“Jai Mashi” is the traditional greeting for Nepali speaking Christians (similar to the Hindu “Namaste”) – and can be translated as “Messiah is great!” Over the last number of years Knox has become the spiritual home to a large and growing Nepali-speaking Bhutanese community. This ministry began almost when Damber Khadka opened the heavy wooden doors on Qu'appelle and walked in. He found a community that he describes as being from all over the world, ready to welcome him as a brother, a friend, a child of God.
In 2011, Knox received New Ministries funding from the (national) United Church, to develop this ministry, and to do so in an intentionally intercultural way - balancing drawing the newcomers together to pray and worship in their most familiar language, Nepali, but also to engage folk with the diverse communities at Knox, weaving together a new truly intercultural faith community. Funding has allowed us to hire Damber to work full time developing this ministry.
The ministry has grown to include about 70 people, from 12-14 family groups. About 15 are young adults, another 15 in their teens and 10 or so are younger children. Among these families, a few of the adults have been able to find work recently, but many remain unemployed because of the language barrier.
In the words of Damber: “We are fortunate to be part of Knox United Church, being supported by the members and being involved in community activities. We would say now that we are an intercultural community. Despite our various cultures and languages still we have the same passion and are worshipping the same Lord. Nepali youth have been actively involved in church activities. Knox has always been with the open hands to receive people like us. You have broadened our relationship and created an inclusive community, fostering a mission to become an intercultural church and so we are here.”
Our Nepali speaking sisters and brothers are used to a much longer worship service. The intercultural service that runs about 75 minutes is just an appetizer. Nepali-language worship continues for another 2 hours in the small chapel. Try itsometime. You might not understand the words, but you will understand the spirit! It is vibrant! Dance is an important part of Nepali worship—both traditional dance (left) but also informal and free. Drumming is also a strong part of the tradition.
Providing prayer support for those who are ill is also an important part of the ministry. This is part of the reason that healing services have become like a third sacrament at Knox. It is still a challenge for many of the Nepali speaking group to understand the English in our worship service, so we provide interpretation.
We have been deeply blessed by the widening of our circle. Challenges abound. How do we fund this ministry over the long haul? How do we organize a United Church when so many of our people are not only new to the UC but new to the Christian faith. But then again, such challenges are simply opportunities in God’s eyes, so we walk forward trusting in God’s grace