No more midnight baptisms

PUBLISHED: 13:08 07 December 2006 | UPDATED: 14:55 12 May 2010

The Rev Ian Smart back at Royston Methodist Church

The Rev Ian Smart back at Royston Methodist Church

A GLOBE-TROTTING church minister has returned from a two-week overseas mission to the impoverished Himalayan nation of Nepal. The Rev Ian Smart of Royston Methodist Church spent time in Kathmandu at the Glorious Ministry, working alongside Nepalese pastor

Rev Ian Smart baptising 80-year-old Bishna Maya Dahal in the Rapti River

A GLOBE-TROTTING church minister has returned from a two-week overseas mission to the impoverished Himalayan nation of Nepal.

The Rev Ian Smart of Royston Methodist Church spent time in Kathmandu at the Glorious Ministry, working alongside Nepalese pastors, helping orphaned children and disadvantaged families.

It was a far cry from his previous travels, and since his return he has been sharing his experiences with a number of presentations to the communities and schools.

Mr Smart said: "It all started when I met Philip Chhetri, a pastor from Nepal, while on a Christian Conference Centre walk in North Devon.

"We got talking about what we did and got on very well. He had some inspiring stories regarding his work and his ministry.

"So, with the backing of the church we decided to go out and help him with his work, and have since formed a link between our church and his."

His visit to Nepal came at a significant time. While he was there the country was celebrating the signing of a peace treaty between the government and a Maoist rebel faction, who had been fighting for political change.

"You could sense that they were starting to celebrate their freedom, a freedom that we take for granted, and hopefully this is the start of Christians being able to be open about their faith," said Mr Smart.

Nepal's political leaders have since declared a formal end to a decade of bloody civil war, and with it opened up a new era for the Christians of the country.

The former constitution had prohibited religious conversion and made change of religion illegal and punishable by law.

In addition, Christians also faced difficulties and discrimination in getting churches and Christian organisations registered, and even had trouble burying their dead.

However, while he was in Kathmandu, Mr Smart helped carry out a number of baptisms - an act that only months before his visit would have meant six years in prison.

He said: "During my time in Nepal we baptised 11 people in the Rapti river, which meant that I technically broke the law.

"Being part of something like that was a truly amazing experience, and an immense privilege.

"They're used to doing midnight baptisms in the fear of being caught, and here we were performing them openly in daylight.

"I have to say the thought of what being caught would have entailed was a very sobering one."

Part of his overseas mission also included working at the Rasuwa Langtang Liring Orphanage, where he taught children English songs and stories.

He also visited the region's slums and met young people and families.

Mr Smart said: "The children at the orphanage are so happy, in spite of everything that has happened to them.

"Every one of them has a story to tell, and their tales really make you rethink your own values.

"The biggest challenge of the whole trip was coming home. That's when the culture shock really hit me, and I realised just how fortunate we are."

And when asked if he would ever go back to the Glorious Ministry Mr Smart said "I don't know how I cannot go back."

Before he was ordained, Mr Smart was accustomed to the world of travel in his role as an IT consultant. He took part in 72 world trips travelling the globe in comfortable planes and staying in top hotels.

He said: "I've seen a lot of the world and visited a lot of different countries.

"But I can safely say that Nepal is the country that I will never forget.

"Some parts of Kathmandu were like stepping back in time and I saw some severe cases of poverty. It was very humbling."

Despite what he has seen, he remains optimistic about the country's future, and since his return has identified a number of projects that he hopes his own Methodist church can be part of.

"I have a lot of faith for the future of Nepal, and I hope that the church is allowed to grow. I believe that we can help the Glorious Ministry expand their support and efforts in Nepal, and we are committed to the young people of the region," he said.

Mr Smart is now visiting schools in the area and giving presentations about the experience he describes as "truly incredible".

He said: "The response from the schools has been amazing. I think it is important that children realise that there are others out there with so little - but remain happy.

"This has been a life-changing experience for me, and one that I am keen to share with the young people of Royston."

- Anyone who would like Mr Smart to come and speak to a group should contact him on 01763 230210 or email ian@karenandian.com

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