; it can be as simple as a heart of compassion.

Spiritual Musings

the Lord is with you

2 Chron 14:17 Do not fear, do not be dismayed . . . for the Lord is with you.
Jahaziel makes a brief appearance in the Bible. In just a small paragraph of five verses he enters and leaves the story with nothing but one profound statement.
The scene is a petrified nation of Judah faced with a joint attack by the Moabites and Midianites. They are clueless and without a plan of attack; their king is scared out of his mind as well.  Into this scene walks Jahaziel. Don’t know what he looked like, but the Bible says that “the Spirit of the Lord” was upon him.
To the people and the king, Jahaziel says Do not fear . . . for the Lord is with you. The result of this short speech is astounding: Their enemies end up destroying themselves in the following paragraph and the people of Judah are upbeat and praising God. All it took was the encouragement of ONE man filled with the Spirit.
When presented with an opportunity to encourage or uplift, be filled with the Spirit and go for it!