Northeast India Union Section

By Gordon E. Christo

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Gordon E. Christo, Ph.D. in Old Testament and Adventist Studies (Andrews University). Christo is retired and working on contract as assistant editor of the Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists and assistant editor of the Seventh-day Adventist International Biblical-Theological Dictionary. He is currently setting up a heritage center for Southern Asia Division. Some of his research on Adventist history can be seen at https://sudheritage.blogspot.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/SUDHeritage/.

Owing to the rugged hilly terrain and challenges of communication and travel, the Northeast India Union Section was the last corner of India to be entered by Adventists. In 2020 considered it is the most vibrant.

Background

The Assam Mission Field began with the arrival of the J. F. Ashlocks in Shilong in 1935.1 When the worst of the Great Depression was over, the division restored union status to the Northeast Union which had operated as a mission from 1932 to 1937. Leadership reorganized the Northeast Union with four new local missions. The state of Assam, which at that time included all the all of the northeast hill area, and Bhutan were combined into the Assam Section.2 However, Adventist activity was largely confined to the area around Shillong. That changed with the arrival of Oliver W. Lange in 1939.3 Initially, he had charge of education and YPMV. However, the church soon posted him at Jowai where he established a mission station and a school. The Hardinges who had lived in Shillong from 1915-1933 had left some seed money for a training school,4 and the Burgesses who had lived there 1930-1934 donated their house to the church, which added income to that fund.5

A big step forward in establishing the work in the northeast was the development of the Assam Training School (ATS). A search for land began in 1940,6 and the church obtained 320 acres in 1941.7 However, even before they could occupy the campus, while the school still operated in rented quarters, they already had two Mizo students. The stated purpose of the school was to reach out to other political divisions and languages of Assam.8 Lange baptized the first Mizo in November 1941 and brought many students to the school. The Assam Training School and young colporteurs spread the Adventist message where no missionary could enter.9 Pastor Lange and students compiled a list of English-reading people belonging to various hill tribes and mailed them Signs of the Times, and then enrolled those who responded in the Bible correspondence course. Thus, the interest developed in Manipur. Tom Ashlock and N. O. Dahlsten visited Ukhrul and recruited seven young men to study at ATS the following year.10

In 1971 the general realignments of the unions in Southern Asia resulted in the merging of the Northeast and Northwest Unions. The headquarters of the new combined union moved from Karmatar, already nearly a thousand km from Shillong, to New Delhi, another thousand km farther. The distance complicated matters for the Northeast, but many recognized that the work had advanced there sufficiently so that the territory would soon be organized into a separate union.11

The government of India had already that year granted full statehood to Manipur, Meghalaya, and Mizoram which had earlier been part of the state of Assam. Thus, the name of the section changed from Assam Section to Northeast India Section.

By 1975 the membership in Mizoram was close to 2,000 in 15 churches and with 26 full-time workers. The division approved the union recommendation to form a Mizo Section that would include Tirpura and Kachar. One of the reasons cited was the distance, and therefore the time and expense for travel from Shillong.12

At the end of 1981 Manipur-Nagaland was ready to be organized as a separate section with headquarters at Imphal.13 In April 1982 the union appointed its officers and executive committee.14

Organization

When the Northeast Union formed in 1983 it was 66 percent self-supporting (according to the statistical report for the quinquennum 1981-1985) The work had developed rapidly to the point where several missions were on the verge of self-support. The whole of the northeast hill area also was isolated from the rest of India, lying largely beyond Bangladesh, and travel if not by air took an extra day. The territory was more than 2,000 km from Delhi, the headquarters of the Northern Union.

In 1983 the division decided to split the Northern Union. The northern segment would retain the its present name of the Northern Union and the new union would be called the “Northeast India Union.” Its territory would consist of the “seven sisters,” the hill states of the northeast India: Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura, comprising the Manipur-Nagaland, the Meghalaya, and the Mizo Sections. The new structure would be effective January 1, 1984.15 The first officers were: president, L Hmingliana; secretary, C Pheirm; and treasurer, Jon I Konghat.16 The first constituency meeting was scheduled to be held at ATS February 15-18, 1984.17

Later Developments

When the union came into existence in 1984, the territory outside the three organized sections of Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Manipur-Nagaland were the states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. They were combined into the “Himalayan Region” and placed under the leadership of P. D. Marak at the school on Barpeta Rd.18 with the intention that the fields would be attached to the union. The name was soon adjusted to the “Himalyan Area” and recognized as a field with headquarters in Guwahati under the directorship of J. N. Topno.19 In 1987 the name changed to the Assam Region, even though it still included the state of Arunachal Pradesh where Adventism had not yet entered.20 The administrative action also stated that the territory would be understood as attached to the union.

On December 31, 1992, the division committee resolved to reorganize the Mizo Section into a conference and arranged for the constituency to convene February 25-28, 1993.21

In 1995 the year-end meetings separated the Garo Hills area from the Meghalaya Section and organized it into the West Megahalaya Section with Berun Sangma as president. The remaining Khasi and Jaintia Hills area became the East Meghalaya Section.22

On January 24, 1998, leadership reorganized the East Meghalaya Section as the Khasi Jaintia Conference.23 Immdiately after that, the West Meghalaya Section was renamed the Garo Section.24

In 1999 the union recommended the formation of the Assam Region and the Arunachal Pradesh Region as full-fledged regions25 and appointed K. A. Shimray as the director of the Assam Region,26 and C. Aitawna as the director of the Arunachal Pradesh Region.27

Administration divided the state of Nagaland from the Manipur-Nagaland Section and formed it into a separate Nagaland Region in April 2000 with M. M. Rimsu as its first director.28

The Manipur Conference was inaugurated on December 7, 2012. The first officers were Barnabas Zimik, president, Graceson Kamei, secretary, and Michael Sangma, treasurer.29

The Northeast India Union Section has the highest number of self-supporting local conferences and the highest tithe income though the membership is among the lowest of all the unions in the Southern Asia Division.

Northeast India Union Section Institutions

Brookside Adventist Higher Secondary School.
Post Laitumkhrah; Shillong 793 003, Meghalaya.

Helen Lowry Higher Secondary School.
Nisarihtlang, Vaivakawn Post; Aizawl 796 009, Mizoram.

Northeast Adventist Media Centre.
Post Box 097, Seventh-day Tlang; Aizawl 796 001, Mizoram.

Voice of Prophecy Correspondence School.
Nongthymmai; Shillong 793 014, Meghalaya.

Voice of Prophecy Correspondence School.
Seventh-day Tlang; Aizawl 796 009, Mizoram.

Executive Officers

Presidents: L. Hmingliana (1984-1988); J. I. Konghat (1988-1991); J. .M Dkhar (1992-1995); C. Pheirim (1996-2000); L. Colney (2001-2010); L. Lyngdoh (2010-2015); Zimik (2015 - ).

Secretaries: C. Pheirim (1984-1991); H. Lalnilawma (1992-1995); M. .M Rimsu (1996-2005); B. R Sangma (2006-2010); C. C. Dkhar (2010-2012); Z. Renthlei (2013-2015); C. Tawkthankga (2016-2019).

Treasurers: J. I. Konghat (1984-1988); D. K. Baroya (1988-1996); S. M. Kandulna (1997-2003); S. Kashipri (2004-2010); P. Passi (2011- ).

Sources

“Arunachal Pradesh Region Director.” Northeast India Union Committee Minutes, March 31, 1999.

“Assam and Arunachal as Full-Fledged Regions.” Northeast India Union Committee Minutes, March 24, 25, 1999.

“Assam Property.” Minutes of the Southern Asia Division Committee, December 16-23, 1934.

“Assam Region.” Minutes of the Northeast India Union Committee, November 23-25, 1987.

“Assam Region Director.” Northeast India Union Committee Minutes, March 31, 1999.

Dahlsten, N. O. “The Naga Story.” Eastern Tidings, July 1, 1952.

“East Meghalaya Field Name–Khasi Jaintia Conference.” Division Committee Minutes, December 30, 1997.

Fernando, R. S. “A Visit to Assam.” Eastern Tidings, June 15, 1941.

Fernando, R. S. “Assam.” Eastern Tidings, December 1941.

Guild, Cecil B. “India Unions are Re-aligned.” Eastern Tidings, January 1971.

Hardinge, Mirriam. “Beginnings of the work in Assam,” Eastern Tidings, October 1983.

“Himalayan Area.” In Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1987.

“Himalayan Region.” In Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1985-1986.

Lange, O. W. “From India’s N-Eastern Frontier.” Eastern Tidings, December 15, 1946 (Northeast India Union Special Supplement).

Loasby, F. H. “Propsecting in the Assam Hills.” Eastern Tidings, December 15, 1940.

“Manipur–Nagaland Section.” Minutes of the Northern Union Committee, 1981.

“Manipur–Nagaland Section.” Minutes of the Northern Union Committee, 1982.

“Meghalaya Section Renamed” Northeast India Union Committee, December 8, 1995.

Minutes of the Southern Asia Division Executive Committee, November 2, 1983.

“Mizo Section—Organization Under Conference Status Approved.” Minutes of the Division Committee, December 31, 1992.

“NEIU–West Meghalaya Section, Name Change, Garo Section.” Division Committee Minutes, February 3, 1998.

“Northeast India Section – Reorganization.” SUDAC Minutes, June 3, 1975.

“Northeast India Section Reorganization.” Northern Union Committee Minutes, May 11, 1975.

“Northeast India Union–Officers” and “Northeast India Union–Constituency Meeting.” Division Committee Minutes, November 2-7, 1983.

“Northeast India Union.” Minutes of the 3rd meeting of the 4th Biennial Session of Southern Asia Division, 1937

“O. W. Lange and R. S. Fernando’s Expense.” Minutes of the Northeast Union Committee, November 9, 1939.

Sailo, Lallianzuala. “The Beginnings of the Work in the Lushai Hills.” Eastern Tidings, December 1946.

“The History of Manipur Conference.” Unpublished manuscript. Manipur Conference, Imphal, Manipur, India, no date.

Notes

  1. O. W. Lange, “From India’s N-Eastern Frontier,” Eastern Tidings, Dec 15, 1946 (Northeast India Union Special Supplement), 1.

  2. “Northeast India Union,” Minutes of the 3rd Meeting of the 4th Biennial Session of Southern Asia Division. # 5605, 1397, 1398.

  3. “O W Lange and R S Fernando’s Expense,” Minutes of the Northeast Union Committee, November 9, 1939, # 6935, 1813.

  4. Mirriam Hardinge, “Beginnings of the work in Assam,” Eastern Tidings, October 1983, 5.

  5. “Assam Property,” Minutes of the Southern Asia Division Committee, December 16-23, 1934, # 5056, 1209.

  6. F. H. Loasby, “Prospecting in the Assam Hills,” Eastern Tidings, December 15, 1940, 7 (describes how land was found in Jowai).

  7. R. S. Fernando “Assam,” Eastern Tidings, December 1941.

  8. R. S. Fernando, “A Visit to Assam,” Eastern Tidings, June 15, 1941, 6.

  9. Lallianzuala Sailo, “The Beginnings of the Work in the Lushai Hills, Eastern Tidings, December 1946, 2.

  10. N. O. Dahlsten, “The Naga Story,” Eastern Tidings, July, 1, 1952, 5.

  11. Cecil B. Guild, “India Unions are Re-aligned,” Eastern Tidings, January 1971, 1.

  12. “Northeast India Section reorganization,” Northern Union Committee Minutes, May 11, 1975, #75-143, 24; “Northeast India Section–Reorganization,” SUDAC Minutes, June 3, 1975, #75-263, 51, 52. See also SUDAC Minutes, 75-528, 121.

  13. “Manipur–Nagaland Section,” Minutes of the Northern Union Committee, 1981 # 81-297.

  14. “Manipur–Nagaland Section,” Minutes of the Northern Union Committee, 1982 # 82-48.

  15. Minutes of the Southern Asia Division Executive Committee, November 2, 1983 # D 83-107/369, 133. The action was to request the GC for authorization and for this to be effective January 1, 1984.

  16. “Northeast India Union–Officers,” Division Committee Minutes, Nov 2-7, 1983, # D 83-110/372, 136

  17. “Northeast India Union –Constituency Meeting,” Division Committee Minutes, November 2-7, 1983, #D111/373, 136.

  18. See the “Himalayan Region,” in Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1985, 1986).

  19. “Himalayan Area,” in Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1987), 326.

  20. “Assam Region,” Minutes of the Northeast India Union Committee, November 23-25, 1987, # 87-103, 52.

  21. “Mizo Section—Organization Under Conference Status Approved,” Minutes of the Division Committee, December 31, 1992, #92-690, 273.

  22. “Meghalaya Section Renamed,” Northeast India Union Committee, December 8, 1995, # 95-151, p. 5.

  23. “East Meghalaya Field Name–Khasi Jaintia Conference,” Division Committee Minutes, December 30, 1997, # 97-598, 207.

  24. “NEIU – West Meghalaya Section, Name Change, Garo Section,” Division Committee Minutes, February 3, 1998, #98-020, 20.

  25. “Assam and Arunachal as Full-Fledged Regions,” Northeast India Union Committee Minutes, March 24, 25, 1999, # 99-30, 12.

  26. “Assam Region Director,” Northeast India Union Committee Minutes, March 31, 1999, # 99-66, 23.

  27. ‘Arunachal Pradesh Region Director,” Northeast India Union Committee Minutes, March 31, 1999, # 99-62, 22.

  28. “The History of Manipur Conference,” unpublished manuscript (Manipur Conference, Imphal, Manipur, India, no date), 7, 8.

  29. Ibid., 16.

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Christo, Gordon E. "Northeast India Union Section." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 28, 2021. Accessed January 19, 2022. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=4ALQ.

Christo, Gordon E. "Northeast India Union Section." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 28, 2021. Date of access January 19, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=4ALQ.

Christo, Gordon E. (2021, April 28). Northeast India Union Section. Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved January 19, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=4ALQ.