This is the story of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Motbung, a village in the state of Manipur in North East India. Simply believing and standing for God’s word against compromise brought unexpected persecution from an unbelieving, young chief to Emmanuel Baptist Church (EBC).
To fully understand what happened you need some background information as to the context of where EBC is and the prevailing conditions of the society. Most of the Thadou-Kuki people live in villages where the village chief holds absolute power. He often has hand-picked deputies which do his bidding in exchange for conditional power. Overall the system is a form of local government intended to execute law and order. However, law and order is pretty much what the chief allows with rights and wrongs determined on the chief’s interpretation. In essence—he is law and order, even to the extending of power over the Church. In a nutshell, what goes on is pretty much what the chief says and allows.
Emmanuel Baptist Church started in 1993 with the objective of starting a New Testament Baptist Church where Christ is the center and God’s word is exalted and honored. The church was the joint effort of Pastor Lun Singsit with the support of his uncle, who was village chief at that time and a believer. EBC was started for the purpose of having a place to worship God by the villagers without fear of being oppressed by neighboring villages and the liberal Christian churches of the area. However, things changed abruptly when the chief’s son took over the leadership from his father. He demanded that they follow his directives. He wanted open membership—anyone and everyone should be allowed to join their church with no restrictions (such as being saved). He wanted the church pastor to be elected by vote rather than by God’s call. (The church already had a pastor, but he wasn’t “approved” of by the chief. When the church leadership refused, he closed the church down and seized the church assets including the finances. Oppression made the believers at EBC more determined and they collected money to purchase land and build a small church there. (The period between the closing of the church to the construction of the new building was over ten years. God was faithful in providing the believers a place to meet in Shalom Academy’s chapel hall. Many of Shalom’s class rooms were used as Sunday school rooms in addition to using the chapel hall as the sanctuary.)
Persecution came in stages and in different forms. While at Shalom, the young chief did his best to stop the church from growing and living Jesus to the area. Many people from other churches made fun of both EBC and Shalom Academy. But that was nothing new. Ever since the truth was taught from a group of young people back in 1975 and people realized that church attendance, confirmation, and baptism (getting wet but never a heart change) would not save them, EBC, Shalom Academy, and other small gospel believing churches and believers have been targeted. Other groups come preaching prosperity gospels, bringing western monies with them, but without the true living Word. Add to this, the environment of fighting and factions between the government and various underground groups all seeking to control the area, life for these believers have not been easy. But by God’s grace they have persevered.
When the church finally moved from Shalom Academy to their new building, the chief proclaimed an order by which the church was forbidden to conduct weddings inside the church building. As a result, the first wedding was performed in the open air.The most recent blow came when one of the EBC members died. A young man died and his family was given 24 hours to bury the body but were not allowed to bury him in the village cemetery. The church decided to start a cemetery on their property. Along the way the church has encountered one hurdle after another. Yet they are more determined to stick together and overcome the obstacles which have made them stronger. I have watched this church go through many struggles. The crises they went through have made them more committed and caring for one another for the cause of Christ.
The original copy in Thadou-Kuki was transcribed – Sincerely, Chong Singsit for Pastor Lun Singsit
Attack on Personal Property for Standing for the Truth of God’s Word (October 2018)
About one and a half years ago I wrote a special report concerning Emmanuel Baptist Church in Motbung, a small mountainside village in Manipur, India. At that time the village chief along with his deputies threatened to close down the church if they did not adopt an open membership policy. Simply put, the church was to accept any and all persons regardless of whether or not they were scripturally saved. The chief had several years prior taken over the original church building and property wanting to appear religious without actually committing to the Lord. Emmanuel Baptist Church (EBC), wanting to follow scripture and not the chief, began meeting at Shalom Academy, using some of the facilities there in order to stay together. When a church member died and was not allowed to be buried in the village cemetery, monies were collected, in India and by some of you, to assist in purchasing land and putting up a temporary building with space for a cemetery. To walk faithful in a society bent on breaking the rules was hard but the members of EBC strove to do right. We believe that because of the faithfulness of EBC along with your prayers, God has kept the village leaders from doing what they threatened—closing down the house of God.
Fast forward now to mid- October 2018, I received a letter from my brother, Helun Singsit and Pastor Athong, Pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church. Helun was visiting Motbung (he is church planting in Siliguri, near the Nepal border, but still considered an Associate Pastor to EBC) to help officiate a wedding of one of the members. Upon his arrival to Motbung, he and Pastor Athong were summoned by the chief. They were both told to not perform the wedding and to cease ministering as theirs was not the official church of the village. Their continuing on with a separate church was splitting the village and there could only be one church in the village. If Helun and Pastor Athong refuse to obey, they would be turned out of their properties. Both men have until January 2019 to vacate their homes or comply with the order.
Both men have stated that they will not cease from doing what God has called them to do—spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. They are trusting the Lord to protect their properties. In the event the Lord allows the properties to be taken, they will not fight to keep them. They also will not surrender to the threats put on them by the village authorities. They recognize that by giving in to this threat, over time there will be other situations to submit to—possibly to the taking over of Shalom Academy and the stopping of other ministries we have in northeast India. The only recourse they have is to trust the One that can protect and strengthen.
On a personal note—this is hitting me hard. This is my childhood home that I and my siblings were born in. Motbung, my hometown, has always had a love/hate relationship with the Singsit family. Though my father was invited for the specific purpose of starting a school and a church when the village was only a few families and these things were accomplished before he passed away when I was just a little boy, over the years the village has worked hard to erase the Singsit influence and memory—all because we will not compromise on what the scriptures say—Ye must be born again!
I am asking you, the faithful prayer partners to join with us as we pray for God’s protection, His provision, and His peace upon His people at Emmanuel Baptist Church as they uphold truth and right. Please pray in light of Psalm 34:7 -8 “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them. O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” One of my prayers is for the Lord to change hearts, not to exact revenge. I do not know the end of this dilemma, but I know the One who does. I’m also counting on the Lord who completes all He starts, strengthens those He calls, and calls out to all that will follow.