By Sharon Mager
Raju Budhathoki, pastor of Bhutanese Baptist Church of Baltimore, was intense, yet joyful, as he shared his personal testimony at White Marsh Baptist Church on a Sunday morning in July.
Born in Bhutan and raised in the Hindu faith, Budhathoki had a difficult childhood. His father was dealing with addiction and his brother was born disabled. There were many struggles.
“It was a tough time for me being an elder son of the family. There was nobody to care for me or to offer my education; it was very hard to survive.
“I used to work as a slave and servant in other houses and carry the firewood and sell it,” he said. “I had no peace. I was broken, frustrated and I had no hope for a future. I did not want to live in this world.
“I went to many Hindu temples, even in the Buddhist temple, in order to obtain peace and salvation and even did many good works… I would meditate and offer prayer and even worshipped Buddha,” he said. But still, the young man didn’t find the peace he was pursuing.
During this time, his brother was unable to walk or care for himself. Budhathoki felt defeated and frustrated.
“Slowly I became an atheist. I used to say there is no God,” he said. He turned to alcohol and drugs, and became addicted.
In the midst of the turmoil, Budhathokii’s mother met some Christians and heard that Jesus can heal. She secretly offered her disabled son to Jesus, asking for a miracle.
When I heard that news there was a war in our home, Budhathoki said. “I said, ‘Why have you done such a thing? There is no God who can heal our brother and bring peace in our family.’
“I became frustrated and in my mind I decided to hang myself and die.”
One day before Budhathoki was going to take his life, he wanted to see his brother for a last time.
“I called him and he came to me— walking. I was astonished. At that time, somebody spoke to me, ‘There is hope in Him,’ but I did not recognize from where the voice had come. It was a miracle for me.
“Day by day the word ‘hope” began to grow in my heart and I began to search for Christian friends. One day when I was walking, a man came to me very quickly and handed me a booklet and left without saying anything. In that booklet it was written the words, ‘Hope in Jesus.’ When I reached home I began to read… I was much afraid. While I was reading I, would sense someone behind me grabbing me and I would hear a very soft voice, ‘There is life only in Jesus.’ I was shocked but there was nobody around me. After reading that booklet, I felt excited.
“Again one day while I was at home, that same man came to me and asked, ‘How do you feel?’ He told me to join with him in a fellowship meeting, and he took me to his home where his Christian friends gather. When prayer began I was afraid and shivering. As the prayer was going on, I felt the power of God touching all over my body and instantly I found myself as a filthy rag and great sinner.
“While I was there, one of my relatives came and took me from that fellowship. I did not get the chance to invite Christ in my heart during that time.”
On Jan 5, 1993, due to political changes, Budhathoki and his family were forced to leave Bhutan.
“We left our hometown with nothing but the clothes we were wearing and came to Eastern Nepal. There I found many Bhutanese refugee people residing in the refugee camp and there I also found Christian friends. One day while I was making my hut, some Christian friends invited me to their meeting.”
An Indian missionary was sharing, reading Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The Holy Spirit touched Budhathoki. He asked, “What must I do to be saved?
“I accepted Jesus as my Savior and Lord in a plastic hut in the year 1994. After I became a believer I came home happily, I received life; I got salvation and I committed my life to God for His ministry till my last breath. I found presence and peace of God in my heart.”
But he suffered for that peace.
“One day focusing on my conversion, my daddy struck my leg with a big roll that paralyzed me for more than a month,” he shared sadly. Budhathoki’s father was a committed Hindu and very upset at his son’s conversion.
“I was crying. I was not given food or water by my family and the society of Hindu tortured me mercilessly and tried to force me to forsake Jesus. They told me if I didn’t forsake Jesus, then I would have to leave the family and society. I told them I would not deny Jesus who gave me peace and life.
“I left all my things, family and society. And then went to my friend’s home and stayed there at his home like an orphan.”
Budhathoki said he continually felt the Holy Spirit prompting him to share the Gospel. In just four months after accepting Christ, he went with several other Christians to preach to people in llam, Nepal. Budhathoki admitted knowing very little about the Bible, but he did know that Jesus gave him life. “I knew Jesus is the only one who can save us,” he said.
Preaching the Gospel in Nepal was at that time illegal, Budhathoki said. “It was very strict. But we shared about the love of God to people in a parking area and in the market. Some were offended that we were sharing the Gospel to Hindu people and they reported us to the Nepalese Government and I was arrested with my friends because of preaching the Gospel. Budhathoki and the others were put in custody with no food or water. They were held for 30 days, with no contact with the outside, no fresh air. Then they were sentenced and imprisoned.
While in prison, Budhathoki said they were tortured mentally and physically. “They took us out once every day and we laid on the ground and an officer would come and beat us very badly,” he said.
During that time, his friends had visits from their families, but sadly, Budhathoki’s family did not come to see him. But he continued to pray for them and for their salvation and he shared the Gospel with other prisoners. Several prisoners made confessions of faith.
“We were sentenced for seven years, but thanks to the grace of God, we were released in 15 months,” he said, though they did have to pay a fine.
“In the year 1996, I was released from prison and when I came home I found that my parents were also saved in Christ. That was the answer to my prayer.”
Though Budhathoki and his friends were told they could no longer preach in Nepal, and were taken to the border and kicked out, they returned and continued to preach openly. “We felt we would share freely, no matter what they would do,” he said.
Budhathoki studied theology in Manipur, in northern East India, and he received a bachelor of theology degree from Grace Bible College.
His college studies were difficult due to a clash between two ethnic groups, but Budhathoki said, “By His grace I had completed my course.”
He then served as an evangelist/missionary with the Nepal Evangelical Baptist Convention, before planting and pastoring a church in Bhutan, later planting a church at a Bhutanese refugee camp in Nepal.
Budhathoki met Samuel Cho, founder and senior pastor of Bhutanese Baptist Church of Baltimore, at a Nepal Refugee camp. The refugees were in the process of being resettled. Cho told Budhathoki that he would pray that Budhathoki would be sent to Baltimore. Budhathoki was surprised, but happy when God answered Cho’s prayer.
Budhathoki came to the United States in 2011 and serves bi-vocationally as a letter carrier for the United States Post Office while ministering with the Bhutanese Baptist Church of Baltimore, which meets at Parkville Baptist Church and at First Baptist Church of Gray Manor.
This article is based on the written and spoken testimony of Raju Budhathoki.