Shining stars of societal hope

Published on June 30, 2007

By Lunminthang Haokip

July 1, 2007: Blame it on this or that. When the heart is steered clear off notions lop-sided, it strikes one’s emotional sensibilities hard that Kuki society, to which we all belong, is but a bustling house subtly divided. Fads and trends kept taking turns and paving ways to new fancied ways of life in tune with the changing decades.

Christianity came eighty and odd years back to a chunk of chinky-eyed Kukis. Yet, even to date, the finer teachings of Christ awakens souls and enlivens spirits to divine measure as a rare exception and not as a routine rule it ought to be. When the majority in a dos-and–don’ts-ridden community shirked God’s will, it was quite natural to be moved to feel abs necessary to do man’s will.

The Trend-Setters: The first batch of post-Independence Kuki-leadership had the privilege of moulding public opinion and having  a say in the shape of things to come. They and the   educated social icons of the succeeding decades were hero-worshipped by the electorate and the line-up of later-day bureaucrats. Most of them tired their brains and strained every nerve for a better tomorrow . But, in a few ultra-modern among the maverick lot, there was a mismatch of status and role played. The off-beat operators latched on to hedonistic overtures bordering on atheistic culture.

Nevertheless, they brought about tangible changes in worldly lifestyle and outlook. Even then, the endeavours being bereft of godly fervour, the good things the pioneers of class did were mentally trampled upon while the carnal-cravings-made-fashionable were lapped up by the masses with gusto and passion usually reserved for religion. The full-throated cries to unwind of the cult-figures of higher echelons of society culminated in a finale of a sizzling extravaganza touted by lovers of fun-lore and curve-fare in Manipur as kut-fest. That the Creator doesn’t approve of the pompous display of ‘the lust of the eye’ and ‘pride of life’ is obvious in the macabre scenes of butchery and the resultant misery  and poverty of the major kutting fraternity following feverish kut-celebrations.

Enter KZK and CTH: Bottles of Chivas Regal  gushed out down the backstage of cultural carnival. Vanity was drank, morality drowned and spirituality grounded in the pre and post-kut revelries. The Almighty was grieved that the people he made in His own image to worship Him in truth and spirit were doing an Israel of the wilderness-days on Him by idolizing a ‘golden calf’ called Miss Kut in tipsy spirit. Many Aarons were there pitching in pits of compromise. Their mouths were gagged from speaking out God’s mind by the fear of displeasing them that kept pleasing the worthless part of their souls. Nothing less than a type of Moses or Joshua would have salvaged the depraved scenario. God in His grace and mercy, revealed His will through a host of preachers and employed them as repairers of the breach.

Servants Of God: Among them, Rev Khaizakham and Rev. Chungthang Thiek stood out over and above the other anointed mini-stirs. Soft and articulate, Rev KZK, making reference-points of headline news and using heart-searing illustrations brought myriad souls gone berserk to their knees in sob-sobbing repentance. That after several decades of faithfully serving the Lord mostly in Kuki-dominated regions, the man-of-God is still going strong in the Faith is a boon to many otherwise doomed needy and thirsty souls awaiting spiritual spoon-feeding.

Complimenting perfectly, in risk-involving areas of troubled  Manipur, Rev. Chungthang, loveably blunt and daring that he is, enthralled his Kuki-audiences with spirit-led sermons replete with jaw-splitting yet soul-touching anecdotes. That heaven blessed their campaigns was palpably evident. The churches they vocally hammered and chiseled to spiritual shape registered a one hundred percent increase in inflow of tithes and offerings.

State Of Affairs: Admit it or not, many church organizations, prior to the revival movement of the eighties of the last century, were a little more than glorified co-op societies. Standing committees and slandering sub-committees galore. Statistics  of audit concealed the vital and revealed the obvious. Contrary to the apostolic method of winning souls one by one, a number of churches were tightening fora for clannish ties the growth of which was dependant upon an intensive membership-drive characterized by igniting sentiments of sub-ethnic kinship. The situation have not changed much even today.

Bond With The Closest: A relative is expected to share bonhomie in fellowship by enrolling himself in an association where the majority of his kindred congregate. If he fails to dance to kinship’s tunes, his nuclear family is notionally declared peculiar heretics. Social sneer and boycott ensue. Almost Gospel-proof cocoons of prejudice are jealously woven around one’s ecclesiastical group strictly on denominational lines. The beatitudes cannot make a dent to cause patrons to repent for acute attachment to shrewd native attitude.

The responsibility of  being a part of the universal body of Jesus is sacrificed on the altar of a futile search for nomenclatural identity through perverted exploitation of clan-ism and ethnocentrism. Egoism, jingoism and clericalism pose as gigantic speed-breakers to the fast-pacing of evangelism. The poor lay-persons remain baffled novices in blunder-land wondering whether they are led or misled.

Emergence Of A New Breed: Thanks to God’s concern in favouring us with the selfless and relentless labours of the crusading duo – Rev KZK and Rev CTH – in the eighties and early nineties of the last century, out of cities and country-shanties, many Kukis of promising potential came out clean from most of their filthy entanglements. Many were saved and the rest had almost been delivered from the oddities of sinful nature.

Gone are the days and nights when Bible-messages were immediately followed by Lenkhom (a lively social-sing-together where hymnals are sung in a fleshly festive mood) where the likes of Jimmy Lamboi hogged the limelight and sentimental numbers like “Nengboi lenna Jorhat tolpi (Jorhat town where Nengboi dwells) was music to the ear. Today, Lenkhom do continue to hold sway as the favourite pastime but the crowds thronging it, as a habit sing a different tune. It’s inspirational compositions like Rev. Doujapao’s “Molle lhang sang jong le cheding kahi ( I have to go even if the hills and ranges be steep ) that is sung repeatedly in the attitude of praise and worship.

The Final Hurdle: Many of the neo-reformed breed are freed from kut-culture, drink-culture and cinema-culture but alas, are finding it tough to free themselves from the lure of filthy lucre. One honest 10 to 5 jobber confessed that he stopped taking everything from taking orders from a domineering wife to taking paan, cigarette, tobacco, and chili except bribes. Me too was one such incorrigible wretch for a long period of  struggle for habitual liberty. Only when I repented, confessed my sins and cleansed my conscience by setting as much past wrongs right as I could, and clung to the cross for help, my Saviour’s grace shattered the shackles of graft-trap,  grafted me to the tree of life – the cross –and re-drafted my entire being. “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:32)”.

Target: Full-Circle Victory: Christian life is not a 100 m dash but a long-distance run. Some start in the speed of Rajdhani Express but carried away by the cares, riches and pleasures of the world, get derailed in a short while to meet spiritual disaster. Just as a chosen co-labourer backslidden is a liability to many, a struggling sinner fully saved is an asset to  society. We need to regularly appreciate the irregular strides of religious advancement taken so far by the partially transformed among our white-collar brethren who had achieved an impressive 90% victory in Christian deliverance over sin.

100% of the converted folks ought to spend at least 5% of their time passionately praying with overflowing burden for the complete release of these precious souls who have not learnt to forsake the mammons of this world for the diamonds of the world beyond. The immense importance of one person’s conversion should never be underestimated. “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous (Romans 5:19)”. Holy as He is, God exults only in using righteous individuals in His vineyard as seen in the  career-graphs of a few of our own brothers who had “sought first His kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33)”.

Dino L Touthang: The second eldest male member in a disciplined Touthang family of four brothers and an only sister, the Bijang-born Lhunkhosei grew up street-fighting and pebble-pelting at Tiddim-line buses on the Brooklyn-kind gang-patrolled streets of Lower Lamka, Manipur’s booming and prospering second town. Doting on him, his dear daddy, a sagacious ex-serviceman with sharp foresight in the early seventies, packed up “Sesei” as he is lovingly called, for a P.U course in Arts in UCC, Barapani, Meghalaya.

Initially the island campus saw Dino trying hard to conquer the old habit of knife-brandishing tomfoolery. Friends remember him as an average performer in studies. But in everything else, he was above average. Even when he happened to create unpleasant scenes as a wino, sparks of leadership traits sparkled in young Dino. Contemporary female hearts were set aflutter whenever the boyish charmer , as the goal-keeper of his college soccer team, made a groovy dive to save a goal. However for quite a while, in the shade of moments, Dino was losing out on the battle against the bottle.

Getting sozzled to get embroiled in self-ruinous rumpus in campus once too often, the hard boiled boozer was shown the door. The reproof drove him aloof but made him take a serious look at his own deplorable decline. Grilled by gripping guilt, girded by his own guile, cornered by the kick of grieving God, driven to repentance by own-goals of spiritual fouling and fearing the glaring penalty for iniquity, the hitherto goal-saver made a dashing dive of faith towards the Lord’s side and saved his own soul in 1975. A desire to score spiritual goals set his heart afire. Ever since, God gave Dino better things to do than delighting in weird hairdos. The obscure guy who loved to carry a knife began to carry the Bible – the Word of God which is the double-edged sword – and felt assuredly secure. A chance encounter with the articulate preacher, Vanlalngahka, in 1976 at Churachandpur, sharpened Dino’s zeal and activated his spiritual growth.

Equipped with a first-class Master’s Degree in History from NEHU, Shillong, well-wishers thought Dino would go headlong for civil services and commit himself to improving the lot of his home-folks. But he didn’t. Instead, he went for God-willed- services, set out for UBS, Pune, and came back with high second class BD degree. Pleased at the step of faith in the otherwise worldly-wise situation of unfaith, God did not disagree to Dino’s other pleas. An excellent stint in NEICORD before venturing out for another outstanding five-year missionary labour with wife Dari and small kids in toe in the remotest parts of MP’s Bastar district followed in succession. God saw sincerity of commitment to serve Him in the mild-mannered married man of verve. Seeing Abram’s faith, the Almighty said, “…..Fear not Abram; I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward (Gen. 15:1).”

The exceeding reward in Dino’s case came in the form of  a prized scholastic sojourn at no less a place than Oxford, UK, thanks to Doctor-wife,  Dari’s chance treatment of a suddenly indisposed Brit Evangelist at CCpur. There he could put to good use all that he learnt in central India’s tribal belt. To save the research-scholar and his family from being a burden to others, God prepared way for the UBS-alumnus to serve an Anglican Church at Oxford as the Asst. Pastor for a year. Through out all the years of suffering and joy, crises and bliss, wife Dari emotionally anchored hubby as did Ann Judson to Adoniram in Burma in the 19th century. A medical doctor herself, she threw to the wind a promising career to stick to beloved hubby through thick and thin, plenty and penury…..and  in health and sickness , to love and to cherish and to obey till last-breath do them apart.

For all the initial occupational hazards he braved through with bravado, today God places Dino in a position of influence, if not affluence; and honour, if not that of a donor, in the top-notch Christian professional circles. A cursory glance at his plush ISO-standard-meeting office at EFICOR’s swanky Janakpuri (West Delhi) head quarter convinced me that his promotion as the internationally credible relief agency’s Director General came easy because when his academic peers crazily sought items the world could afford, the God-fearing adolescent gave his youth to the Lord. Amidst his hectic inter-continental schedules, Dino invests his time and energy in guiding the Kuki students of Delhi as the Chaplain. Looking  back, the promise in 1 Samuel 2:30 flavoured and favoured the peaking career of the relief-chief. “For those who honour  Me I will honour”.

There are times when one has to pay the price for being helpful to one’s own people. The Kuki-psyche being what it is, the tribe-name controversy partitions minds even in India’s national capital. He may maintain equidistance from the two extreme views on the vexed issue, but by virtue of his social standing, the well-meaning Chaplain is, at times, squarely blamed when some one goes wrong or something controversial on the matter is debated upon. Own folks are vulnerable to misunderstand his good intentions.

There are members who opine that the Chaplain is too liberal in his peripheral shepherding and get carried away by cricket matches. Who’s perfect anyway? His weaknesses can easily be compensated by his  integrity, concern and calmness under pressure. That he goes out on his way to scout talents to send them across the great seas to get training under Care-force, London, is simply commendable. Besides, he makes himself available to victims of misfortune in the capital and is completely sold on meeting students’ needs when he’s not playing a doting dad to his well-behaved kids.

Delhi has many Kuki dignitaries comfortably place in elitist slots of envy. But all said and done, this do-gooder  vicar of KWS is the first among equals in the midst of snobs, snubs and snarls. His popularity can be gauged by the solid support of his co-workers and subordinate staff  that he enjoys. His new package of sops and perks offered to his lower functionaries is perking up homes and enhancing inputs.

It speaks well of Dino’s leadership that when a negative comment on him is doing the round , those who matter among Kuki Delhites are ready to take up cudgels on their leader’s behalf. Spending an evening with the human dynamo, I learnt the difference between cornering people and getting them in your own corner. Savouring from close quarters the savvy savoire faire of the clairvoyant DG of EFICOR reminds me of the sagacious saying, “Make yourself necessary to the world and the world will give you bread.”

Profiling Letlal Haokip: Late Dr. Hawllhun never met Letlal. But when the latter’s bride-seeking party diffidently came with the proverbial tea-pot asking for the hand of the former’s only daughter, the former Family Welfare Doctor was overheard chirpily quipping, “ If Dino  could make good use this young lad, I don’t mind giving my daughter in marriage to him”. Some may know Letlal as Hawllhun’s son-in-law or even Pinky’s husband. However take it from me, Letlal is his own man. If you care to find out how the Asst Chaplain of Delhi KWS gate-crashed into wet birth-day bashes of tinsel-tossed studs in students’ garb and forced them to drink the Word of God, you will sit up and admire this mobile moral marvel. KWS Delhi is growing in zeal and intent. So is the man who, all agree, is the driving force behind the good gathering.

Hailing from CCpur’s Tuibong, young Letlal was a quick-tempered football-crazy and politician-friendly non-entity before he was called to big-time full-time ministry in the national capital. Completely devoid of pride and looking very much the boy-next-door at first sight, the cheerfully carefree Care-force-reinforced life-trained light-giver, Letlal is simply dynamite when he puts up a spiritual fight. It’s not in good taste that some church-goers are cribbing over the fast-lane Assistant Chaplain’s evangelistic must-haves lake a decent accommodation in an accessible locality and a two-wheeler and a sec-hand mobile hand-set to boost contacts.

Placed in his shoe, any lesser mortal would have called it a day and hung up his Bible bag. Yet, dodging barbs and mud slung at him, the leader-in-the-making is seriously absorbed in the job assigned to him at the buzz of a phone call. He welcomes arriving students and families, sees off departing ones with prayer, feeds prayer cells in different localities, visits the sick and comforts the depressed. Thick-skinned to resist criticism and tender-hearted to forgive his detractors, this organized hot-pursuer of metropolitan souls is all set to go places. The day is not far when his in-laws will be referred as Letlal’s so and so.

Stephen Haopu Touthang: It’s the special grace of God undeservedly bestowed upon us that new spiritual batsmen are in the batting line-up to better the run-rates and build on the double centuries with which Rev. Khaizakham and Rev. Chungthang had laid the solid foundation in evangelizing our community, by and large, in the turbulent face of the devil’s fiery spin-bowling to make our spiritual wickets fall. If there is any fresh entrant in the soul-seeking arena who can fit the bill to fill the void in areas the above duo can not reach, and can hold sermon-lovers equally spellbound, it’s the all-rounder Youth Secretary of MBC, Rev. Stephen Touthang.

Exuding a Sachin-like body-language as a live-wire praise and worship leader, and stifled by the stereo-type song-leading, the charged youth leader is in the process of making himself indispensable to Kuki worship as Sachin is to Indian cricket. High-decibel singing in the praise-and-worship-mode and to make hearts melt and add appetite to drink messages whole is his forte. Preaching boldly at the risk of raising the hackles of the established preachers sends his stocks soaring on the high way to catapult him to the top bracket.

What makes the Phaikoh (Ukhrul Dist)-born Bethany (CCP)-schooled one time martial arts-aficionado tick? Success didn’t come cheap for this chip-off-the-old-block seeker of truth. His dad passed away when he was in standard four leaving him, his mom and elder sis to fend for themselves. Misguided and hot-blooded, young Haopu (Stephen) stiffened his muscles with Burmese Tang (martial arts), grew up as an outlawed rebel with imaginary cause and got embroiled in shoot-outs with Burmese army. Wanted and hounded by the dreaded socialist army, Haopu fled home in 1986 only to jump from the frying pan to the fire. The indelible tattoos smeared on his body led to his arrest by suspicious Indian forces at a hilly check-post.

One wintry midnight, blind-folded, Haopu was dragged out his lock cell by three brawny brutes in uniform. His spine chilled and mouth quivered as machine-guns were loaded right under his nose. The tough rebel was drenched by drops of his own cold sweat. Fear of possible trigger-pull and the thought of immediately becoming a human-been melted down his sin-hardened heart to pulp. The criminal-on-the-run, driven against the wall, cried out to God in true repentance for divine forgiveness. God heard and soothed his troubled heart like breeze ruffling a pond. Joy flooded Haopu’s heart and a new spirit calmed his entire being from soul to sole. There and then, he surrendered his life to Lord Jesus who he promptly accepted as his personal Saviour. And  never looked back

One thing led to another. Responding to the higher calling to minister unto the Lord, Haopu resigned from his job as an UJB Head Master. 1987 saw the erstwhile Youth-With-No-Mission heaven-guided to get a foothold in the internationally acclaimed YWAM’s DTS-course in Calcutta, India. Ever teachable and a ready-learner, Stephen actually earned his spiritual spurs when he underwent a B.D course in UBS, Pune,  and got a degree in 1996. With his poor widowed mummy in no position to send money, how the never-say-die Bible student got his fees cleared bore testimony to an amazing exercise of faith on his part that proved the faithfulness of his Creator in times of adversity.

Miraculous last-minute answers to desperate prayers in moments of dire need at Bangkok airport while in transit en route to School of Worship at University of Nations, Hawaii, USA, in 1998, further gave pep to Stephen’s trust in Jehovah Jireh. Hearers weren’t far from tears when the gullible traveller narrated his penury-punctuated journey of faith to Hawaii and back. Here’s a rural guy from Myanmarese border who started from scratch, endured hardship in many a stretch and through prayerful pursuit, unlatched unmatched state of the art musical flood-gate that’s catching up fast with the imagination of the state of the heart of today’s Hill Song – inspired crazy youth force.

Presently, Rev. Stephen, with his better-half Dr. Kimneng playing efficient help-meet, and cute little daughter, Nemngaiching fast becoming the zing thing in his life, is offered more pulpits to preach from than he can handle as the new age Youth Secretary of MBC, India. The Praise-and-Worship magic that he brought home from Hawaii,  to home folks, is new wine in new bottle. Like a breath of fresh air, the new way of singing one’s heart out,  is sweeping song-lovers of their traditional feet and lifting their spirits up to intoxicating heights.

Even  its practice sessions are mobbed. Having given away his job, chief-ship, and, prospective worldly prosperity and living life on the edge, Haopu showed to his world to “sow in tears and reap in joy (Psalm 126:5) . His adventurous testimony draws one closer to the promise of Jesus in Matthew 19:29, “And everyone that had forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my neme’s sake, shall receive an hundred-fold and shall inherit everlasting life”. What a profitable deal offered to man that’s heavily tilting on man’s favour?

The author is Additional Deputy Commissioner under the government of Manipur, a Northeast state in India.