Dispatch India 2013:
Headhunters? Stuart! Nobody said ANYTHING about HEADHUNTERS!
The village of Tuli (rhymes with Julie) is literally in the jungle. I mean deep river gorges that rise up more than 200 feet to palm covered peaks above the cappuccino-colored muddy waters of the Milak (sounds like “me lock”) River. The heavy green vegetation is so thick that it is impossible to walk more than 5 feet into the tall jungle without a band of machete-wielding natives. It’s the monsoon season here, and the rains have come. Who knows what the Celsius conversion is, but it is 100% sweltering. Everyone, the men, the women, and the young people, all carry sweat rags, men smearing and wiping, and women dabbing and blotting, every few minutes. I picked up on this cultural cue and started carrying a white tube sock along so I could mimic the locals and fit in better. I am staying with a family here and they have given me the use of a nice floor fan. It’s on a 15 foot extension cord (actually 2 long green wires, bare on the ends, that you just stick into the socket), and I carry it as I move from room to room like an oxygen tank.
(I literally just smashed a wicked looking bug the size of a small Tonka truck. It was flying around the room, buzzing like an Apache attack helicopter gunship. It was after my head. I was hopping and hooting and swinging one of my number 14s like a mad samurai. When the dust settled, the bug lay there on its back doing the hoaky-croaky. I gloated in silent victory. Did the happy dance. Just then, another big one crawled out of my bedroom, Geemanetly! It took flight, nearly smacked me in the head (Why do they always go for the head?), and made me flinch and wiggle and slap myself stupid trying to get it off me. It flew up into the ceiling fan and popped like a balloon. Happy dance. At this very moment, my room is being swept for bugs. They laugh at the big American here. It’s the jungle.)
The entire area is mountainous and remote, and the tribe that inhabits this Shangri-La is the Naga (like naugahyde). Headhunters, with those choppy bowl haircuts and everything. They are mostly shortish. They chose this region for its remoteness as a defense against their enemies (other Naga). The Naga are broken down into various sub-tribes, all of whom are headhunters. So, they headhunted each other, and all lived under the canopy of this lofty jungle fortress, hiding from each other. A kind of grown up hide-n-seek where the loser loses his, well…never mind. In 1872, a Baptist missionary and his wife, Dr. and Mrs. E. W. Clark, came to the region known as Nagaland and faced down these savages, evangelizing them, and eventually winning the entire province to Christ. By 1930, all headhunting had ceased, and the people were serving the Lord. Today, Nagaland is considered Christian and the people have adopted a western appearance. The power of the gospel is rarely as evident. I am here to train local leaders in theology, do a little speaking here and there, and set a few things in order at our Bible College. Compared to the work that’s gone on here before me, I feel pretty insignificant. But, it feels good to help build on the foundation that was laid.
“For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 3:11
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