The Soul Hunters of Central Asia

The most Baptist state in the world—Nagaland—is vying to become a powerhouse for cross-cultural missions.

Your head would be decorating this drawing room had you met my forefathers a hundred years ago," quips Pihoto Khala. He is speaking to a visitor as he recollects the Naga peoples' century-long journey from headhunting to Christianity.

Today, images of Jesus Christ, not desiccated human skulls, adorn Khala's small house in the hills around Kohima, the capital of India's northeast state of Nagaland. The region, once notorious worldwide for its savagery, has now become India's most Christian-dominant area. It's known as "the most Baptist state in the world."

Nagaland actually lives up to its billing. Some 60 percent of Nagaland's 1.9 million people are Baptists, worshiping in more than 20 groups. Tucked away in a remote corner of the world, Nagaland's people are becoming the soul hunters of Central Asia. Christianity Today recently spent a week with Naga Christians to hear their story.

From Animism to Christ

On a recent Sunday morning, a Kohima sanctuary reverberated with the sounds of "Trading My Sorrows," by American singer/songwriter Darrell Evans.

Young Naga Christians shouted, "Yes, Lord; Yes, Lord; Yes, Yes, Lord."

After the service, Alem Terhuja, a young music teacher who trains teenagers for youth fellowship, told CT, "I can't even imagine life without Christ. Christ is my anchor. I believe Christ is the one who keeps you going through thick and thin."

Another worshiper, Atola Subong, told CT that she started a ministry to disciple young girls in Meghalaya, an Indian state neighboring Nagaland.

"Christianity is the best thing that has happened to me," Subong said. "Christ has fulfilled my deeper yearnings. It has done so much good for us. We want to share with others."

This desire is audacious, considering Nagaland's geography ...

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