The Amazing Guidance of God for the Independent Church of India

The Amazing Guidance of God for the
Independent Church of India
BY REV. D. RUOLNGUL

___
Sermon delivered at the Independent Church of India, Gospel Centenary Celebration on February 5, 2010 at Sielmat, Churachandpur, Manipur.

The way in which God has been guiding the Independent Church of India is really amazing and unique – unlike that of other Churches. From the time it was founded, the Church has been like the sky often darkened by thick dark clouds, but later on brightens up with clear blue skies when the clouds cleared. It has often passed through dark and difficult periods after which very bright days of blessings beyond imagination always follow. The nature of God’s guidance for the Independent Church of India may be compared to that of how Paul described God’s guidance as seen in the fourth and sixth chapters of second Corinthians:

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” (II Cor. 4:8-10). “…but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way; …in honour and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown and yet well-known; as dying, and behold we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” (II Cor. 6:4-10). The Lord has led the Independent Church of India from 1910 to this day.

From the very day Roberts decided to take the Gospel to the hills of Manipur South, he faced difficulties. His friends and government officials tried to dissuade him from going to Senvon. Knowing that this was God’s call he went anyway to Senvon in 1910 at the risk of his own life. The seed of the Gospel that he planted, within a short time, sprouted to spread throughout the hills of Manipur South, even to Tuithaphai (Khuga Valley) area.

However, soon after the Gospel penetrated Manipur South, opposition came not from the unbelievers, but from the believers. The American Baptist Mission claimed the whole of Manipur state as its field and tried to stop the works of Roberts in Manipur. By 1920, many new believers were persecuted. Some of them fled to Haflong, Burma and even to Mizoram. As in the case of the early Church, the persecuted Christians spread the Gospel wherever they went (Acts 8:4).

Meanwhile, their beloved leader, Pastor R. Dala died of cholera at Jakrodhor in January 11, 1922. Worried, HK Dohnuna succeeded him. While the Church was ‘dying, yet living on’, the mighty hand of God was revealed. In 1928, the Dinwiddie Memorial Bible School was established; and under Rev. Paul and Ella Rostads, the Bible School made huge progresses. Again in 1930, internal problems led to divisions within the Church. Many of the believers left the pioneer missionary Watkin R. Roberts for earthly riches. Only a few faithful believers stood by him. Without any proper financial sources, they barely managed to go on.

To add to their sorrows, their leader HK Dohnuna died in January 17, 1931. He was succeeded by Pastor Taisena. Pastor Taisena was expelled from Manipur by the authorities in January 29, 1941 and Pastor Thangngur led the Church in Manipur. It was a difficult time indeed. But their resolve to carry on the work of Watkin Roberts was not broken. The Independent Church braved the darkest and thickest clouds of trials and sufferings for the Gospel. Hard-pressed on all sides for twenty years, the Church was persecuted, but they were not abandoned. Their love for God rather increased. During those days, God was with Pastor Thangngur and others who composed many spiritual songs, loved by all and sung by everyone till today. The songs that they composed can now be found in the Independent Kohran Hlabu (The Independent Church Songbook).

The hardships that the early Church endured were clearly described by Pastor Thangngur in his letter of April 29, 1943 to Pastor Taisena. He wrote,

“The history of our today’s suffering that would become a very interesting story for the next generation is so daunting at the moment that it seems as if we are being made spectre and laughing stock for others due to poverty and deprivation. We are now not worthy to be counted amongst men. Whenever we look downward, we are downhearted; when we look up, we feel slight relief! We do not try to circumnavigate the troubles before us; we rather look unto the Lord expecting that his wills will be done.

“We knew that we have come thus far not by our own strength but by the strength of the Lord. Therefore, the Lord who began a good work in us will bring it to the conclusion so that others may see his hand through us. We dare not take part in the deeds of the unrighteous men for the sake of money, nor dare we deliberately follow the paths we knew to be wrong.

“Therefore we shall have to suffer even to the extent of martyrdom; for it is said of the apostles that they were “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name” of Jesus.

“There are several thousand persons in the ‘Phaipui biel’ (Manipur valley) but we have never heard of any one expelled from the State before. For us Christians in ‘Phaipui biel’, this is the second time that we were expelled from the State.

“Heaven rejoices at our works and blessed the church in the midst of poverty and dire needs and wants. We commit no offence against the State, nor against the missionary; rather, the works of the enemy of light falls upon the children of light. The State administrators did the will of Coleman. The joy of Coleman’s group discloses their ignorance and foolishness. Remember, the Spirit of God never helps the hand of the enemies of God. Posing as if they love our country, they instigated the public to resist the Truth. Remember this is not the way of the Lord. Satan always seems to be the victor first; but the final victory is of the Lord.

“The path trodden by Joseph of the Old Testament which is still an interesting story for the children even today will never be the path any one will willingly tread.

“Though his path is difficult,
The stars shine above;
He who goes humbly and lowly,
Is awaited by Crown;
Beyond hardships,
The Bell of Honor rings!”

The hardships they suffered did not end easily. On December 20, 1943, Pastor Thangngur died. In January 1944, Pastor H. Daia, who was ordained as a Pastor in the Presbytery of the same month was appointed to succeed Pastor Thangngur as the Field Superintendent. The Second World War was another problem they had to face. The sufferings they had to endure during those days were more than they could bear, but they were with God. Even then, God gave them new believers in Burma and Tripura. How amazing the wonderful guidance of God has been!

Come 1945, the Second World War ended. India became independent of the British rule. For the Independent Church too, the day of freedom has finally dawned. In November 18, 1949, the order of expulsion for Pastor Taisena was cancelled and TC Tienkham, the Assistant to the Chief Commissioner for Hill Affairs in Manipur permitted Pastor Taisena to enter Manipur again. The Independent Church celebrated the jubilee of freedom. In February 1951, the first General Assembly of the Independent Church was held at Senvon. The Church could now make greater progress. The Mission Headquarters was shifted to Sielmat and under Rev. Rochunga Pudaite, the Church underwent new developments. The best High School in Churachandpur was opened in Sielmat. A college was also opened soon after. Nevertheless, problems continued within the Church and in 1968, the Church split once more.

By now, the Independent Church of India has truly become the Church of the downtrodden and the poor, while being a self-supporting independent Church. Many left. But God did not. Now and then, the Church received revivification through the word of God. Prioritizing the evangelization of the unreached, the Church sent many missionaries, bringing in many new believers. Like other Churches, the Independent Church soon got back on its feet and came to be well known again.

In 1994, some members left the Church. After this, God’s blessings poured upon the Church. From Korea, friends helped us start many big projects. We acquired our own land and building in New Delhi. New buildings were constructed for the Sielmat Bible College. The Muolvaiphei Rural Health and Research Centre was established and buildings constructed through funding from the Government. The Bethesda School of Nursing was also established where hundreds of nursing students are being taught all year round. The Rural Women Upliftment Society (RWUS) worked hard to help those in need. We now have a good hostel at Hmarkhawlien, land at Guwahati and the Gospel Centenary Building and the Guest House at Sielmat, our Headquarters. We have mission fields at Manipur, Assam, Tripura, North Tripura and Karimganj (NTK), Arunachal, Bhutan, North India and Myanmar where more than one hundred (100) missionaries are spreading the Gospel to the unbelievers. God continues to give us many new believers through their ministries.

The Independent Church of India Central Choir touched hearts even in Mizoram and Nagaland through their musical ministries. The Lord has guided us thus far to become widely known, even though sometimes regarded as ‘unknown’. The musical compositions of Rev. HP Runremthang, (L) Buonglienkung, (L) Ngamlalchawl and others have reached all tribes and communities. Translating the songs into their own languages, they too worship the Lord. Though regarded as unknown, we are known.

Looking at our Church, God gave us able and qualified leaders who could hold (and have held) important offices in the Government, but left their Government offices to serve the Lord. To support our leaders, God gave us Government officers who are dedicated servants of God. Nevertheless, financial difficulties for the Church still continue. “Poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything,” the Independent Church of India has been led by God to this day.

Now, we are celebrating the hundredth year of the coming of the Gospel to our land! Looking at the way in which God has been guiding us, we can see that God will not lead us without any difficulties in the future too. But as Paul said in Acts 14:22, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” God will continue to lead the Church overcoming many hardships. Like a tree shedding its old and dry leaves before new ones grow, all obstacles will go away when the Church is to grow. After that, bigger and better leaves will grow until it blossoms forth. God will lead us by overcoming and always to overcome.

“Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
But the Church of Jesus constant will remain;
Gates of hell can never gainst that Church prevail
We have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail.”

Let the Lord be praised for having faithfully guided the Independent Church of India to this moment. All praises and glory be his forevermore!

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