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Monday, May 29, 2006

How two Christians from Iowa became involved with head hunters who say they are now soul hunters and are 98 percent Christian
Tim Phillips and Daniel Hurt share their experiences and love for the Nagas of northeast India while appearing with them on Capitol Hill

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

Tim Phillips being interview for Manmin TV in Korea by Johnny Kim as Daniel Hurt looks on

WASHINGTON, DC (ANS) -- It is a long way from the small Iowa city of Cedar Rapids to Nagaland, the mysterious state in northeastern India, but that is where Tim Phillips and his friend, Daniel Hurt, travel regularly to minister and be ministered to by these extraordinary people who have gone from being head hunters to becoming soul hunters.

I met up with Phillips and Hurt on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, at a all day event called "Nagalim…Discovered," in the Gold Room of the Rayburn Building on Thursday, May 25.

Nagaland for Christ sign at Capitol Hill event

During the extraordinary get-together put on by Honorary Nagalim Ambassador, Grace Collins, the Naga–American Council and Congressman Dan Burton, to inform political leaders and the media about the Naga people who are native to the land-locked region of Northeast India and who are struggling for self-determination and recognition, Phillips and Hurt shared about their love for the Naga people.

Tim Phillips, who along with his wife Pat has been working with suffering Christians since 1979, said he first became involved with the Nagas while attending a ministry conference in Bangkok, Thailand.

Naga men on Capitol Hill

“It was there,” said Phillips, “that I heard a gentleman from Nagaland share some experiences of the suffering, persecution hardships his people were going through and yet, in spite of that, he said they were taking the Gospel message out into all the earth.

“I was greatly impressed and my heart was touched mightily and I wanted to learn more about these people. I found out that the Nagas are predominantly of Mongolian by descent who settled in this particular area of India many hundreds of years ago. In the middle eighteen seventies, American Baptist missionaries who brought the Gospel message to these people who were head hunters.

Naga women in Washington, DC

“Since then, the Gospel has greatly increased in the land of the Naga people. The British were controlling India and Burma at this particular time and in the nineteen forties when the British were going to leave, they had promised to grant the Naga people their independence. However, when the Indian people took over they did not acknowledge that covenant with the British government and took control of the Naga peoples.

“They have nothing in common with the people of India with a different culture and religion and so they desired independence. Out of this time came an independence movement where the Naga people began their struggle for independence. The Indian government would not recognize this and in the nineteen fifties began to move against Nagaland where the Naga people live militarily and since 1954, over 300,000 Nagas have been killed for their faith; simply because they desired freedom and to be able to worship Jesus Christ in their own way.”

Phillips said he contacted Baptist leader, Rev. Phughoto Sema, the very man who had shared these stories in Bangkok, who invited him to visit Nagaland.

“It took me a year to get a restricted area permit,” said. “In order to go to Nagaland you can’t just have your passport and your Indian Visa, but it also requires a restricted area permit.

“After getting the necessary papers, in the late 1990s, along with friends, we flew into Calcutta and from there we flew up to the gateway city of Nagaland called Dimapur. We had an opportunity to speak in Bible colleges and churches there; and we also had an opportunity to do a revival crusade where thousands and thousands of people would come out to hear the messages that we had to bring, extremely primitive living. It is a difficult hard way of life for these people because outside of their couple of their main cities it’s really as tribal living, people living together in huts and in villages.

“That trip reinforced our desire to come along side and help these people and help meet the needs that they have. This includes literature, materials and financial support. Also, if they need us to come and minister in their Bible colleges, their churches, or their in crusades then that’s what we want to do.”

Arrested in Nagaland

Phillips revealed that and a team he had taken from Cedar Rapids on a second visit to Nagaland got into trouble with the authorities.

“We did not have our restricted area permits,” said Phillips. “The Nagas that were responsible for us to go indicated to for us to go ahead and come any way saying that they had permission from the local government to have us come in. When we arrived at the airport, myself and two pastors from Cedar Rapids, were arrested because we did not have these permits.

“It was quite an experience. The first thing they did was drive us to the local prison, threatening to put us in there for not having the restricted area permit. However, the Rev. Phughoto was able to encourage these people not to put us foreigners in their prison. Still, they took us to jail and asked us some questions and did some interrogation and decided that they would just place us under house arrest and put us in a local hotel where we were not allowed to leave our rooms except for meals.

“We were stuck there for a number of days until our very last day in Nagaland they allowed us to come out and do a one day crusade. We had to have armed Indian soldiers go with us everywhere to make sure that we wouldn’t break any laws; and they had to report back to their authorities everything that we said and did so their government officials were able to get the Gospel message in a very unique way.”

Tim Phillips then introduced his Nagaland colleague, the Rev. Daniel Hurt, an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God, who is also from Cedar Rapids.

“Daniel and I met about seven years go and he had a heart for missions and we have linked up since then,” he said. “Daniel is the founder and co-director of ‘Fire Around The World’ and we’ve had the privilege of ministering together in India, Vietnam, Laos, and other areas of needs.”

Hurt then said, “I get pretty excited when I talk about Nagaland. So many of the Nagas are Christians, and they have a desire to reach the lost those that haven’t heard the gospel yet. That’s where my passion comes in because living in America, I think just about everyone has heard the Gospel here. But in India about 1.1 billion live, some

83 percent are Hindu and probably a large percentage of these Indians haven’t heard the gospel yet; and the Nagas are devoted to evangelize them.

Nagas have pledged to send out 10,000 missionaries

“The Naga population is no larger than that of Iowa where we live and yet they have committed themselves to send out 10,000 missionaries to reach the lost, so I really admire these people.”

Daniel Hurt said that he was invited to visit Nagaland after Tim Phillips had heard him preach.

“We began to evangelize and have healing crusades there. The Nagas go on ahead of us and they put up a home made tent out of bamboo and cover it with tarps and anywhere from between 3,000 and 10,000 Indian people come out to hear The Gospel; people that have never heard the Gospel before. I can’t do that in Iowa. If you put up a tent in Iowa and maybe a dog a raccoon and 20 people might come.

“I’m really excited about this and we see many miracles where people get healed. And then, when you give an appeal for them to accept Christ and you clearly explain the Gospel, so thousands accept Christ.

“The Nagas then follow them up with trainers and pastors and they help the mainly Buddhist and Hindu converts grow in the Lord. These means that up to 99 percent of these new believers are retained for the Lord and then, many of the new converts go on to lead others to Christ. I mean, it is literally the New Testament Church in action.”

Hurt then spoke about the poverty of the people, yet how they have inspired him with their faith in Jesus Christ.

“When we go there, we are living in primitive conditions,” he said. “You’re taking a bath every day out of a half a bucket of water and you’re eating rice and just living in strange conditions, but to us it is taking us back the days of the New Testament book of Acts.

“These people are hungry to hear the Gospel and experience the signs and wonders that followed Christ and, for some reason, are following as we go and preach the Gospel. I have no explanation for it except for the Nagas are tremendous intercessors.”

When asked what he thought the Naga Christians could teach people in the United States, Hurt replied, “Devotion and discipline.

Tim Phillips then added, “I believe the key thing that they have experienced is what we would call revival since the 1970s and we have asked them what was the key to the continual move of God among the Naga people. They say said it is intercession and prayer. Just like we’ve heard in Korea -- the great move of God that’s going on in South Korea is the result of prayer and intercession and devotion of the people.

“We have seem the same thing in Nagaland where they continual to take the Gospel message out. We have been in villages and this is amazing, we’ll go into villages and their intercessors will rise up at two three o’clock in the morning and they will spend hours in prayer literally crying out to God for their people and for the lost and before they get into their day’s activity. Now we’re talking about village life, very hard life where they work the fields from sun-up till past sun-down; and yet they spend incredible amounts of time in prayer and in intercession.

Hurt said, “They do continued calls to repentance too. They’ll have special meetings on going throughout the year in different villages where they call the people to continually rend their hearts again and repent before God and I think that’s extremely vital to what’s happening with them too.

“These people have a heart that’s hungry for God and I think that’s all we need. If you’ve got a heart that’s hungry for God and no resources you can still change the world. These people are proving it and I believe it with all my heart.”

Tim Phillips concluded by saying, “Our prayer is that they would be able to become an independent people and also bring all of the Naga peoples under one set of boundaries. It is our desire that the young people that are rising up in Nagaland would catch the vision for evangelism and for intercession and worship and continue to fulfill the covenant that they made with God to send out 10,000 missionaries around the world.

“That they would pick up the torch of their parents and their grandparents and continue on with a heart on fire for Jesus Christ.”

The group Naga Cultural Troupe, who appeared on Capitol Hill, is involved in a short visit to the United States and then South Korea. To get more information, please go to www.nagamusic.org

To learn how you can help Naga Christians, please send an e-mail to Tim Phillips, who travels to Nagaland each year from his home in Iowa. His e-mail address is: tpworship@juno.com.


Dan Wooding is an award winning British journalist now living in Southern California with his wife Norma. He is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS). He was, for ten years, a commentator, on the UPI Radio Network in Washington, DC. Wooding is the author of some 42 books, the latest of which is his autobiography, "From Tabloid to Truth", which is published by Theatron Books. To order a copy, go to www.fromtabloidtotruth.com. danjuma1@aol.com. (Photo of Dan Wooding: Raul Gonzalez)

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