Tej Rokka was born in the craggy foothills of Mount Everest. At an early age, Tej’s family (father, mother, and younger brother) migrated south to the Terai plains, where richer soils allow farmers to cultivate rice, wheat, sugarcane, and maize. They hoped for a better future. Instead, they found tragedy.
Soon after the move, Tej’s mother fell sick. She suffered two years, then died – her ashes swept into the holy Bagmati River. The family was undone. Eventually Tej’s father landed at an orphanage run by an Indian missionary. He worked at the school, and in return, his sons received food, shelter, and an education.
I was longing for the love of my mom.
But Tej wasn’t able to concentrate. “I was longing for the love of my mom,” he remembers. “Every night I would see her in my dreams.”
Tej’s next memory of that dark period is of a Bible camp. A volunteer led them in songs and scripture memorization. “I was the first kid to memorize John 3:16,” says Tej. “I realised there issomeone who loves me so much. If I believe in Him, I will live!”
Tej committed his life to Christ - a decision every bit as radical as his family’s move from the mountains to the plains. As an orthodox Hindu, Tej was not supposed to pray to the Christian God. “There was no bible in our language,” explains Tej. “No church in our area.” When news reached Tej’s father, he was furious.
“Here in Nepal it’s very difficult,” says Tej. Christian converts stand to lose their place in society – their inheritance, help with tuition fees – everything. Converts can become “untouchable” according to the deeply entrenched caste system. Tej and his father would not speak for five years.
Meanwhile, Tej excelled at school, and eventually attended College. He was an evangelist, keen to share his hope with others. He began showing the “Jesus” film to fellow students. Many responded to the Gospel message, and eventually a viable and growing church began to meet in his home.
One day a pastor friend walked up to Tej holding the hands of two children he encountered on the streets of Kathmandu. “He thought I could help,” remembers Tej. But how? He wasn’t prepared to take on such a burden.
Tej was tempted to turn the children away. But, says, Tej, “God told me: ‘remember where you were.’ Tej, a pastor himself, also remembered the Church. The Church in Nepal is among the fastest growing in the world. One man offered to buy food. A woman offered a vacant apartment. That was 13 years ago. Today, Tej and his Church are caring for 50 children orphaned by a combination of civil war and natural disaster. Tej knows what it’s like to lose a parent; he knows what it’s like to be hungry. He also remembers his spiritual emptiness – and desires to provide enduring hope for the children in his care - the Hope he has found in Christ.
And Tej’s Dad? After seeing the transformation wrought in his two sons, he too has begun a relationship with Jesus.