I first heard the stories about James and Lindsay Taber’s* ministry in the Himalayan mountains two years ago.
At the time I was working for Serge in East Africa, and as part of my job, I had the privilege of interviewing James and Lindsay over Skype.
I scribbled notes in a rough concrete office space, sweltering under the equatorial sun, while I listened intently to their tales of the mountain kingdoms, showing the Jesus film in remote villages, and staging medical clinics in the snow.
Now, finding myself based in urban Asia, I was finally able to visit the Tabers and see first hand.
Serving in the Remote Villages of the Himalayas
The Himalayan village where the Tabers live is worlds apart from the setting in which I typically work, far from the smog and noise of the Asian mega-city.
Getting in and out takes hours over mountain roads that skirt the edge of 1,000-foot drops. Here the stories involve prowling leopards, close calls on slick, snowy, cliff-face roads, and medical outreach treks to even more remote areas where the cold is biting and fierce.
Some things have changed since that first interview two years ago. James has started teaching biology at a partnering Christian school, and, slowly, the team is growing. This year a young physical therapist from the U.K. joined the Tabers and a midwife set to join the team is partway through an intensive language preparation course.
What remains constant is the evidence of God’s movement in this place – the baptisms and growth of the church; the Tabers’ growing friendships and comfort in the mountain lifestyle; the amazing way that medical outreach and education have proven to be helpful platforms in building relational bridges into the community; and, strikingly, the stories of miraculous healing.
One of these stories comes from a woman in the local village congregation named Purnima. She has a story she wants to tell.
A few days after our trek to the village across the river, I climb onto the back of an old motorcycle behind a new friend named Rishi, and we go to meet Purnima.
It is evening, and when we dismount we duck through the darkness through the halls of a large hostel, knock on a door and step into a small room into which are crammed the entirety of this family’s possessions: beds, school supplies, cooking equipment, and not much more.
They’d Given Up on Her
Purnima sits opposite Rishi and me. After the customary drinking of tea, she holds up her right hand and begins to speak in the local language. Rishi translates.
“She couldn’t use this arm at all for four to five years.”
Purnima pulls out a folder full of papers from the bed beside her and hands them to me. “That’s all her reports,” says Rishi. “From the hospital… The doctors had given up on her. Gave her this report saying: ‘Your hand will never function at all.’ So then she lost hope. She was thinking, ‘will I ever be able to cook food for my children with this hand?’”
Around the same time her son, Sudip had an accident and was suffering constant migraines.
They had scan results showing the problem, but no money for the treatment. A group, including Rishi, was going throughout the village and asking if anyone wanted prayer. Purnima came and asked, “Can you pray for my son Sudip?” They prayed for the boy, and the next time they went for a checkup, the problem was gone, and Purnima was amazed.
Soon after, Rishi and the group began meeting at Purnima’s house, working through the 34-lesson gospel study, talking about Jesus, and praying for Purnima’s arm.
Healed and Raised in Thanksgiving
“After a year of prayer, she came to church for the first time one day,” says Rishi. “She stood up in church and raised that same hand to say: ‘Praise the Lord. I am healed because of so many people praying for me.’”
The local church is growing and people are beginning to follow Jesus and be baptized, some of that because of real, honest-to-goodness miracles and healings.
To be sure, James and Lindsay’s work in healthcare and education has built bridges and friendships and has created a level of social currency and community respect for the Tabers. In addition to simply being good, constructive, God-glorifying works, these tangible actions help earn their right to be heard by the community.
James makes it clear that these happenings are not just a result of skill or hard work. “…sometimes God steps in and just acts – fixing broken things in ways that we never could, and showing that it is ultimately He who is working out His plan,” James says.
I had a friend once who mused aloud:
“I reckon when God calls us to build his kingdom it’s like when a father asks his little son to help him build a deck. The son isn’t really helping all that much. He might get a few nails in right. He might bend five for everyone he drives in straight. But the father asks him to help so that the son can do something cool together with his father. The father builds it, but he loves his son so he teaches him and builds it together with him.”
*names changed for staff security