Happiness is in the air down in the village of Laprak where the small community of protestants is gathered around Laprak church. They are waiting for the start of the Saturday morning service. A few days earlier, while wandering the lanes of the village with my guide, we came across Dabar Bahadur Gurung in the yard of his house. Bahar was busy making a bamboo mat when we start a conversation. To my surprise, Dabar told us that he was a Christian priest, the only one in the village and certainly the only one in this remote area. In the 1930′s his family adopted protestantism when living in India at the time under English rule. Then, following a serious illness he decided to give more importance to the religious side of his life and he decided to become a priest. Since then, he has been preaching the word of god in Laprak where, with the help of its people, he built a church. Christians are a minority among the Gurung people, originally Buddhist, even if most of them also worship Hindu gods.
Dabar is now opening the door of his church, followed by his fellow believers. Inside, the church is quite basic with a very simple and minimalist decoration. On the floor on both side of the aisle are some bamboo mats with wooden planks placed on them. It is where the crowd take their places and sit. At the bottom of the church on the right of the desk are two teenagers playing guitar and drum and entertaining people while the priest and his assistant are getting ready. On the wall just behind the church desk hangs the only print of a colourful religious scene. It looks like a Hindi representation of Jesus Christ.
As the service progresses, the atmosphere becomes quite noisy. Boys are running along the alley going in and out the church. In contrast, a woman is quietly breast feeding her new baby. As the drum and guitar keep playing Christians are invited to throw up their hands, pray and sing. The atmosphere is very entertaining. Singing is getting louder. The sound of voices is sometimes blissful and at other times lamenting. Peoples’ faces are filled with emotion. But what were harmonious voices have now become a cacophony. Everyone is praying aloud and individually. Prayer has turned into a sort of trance. It is quite an emotional and fascinating moment to see so much passion in a such small room. As the priest’s voice rises above the noise of the crowd, the church is soon quiet enough for the priest to start preaching.
At this moment, the place almost changes into a school room. In the assembly, some teenagers are attentively listening while writing down some notes as the pastor is spreading the world of the holy bible. A bit more than one hour later, the service is very close to the end. A last call from the priest is for his ill parishioners to approach him in order to be blessed and protect from suffering and to give them a chance to be cured. I understand this practice better later, when questioning some Christians. Many of them have started to pray to god following illness and suffering, in the hope of a better life.