The journey into Bhutan was the culmination of many years of prayer and believing.  Since the early days of our work in Nepal, Delron had had a desire to also be part of the frontline team to bring the gospel to this remote and restricted corner of the world.  Finally, the connection was made so that he could go in and minister to the emerging church in this Himalayan kingdom.  Known as the “Land of the Thunder Dragon” and also labeled as the “Kingdom in the Clouds,” Bhutan is a tiny Buddhist country of less than seven hundred thousand population nestled between the two giants of India and China.  Until recently, the country practiced total isolationism from the outside and even forced all the citizens to wear the traditional dress–gho for men and kira for ladies.  Today, Bhutan is becoming more and more in contact with the outside world through tourism that has become one of the country’s major revenue sources.  The government has also dropped the dress restrictions and only requires government employees, tourist workers, and school children to wear the national dress.  The nation recently celebrated one hundred years of continuous peaceful rule under the dynasty of one royal family with the fifth family member as the present king.  He was educated in the US and England and has instituted a new era in moving the country toward democratic rule with the first ever democratic elections a couple years ago.

Because of the openness to tourism, Delron and Jeremy were able to enter the country as tourists.  They, therefore, had to carefully play the role of tourists by being sure to visit at least one tourist site each day.  When they returned to the hotel each evening, the staff would always ask them where they had been and what they had seen that day.  Perhaps, the hotel employees were just being courteous; however, they may have also been informants who were keeping track of theirs guests activities.  There was no way to know for sure.

With tourism and democracy came a new openness to new ideas and more access to Western culture.  With this open door, it is easier for Christians to enter the country and for the nationals to meet together for Christian worship.  However, the church is still an underground movement numbering only a few thousand.  Estimates range from as low as three thousand to as high as twelve thousand.  Although there is technically freedom of religion, all the believers still fear repercussions if they practice their faith openly.  One evangelist told us that he witnesses by taking two tracts with him in his backpack when he is riding the bus.  He will read one while on the bus, hoping that the person next to him will make a comment about the paper.  At that point, he will say, “You know, I think I might just happen to have another on in my pack.  Would you like to have it if I do?”  He will then look through his pack and find the tract to giver to his fellow passenger.  I says that he never carries more than two at any one time for fear of being apprehended and accused of a crime.  This kind of caution was always evident in the way Delron was asked not to bring his camera with him when he met with believers, how the believers always held quiet discussions in corners, how the Bible was referred to as the “holy book” (a term which would not distinguish it from a Buddhist text), and how the ladies covered their faces when a stranger entered the room.  Though some travel restrictions had been imposed which prevented many of the Christians who were planning to meet with Delron from being able to come, there were a number of believers who gathered from many regions of the country for some training and to receive the teaching materials that Delron and Jeremy were able to bring into the country.

One Christian leader whom Delron and Jeremy met shared his testimony as an example of how powerfully God is reaching out to the nation of Bhutan.  As a young boy of about seven years of age, he met with a tragic disease and actually died.  While his lifeless body lay in his mother’s lap, the young boy’s spirit was embraced by a man in a sparking white robe who directed him back into his body.  Over the next twenty-plus years, this young boy grew into a young man, but he never gave up on his intense quest to find out who that man in white was.  As a university student in England, he was handed a simple gospel tract by one of his classmates. When he read about Jesus, the young Bhutanese man realized that this must have been the man who brought him back to life.

One symbolic event during their visit was the hike Delron and Jeremy took to the top of a mountain overlooking the capital city of Thimphu.  Standing among tens of thousands or possibly even hundreds of thousands of Buddhist prayer flags that had been stung around the peak, Delron noticed that many of them had collapsed due to weathering.  As he walked among the fallen flags, his heart was quickened with the words of I Samuel 3:19 which says that God did not let any of the prophet’s words fall to the ground.  No matter how many of their flags wind up in the mud, the words of our God will never fail.  There are many exciting things that Delron and Jeremy would love to share, but the sensitive condition of the church in Bhutan prevents them from saying more.  Let us simply say that what they witnessed during their few days in Bhutan confirmed that we are to soon see a fulfillment of Isaiah’s promise that the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea (verse 11:9), and that the Revelator’s vision of the dragon being cast down (verse 12:9) is already beginning to take place in the Land of the Thunder Dragon and the Kingdom in the Clouds is on its way to becoming the kingdom of our Lord (Revelation 11:15).

Jesus said that the kingdom of God is like leaven that is hidden in meal that will eventually cause the whole lump to rise. (Matthew 13:33)  The secret Christians in Bhutan are certainly a leaven hidden in the nation to help them rise to their GNH, a concept that the nation is striving for–Gross National Happiness, rather than Gross National Product.