Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Kholmun

There is a village on the outskirts of Churachandpur called Kholmun.


Turn right, off the main highway leading into town, about 3 kms before you reach the large arch that was erected in 2010 to celebrate 100 years of the Gospel reaching South Manipur.

Take the neat tarred road up past the football ground with the colourful flags marking a tournament in progress (being a Sunday, the field is empty as it is the Sabbath).  Pass by house after house.  Some brick and cement.  Others bamboo and wood and mud.  But all so neat and clean.  Nestled in greenery as the sun paints the world golden.  Gaze at the tall clumps of bamboo and the meticulously trimmed hedges that serve to delineate neighbour from neighbour.

Now we are now close to our destination.

Its a world away from our work in Thane, but we have a very specific purpose to find a very specific house in this village.

Our dear coworker Lingbhoy Haokip (whom we call "Annie") is from this village, nestled in the green foothills of the hills surrounding Churachandpur.  And we are here on a Sunday afternoon to visit her family - and speak at her church.



We finally pull into at the entrance of her home - and are warmly greeted by Annie's parents and her siblings - and ushered into the front room of her ancestral home.   Introductions are made:  we meet Annie's 3 brothers and 3 sisters - and the spouses and kids of those who are married already.

We meet Annie's parents - two elderly jewels.  Her father who has been recovering from a stroke does not speak much, but has eyes that sparkle with love and wisdom.  Her mother is an embodiment of simple grace.  What an honour to meet this elderly couple.


Mang Haokip, Annie's unmarried older brother who is a minister with the Evangelical Churches Association, is a very close from of our beloved Paokholun whom we call "Lun."  Lun - who worked with us at Jeevan Sahara for 7 months as an intern when he was studying at Union Biblical Seminary is also serving with the ECA now.  He came to pick us up in the jeep to bring us here - and seems very much part of the family.

Mang and Lun have gone on extensive tours to far-flung villages - well of the beaten track for most ministers today - meeting village churches and encouraging them to grow in the Lord.

Mang stands up and welcomes us all.  Sheba is presented with a beautiful white shawl, and I am given an exquisite red shoulder bag, both hand-woven and decorated with the tribal designs of the Haokip clan.

 
Annie's mother then welcomes us speaking in her mother tongue.  Mang translates for us.  We are welcomed as brothers and sisters in Christ - as well as being Annie's parents since she is serving with us in Thane.  Annie's mother radiates dignity and love.  You can see that this woman and her dear husband have lived life well.


After we offer some words in reply, and are prayed for by Annie's mother, we are requested to come and partake of the meal that has been prepared for us.  We move to the adjacent room - the wood-floored kitchen.


The food is traditional Kuki cooking - rice and various dishes of boiled vegetables, a special fermented bean chutney, as well as a chicken and rice porridge, and a slightly more 'Indian' chicken dish that Mang has made for us.



All of it 100% organic since they largely come from the family farm.  Fresh milk from their cows was poured out for us as well.  Mang and Lun eat with us while the others serve.  My father's phrase that he uses so many times is apt for this meal: "What a feast!!"



We finish our meal at 4.30 PM.  The honoured guests being fed, the rest of the family tucks in before the church service starts.



By now the sun is setting.  Its time for the Sunday evening church service.


After food we walk through the greenery of the village over to the local ECA church.   On a hike the next day with Mang we find out that their grandfather had been killed by the Japanese who had accused him of being a collaborator with the British during their occupation of this area during WWII.  Mang and Annie's father had come to faith in Christ as a teenager, and along with 5 other young men had established this village church.  Today he is among the last men still alive from the founding generation.



When we enter the church, we are ushered into the very front, and I am brought up on stage and seated up behind a high pulpit.  From this lofty height, as the designated speaker, I can watch as the church rapidly fills up.  Young people start the signing - with a guitar, synthesizer and the steady booming of a large tribal drum providing music to the voices of angels.  Efficient ushers - all wearing large badges - glide people into every available seat.  The church is full - with folks of all ages - and all singing Kuki hymns.  Though some have come with song-books, most are listening to a young woman at the microphone who rapidly speaks out a line before everyone joins in singing it.

Sheba and the kids have now been accommodated on the benches on the right of me, up on stage.

The church choir assembles and a heart-stoppingly beautiful song is sung.  Then Sheba is up, sharing how we work with the dying and help people walk through the steps that Jesus himself has gone through.  Asha and Enoch join us for a simple song and which is followed by a special song by an elderly gentleman.  

Then the Church secretary gives a detailed set of announcements - 20 minutes of instructions in the Kuki language which is liberally interspersed with the 'Christmas.'  A prayer and then - it is time for me to share.

A week ago we were in Kamshet - 30 kms up the hill outside Lonavala in Maharashtra - and I was sharing at our Church Family Camp on the theme of being ready for Jesus' return.   Looking out over the sea of beautiful faces at the ECA church in Kholmun - the same message from 2nd Peter 3.11b-12a was entirely apt.  My friends in Maharashtra straddle the economic divides of top-level executives and slum dwellers, and come from a cosmopolitan mix of emigrant South Indian communities as well as various Maharashtrian sons of the soil while here in this Manipuri village of Kholmun the whole church speaks one language and are from one specific place.  The one person missing was Annie who was servign with us in Thane.  But all of us need to be living holy and godly lives as we look forward to the day of the Lord, and speed its coming.

Afterwards we look up into the starry night.  What a blessing to be here.  God is so good.

3 comments:

  1. What a feast! Thanks for the tour of Manipur, Andi. I barely remember the eastern states from geography class.
    March on.

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  2. i know very few people in kholmun village including the native people mentioned here. what a nice thing to read this lovely blog. may god bless you all!

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  3. A random browsing for pictures of churches in my locality brought me through your blog. Especially the family referred here is very close to my heart.

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