By Revd. Neil Lambert
The British have a long relationship with the Nepali people. Over 200 years ago, the British East India Company was at war with Nepal, fighting battles in the Himalayas that eventually led to a mutual respect. Both sides decided they would be better as friends than enemies and subsequently Gurkha regiments began to be established within the army—we’ve been friends ever since.
And now—praise God—we are not just friends but neighbours!
In recent weeks a new Nepali church has opened its doors just down the road, and Pastor Laxmi and Mrs Deborah Angdembe, the secretary, very kindly invited me along to join the celebrations. This wonderful church has grown from being a few people in a living room in 2007 to having over 300 members today. They prayed that God would open doors—and sometimes, when He answers that prayer, you just have to walk through! The community initially found a home at Holy Trinity Aldershot. Now as God blesses them and they continue to grow, they are expanding further, which has brought hem here to Ash Vale! We thank God that this community did indeed walk through the door He opened, as it is great to welcome them.
I can’t tell you what a privilege it was to be part of the inauguration service on the 4th September, at their new site on Frimley Road (you might remember this as previously being the Ash Vale Christian Assembly). You can find out more about them on their website: https://nepalichristianchurch.co.uk/
Following an inspiring service and having shared some great Nepali food afterwards, I can tell we are going to be great friends!
Living near Aldershot I have often seen the Nepali community in the shops, on the streets, at the market in Mytchett… and we are privileged to have the Queen’s Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment on the doorstep, and the Headquarters Brigade of Gurkhas only a short step away in Sandhurst… and yet I have to say until the last few weeks I haven’t really got to know anyone from that community. I feel inspired to learn and make friends, and maybe even learn a little bit of their language—and perhaps others from Ash Vale who do not speak Nepalese might like to join me?
While at the reception after the inauguration service, one member of the Nepalese church asked me ‘how can we build bridges between our churches?’ My feeling is that there’s no need to build bridges, because God has already built a bridge in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Our job is simply to walk across it. However, sometimes walking across a bridge can be scary—both because of the journey itself and the destination, if it’s unfamiliar, or uncertain. Sometimes walking through an open door can be difficult too, when you don’t know what’s on the other side. But the invitation is here for us to become friends, and I know with God’s help we can do this, just as those two armies did 200 years ago—and we have an advantage, as we are not fighting one another! We can cross the bridge just as they have walked through the door.
As a starter, if you don’t speak Nepalese, see below for how to say hello! And why not join me in a challenge to learn Nepali greetings; I reckon that if I learn five a week I will be fluent by 2030!
As we approach Remembrance Sunday, I’m reminded of how as part of the way we mark the anniversary we pay special attention to those soldiers who were not from this country but came to fight alongside us. I know that this will have special meaning for me this year, thinking about my new friends and the proud heritage of the Gurkha regiments. People need good friends that we can trust. In a world where trust is in short supply we must treasure our friends—old and new.
As we make new friends we are also welcoming back old friends to our services and community café. Meeting new people, building community, sharing the good news of Jesus—it’s really nice! Hope to see you all soon!