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Hearts for the Harvest: Nine Verbs

“Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore, pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest,’” (Matthew 9:37-38).

That verse leads me immediately to ask this question: So, who among you has been praying for us and our mission fields? I ask because we are amazed at what is happening in Nepal. Not only has the Lord been sending us out into His harvest, but He is moving and answering our prayers, your prayers, in ways that are far beyond our highest hopes and greatest expectations. God is calling in His Elect and building His church in the country of Nepal. We marvel at what He is doing, and we give all glory and praise to Him for the privilege of serving Him in that land. What follows is a brief introduction to our work with Westminster Biblical Missions, our mission organization, and an account of our most recent mission trip to Nepal in January of this year.

History

Dennis and I met in Philadelphia, at Reformed Episcopal Seminary in the mid-1970’s. I had grown up in West Africa because my father worked for the US State Department and was posted there. I was blessed and impressed by many of the godly Christian missionaries I met in those countries. After high school and college, I wanted to return to Africa and work with Wycliffe Bible Translators. Because it was foundational to my training, I went to seminary to learn Greek and Hebrew, but God had other plans for me. As it says in Proverbs 16:9, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Ours was a match made literally in Heaven. 

I never made it to Wycliffe, but to my delight, although Dennis was a stateside pastor, he always had a heart for foreign missions. We began serving with Westminster Biblical Missions in 1982.  In his spare time, Dennis started traveling overseas to developing countries to help establish Reformed seminaries, Christian schools, and Christian medical clinics, while I held down the fort back home. I had my hands full with raising four children, being a pastor’s wife, and working as a nurse in the local hospital. There was always plenty I could do behind the scenes and out of the limelight to help him in our “missionary calling” such as providing assistance with mission newsletters, hospitality to other missionaries and supporters, research for the fields, and perhaps most importantly of all, encouragement. As someone said, “Satan never surrenders territory easily or without a fight.”  Working in missions whether foreign or at home, taking the Light of the World to people who dwell in darkness, can be a beast: Christian soldiers under attack and bogged down in the muddy trenches of warfare always need encouragement. 

Dennis and I became empty nesters in 2008. As Mel Gibson, in the movie Braveheart cried: “Freedom!” (just kidding!).  To my delight, I was finally able to accompany my husband overseas. We have traveled to Egypt and Kenya for MERF (Middle East Reformed Fellowship with Victor Atallah) and the RCUS. Most recently since 2016, we have taken six trips to Nepal, WBM’s newest field. The Church there is rapidly exploding.  What a joy to behold!

For more than fifty years, the cornerstone and foundation to all of Westminster Biblical Missions’ overseas ministries has been Biblical and Reformed theological training for indigenous men and leaders. In each country where WBM labors (Mexico, Pakistan, Egypt, Romania, Kenya, and now our newest field, Nepal) our goal is to equip men to serve in their own indigenous churches. But since I have been tagging along, not only is that faithful pastoral training continuing full steam ahead, but we’ve been able to broaden our scope of ministry by adding some ministries of mercy to our mission agenda as well.

Even Sunday school children know the Great Commission: The Bible, in Matthew 28:16-20, commands us to “Go therefore into all the world, make disciples of all nations…teaching…and baptizing them….” Wonderful! But that very same Bible also instructs us to “visit the widows and orphans in their distress” (James 1:27); to share food, clothing, and warmth with those in need (James 2:15-17); and to help not only those who have no food, but also those who have no water, are sick, and some who are even in prison (Matthew 25:36-40). Go means go; Make means make: Teach means teach; Baptize means baptize; Visit, help, feed, and clothe mean exactly what they say too. Eight verbs, total. It is not rocket science. It is action.

When I first started accompanying Dennis on his mission trips in 2008, it was a wake-up call for me. Perhaps, it was a combination of my mother’s heart and my nurse’s heart. It was difficult to concentrate on explaining the “Five Points of Calvinism” to someone when she kept wiping her bloodshot eyes with the corner of a dirty rag because pus was draining from an untreated eye infection. Or to teach about the mercy and love of Christ, and His substitutionary sacrifice for us on the cross, to a frail, rail thin woman when I knew she had cooked her cat for dinner the night before because her family was hungry and needed to eat.

In Nepal, the sexes are often divided for worship, instruction, and other activities. Our Nepali pastors asked me for help in teaching and serving the women. Thus began the broadening in the scope of our mission work for Westminster Biblical Missions. While Dennis works with the men, teaching Reformed theology and doctrine in all day conferences, I work with the women teaching on very practical Christian subjects (such as prayer, hope, and marriage, etc.) as well as teaching health and sanitation in all day conferences. We have taught in church buildings, in chicken coops, on verandas, and in village granaries—wherever we can find enough room, because the classes are crowded. On the days when conferences are not scheduled, our time is filled traveling with local pastors via four-wheel drive vehicles to different villages and towns and carrying out many of the previously listed eight verbs. We assist with the care of orphans and widows; distribute blankets to cold mountain villages; mosquito nets to villagers in the low-lying malaria infested jungle; food (lentils, rice, oil, and salt) to villagers who have lost everything in earthquakes or floods; and provide backpacks, pencils, and warm hats to school children. When funds are available, we help drill wells for clean safe water, and we distribute Bibles and medical supplies as needed: All in Jesus’ name. It is pure joy to do this. I think it is joyful for the students and villagers as well because they keep asking us, often with tears in their eyes, to return.

January 2024

We were blessed this year to add two new members to our Nepal team: Esther, another nurse, and Danielle, a teacher and caregiver, from our church in Lodi California. Rev. Doug Schlegel is our pastor. Both young ladies are experienced missionaries to foreign countries. They are as smart and capable as they are beautiful. Those eight verbs require a lot of energy, wisdom, and patience; we could not have asked for better co-laborers to help us.

Our 2024 trip lasted almost three weeks, from January 9 to January 25. Every minute was filled. We started in the capital city, Kathmandu, distributing medical supplies with a Nepali pastor and his wife. We then journeyed to remote rural villages, churches, and orphanages in western Nepal. We eventually made a giant loop back to Kathmandu, around an avalanche which wiped out the main road, and with an elephant ride squeezed in for good measure.

We held five all day conferences for men and women, sharing lunch together at 1:30 each day. Dennis taught pastors and leaders on the topic of “Jesus: Our Prophet, Priest and King.”  Meanwhile, Esther Enas, Danielle Gilmore and I taught their wives and women from surrounding villages on the topics of Christian Life and Faith. We also held health and sanitation clinics with supplies we brought from home. A special joy was giving expectant mothers the opportunity to hear their baby’s heartbeat using a fetal doppler device. Medical care is very limited, even when available, in rural areas. We visited three (and lodged at two) Christian orphanages which are faithfully supported by donors in the RCUS. We sang, prayed and played with the orphans. To see these rescued children now surrounded by love and being nurtured in our Christian faith is one of the greatest highlights of our lives. Those children were a blessing to us even more than we were a blessing to them. We visited eleven church congregations, four of which have new buildings thanks to many generous donors in the RCUS. Not all the congregations have buildings, but some are meeting in their pastors’ houses and front yards. (Yes, the spaces get cramped and crowded for those congregations, but what a marvelous problem to have!) 

We visited one public school and two Christian schools (built mostly by donors in the RCUS) and spoke at all three. We visited several pastors in their homes, as well as a Christian outreach and mercy program to destitute immigrants in the slums of Kathmandu (also assisted by funds from donors in the RCUS). My husband preached at worship services and performed two baptisms. He also taught Covenant Theology in a four-hour long presbytery meeting for the pastors of the brand-new Reformed Presbyterian Church in Nepal. On our last day, we had the joy and privilege of visiting the new Reformed Seminary in Bhaktapur, a city near Kathmandu, and the Nepali seminary director who has become a dear friend. The first floor is completed and houses the local church. The second and third floors are going up as I type. This is being constructed by funds from the URCNA and Reformed Mission Services (with enthusiastic encouragement  from Westminster Biblical Missions on the sidelines).

We arrived back in San Francisco on January 25th, exhausted but rejoicing in all that God is doing in Nepal. We are well aware that it is His doing, not ours. “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us” (2 Corinthians 4:7). 

There is a ninth verb which I must add to our eight verbs, which takes me back to the very beginning of this article. That ninth verb is: Pray! “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore, pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” Matthew 9:37-38. This is how you, Readers, are vitally involved in our mission. Pray means pray. I know many of you have been praying for us and our work because God has poured out His Spirit in a mighty way in Nepal. The harvest is marvelous and plentiful indeed. I have mentioned only nine verbs, but those nine verbs in action are changing hundreds of lives and opening hundreds of hearts for all eternity. We thank you for your help in this bountiful harvest, and for all your many faithful prayers on our behalf. Behold what God has done!

Julie (Mrs.Dennis E.) Roe, RN

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