Bhutan, March 1, 1993
Thirteen-year-old Purnima was one of thirty-five believers who were rounded up and hauled to the district administrator’s office. They were questioned throughout the long, cold night. “Why do you want to be a Christian?” they were asked. “This is a Buddhist country and you have dishonored us by accepting this foreign religion.”
Big and intimidating men stood before Purnima and the others.
“Who gave you permission to celebrate Christmas in the village of Purdah. This is Bhutan. You are not allowed to celebrate Christmas in Bhutan. You either return to Buddhism or you leave Bhutan.”
Purnima had already been kicked out of her home, and she would soon be kicked out of her village. Young and uncertain, Purnima did not know where she would go, but she did know what she must do. “I will not deny Christ,” she cried defiantly. “I do not wish to leave my country. I will not leave Christ.” She and the others in the group were given five days to leave Bhutan. They were going to the country of Nepal.
Purnima had grown up in a small Buddhist village in eastern Bhutan and her father was the local witch doctor. When her sister Maya became ill with constant stomach pain and severe headaches, their father treated Maya for three years. But she remained ill for three years. It was not until a Christian friend of Maya’s husband, Silva, prayed, that Maya was healed.
As she watched her healed sister, who later gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Purnima was challenged by powerful questions to her thoughts: “What kind of God would heal without asking anything in return? What did May and silva find in this religion that gave -them the courage to stand against their families and society-even to the point of being expelled from their home?”
Curious to know this God, Purnima began sneaking out at night to visit her sister and listen as Maya read portions of the Bible to her.
Eyes Opened to the Gospel
By Christmas of 1991, Purnima had become a Christian. The climate in which she believed, however, was growing increasingly hostile. By 1992, the local police were growing fearful of the number of Christians in the area. They began interrogations and persecution to influence the Christians to return to the Buddhist religion. The final word from the officials was to “leave Bhutan.”
So, in 1993, Purnima—joined by eight other Christians—was put on a bus to take them from their village to the border of India. From there, they traveled three days by foot across mountainous terrain. During their journey, the Christians were attacked by bandits who took everything they had and left them bruised and bleeding.
Finally, as the light of the morning dawned, the group was able to get a ride from a farmer heading to Nepal. As the sun rose, it offered warmth after the chilling nights on the cold ground. Once in Nepal, Purnima found a home with a pastor and his family and it was through him she was later reunited with Maya and her husband, Silva. She rejoined them in their refugee camp in northern Nepal.
Having seen the power of the gospel to heal her sister, Purnima accepted Christ. Yet it is her bold declaration of faith—in the face of persecution—that stands as a reminder for those of us who have never experienced that level of persecution. To follow Christ is to lay aside all worldly claims. Let us follow Purnima’s example and seek wholeheartedly after Christ.