After spending a couple of days after the Feast in Agra, India, with our brethren there, Jolinda and I departed Agra on Oct. 20. We traveled by car to the Delhi airport and then took a flight to Aizawl in the state of Mizoram.
Mizoram is unlike any other part of India that we have seen. It’s located in the northeastern part of India near the border of Myanmar. Mizoram means “land of mountains” and that describes it well. It’s a land of rolling hills, valleys, rivers and lakes. The Mizo Mountains, which dominate the topography of the state, are more than 6,500 feet high. As many as 21 major hills, mountain ranges or peaks of different heights run through the length and breadth of the state, with flat plains scattered here and there. This state is green, tropical and mountainous.
Aizawl, where we are staying, is the state capital and is over 4,000 feet above sea level. The city is built on the mountain side with winding streets that zig zag up the mountain side. The streets are very narrow and most are just wide enough for two cars to pass.
Most striking is that Christianity is the largest religion (87%, predominantly Presbyterian) in Mizoram. We’ve had a relationship with the Mizo people for many years. They contacted UCG originally back in 1996. We have a friendship and a working relationship with them, as they believe and teach most all of the doctrines we see in the Bible. They have accepted our fundamental beliefs and have been approved by UCGIA to translate our booklets into their Mizo language.
The leadership in UCG Mizoram has a desire to reach out and unite Sabbath-keeping churches in their state of Mizoram, and for the past decade they have been doing just that. They have several small churches with 400-plus members in the state all under the name “United Church of God Mizoram.” We visited one of those churches in the village of Mualkhang. This was our third visit to this village. There are 45 members in their congregation and they invited us to dedicate their newly built church building. Members from the other Church of God congregations in the region came to support them and participate in the dedication service.
It was encouraging to see others attend this special afternoon, as the trip to their village was very difficult. The winding roads are sometimes narrow and in terrible condition. Jolinda and I swayed from side to side in the vehicle as we traveled on some of the worst roads I’ve ever seen. Sections of the blacktop were nearly completely washed out, with very rocky sections and some sections with deep ruts and holes. We had a great driver, but we were often on the edge of our seats. It was truly inspiring to see brethren from these other villages make this kind of sacrifice to travel these roads to support each other.
Our driver today was an elder in the Church of God (Seventh Day). He is not a member of UCG Mizoram, but is supportive. He said the “Church of God (Seventh Day) Mizoram” has religious beliefs that are closer to ours than they are to the organization based in Denver, Colorado. He said he enjoys the fellowship with UCG and considers us his brothers.
The seeking of unity was inspiring to me as this elder and the UCG Mizoram elder both are focusing on the many things they have in common and not the differences. I was reminded of scriptures of how much God desires unity, oneness and peace. It’s nice to see this dynamic in action for a change.
The city of Aizawl had two Sabbath-keeping congregations which began communicating with each other years ago. Last year this group of about 45 made the decision as a congregation to join United Church of God Mizoram. The UCG Mizoram leadership is working with them closely and teaching them more about the Holy Days. They do believe it’s important to keep the holy days, but do not completely understand their meaning. However, they are eager to learn and be united and as soon as a location can be located or a tentative location remodeled, the two groups here in Aizawl will begin meeting together.
After our morning service, we had the customary tea break and then enjoyed group songs as well as vocal solos and duets from children and adults. I wish you could hear them sing. They have beautiful voices!
On Sunday, Oct. 23, we visited a village which was about 1½ hours from Aizawl. We were told this congregation 15 years previously discontinued their relationship with “UCG Mizoram” because they believed that Pentecost should always be on the 6th of Sivan, while the UCG group correctly believed you should “count 50.” For years this division continued. At times when visiting Mizoram we were told there were others whom they referred to as "those who count” and "those who don’t count” Pentecost.
After 15 years, this small group contacted the leaders in UCG Mizoram to discuss the possibility of restoring their relationship—as they had changed their belief in how to count Pentecost. Of course this was good news and subsequently more communication between church leaders began. While we were visiting the congregation that day, we heard many comments that they want to preach the gospel in Mizoram and feel they can accomplish more if they are united with the UCG Mizoram congregations.
Having translations of our study booklets in the Mizo language has been very helpful for them to share the gospel. The Mizo language study booklets are a very helpful tool and huge blessing to members and prospective members who seek to grow.
There are now seven congregations who are part of UCG Mizoram with about 420 total members. The last time I visited here three years ago, there were four congregations. God has blessed these people as they strive for unity and desire to collectively find ways to preach the gospel.