Bhutan is a remote kingdom nestled in the Himalayas sitting between India and China. Bhutan has a land area smaller than Switzerland and a population of just 770,000 people. Life expectancy is only around 70 years. Almost completely cut off for centuries, Bhutan has allowed some aspects of the outside world to enter whilst fiercely guarding its own ancient traditions. For years, the country cut itself off, fearing that outside influences would undermine its monarchy and culture. Even now westernism is not as embraced as it is in many other Asian nations. Radio broadcasting only began in 1973, while television and internet arrived in just 1999.
The Wangchuck hereditary monarchy has wielded power since 1907. But Bhutan became a two-party parliamentary democracy after elections in March 2008. Bhutan is known for pioneering the concept of gross national happiness, a term coined by the king in the 1970s. The idea is that valuing collective happiness is the goal of governance - emphasizing harmony with nature and traditional values.
Our young men in the home are aged from 18 - 23 years. They stay in a hostel that is owned and operated by a very senior member of staff at the boys' high school. We have the scope to house 20 or more boys. Currently two boys are about to embark on into university education. This is quite an original style of ministry that Bhutanese Christian people are excited about. In the future they will surely suggest that we work with girls as well but let’s just put that off for a while!
Our Bhutan work is run from over the border in India’s West Bengal state. It would be very difficult to operate from within Bhutan. Within the kingdom, once Christian young people complete their final year of high school it is felt that there is a greater emphasis by the government to select Buddhist young people to access tertiary education over others (including Christians). Hence in this way national leadership within the kingdom remains in the hands of the Buddhist majority. As a result, EMPOWER ASIA has proactively chosen to educate Bhutanese Christian young people right up to university graduate level so that in time they may return back to Bhutan and input into their nation.
Buddha (pictured right) comes from a Buddhist family and is a fine young man. He decided to finish his Bhutan based high school education back in 2011 and then went to work on his father's farm. Not long after that he became a Christian (through his uncle and brother). He wanted to learn more so he went to Kathmandu, Nepal to study for a six month Certificate in Theological Studies. He loved it.
Buddha has been living with us since mid-2015 and is now about to start a business degree in India. His hope is to graduate and then return back to Bhutan to assist his uncle in national church planting. Buddha has also talked about setting up his nation's first Christian school.
EMPOWER ASIA, Box 2334, Dunedin, NEW ZEALAND firstname.lastname@example.org