Cross-Way Church History Overview
This is a short overview of the history of Cross-Way Church, Lalitpur, Nepal. It provides major date, events, key leaders, and their contributions towards the development of the church from 2005 to 2020. It began with an extremely passionate Nepali couple, Rev. Arbin Pokharel and Mrs. Bimala Shrestha Pokharel. The couple met each other while studying in Grand Rapids, Michigan. They got married in 2001. Their attraction to one another was their deep calling to serve God in Nepal. In 2002, immediately after graduation from Calvin Seminary they packed their suitcases and headed to India for mission work in Dehradun. They had committed for two years (2002-2004) to serve in the faculty and as spiritual coordinators to the students. While there Rev. Arbin, not yet ordained, served the Nepali church as an assistant to the pastor. The two years in India is still paying rich dividends, as many trained leaders coming out of Presbyterian Theological Seminary (PTS) have joined their ministries in Nepal.
In 2004, Pokharel family returned to the Civil-War-infested Kathmandu after 12 years of being away from their home country Nepal, with their nine-month old daughter Alyssa. In the first year 2004-2005, they spent the time to connect and re-connect with their families and friends. At the same time, they started praying in their living-room to eventually plant a church in the city. This prayer became the seed planted into the fellowship in their living room in Pulchok behind Hermans Bakery and later in Jhemsikhel apartment, near Tika School. As a result, their family members soon started joining them in prayer fellowship in their living room. Some of them became convinced of the gospel and desired to be baptized. Amrita Shrestha, Sumadhu, and Sunita Pokharel along with their four children were the first ones to believe the gospel and join the church.
To reconnect with wider family members, and old friends from schools and college, they hosted the first Christmas party at Hotel Clarion in Man-Bhawan, Lalitpur in 2004. Over 400 people joined the party. In April 2005, Ms. Menuka Mishra came as an internship student of PTS, India to serve and help the fellowship for three months (April-June 2005) under the supervision of Pastor Arbin and Mrs. Bimala. During this time, the first home fellowship started in Thapathali, Kathmandu at the apartment of Mr. Gunanidhi Sharma, he had come into contact with Pastor Arbin through his friends from Battle Creek, Michigan. They reached out to his family who lived in Thapathali. They started visiting them every week. The neighbors heard singing and praying in the house and asked to join the fellowship. One of the neighbors, Mrs. Urmila Karki had taken baptism while working in India, but without knowing much about the church, with tears, she rejoined this faith-fellowship. Another neighbor, Mrs. Nalu Rai also joined the fellowship
In June 2005, after outgrowing Pokharel’s living-room in Jhamsikhel rented house, they moved into Higher Ground Coffee House on the first floor in Jawalakhel main street across the street from Standard Chartered Bank. The business was closed on Saturdays, so Cross-Way rented it for Saturday’s church worship. The first baptism service of Ms. Amrita (Munna) Shrestha, then a medical student at KMC, and Mrs. Nalu Rai were held at the HG Coffee House Church. In the meantime, Mr. Amos Gurung started interning with Pastor Arbin during his final-year practical ministry required from EPTS and became the first full-time staff of the church.
Cross-way Church was inaugurated on November 19, 2005, where Dr. Rajendra Rongong was invited to inaugurate and bless at Han Kook Inn, Bal Kumari. On this occasion, two elders Mr. Gunaniddhi Sharma and Mr. Amos Gurung were also ordained by Dr. Matthew Ebenezer with Pastor Ruel Thapa who represented RPCI, Dehradun, India. And to bless the ceremony the honorable leaders of Nepal were present, such as Dr. Rev. Mahendra Bhattarai, Bishop Narayan Sharma, and Dr. Sashi Bhattarai. In the same year, Pastor Lakim Rai joined the ministry with a passionate heart to reach the unreached people of Nepal. He took voluntary retirement after 17 years of service from the Indian Military and joined Cross-Way church as well as began his studies in Bachelors in Theology (BTh) program at EPTS (RPS) seminary. His family (Mrs. Punam Rai, Marina, and Dhiraj) joined him the following year in 2006.
In 2006, the outreach with a new initiative called Worship @Cafe, or W@C for short. Each month leaders prepared a set of programs with a time of Worship, learning new English songs, youth-related fun activities and games, and a featured presentation related to a topic of the season or pressing issues like, arranged marriage, dating relationships, sports (World Cup), politics (elections), and always with a testimony. Each opportunity like, Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, the church organized larger outreach programs in bigger halls in town. The café provided a good neutral environment for the outreach. Many people came through the doors, and over the years, and Cross-Way church became known for it. In 2006, Ms. Suchitra Sharma, Mr. Bhim Bdr. Bista and Jaywant Das also joined Cross-Way to do their 1-2 year internships.
In 2007, the church exhausted the space in Higher Ground Café, Jawalakhel which accommodated 50-60 people at most. Pastor Arbin’s in-laws suggested, “why don’t you build the church on the backside of our house?” They were very generous, and church appreciated the offer, because Nepal at large was hostile towards Christianity. In 2007 they built the first Cross-Way Church building in Dad and Mom Shrestha’s backyard, and began to worship there. Likewise, on the ground floor of their in-law’s house in April 2007, Higher Ground Bakery was started by Mrs. Bimala Shrestha Pokharel to help serve underprivileged women and their children at higher risk of exploitations. In July 2007, Ms. Menuka Mishra came back after her graduation from PTS to work with Cross-Way and EPTS seminary. She has ever since been serving as one of the leaders in the church, leading worship, and advising women and children teacher. At the same time, Mrs. Suchitra Sharma came back with her husband Mr. Vijay Singh Tagore from India to work at EPTS seminary and volunteered in the ministry of Cross-Way.
After church moved into the new site behind Higher Ground Bakery, new believers also joined the church. One of those was Mrs. Kamala Rijal from Nagdhunga. After attending the church for several months, her sister Mrs. Urmila Karki, disciplining and guiding her to the church began to give fellowship in her home town of Nagdhunga, Kathmandu. Cross-Way youth took Christmas programs as outreach to the local high school there. A fellowship was started and began to grow. EPTS students Mr. Shankar Khadka and Mr. Santosh Khatiwada did their concurrent and one-year internship ministry there during their studies. An unfortunately event took place, that impacted the small fellowship. On the occasion of the neighbor’s wedding, a bus full of people had gone to a party in Dhapakhel, Naagdaha. A few members of the church had also joined in it, four persons drowned in the lake. They were riding on an obsolete wooden boat that leaked water. Rajkumar and Sushial, two members of the church also drowned. This became a big blow to the young church. The villagers blamed the church, saying “our Naag (snake) goddess is angry because of you in this town. You must at once remove the church from here.” They came and vandalize the church, broke the few furniture that was there including the podium, and physically abused Shankar Khadka, who was leading the church. Church moved to another location across the street and continued meeting, however with a smaller group.
In the same year, 2007, Eld. Amos Gurung asked his dad (Mr. Dil Bahadhur), who had separated from his church in Bhote Odar, Lamjung, and desired to begin a fellowship in Besisahar, Lamjung to connect with Cross-Way. Pastor Arbin along with leaders of Cross-Way visited him, they had asked Pastor Arbin to give baptism to 11 new members and inaugurate the church. Cross-Way leaders started visiting regularly to give teachings and guidance.
By 2008 Cross-Way had planted two other churches. Mr. Santosh Khatiwada joined Cross-Way Church as full-time staff after they graduated from EPTS, while Mr. Shankar Khadka continued at Nagdhunga. All along, Ps. Arbin and the leaders of Cross-Way felt that God had called us, to be a resource church to plant churches all across the country. Through many conversations, prayers and vision retreats, it became clear that Cross-Way is called to plant churches, thus drafted a vision: “Cross-Way church is a well of Grace from where we’ll draw and serve so that Christ-centered churches will be planted in the 75 districts of Nepal.”
Mrs. Maiti Maya Tamang worked at HG Café, Jawalakhel, and her husband across the hall at Kantipur Finance. She had struggled with attacks of evil spirits. Once she had an attack while at work, shaking violently. Atit, Ps. Arbin’s nephew began to pray for her, and over time she was delivered. It took six months before she she would be ready for baptism. She had one last episode, while at church giving her testimony, a week before her baptism. It shook the whole church. Ladies prayed for her over 6 hours and then she was fully delivered. One year later, her keen and clever husband Bikash (who was destined to become a Lama) also took baptism. Through this family 22 new persons in their neighborhood have come to the Lord. They have become a strong support to church planting efforts in both their villages in Nawalpur, Sindhupalchok, and Narayansthan, Kavre, and finally at Banepa Kavre, where Bikash and Maitimaya have built their new house.
In 2008, Cross-Way organized “Timothy Leadership Training” in partnering with TLT International, in Grand Rapids to train lay leaders across Nepal. This training went on for three-phase over three years (2008-2010). Twelve key leaders of Cross-Way and few other churches completed the course and were certified. In the same year, Cross-Way started training small group leaders to prepare disciple makers. Miss Becky Martin was instrumental in this training. In the same year, the church movement was given the name CRCN (Christ Reformed Churches of Nepal) with the leadership of Pastor Arbin and Cross-Way leaders during all-church conference. CRCN became an annual conference to mobilize church planting movement, and shape accountability structure for all our churches. In the same year, three elders were ordained for CRCN churches: Eld. Lakhim Rai and Eld. Suman Rai from Cross-Way, Lalitpur and Eld. Dil Bdr. Gurung from Cross-Way Church Lamjung.
During 2008, Ps. Arbin was looking around for land to rent for the church to build, (Dad) Mr. Man Bahadhur – father-in-law and (Mom) Mrs. Krishna Shrestha – mother-in-law found Kistland School land on sale and the school was not interested to purchase. While Pastor and leaders prayed and contemplate it, Ps. Arbin’s in-laws went ahead and invested their own money (Rs. 40 lakhs) as deposit for the land. Ps. Arbin’s family had invested a piece of land in Thali, Kathmandu with small savings in 2003 for 6 lakhs and added another 8 lakhs the following year. By 2008, the land sold for 93 lakhs, which paid for almost half of the total cost of land in Khadkatol, Ekantakuna. Then Pastor’s family sought loans with less interest rate. Their in-laws (Dad and Mom Shrestha), and De Jong family in California gave the required load for 0-3%, and even the remaining $100,000 they waived repayment after one year. The church built a temporary worship hall. In 2009, Cross-Way moved to the 2nd building in Khadkatol, Ekantakuna. It was dedicated by Dr. Rev. Mangalman Maharjan of Patan Church in May 2009. The same year Eld. Lakhim Rai completed his studies from EPTS (RPS) and joined the Cross-way church as full-time staff.
In June 2010, Eld. Amit Karthak and Mr. Yakub Gurung joined Cross-Way after they graduated from PTS, Dehradun to enhance the ministry of Cross-Way and CRCN in various capacities. In the following month July 2010, Ps. Ruel Thapa and his family joined the ministry of CRCN. In December 11-14, 2010, Cross-Way and EPTS (RPS) in partnership with Calvin Institute of Christian Worship organized a conference called “From the Heart to the Heavens” at Cross-Way. Where prominent Nepali worship leaders from Nepal and India were invited.
In April 2011, Rev. Troy Bierma and Mrs. Faith Bierma with their two kids (Yazzie and Priya) came to Nepal to serve alongside Cross-Way as well as EPTS (RPS). They served till August 2017 as a mentor, a teacher. They return home for Rev. Troy’s Ph.D study program. On July 2, 2011, Eld. Lakim Rai was ordained as a pastor of Mission and Church planting at Cross-Way. Ps. Lakim Rai helped local leader Ps. Rakesh Magar of Pokhatar, Simjung to build their local church with local resources (trunks, bamboo, mud and straw). It was dedicated with a visiting team of pastors and elders’ family. Cross-Way had started 2-week outreach tradition after Christmas, December 26-January 10. In 2012 Ps. Arbin was met with a major accident in his Tata Sumo jeep, he was alone driving because the team had gone ahead to Bardia for outreach. Everyone was miraculously spared, even though the jeep was fully damaged. We praise God for his protection.
In 2012, Mr. Adrian Dewan joined Cross-Way as a full-time staff. He has ever since written many worship songs and published three worship albums together with Cross-Way. He is an active worship leader at Cross-Way, very well known among Nepali churches across the globe. At the same time, Mr. Joshua M. Amjad joined Cross-Way church as full-time staff after he graduated from EPTS (RPS). He started with a concurrent and six-month internship required by the seminary, but stayed on as a staff until 2016, when he left for US to study.
In the year 2013, Ps. Arbin and Family took a sabbatical year break from ministry (February- August). At the same time, two more leaders also took a break from ministry Ms. Menauka Mishra for two years, and Mr. Santosh Katiwada for three years from Cross-Way church ministry for further studies. Elder Amit Karthak and Ps. Lakhim Rai took charge of the ministries during this time.
In March 2014, Cross-Way Leadership Training Institute (XLTI) was started with a mission and vision to train, teach, and equip church planters and leaders for CRCN/NRC. Young and old people came 12-20 of them at a time, stayed in church for a month at a time, and repeat that 3 times per year for a certificate in church leadership. In November 2014, Cross-Way’s first album “Anughra ko Inar” was released on the occasion of Thanksgiving and Church’s birthday. In 2014, Pastor Arbin and Mrs. Bimala did a campaign to “Run to Stop Child Trafficking” by running the Everest Marathon with a cause, and raised $24,000. At the end of that year, on December 5, Cross-Way appointed Ms. Nirjala as a church secretary and a coordinator to the children’s ministry.
2015 is the most memorable year for a Nepali still alive. April 25, May 12, and August 19, 2015, Nepal suffered from the Mega Earthquakes of 8.6 rector scale on April 25, which brought about the greatest destruction in the country, claiming over 9000 lives. It happened during the time when Saturday was still in session at 11:55am. In the same year, in August 2015, Nepal released a new constitution, proclaiming a secular state with anti-conversion law, criminalizing any act and attempt of converting anyone into Christianity. It became criminal acts if we practice as such. In this year only the CRCN movement was renamed to Nepali Reformed Churches (NRC).
On March 26, 2016, five elders were ordained from NRC at Cross-Way, Lalitpur. Eld. This is the third time elders were ordained in Cross-Way ministry. Eld Joshua M. Amjad from Cross-Way, Lalitpur, Eld. Kshetra Sahud from Bardia, Eld. Rakesh Mager from Pokhatar, Gorkha, Eld. Bhup Shahu, Dang, Mr. Ram Bahadur Thapa, from Chitwan. In 2016, Mr. James Lepcha joined Cross-Way after his graduation from EPTS (RPS) and Allen Karthak also joined Cross-Way as full-time staff. On March 26, 2016, the second album of Cross-Way “Laxyabodh: Kristko Sarir” was released in a worship concert with Mr. Adrian Dewan. During this year in the Fall, Eld Amit Karthak and his family and Eld. Joshua M. Amjad and his wife left for the USA for further studies. Elder Amit Karthak and family have returned after two years, but Eld. Joshua and his family yet to return.
In 2017, the old building damaged by the Earthquake was demolished. Along with the demolition, a new temporary building was erected in an adjacent lot for two years to worship. From April 2017, on the occasion of Easter sun-rise service, construction of new church building was instigated with a ground breaking ceremony and a prayer time. The construction lasted for two and half years.
In October 2018, Dr. Prem Subedi joined Cross-Way Ministry as a full-time staff, after completing 10 years service with INF Nepal. He was appointed director of Christ Reformed Center (CRC) to work alongside NRC. In November 2018, during NRC conference, NRC church leaders celebrated “30 churches in 13 years” celebrating successful church planting mission. During this Conference NRC churches decided into five regional groups for better administration and accountability among pastors and churches, namely,
- Eastern Pastoral Fellowship: (6 )– Jhapa (1), Morang (1), Okhalghunga (1), Sunchari (1), Rautahat (1), Makhawanpur (1),
- Western Pastoral Fellowship: (6) Chitwan (2), Gorkha (2), Lamjung (1), Nabalparasi (1)
- Mid-West Pastoral Fellowship: (7)- Dang (1), Rolpa (1), Rupandaihi (1), Surkhet (1) Dailekh (1), Banke (1), Jajarkot (1)
- Far-West Pastoral Fellowship: (5) Bardia: (1), Kailali (1), Kanchanpur(1), Darchula (1), Bajura (1)
- Capital Pastoral Fellowship: (6) Cross-Way (1), Dolakha (1), Kavre (1), Lalitpur (1), Bhaktapur (1), Kathmandu (1)
On November 10, 2018, during the Annual conference, NRC pastors, elders, and deacons were ordained at Cross-Way Church, Lalitpur. Ms Menuka Mishra became the first women elder to be ordained in Nepali Reformed Churches (and Presbyterian churches in Nepal). The following are the lists of people ordained: (Bardia), Ps. Bhup Shahu (Dang), Ps. Rakesh Magar (Gorkha), Ps. Roshan Magar (Kathmandu);
Elders: Eld. Menuka Mishra (Lalitpur), Eld. Bhudi Pulami Magar (Rhautahat), and Eld. Issac Tamang (Lamjung); and Deacons: Dea. James Lepccha (Lalitpur), Dea. Poonam Rai (Lalitpur), Dea. Sunita Pokharel (Lalitpur), Dea. Urmila Karki (Lalitpur), Dea. Jyoti Rai (Lalitpur), Dea. Kabiraj Gurung (Lalitpur), Dea. Bikash Tamang (Kavre) Dea. Om Magar (Gorkha), Dea. Sabitri Gurung (Lamjung), and Dea. Noomi Thapa (Bharatpur)
On November 23, 2019, on the Thanksgiving day, Cross-Way held the very first service at the new Cross-Way building and celebrated these important events. And from December 25, 2019 all regular services were held at the new site.
From March 2020 due to COVID 19 pandemic, all religious gatherings were ordered to stop gather together by the Government for an indefinite time. Thus, from March 23, 2020, Cross-Way services went online. Pre-recorded Saturday Worship services goes online via YouTube, Facebook, messenger, and Zoom via Cross-Way TV channels for all the Cross-Way believers and NRC churches. After few months, satellite groups were formed for smaller gatherings, where pastors visit monthly to give the Lord’s Supper.
COVID has presented some great challenges, but Cross-Way had been able to not only navigate, but moreover create opportunities for reaching out, for example by food relief an do their outreach ideas. During this COVID-19 year, Cross-Way Church celebrated our 15th year anniversary all pre-recorded at church and aired in schedules for six days (Nov 16-21) over Thanksgiving program. Now Christmas 2020 is also being planned to celebrate virtually, but in smaller groups. Post Christmas outreach will also be done mostly in local resources, but with much encouragement from NRC. May the Lord continue to bless our efforts for his honor and glory. Amen.
By Ms. Menuka Mishra