Debbie Mulneix and Kuinao Zimik
April 7-10 was the date of the Centennial Celebration for the Women of Phungyo Baptist Church, Ukhurl, Manipur. It was not just a celebration for the beginning of the women’s ministry, but was a tribute to the first 10 women who received Christ and were baptized in the area.
American Baptist missionaries, William and Alice Pettigrew came to Ukhrul in the late 1800’s. Alice wanted to share Christ with the women of the village, and so she began a Bible study. Some of the women who attended worked with the Pettigrews; one was a cook’s helper. When they were baptized in 1910, it was the beginning of a new life for the entire village.
The Celebration of 2010 had over 6,000 people in attendance during the four day event. Most could list their ancestors back to those original 10 women. Today, around 30% of the people in Manipur state are Christian, but the village of Ukhrul has a much higher rate. Most of the people are actually members of the Tangkhul tribe and are originally from the state of Nagaland.
An International flavor was added by guests from Crossroads Baptist Church, Denver, Colorado, USA. The Rev. Dr. Kim Skattum, Mr. Joe Zepeda, and the musical quartet, Destiny, featuring Kala Bennett, Kimberly Thompson, Mia Garneau, and Renee Seidel, added to the festivities with songs and messages that will remain with the people for many years to come. Former American Baptist Missionary, currently living in the US, Margaret Tegenfeldt spoke during the sessions. From Shillong, Meghalaya, Mr. Terrance Wanshong shared his amazing vocal talent with several songs throughout the weekend.
One of the final programs of the celebration began at the place where the original 10 women were baptized. The Celebration attendees met there and marched to the sight of the Mission Grounds, where a monument to Alice Pettigrew and her ministry was unveiled.
As I participated in this Celebration, my thoughts often turned to those missionaries who came to lands in the middle of death and destruction and brought the peace of God to all who would accept it. The procedure has changed but that tradition continues around the world today. Missionaries are no longer allowed to reside in India, but the need for short term volunteers is great. People like Margaret and Dr. Ed Tegenfeldt have “officially” retired, but they come to India annually to volunteer time with the ministry here. Their particular work is with the Leishiphung Christian Hospital in Ukhrul. There are so many things to be done. There are many workers here, but the need is nearly overwhelming, and the resources are very scarce.
The day after this wonderful celebration ended, there was a blockade set up to keep supplies from entering the state of Manipur. The reasons are political, and not as important to us as the results. Diesel is scarce, businesses are closed, there is no transportation, and hospitals are not receiving supplies. Some things are being flown in, but the country relies on its roads to deliver goods.
The Phungyo Baptist Church announced at the Celebration that they would be hosting a Youth Gathering the 17th-19th December, 2010. This gathering is now in jeopardy because of the blockade. Many people who would have helped to finance this project are struggling to help their own families. The repercussions of this blockade are mind-boggling. Manipur has one of the highest rates of HIV positive people in the area. The youth are under constant pressure to discard their Christian heritage. A Youth gathering has the potential to present the love and stability of the Lord to these young people.
Please pray for the situation in Manipur, that a PEACEFUL end might come about quickly. Keep the people of Ukhrul and the Baptist Church there in your prayers as they try to continue with their plans for the Youth Gathering this December.