As his name suggests, Lazarus Thulung’s life and ministry have been marked by new life emerging from dark depths. A third generation Christian and pastor growing up in the shadow of Mount Everest, Lazarus’ childhood was shaped by persistent religious marginalization. Because of her faith, Lazarus’ mother was left alone by her village to give birth to him while his father was away working. When medical complications arose, no one was there to help, and she died in child birth. To honor her, his father named him Lazarus, because his life came from her death. Devastated but not defeated, his father and grandfather continued sharing Jesus with others, even though it meant enduring beatings and imprisonment.
His family’s example instilled in him a deep faith and commitment to the way of Jesus, which eventually led him to seminary and a life of church planting. He recalls hearing a statistic ten years ago that propelled him to action. “There are more than 3,912 villages in Nepal, but only 1,300 villages are reached by the gospel. That was the statistic…that really touched my heart. I have much to do,” he recalls. Around the same time, Lazarus met ServLife’s founding director. Once he heard Lazarus’ passion and vision, a church planting partnership was born.
From the start, Lazarus believed widespread transformation was possible. In 2006, he set of goal of starting 150 churches by 2016. To do this, he began training church planters in cohorts of 12-16 each year who would then go into unchurched villages with the message of Jesus. As of today, Lazarus and his team have trained 97 pastors, who have planted 121 churches, and have seen 4,700 people decide to follow Jesus, with 2,700 baptisms. Their work is part of nationwide movement of new believers. Research suggests that in 1980, there were roughly 7,000 Christians in Nepal. Today, Nepali Christian leaders suggest there are over a million Christians in the country. Lazarus has helped fuel this movement by authoring 18 books, speaking throughout the country, and emerging as a Christian leader on a national scale.
In the midst of a vibrant ministry, Lazarus has experienced heartbreaking trials. Perhaps his greatest trial was the loss of his son, Abhishek. Born with severe disabilities, Abhishek was never able to see or talk, and, after a tough life, died peacefully at the age of 12 in 2012. Lazarus’ life and ministry was deeply shaped by the life and loss of his son. He notes that Abhishek brought him and his wife “joy in everyday and every moment of our lives. I realized that I lost a great theologian and mentor in my life.” Abhishek inspired him to write “Where is God When I am in Suffering?” and “When God is Silence”, which helped thousands of Nepali’s walk through pain and suffering.
Throughout his ministry, Lazarus began to realize that to fully live out the good news of Jesus, Christians were called to empower people out of poverty. This led him to start the HOPE Fund, ServLife’s microfinance program. Since its inception, the HOPE Fund has helped dozens of families raise their standard of living through small, affordable loans to start small business. Currently, the HOPE Fund is operating seven villages and resourcing 75 families. For Lazarus, this financial program has deep spiritual roots. “We are blessed by God. We are loved by God, and we are sharing this love with one another,” he reflects.
Lazarus is confident that God will continue to use him to bring new life in the midst of darkness. As he looks forward, he sees an abundance of opportunity for the good news of Jesus to continue spreading in Nepal. As he looks back, he sees God’s goodness to him, even in the midst of trials. “God is so faithful,” he says. “He has provided everything that we needed. In different challenges we’ve faced in this journey, God is always faithful.”