Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above."
As we celebrated Christmas here in Kodaikanal, we were especially grateful for the ties of love that bind us to all of you across the many miles that separate us.Thank you for the many expressions of love that we received in cards, emails, calls, gifts, and in your thoughts and prayers.
On December 7th our family joined our five voices to nearly 10,000 Sumi Naga Baptists singing that song, "Blest Be The Tie That Binds." The fellowship was truly "like to that above!" The Sumi tribe of Nagaland was celebrating 100 years of Christianity.In 1904 the first Sumi Naga was baptized into the Body of Christ.The Sumi tribe is now nearly 100% Christian.What a testament to the American Baptist missionaries who braved the jungles and strange languages and warring tribal customs to bring the Gospel to Northeast India.What a testament to the courageous native evangelists who shared their faith despite hardship and persecution.What a testament to the grace of God to prepare the hearts of people to receive Him.
We had the privilege of representing the American Baptist Churches International Ministries at this Sumi Baptist Centenary in Nagaland.We attended two of the locations where the Sumis gathered to celebrate for 4 days.We arrived into the town of Dimapur – the only airport in Nagaland.The opening ceremonies on the evening of December 4th in Dimapur began with dances and songs and fireworks – youth choirs, adult choirs, hundreds of voices raise in praises to God.The program lasted 4 hours, one hour of which was preaching.They estimated the attendance at 8000 that night.David gave the message in the program the next morning.That afternoon they had a cultural celebration in which all the churches participating in the program performed dances and songs from their tribal heritage – lots of men leaping around with spears, warrior songs with women chanting their encouragement.What a fabulous experience and so melodic.These people are so musical that a Naga proverb says that at its birth a Naga baby doesn't cry, it sings.
We were up early on the morning of the 6th for a seven-hour drive to the town of Zunheboto to join another location of the Sumi Baptist celebrations.About 15 minutes west of Dimapur the road begins to climb into the Naga Hills.The winding, twisting mountain road goes on and on.At times it is not much more than a dirt track where landslides have taken away part of the hillside.We had to stop mid-way to change a flat tire on one of the cars.We arrived into the very chilly mountain town of Zunheboto in the mid-afternoon to a blazing fire in the courtyard of our host's home and cups of hot tea.That fire and many cups of tea were what kept us warm for the two days of our visit there.We spent 10 hours of those two days wrapped in shawls, sitting on the outdoor platform of the celebration grounds for programs of songs, prayer and preaching – most of it in the Sema language.It gave us a chance to put together our thoughts to be able to give the message on the closing night of the celebrations.
On the 8th we did the same long drive back down to Dimapur.Then began our prolonged journey back to Kodai the next day.After sitting in the Dimapur airport for 5 hours waiting for the plane to arrive from Kolkata on the 9th, getting loaded in and taxiing out to the runway, the flight was cancelled due to poor visibility. We were graciously welcomed back to our host's home for another night while we waited for a new day and clear weather for the plane to be able to take off.The delay meant that we missed all our planned connections and had to reschedule flights and train tickets.But we arrived home safely and very blessed as a family for the time we spent with the Sumi Christians in Nagaland.The sound of 10,000 voices praying and praising God together is a sound we will always carry in our hearts – a sound "like to that above."Alou Shee!(Paise the Lord! – That is the only Sema we learned during our visit – but we learned it well.)
As we send you our greetings for a Happy New Year and Blessed 2004 we would also like to share the instructions given by Paul in his letter to the Colossians – our request to you for this new year."Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery for Christ." (Colossians 4:2-3)
David and Betsy Perkins