Go Make Disciples: When the Great Commission Leads You Home
Chad Burchett | October 06, 2023
From a small mountain village in Nepal, Ashish Bhandari was born the year after his parents came to faith. He grew up in a ministry family where his father pastored their local church, oversaw the local orphanage, and taught in a nearby Bible training center. In his kindness, God used Ashish’s parents and, in particular, his father’s teaching to draw him to Christ.
Shortly after Ashish became a believer in July of 2006, God gave him a desire to pursue full-time ministry.
“The Lord put a desire in my heart to dedicate my life to his service,” recounted Ashish. “From that very day, I committed to pursue training in God’s word and to serve him full time once I graduated high school.”
As Ashish was finishing high school, God reminded him of his calling to ministry, so Ashish sought counsel from his family and friends. His parents rejoiced over his heart to serve and encouraged him to attend a Bible college. Some of his family friends from the U.S. shared with him about Southeastern Seminary and The College at Southeastern, and he applied to The College, eager to learn but unsure how he would be able to study in the U.S. Ashish was accepted, and in answer to his prayers, he received a full scholarship to study in Wake Forest without tuition or housing costs.
“I was amazed at Southeastern’s heart to help students be equipped,” recalled Ashish. “Dr. Ewart went above and beyond to make sure I was fully funded, and Dr. Akin and the entire financial aid office blessed me abundantly by enabling me to pursue my education without any financial hurdles.”
Grateful for the Lord’s provision, Ashish started his Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies with a theology major in the fall of 2014. From the moment he stepped onto campus, Ashish felt welcomed like family.
“As I was unpacking my car on move-in day, Jake Hatfield took time to get to know me, and the student life team all pitched in to help me move,” recounted Ashish. “Within my first 5 minutes on campus, I was already telling stories about back home. That presence and intentionality did not fade after I moved in. Jake always demonstrated that he was there for me along with all the other amazing people that I got to know at Southeastern over the years.”
When the House System launched in 2016, Ashish was eager for the opportunity to serve others as he had been served. He was amazed that, once a new international student in The College, he was now given a position to disciple fellow students as one of the first chancellors of Schaeffer House. His time as a house leader became a formative training ground for him as a disciple maker, deepening his friendships on campus and teaching him how to lead others closer to Christ.
While a house leader and full-time student, Ashish was still intentional to apply what he was learning in the context of his local church, Macedonia Baptist Church, in Holly Springs. Invested in his church family, Ashish served on the worship team as a guitarist, bassist, and cajon player as needed and regularly taught in the children’s Sunday school class.
For Ashish, serving the Church and living on mission was not only part of his ministry calling but also what Southeastern challenged him to give his life to.
“The mantra ‘every classroom, a Great Commission classroom’ was certainly true in every class that I took,” recalled Ashish. “Whether it was a theology class or a science class, the implication of every class was to go — no matter where you are, go and make disciples!”
Whether it was a theology class or a science class, the implication of every class was to go.
As he was nearing the end of his program in The College, Ashish was praying daily about what next step God would lead him to take. His local pastor and a good friend, Terry Beatty, an alum of Southeastern Seminary, recognized God at work in Ashish’s life and encouraged him to continue his education in seminary.
“I still remember Terry’s advice,” Ashish recounted. “He said, ‘Grasshopper — which was often what he called me as a reference to some movie — although what you have learned in your undergraduate may seem like a lot, it only scratches the surface. If you want to go deep and be further equipped to serve, go for an MDiv.’”
Confirmed through prayer, Ashish decided to follow Terry’s advice and applied for the advanced MDiv at Southeastern. Accepted for seminary, Ashish graduated from The College in the spring of 2018 and enrolled in seminary that fall — blessed again to receive a full scholarship for his training.
A semester into seminary, Ashish married Sabita, who he had known since high school and whose heart to serve Jesus was a joy and encouragement to him. For the first two years of their marriage, Ashish and Sabita mostly lived apart while Ashish finished seminary from Wake Forest and Sabita continued working and serving in Nepal. Even in that season of long distance, God sustained them and nurtured their marriage, teaching them perseverance, the priority of prayer, and the joy of watching each other serve God faithfully where he has called them.
“Distance only grew us closer,” recalled Ashish. “We got to see each other from a different perspective while married and living in different countries. God taught us to be faithful; to persevere; and most importantly, to labor for the kingdom according to the capacity God has given each of us. As a physical therapist, Sabita labors for the kingdom in a different way than I do, but our hearts are united around the same mission.”
Ashish was planning to walk on stage for graduation in May of 2021; however, Sabita called him a little over a week before the ceremony to tell him that Nepal was closing its borders due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Knowing it would be months before the border might reopen, Ashish immediately bought a ticket and returned home, finishing his final week of seminary from Nepal.
Reunited during the height of the pandemic, Ashish and Sabita looked for ways to serve even in lockdown. They started a Facebook page to minister to people in their community, and every Saturday, Ashish would record and upload a sermon for people to watch from home.
When the lockdown order was lifted, Ashish recognized the need for pastors and church leaders in Nepal to be trained for ministry since so few had access to theological education. That is when Ashish decided to start Two Worlds Training Institute (TWTI), a bible training program designed to equip Nepalese pastors and leaders.
TWTI exists to biblically train untrained pastors and leaders in Nepal by equipping them with theological education and practical training in their villages and contexts. Offering contextual and accessible resources and training, TWTI specifically targets pastors and leaders in the remote regions of Nepal.
With a vision for theological education shaped by what he learned at Southeastern, Ashish is passionate about bringing robust biblical training to indigenous leaders.
“Instead of bringing people to our facility, we bring training to them,” noted Ashish. “We host conferences in local churches in the remote areas of Nepal. Based out of Kathmandu, we focus on the remote areas of western Nepal because western Nepal is more geographically remote than eastern Nepal and has less access to theological education.
Instead of bringing people to our facility, we bring training to them.
Access to theological education is often scarce in Nepal because Christianity is a minority religion there and the Nepalese government has outlawed proselytizing, making it difficult for churches to multiply and for Christians to make disciples who make disciples.
“According to the recent government census, the Christian population in Nepal is just below 2%,” commented Ashish. “The government has banned any form of proselytizing. Although we are free to practice our faith, we are not allowed by the government to openly practice evangelism. This is one of the greatest challenges to ongoing ministry in Nepal.”
These government restrictions, however, have not stopped Ashish or Sabita from continuing to live missionally or to intentionally disciple people in their community. Ashish recently accepted a position as a youth pastor at a church in Kathmandu and is teaching students to personally study and obey God’s word.
Using the SWORD Bible study method that he learned at Southeastern in a class with George Robinson, Ashish is weekly teaching that method in his Bible studies with the youth. In God’s kindness, Ashish has watched the youth flourish in their walks with Christ as they learn to effectively study the Bible.
As he continues to disciple students and leaders in Nepal, Ashish is thankful for his Southeastern training and for his Southeastern family who strengthened his heart for his people.
“Through classes, friendships with professors, and community with friends, I was thoroughly blessed by my time at Southeastern,” noted Ashish. “While the academic training was challenging at times, it helped me think, evaluate, and pursue my calling. It would have been way easier for me to stay in the states after graduation. However, along with other influences in my life, Southeastern encouraged and pushed me to fulfill God’s calling in my life and to labor for his kingdom. For me, the first step in doing that was returning to my country.”
Would you join us as we pray for Ashish and Sabita to be faithful in their ministries and for the work of TWTI to bear much fruit in the remote regions of Nepal?