In 1894 Bill and Elizabeth Pettigrew, American Baptist missionaries from Ireland, brought the gospel to the spirit-worshipping headhunters of Manipur who inhabited the northeast corner of India. Their initial foray brought them to the Mao people, one of several Naga tribes who originated from China many centuries ago. The Mao people rejected the Pettigrews and their gospel message. Eventually they turned to a neighboring Naga tribe called the Tangkul who welcomed the gospel. When the Tangkul gave up their animistic practices to enter into a personal relationship with Christ, God blessed them with a standard of living and health that became the envy of their neighbors, the Maos. Eventually many Mao people accepted Christianity to get these outward benefits without understanding the priority of spiritual regeneration. The anticipated benefits didn’t materialize and the Mao people remained backward and weak. Seventy years later…
The four of us settled into our front-row seats in the cavernous Mao church in Manipur, India. The large choir of Mao women had assembled directly in front of us. The Mao people had written a special song to honor and welcome us to their village. As they began to sing, an unforgettably haunting wail pierced my heart. Translated into English, their words were…
Among the races God created
He gave the white man…
Love and the desire to love
To herald the gospel of Jesus
To all four corners of the earth
…Despising their very own lives
To bring the gospel of life to the Mao people
They come bringing the good news
But our revered forefathers
Did not accord them happy welcome
Therefore our ancestors
Lived a life of head-hunting
Not seeking the Giver of Life
But the boast of worldly living
This is why the Mao tribe
Suffers backwardness and weakness…
Today we look forward
To the kind visit by you
We wait to welcome you
You who come to bestow with blessings to bless
May the Holy Spirit work healing in and through you…
According to a Mao leader, by the late 1920s the Mao tribe knew they had made a mistake when they refused the white missionaries. But those who became Christians did so just to get material blessings from the Lord. And since they lacked solid Bible teaching their Christianity became just another thread in the fabric of their predominantly animistic culture. Their faith was lifeless, powerless, and institutionalized. To make things worse, the government had sealed off the area from foreigners because of violence between tribes. No foreign missionary had ever spent more than a day among the Mao people to teach them. But God had not forgotten them. In the Mao tribe He had kept a remnant of believers who would humble themselves before Him. Among them was a prominent medical doctor and his wife, Dr. Lorho and Apin.
These believers, the leaders of the churches, were convinced that the stubborn backwardness of their tribe was due to their ancestors’ rejection of the gospel. They set aside land for a House of Prayer and a Prayer Mountain. During a week of prayer and fasting in 1994, these Mao leaders dedicated their entire tribe to God in repentance for the sin of their ancestors. The Lord heard their cries.
In October, 1999, God sent Brent K., Steve K., and their team from Window of Opportunity into the area. During this one-day trip they led the Mao leaders in a prayer service of identificational repentance to God for the sins of their ancestors. Brent repented on behalf of the British who had colonized the Nagas and the Maos on behalf of their forbears who had rejected the gospel. The curse was broken. The stage was set for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit during Window of Opportunity’s return visit in March 2000.
God assembled a “special” team for the mission. Joining Brent and medical missionary Steve were Ann J. of the U. S. Center for World Mission and myself with The Elijah Challenge. The Maos always refer to missionaries as “the whites.” They were surprised to see among “the whites” two missionaries who were not white but rather looked very much like them.
That first night, as I sat listening to the Mao women welcome us with their eerily beautiful hymn, I felt that God had brought us to the Mao people on an historic mission. “Today we look forward to the kind visit by you,” they sang. “We wait to welcome you, you who come to bestow with blessings to bless. May the Holy Spirit work healing in and through you.” They had waited decades for God to send someone to bring healing and restoration. Were we the ones?
The Maos had scheduled three full days of ministry for our team. Morning and afternoon we conducted outdoor crusades in a large field, and in the evenings the team split up to minister in different local churches. God poured out His Spirit in a way the Mao people had never seen. Thousands came forward, sometimes nearly every soul in a meeting, to give up animism and institutional religion to receive Christ as sole Lord and Savior. During these meetings, Steve K., Ann J., and local doctors conducted free medical clinics in a tent on the edge of the field.
Hundreds of people came forward during the meetings to be healed by Jesus of their infirmities. On the first day I stood in front of them and asked Jesus to show His power and grace to them. I asked the people to wave their hands at me if they had been healed after the prayer. A sea of hands went up to testify that the Holy Spirit had released His power. Immediately, people testified publicly about what the Lord had done. Young people said they had been delivered from the spirits of pornography, profanity, and depression.
On the morning of the third day, Brent K. and Simon Haqq ministered to a crowd of five to ten thousand people. Many of these came forward to receive the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Cripples were touched by the power of God and stood up to walk as the Holy Spirit came upon the people.
The climax of the three days for me was the last crusade meeting. We had come not just to win souls, but to set a revival fire that would spread after we left. At this meeting I taught about the impartation of God’s power for all believers to preach the gospel. I invited those who wanted this power to come forward. Hundreds of Mao believers stepped forward. Laying my hands on each one according to 2 Timothy 1:6-7, I prayed for the impartation of the spirit of love, power, and a sound mind. I challenged them put to use immediately what God had just given them by faith. I asked those in the crowd with eyesight problems to come up for ministry by the believers. People streamed to the front. I instructed the newly-empowered believers, some of whom had just been saved during the meetings, to lay their hands on these blind and visually-impaired. In Mark 16:17-18 Jesus promises that believers will lay hands on the sick, and they will get well. In front of that great crowd of people, Jesus kept His word and performed powerful miracles through “ordinary” believers. Blind eyes were opened…people whose sight was severely impaired testified that they could now see clearly! The testimonies multiplied. The lame walked and other miracles took place as believers ministered in the name of Jesus. Among these believers was an exuberant Dr. Lorho. That day God equipped His Mao army to win souls with power.
God heard the believers who had come together in unity to repent and seek healing for their tribe. He sent us, giving us the privilege of bringing blessing, healing, and restoration. Let us pray that God will send more workers to the Mao people to help the leaders teach and disciple the believers in preparation for an even greater endtime harvest.