Agape Ministries provides hope for teenagers in Nepal
On a sweltering monsoon morning, the weekly worship service has just finished at the New Community Church of the Nazarene in Kathmandu. As the adults chat on the way to the exits, 36 teenagers spill into the tin-roofed hall.
Most Christians in Nepal belong to the younger generation, which is a notable contrast to the average age of Christians in the West. But seeing many teens in a small congregation is striking, especially as several come from non-Christian households. They’ve been brought here by Agape.
Agape is led by 22-year-old Rohit Magar, who also teaches at a nearby school. After a rousing guitar chorus, he reminds everyone that tomorrow is the group’s 10th anniversary. Agape was initially organized by Rohit and a few of his 12-to-15-year-old friends for fellowship and sports.
The group would regularly chip in some rupees (Nepal’s currency) to pay the hourly rate for a match at an indoor soccer court that was one of the only sporting spaces in the dense urban sprawl around Tikathali, the church’s neighborhood.
However, that principle of raising common funds soon spread beyond futsal (indoor football) money. “If someone in the group lacks something, we collect and give,” explains Devna*, an upcoming young Agape leader.
In Tikathali, as in most of Kathmandu, middle-class families live elbow-to-elbow with neighbors who are landless and have no dependable jobs. School brings children in those families together—and now, so does Agape.
The teenagers chip in to help each other, ensuring none of them is without the essentials, especially school uniforms and supplies and timely payment of school fees. If someone gets sick, the rest will go to their house, pray for them, and provide other help as needed.
They also make sure no one is left out of the fun: swimming, Bible study, quizzing, music practice, trips out to green spaces, and picnics of home-cooked food taken up onto the Himalayan hillsides that tower above the smog of Tikathali.
“In our school, if there’s a trip, then ‘no money, no go.’ But that’s not the way in Agape,” grins 15-year- old Alina*. The principle of leaving no one out attracts youth from all around the neighborhood, as does Agape’s spirit of generosity. Today Rohit reminds everyone that Bibek*, one group member, just passed his Class 8 exams with distinction, and they agreed to buy him a calculator to celebrate.
The costs of mutual support, fellowship, and fun sometimes go beyond what the teenagers alone are able to raise. Behind where the Agape teens are meeting this morning, four members of the New Community Church of the Nazarene count the weekly offering money from the just-finished service. Some of those rupees will go to support this youth ministry. The church is fully committed to supporting Agape and its young leaders.
Ganga Mukhiya, Nepal’s district superintendent, is New Community’s primary pastor; he planted it 15 years ago. In a culture where topmost leaders can be expected to exert close control, he stands out for the freedom and encouragement he gives younger congregation leaders. That includes Rohit, whom Ganga met many years ago. Over the years, Ganga has provided support and mentoring to Rohit, both while launching Agape and in its continued growth.
“So many of these youth don’t connect with their parents, teachers, or the older generation of believers,” Ganga reflects. “But they do connect with each other. Agape gives them opportunities that no one else in their lives will support, and we want to support that as a church.”
This story originally appeared in NCM Magazine. To read the full story, click here.
*Names are changed for minors