North Bengal Section

By Moses Lugun, and Gordon E. Christo

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Moses Lugun has been president of North Bengal Section since 2015.

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/.

North Bengal Section is a part of Northern India Union Section of the Southern Asia Division of the Seventh-day Adventists. Its headquarters is in Alipurduar District, West Bengal, India.

Territory: The state of Sikkim; and the districts of Alipurduar, Cooch Behar, Dakshin Dinajpur, Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Maldah, and Uttar Dinajpur in the state of West Bengal.

Statistics: (June 30, 2020): Churches 51; Membership: 10,116; Population, 18,956,455

Early Developments

The first Adventist to enter the territory of North Bengal was Dores Alanzo Robinson in February 1896, who visited Darjeeling a mere three months after he arrived in India.1 In 1899, Robinson conducted a series of meetings in the local town hall, but after some objections from local Christians, he had to move it to large room offered by a hotel owner.2 Several were baptized, but within a few years, many members had moved away.3 While Sister Jewet and her daughter were canvassing in Darjeeling in 1903, they witnessed to a Mohammedan man who came from the tea estates to Calcutta to be baptized.4

The earliest local pioneers in North Bengal were Upendra Nath Haldar and Jiten Sircar. There is a record of them working in Malda District in 1939. In Rohanpur, 20 miles from Malda, they had baptized ten persons.5

The first church in North Bengal was organized in Chakowakheti in 1941. Lal G. Mookerjee reported that a group of persons in Chakoakhali [sic] had earlier received the message of the Sabbath from a Punjabi Christian Sadhu through D. K. Seth Kujur, who later taught the children of 15 Sabbathkeepers.6 D. D. Marjee and family are reported to have obtained a tract concerning idol worship in the 1930s. Impressed, they wrote to the address on the pamphlet, which was the Calcutta Mission at 36 Park St. In response, Mookerjee was said to have sent Haldar and Jiten Sircar to meet them. On the last Sabbath of December of 1940, ten persons were baptized. Eight more were baptized on April 19 during the Annual Meetings which were held at Chakowakheti in 1941.Those meetings were attended by seven workers and 150 other people. The church was organized that day on April 19 with 21 members. A communion service was conducted as well, and U. N. Haldar was ordained into the ministry. 7

The seed for the Barobisha Church was sown by U. N. Haldar. However, K. S. Ekka did the follow-up work, traveling from Chakowakheti on bicycle and giving Bible studies. On Sabbath, April 29, 1944, L. G. Mookerjee baptized nine candidates including Joymasih Tirkey and Samuel Bara, and organized the church with thirteen members. He also conducted the Lord's Supper and performed a marriage service for Seth Kujur and his wife, a graduate nurse. He mentioned that Bishtoo Boro was the first person from Mech tribe to be baptized among the Boro from Duars.8

Probably the first Adventist to reside in Kalimpong was Catherine M. Raymond in the 1940s, who retired there after her husband F. O. Raymond passed away. She used to give Bible studies and hold Sabbath School in her home.9 She bequeathed her estate in Kalimpong to the Church, and from that Raymond Fund, the school site in Falakata was purchased.10

Allan Maberly from Australia was the earliest missionary to work in Kalimpong.11 He was assisted by a Tibetan, Hsuen Ming Shan, and an Indian, B. L. Albert.12 Maberly started a medical work among the Tibetans daily at six different locations. Services were held in his home.13 The Kalimpong Church was organized in 1950 by two officers of the Division, Robert H. Pierson and Marin E. Kemmerer. Others present were Eric M. Meleen, Frank E. Spiess, and Amirtham from the Union.14 With hopes of gaining easier access, Tibet was transferred from China to the Southern Asia Division.15R. J. King, another missionary from Australia, dedicated the Church in Kalimpong on June 1, 1959.16

The first Adventist workers in Sikkim were Iqbal Masih and his wife. In 1975 after Sikkim joined the Republic of India, they were sent to Deorali, Gangtok, where they opened the Himalayan Better Health Clinic.17 Iqbal, a compounder, and his wife, a nurse, were joined a few months later by Dr. Glenn Christo and his wife, Margaret, who moved there from Ranchi soon after his graduation from Christian Medical College, Vellore. Margaret, an office secretary, quickly learned to give injections and deliver babies since it was against Tibetan culture for a male to examine their women.18 The clinic was inaugurated formally by the Honorable Chief Minister Kazi Lhendup Dorji, who cut the pink ribbon to officially open the Himalayan Better Health Clinic at Deorali on November 5, 1975.19

A church was organized in Sathali with eight members in 1946 through the efforts of K. S. Ekka.20 Later, J. N. Topno, B. M. Kujur, and Manmail Kujur are said to have conducted meetings here to revive the church.

Organizational History

The Chokowakheti Mission Station was established in 1939 as part of the West Bengal Mission under the leadership of L. G. Mookerjee. However, from 1944-1947, the Chakowakheti Mission Station was administered by the East Bengal Mission (now Bangladesh).21

After the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, the North Bengal Mission Field (unorganized) had its headquarters moved back to India. Mission stations at that time were in Barobisha, Chokowakheti, Maktaigaon, Palasguri, and Sathali. Initially the headquarters was in Kurseong,22 but the following year, it was listed in Shillong, and the Union officers cared for the administration.

In 1949, the North Bengal Mission was reorganized as the North Frontier Mission, and the following year headquarters moved to “Winston,” Kalimpong.23

In 1951, the Mission was divided into the Himalayan Mission and the North Central Mission. The Himalayan Mission included the territory of Darjeeling District, Nepal, Sikkim, and Bhutan with just the one church in Kalimpong, with, for the first time, a director, W. A. Hilliard.

The North Central Mission encompassed the territory of North Bengal and had its headquarters in Chota Solbandha in Sahibganj. Barko Kisku served as director.24

In 1952, in a major reorganization, the North Central Mission comprising North Bengal merged the East Bengal Mission with the rest of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa. The Himalayan Mission remained unorganized.25

In 1954, the Southern Asia Division Committee urged dropping of the perceived as offensive term “Mission” from the names of all organizations. Accordingly, the Himalayan Mission was renamed as the Himalayan Church.

With the departure of Maberly in 1961, R. J King was appointed director, and territories of Bihar and Bengal north of the river Ganges were added.26

In 1963, Tibet was removed and the Himalayan Church unit was absorbed into the East India Section.27

In 1995, the North Frontier Region was again organized, and it was comprised of the Indian state of Sikkim and the districts of Cooch Behar, Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Malda, North Bengal, South Dinajpur, and West Dinajpur.

In 1998, the North Frontier Region was reorganized as the West Bengal Section with the rest of the state of West Bengal moved from the East India Section.

In the year 2000, the South Bengal Section was organized, and two years later, the West Bengal Section was renamed the North Bengal Section. It has retained that name even though the state of Sikkim was added in 2007.

The headquarters was located in Siliguri from May 1996 to September 1997. To save on rent, the office was moved to Mukti Para in Falakata from October 1997 – March 2003 and then to Parangapar, Falakata, from April 2004 to February 2006. The headquarters office was relocated to the campus of Raymond Memorial School in Falakata in 2007.

Executive Officers

North Bengal Mission Field

President: Christian J. Jenson (1948-1949)

North Frontier Mission Field

President: Christian J. Jenson (1949-1950).

North-Central Mission

President: Barko Kisku (1951-1952).

North Frontier Region

Director: J. R. Tudu (1995-1996).

Treasurer: Dilip Tirkey (1995-1996).

West Bengal Section

President: S. B. Bairagee (1997-1998); J. R. Tudu (1998-2002).

Secretary: S. Kisku (1997-1999).

Treasurer: G. R. Tudu (1997-1999); Henry Lazarus (2000-2002).

North Bengal Section

President: J. R. Tudu, (2002-2010); J. M. Kujur (2011-2015); Moses Lugun (2015- ).

Secretary-treasurer: H. B. Bairagee (2003-2010); Christopher Kisku (2010-2018); Marcus Topno (2018- ).

Sources

Christo, Margaret Kurian. “Sikkim Secretary.” Missions Quarterly, January 1, 1982.

Fernando, R. S. “Baptisms in the Northeast.” Eastern Tidings, October 1, 1946.

Ham, A. L. “President’s Report of the Biennial Period.” Eastern Tidings, April 16, 1950.

Hansen, L. F. “A Glimpse of Darjeeling.” ARH, November 5, 1903.

Hillard, Wm. A. “Kalimpong Beginnings.” Eastern Tidings, Jan. 15, 1951.

King, R. J. “Church Sentinel in the Himalayas.” Australasian Record, June 8, 1959.

Lowry, R. S. “Southern Asia Division Report.” Southern Asia Tidings, July 1, 1975.

Maberly, Alan, “Among the Tibetans.” Australasian Record, March 29, 1954.

Maberly, Alan. “Facing the Unfinished Task.” Australasian Record, February 8, 1954.

Minutes of the Southern Asia Division Committee, March 24, 1949; June 7, 1949. Southern Asia Division Archives, Krishnagiri District, Tamil Nadu, India.

Mookerjee, L. G. “A Visit to Barobisha and Chakoakheti.” Eastern Tidings, June 15, 1944.

Mookerjee, L. G. “A Trip to West and North Bengal and Khunti Stations.” Eastern Tidings, January 15, 1940.

Mookerjee, L. G. “Around the Annual Meetings in the Northeast.” Eastern Tidings, May 15, 1941.

Peak, H. M. “Raymond.” Eastern Tidings, Nov. 1, 1946.

Rawson, A. E. “Voice of Prophecy Meetings in the Northeast.” Eastern Tidings, June 1, 1957.

Robinson, D. A. “Calcutta.” ARH, March 31, 1896

Robinson, D. A. “India.” ARH, August 1, 1899.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association. Various years. https://www.adventistyearbook.org/.

Spicer, W. A. “Our First News from Far Assam,” ARH, July 14, 1903.

Notes

  1. D. A. Robinson, “Calcutta,” ARH, March 31, 1896, 204.

  2. D. A. Robinson, “India,” ARH, August 1, 1899, 495.

  3. L. F. Hansen, “A Glimpse of Darjeeling,” ARH, November 5, 1903, 16.

  4. W. A. Spicer, “Our First News from Far Assam,” ARH, July 14, 1903, 14

  5. L. G. Mookerjee, “A Trip to West and North Bengal and Khunti Stations,” Eastern Tidings, Jan. 15, 1940, 5-6.

  6. Ibid.

  7. L. G. Mookerjee, “Around the Annual Meetings in the Northeast,” Eastern Tidings, May 15, 1941, 4-5.

  8. L.G. Mokerjee, “A Visit to Barobisha and Chakoakheti,” Eastern Tidings, June 15, 1944, 5.

  9. H. M. Peak, “Raymond,” Eastern Tidings, November 1, 1946.

  10. “Falakata Transport Equipment,” Minutes of the Division Committee, #11157, March 24, 1949; “Northeast Union High School,” Minutes of the Division Committee, #11158, March 24, 1949; “Falakata Property Purchase,” Minutes of the Southern Asia Division Committee, #11257, June 7, 1949.

  11. Alan Maberly, “Facing the Unfinished Task,” Australasian Record, Feb. 8, 1954.

  12. Alan Maberly, “Among the Tibetans,” Australasian Record, March 29, 1954, 4.

  13. A. E. Rawson, “Voice of Prophecy Meetings in the Northeast,” Eastern Tidings, June 1, 1957, 1.

  14. Wm. A Hillard, “Kalimpong Beginnings,” Eastern Tidings, Jan. 15, 1951, 6.

  15. A. L. Ham, “President’s Report of the Biennial Period,” Eastern Tidings, Apr. 16, 1950, 4.

  16. R. J. King, “Church Sentinel in the Himalayas,” Australasian Record, June 8, 1959, 1.

  17. R. S. Lowry, “Southern Asia Division Report,” Southern Asia Tidings, July 1, 1975, 4-5.

  18. Margaret Kurian Christo, “Sikkim Secretary,” Missions Quarterly, Jan. 1, 1982, 19.

  19. Sikkim Herald, Information Service of Sikkim, Nov. 6, 1975, reproduced in Southern Asia Tidings, January 1, 1976, 4.

  20. R. S. Fernando, “Baptisms in the Northeast,” Eastern Tidings, October 1, 1946, 8.

  21. In the 1948 Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, the Jalpaiguri Mission Station is listed between the Jarlipar and Khulna Mission Stations. See page 186.

  22. Ibid.

  23. Seventh-day Yearbook, 1951, 204.

  24. Seventh-day Yearbook, 1952, 189.

  25. Seventh-day Yearbook, 1953, 195.

  26. Seventh-day Yearbook, 1963, 223.

  27. Seventh-day Yearbook, 1965/66, 217.

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Lugun, Moses, Gordon E. Christo. "North Bengal Section." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. September 15, 2021. Accessed January 25, 2022. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=IALA.

Lugun, Moses, Gordon E. Christo. "North Bengal Section." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. September 15, 2021. Date of access January 25, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=IALA.

Lugun, Moses, Gordon E. Christo (2021, September 15). North Bengal Section. Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved January 25, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=IALA.