Sunday, April 20, 2008


One of the whole reasons we decided to go to India in the first place was because Kim had a friend who lived in the Northeastern state of Nagaland who really wanted her to come and visit. Kim got to know Asha in Bangkok last year as they were both serving together in an organization that ministers to prostitutes. Asha has since returned to her homeland to start a similar ministry to women in crisis.

Nagaland is actually a recent addition to the country of India: it came under the government of India in the late 1940s, and since that time the Naga people have been fighting for their independence. Because of that, we had to get a special, extremely specific visa to get into that part of the country and spend some time in an official's office upon our arrival at the train station. The Naga people and culture is really not very much like the rest of India. Traditionally, they are a hill tribe people and they looked more Burmese than they do Indian. It was interesting to see the blend of Indian and Asian cultures while visiting that part of the country.

Getting there was rather difficult. They whole planning process was difficult because not much information was available online or in our travel books and contact with Asha beforehand was even sporadic. Even while in Delhi, we didn't know exactly how to get to where we wanted to end up or how long it would take us. Made for some interesting adventures! : ) We ended up spending almost 2 days getting there, 2 days getting back, taking planes, trains and buses, and only about 3 1/2 days actually with Asha, - but being there made it all worthwhile.

I don't think I've ever experience such gracious hospitality and care than from Asha and the Christians in Nagaland. We stayed in Dimapur, the largest city in Nagaland, and Asha arranged for us to stay in a guesthouse/retreat-center used for missionaries. She had a huge room prepared for us with a Western bathroom, a kitchen nearby with several women who prepared breakfast for us each morning (WAY more than we could eat!) and did our laundry. The place had a beautiful garden and grassy area and was just delightful. Asha's uncle owned a guesthouse of his own, but Asha decided that it wasn't comfortable or quiet enough for us and that she wanted to have us stay in the best place in the city, so her Uncle decided to pay for us to stay there! They were so kind!

Amazingly enough, Nagaland is about 90% professing-Christian. The story of the how the gospel entered that region of the world is just incredible! Over 125 years ago some missionaries came to a nearby tribe to share the gospel with them. That tribe wasn't very interested in the gospel, so the missionaries instead went to the Nagas, who at the time were a head-hunting people. One by one, whole tribes turned to Christ and gave up their former way of life. Now there are tons of churches, schools and seminaries in that state, most of them Baptist. In fact, I read on wikipedia that Nagaland is "the most populated Baptist state in the world" with 75% of the population being Baptist - even more than Mississippi's 52% Baptist population! And in some ways it felt like being in the "Bible-belt" in the SE US! We went to Asha's church that Sunday and sat in pews in a beautiful, large sanctuary with high ceilings that reminded me of Emmanuel Baptist Church where I went as a young child. They played all of the familiar Baptist hymns I knew translated into Nagamese on an out-of-tune piano. And the church was filled with hill-tribe, Asian people! It was pretty wild.

They were all so kind, too! We got invited over to several people's houses for dinner and almost everyone we met thanked us for coming to visit them (we were the only foreigners there - not the sort of place that foreigners come through very often!). It was so very humbling. The first night we ate at the house of one of Asha's seminary professors. His great-grandfather was the first person to accept Christ in their tribe and his grandfather was the first one to go to school and become an evangelist. He told us that every 25 years they all have a huge celebration and retell the story of how the missionaries came to their people and shared the gospel with them!

While there we also got to visit Asha's new ministry center and meet the women she serves. We attended their prayer service: most are Christians who have been forced to a way of life that they don't want to be in. It was really heart-breaking to be there. They were all incredibly gracious though as well and were so glad to have us there, as they had prayed for a long time for us and our safe journey to their country. We also visited the Oriental Theological Seminary where Asha received her M.Div. It was about 30 minutes or more outside the city and was almost like a camp or retreat-center in the way it was set up. All the students (there are about 60 there, 10 professors) spoke excellent English, as they learn/study the Bible in English, and we were able to fellowship with them over dinner (where they also thanked us for eating with them!). It was pretty incredible to hear their stories and to find out more about the seminary.

God richly blessed us in Nagaland and opened my eyes to His power and work in a new way. It was very exciting to see the power of the gospel firsthand!


At 8:03 AM, Blogger trmills said...

Wow, Catherine; you shared your experiences and emotions beautifully. Now I need to see pictures!


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