For youth in Manipur, 'everything we do must be based on prayer'
Thangchinkhup Singson is the district Nazarene Youth International president for Manipur in the far northeast corner of India. He brings to his position a comprehensive vision that has changed the way youth ministry is done on his district. His goal is to assist the 20 Churches of the Nazarene in Manipur to strengthen their ministry to their 247 NYI members. He visits at least one pastor and his youth group each month to review their ministry and offer guidance and support.
On a recent visit, Singson leaned toward the pastor as they sat in the simple, one-room building that houses the pastor's congregation.
"You have 10 young people enrolled in NYI. Tell me about your ministry with them."
"Well, to be honest, it used to be that they only came for Sunday morning worship. My church offered them little else to do. Today that has changed. Thanks to you, I now realize that we must be concerned about all aspects of their lives."
"Yes," Thangchinkhup said. "Our youth deserve to have opportunities to grow and serve in many ways."
The pastor nodded in agreement. "Thank you for helping me see that."
That evening, Thangchinkhup met with the 10 young people. They had just conducted an all-night service of prayer and were eager to talk with their district leader.
"We were on our knees for hours but the time passed so quickly. We talked with God about our friends who don't know Him and prayed for ways to share our faith. We prayed for our family members and about the needs in our community. We know God heard us and we are excited to see how He will answer our prayers."
Thangchinkhup also serves as project manager for the Child Development Center at the Bethlehem Church of the Nazarene. In that position, he directs the educational ministry to children in the community. His school goes to eighth standard and he is in the process of hiring teachers to start a second school. A graduate of South Asia Nazarene Bible College (SANBC) and Grace Bible College, he also teaches for SANBC with 15 students.
The son of a pioneer evangelist, Thangchinkhup began his own ministry to children and youth in 1991. All the teachers in his schools today were his students. His personal experience tells him that the journey from student to teacher can take 20 years and require patience and diligent mentoring. Several Nazarene pastors today can testify to the results of his long-term influence in their lives. Early on, Thangchinkhup saw the promise now being fulfilled in their ministries. He understands that years of hands-on ministry experiences will develop godly leadership.
Unlike the major portion of India, where the Christian community is about 3 percent of the total population, the number of Christians in Manipur make up about 42 percent. In the hill districts where the Nazarene churches are located, the Christian population is even greater. Yet there remain multitudes to be brought to faith in Christ and young Christians to be nurtured in their faith.
As Thangchinkhup talked with this NYI group, he reminded them of his priorities.
"Everything we do must be based on prayer," he said. "That is why your night of prayer and the Saturdays of prayer and fasting are so important. From there we go on to develop leadership training, education programs, music groups, missions activities, sports and recreation, camping, farming, and children's ministries. God is leading us to do these things and we need His help and blessing."
The local groups are small, but Thangchinkhup has established a wide scope of programming and ministries that are available for local participation.
"Spiritual camping" takes small groups of youth on hikes into the mountains with an overnight stay in a local church, providing opportunities for leadership training and personal motivation. The annual youth camp features the ministries of prominent youth evangelists, challenging the youth to commit their lives to serving Jesus Christ.
Music ministries bring Nazarene youth together for choir and solo competitions. Choirs join their voices to sing "I have to praise the Lord," written by Thangchinkhup himself. They join with other churches to form a choir with as many as 1,000 participants, singing in the Nationwide Gospel Music Festival.
A larger worldview is promoted by cooperating with the local and district Nazarene Missions International and challenging youth to be available for missionary works. The district Work & Witness program conducts an annual One Day for Christ event which takes youth to the weaker churches for upbuilding.
Sports and recreational activities encourage the youth to be mindful of their physical fitness and give proper care to their growing bodies. Youth seminars are conducted on the topic "Transformation by the way you think," conducted by Pastor Samuel Thangminlun. A farming ministry encourages Nazarene youth to enhance their farming skills by participating in trainings conducted by several governmental agencies.
Once a month, the youth leaders and members meet with their local church pastor to seek the guidance and leading of God in resolving issues, problems and blessings both within and outside the church. This is a precious time spent together praising, praying, and proclaiming the gospel.
As Thangchinkhup concludes his time with this pastor and his NYI group, they bow together and thank God for a church that wants more than just to have a few young people attend Sunday morning worship, but walks alongside its youth, encouraging them to experience healthy growth in all dimensions of their lives.