By Sharon Mager and Shelley Mahoney
At Bhutan Baptist Church of Baltimore, Md., (BBC), many of their members are refugees. The church, which meets at Parkville Baptist Church, Md., is small but vibrant, with weekend services, Monday night services, prayer meetings, cell groups, women’s fellowships, and church-wide fellowships on a regular basis.
More than 40 people attend each of the worship services, and, according to Budathoki, that number, which has been slowly increasing, includes many Bhutanese people and a Pakistani family, who recently became regular attendees despite not speaking the language.
Above all else, the church rejoices in many salvations among its members over the last several years since the church was planted. There are currently eight candidates waiting for warmer weather to be baptized. Budathoki said the church combines their baptisms with an outdoor church event.
Many members deal with the very real financial and physical struggles of being a refugee in America. Fluctuations in attendance tend to occur due to living expenses in Maryland; they often need to move in with family members to manage living expenses. Budathoki can understand these struggles all too well. He, too, was a refugee.
“I accepted Jesus as my Savior and Lord in a plastic hut in the year 1994,” said Budathoki. “After I became a believer, I came home happy, I received life; I got salvation, and I committed my life to God for His ministry until my last breath. I found the presence and peace of God in my heart.”
Although the decision to follow Christ brought him deep joy, it also brought him a great deal of persecution. Individual family members beat him, and he was denied food and water, and the Hindu community ordered him to forsake his faith in Jesus. Undeterred, he began preaching the Word in the marketplace. Despite efforts to be careful, Budathoki was arrested and imprisoned in Nepal. He was severely beaten and mentally tortured every single day for 15 months. He prayed faithfully in prison, however, and led multiple prisoners to the Lord before he was finally taken to the Nepal border and forced to leave the country.
He studied theology in East India and then served as an evangelist, missionary, pastor and eventually planted a church at a Bhutanese refugee camp in Nepal. This is where he met Samuel Cho, the original church planter of the Bhutan Baptist Church, Baltimore, who told him that he would pray for Budathoki to come to America. Budathoki was pleasantly surprised when God answered this prayer and allowed him and his family to come to pastor Buhtan Baptist Church in 2011.
Budathoki now serves bi-vocationally as a letter carrier for the United States Post Office while ministering at the church.
Today, Budathoki describes his congregation as a “close-knit group that enjoys worship and fellowship.” The church meets with other Bhutanese and Nepalese churches in the area for holiday fellowships where they enjoy food, prayer, worship, and dancing. Buhtan Baptist church is excited about the work God is doing and is looking forward to seeing how He moves in the future.
Shelley Mahoney is a freelance writer and an adjunct professor of communication at Anne Arundel Community College