This is actually part 5 in my series on life travels. To catch up, or for this post to really make any sense, you should catch up by reading posts number one, number two, number three, and number four.
So we flew into Manipur, India. We had to get special permits while in Calcutta to visit this part of India. This was a restricted access portion of India because it was a heavily militant state. There were 34 groups, seven of them militant, fighting over control of Manipur, most wanting it to become its own independent Kingdom. We could only get there by air and could only travel in groups of no more than 4 with an authorized agent, and were not allowed out of the capital city for any reason. AND we had to be indoors by 8:30 PM every evening.
I say all that to say this, that the place was heavily guarded; they stopped us before getting off the plane and came aboard the plane and searched us and all our carry on luggage before getting off when we arrived. The streets were heavily guarded with a strong military presence, but other than that, we never noticed it or felt unsafe in any way. We knew we couldn’t go anywhere in big groups and we couldn’t be outside our rooms after dark, but really other than that it was nothing.
The evening we arrived, (before curfew), we went to have dinner with Mr. Peter Kashung. He was the pastor who lived in Manipur whom we would be working with. He was the son of one of the fiercest Naga Warriors, who were headhunters up until the beginning of the 20th Century, until a single missionary reached them with the truth about Christ. His father had over 200 skulls in his possession, but came to know Christ by missionaries. Peter also came to know Christ at a young age.
At dinner that night Peter shared much of his story and passion for reaching his country for Christ. He didn’t just talk about it, he had a plan. I’d never heard anyone’s strategic plan like this. This man was passionate about reaching his own country. At that point he’d already trained thousands of pastors and planted over 100 new churches in small areas near where he lived. I was amazed and greatly challenged by him.
He teamed up with Global Missions Fellowship (GMF – the organization I was with) in 1996 to help him plant more churches. He would train the pastors, and once a year GMF would bring a team that would group into two to three foreigners with a local, trained pastor and go door to door to speak with families in a small village. The white faces were a useful tool for the pastor to get a guaranteed audience. After spending time door to door with families, the pastor hoped to have enough relationship, that after the foreigners left (us), that he would be able to continue the relationship and at some point be able to plant a new church in that area; A church where this man would be the pastor. Very strategic work! I loved it!
So I spent the next several days in a certain village with a pastor spending individual time getting to know each family in the village. It was so fun. I love getting to know people from other cultures. There wasn’t a lot of pressure other than to make a relationship and I enjoyed that a lot.
While we were there, there were a couple of days that there was some political unrest and threats and we were confined to our hotel and could not leave for two entire days. Those days we were able to spend praying for those we had met and we worshiped together. It was a nice time for our team.
A few days after that, we were able to go back to the village to continue getting to know them. The people were so hospitable to us, and I got a kick out of how the minute we’d walk up to a home, they always brought their best chair out immediately for me to sit in. If they didn’t own a chair, it would be their best mat. One time this family brought out this throne looking type of chair and my local pastor starting calling me the “Princess.” After he told our team this, the name stuck with my entire team. They already had a lot of fun with my accent, being a girl from Mississippi with a strong southern accent (most of it is gone now for my Texan friends who know me) but they were all from California and loved to poke fun at me. So the nickname “The Princess” stuck. My friends from that trip still call me that
After our time was up in Manipur, we needed to fly back to Calcutta to catch a flight to our next destination, Singapore! While in India, it was the November 2000 presidential elections – yes the Bush/Gore election. We had no television or news access and had no idea who had been elected as President of the United States. At the airport in Calcutta we asked around and nobody knew who was President yet – we thought nobody knew – but we really didn’t understand that NOBODY knew! Lol!
Once we landed in Singapore, we asked again if anyone knew who won the election and again we were met with “I don’t know,” and we finally decided that no one but us really cared who was elected President of the United States.
Once we were checked into our hotel in Singapore, and turned on the TV – THEN we found out what was happening with the election process and that truly NOBODY knew who was President! It was crazy trying to watch the news to catch up with what was happening. I think several of us were glued to the television set. Finally after I’d had enough, we left our hotel to go hang out in the city of Singapore.
We spent a few relaxing days in Singapore and to have some down time to experience the city, and most importantly to get away and process and debrief our past weeks in India.
I processed how easy it would be for me to leave this trip knowing without a doubt that what we did was beneficial in a long term plan and that every single person we met would be involved in a future plan. Not left behind, not forgotten (not – ladies and gentlemen – the white people have left – lets get on with our lives as normal). It was super comforting to me knowing that a local team of pastors were there. At this point I began processing short term mission trips a little bit. How useful are they – do they help, do they hurt. What’s the purpose? I didn’t want to go someplace, share Christ with a bunch of people and then leave them with no follow up plan. This type of thing made my heart hurt and I was truly grateful that I could leave this time knowing this would NOT be happening. I was also thankful for meeting a man like Peter Kashung who left such an impression on my life. What a mighty man of God! How passionate he is about reaching his own country. Am I that passionate about reaching my own? He challenged me to my core. Later on I would come in contact with his daughter again that completely took me by surprise…that story will come later!
Oh, and on the way home our flight was delayed in Singapore and all of the team blamed it on me! By then they knew of my previous stories of flight delays, cancellations, lost luggage…they all told me that they didn’t want to be on the same plane as “the princess!” hahaha! I love these people! So thankful to not only have friends now all over the world, but all over the United States too!