Hope for the Herakas (Animists)
I (Pastor Aki) have conducted a gospel camp at this village two times earlier for the Christians living there. This time my aim was to evangelize the Heraka (animist) people there by going directly to their homes to share the gospel with them. But this is risky. I took seven men from among the men's group in my church. Four of us led a group each and we went to four different homes. My aim was to reach the leaders first, then go on to other people later.
Naga Animists Are Hard People
These people are very hard people who never want to mingle with Christians. They are afraid of Christians because Christians used to convert their people to their religion. They don’t welcome Christians to their homes either. I heard many times they get angry with people who go to their homes and share the gospel with them. Herakas are actually animists, but they are confused by the Indian Hindus. You know, there is no Naga Hindu all over India. Either a Naga is an animist or a Christian.
Deception in Nagaland
And most of the Heraka religion people are converting to Christianity in other villages. Many people from this village too converted to Christianity. So these remnants are stagnant and dormant and don’t want to open themselves to anybody now after what happened before. Hearing the news of Heraka people converting to Christianity, the Hindus in mainland India got jealous. So the Hindus told the Heraka Nagas that Christians are just like Hindus. That way the Heraka Nagas would become Hindus instead. Mainland Hindus tell the Nagas they must cling to Hindus in the mainland. This is how these people are deceived.
It is very difficult to reach them with the gospel. If they never listen to the gospel (even one time) how could they believe in the one true God! That’s why I am trying to visit their homes and share the true gospel of Jesus Christ with them.
The Common Ancestor Bridge
Christians living near these Nagas sometimes tell them about Jesus, but they are not interested in listening to them. One reason I (Pastor Ato) trust that they will listen to me is because we are from the same background, descendants of Tenyiu. Many years ago our forefathers came from the same family.
Claiming this common origin of our tribes, I can somehow penetrate to their family and share the gospel with them. With this logical view in mind I went there. Moreover, a pastor over there told me that they like to listen to my people because many of their old people understand and speak my language. They think we are better, superior to them, as we come from a better community with better facilities.
Bringing Gifts and the Gospel
We went to the top most leaders this time: chairman, secretary, Heraka leader, and another key person's family. We took 2 kg each of pork and a towel for each family to prove to them that we love them by giving them these gifts. Since Nagas love to eat pork so much, I thought they would love to receive our gifts. I went to the chairman’s family and they gladly received my gifts and listened carefully to my sharing.
Another group received the pork but did not take the towel, but somehow they listened to them sharing the gospel with them. In another family they first did not want to take the gift, saying that Christians use to do this to attract them and take them by deception, but finally they received them. The other fourth family received them gladly. We spent a good quality of time with them sharing the gospel. None of them appreciated it so much, but none of them rejected it either.
I have some plans again to go there this fall if there is no road blockage or landslides. (This time I spoiled completely my vehicle’s hap drum due to bad road conditions.) It is one of my goals to evangelize these Heraka people, though it takes time. Conversion does not take place as soon as you share the gospel with them. It is not good to go to them very often either, for some people get fed-up with you. You have to be slow and consistent in everything. Please pray for my ministry among them. One different Heraka village has been completely converted to Christianity earlier, and I did that with the help of my church members, so there is hope for these people. I am now beginning to dig out again this village. Would you pray for this project?
Get more stories about Pastor Aki's evangelism to the Heraka people and beyond in Nagaland.
*Header image by Babul roy, via Wikimedia Commons.