UMN is improving the lives of the neediest in Nepal by providing healthcare, reconciliation and peacebuilding work, helping to improve the education system and enabling people to have more sustainable livelihoods. For the last 54 years BMS has been sending personnel to UMN and supporting many of its projects.
UMN is not allowed to proselytise but shows the love of Christ practically through its work. These restrictions on its work, however, has forced the Nepali church to develop indigenously, allowing it to flourish. From being a state where no Christians were permitted in the 1940s, today Nepal has one of the fastest growing churches in the world, according to UMN Communications Director, Lyn Jackson. UMN is now trying to support churches as they look to increase their role serving their communities.
'Many churches are looking round their communities and saying how can we engage with your community? How can we be Christians in this village, in this principality?' says Lyn.
'This consciousness that relating to your community is more than just preaching, it’s also serving, loving and showing compassion, is rising in the Church. UMN is really trying to connect with that, to provide the training programmes for churches that want to get involved, to help them work out how they do that.'
Until a revolution in 1951, Nepal was a closed country that allowed very few foreigners to enter. When the Nepalese government relaxed the rules, two things happened that would have Kingdom implications. Firstly, American missionaries Bob and Beth Fleming and Carl Fredericks, visited Nepal on bird watching trips (Bob was a keen ornithologist) in the late 40s and early fifties.
During two of those trips Beth and Carl, who were both doctors, set up a temporary clinic in border town Tansen to respond to the desperate need for healthcare in an area of extreme poverty. The positive response from the governor and local people in Tansen led the Flemings and Carl to apply to the Nepalese government for permission to establish a clinic there and in Kathmandu. After two attempts their application was accepted and the clinics were opened in 1954, becoming part of UMN’s early work.
Secondly, a group of eight mission agencies working on the Indian border decided, when the opportunity to operate in Nepal became a reality, that instead of having just one mission organisation going into the country, they would work as an interdenominational co-operative, something which was not common practice at that time. UMN was formed at a meeting in India on 5 March 1954.
BMS World Mission has been a supporting partner of UMN since 1968 although it sent its first mission worker, Margaret Robinson, to work at a former UMN clinic, Shanta Bhawan Hospital, in 1962. Since the 1960s the number of BMS personnel in Nepal has grown considerably, with 22 now working in the country, including four at UMN – Jerry and Ruth Clewett, Martin Butterworth and Phil Rawlings.
'The story of UMN in Nepal is an exciting one and countless lives have been blessed by the service that they offer,' says Peter Dunn, BMS’ Director for Mission. 'Their faithful service is a witness to the love of Jesus Christ in a country where the church is growing fast. BMS greatly values working in partnership with UMN.'