“For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” – John 3:20, NKJV
You cannot see yourself. Of course, you can see your beautiful face on a mirror. But what you see is not the whole you, only a part.
What am I telling? The truth is your face is not you; your eyes are not you. Your beautiful face that you see on the mirror is not really you. They are just a part of you. It is more to this than meets the eye. The truth is you cannot see yourself. The real you resides someplace inside.
I am a liar; I am filthy in thoughts; I am wicked in heart; I am egotistical; I am foolish; I am arrogant. These are the words or statements that we don’t want to say or confess from our mouth in the open before the public. I don’t know about you, but I do try to hide all these filthy rags inside of me, so that people shall see the only good things about me. Because nobody can ever see all these filthy things inside of me.
How do I know this of myself? Look inside of you in all honesty, and you will see your self clearly. But the problem is you can see only the things that are exposed to light, those hidden from the light are in the dark and cannot be seen even if you squint your eyes and try to see them. Nevertheless, there is a Light in the world that when you are exposed to it, you can see your real you clearly. Following is the story about how I found this Light.
Beginnings of My Journey Called Life
I was born and brought up in a poor Meitei Hindu-animistic family. My father is a mason and my mother is a weaver. Right from my childhood, fear of God was instilled in me, somehow. But my concept of God was very different. We used to worship the creation, not the Creator Himself. We used to worship sun every morning, tulsi plant in the courtyard every evening.
My Alma Mater 1: National Children’s School (1985-1991)
I started my schooling in a nearby local government primary school named National Children’s School. In the beginning, I was not good in studies. My roll number was at the end of the numbers in the class. Often I would quarrel with fellow students in school and return home black and blue, some other days with torn clothes. In exams, I would pass with a ‘simple pass’.
At school, teachers would rebuke me, and fellow students would ridicule me. And as a child, I was frustrated, and I didn’t know where to turn, what to do, whom to trust. Wherever I turned to, I was the object of scorn.
In Meitei culture, there is a tradition called Lai-thaomei Thaanba, which is a daily worship ritual performed by a woman or a girl of the house at the sunset. In some cases, boys also can perform this daily ritual. In those days, my elder sister used to perform the evening worship.
In this daily ritual, there are certain places in the house and courtyard where you just set apart the certain places as holy. And you wipe the floor with your hands using ‘holy’ water in small circular round shape, and you kneel down and offer your prayers. There are no idols or images involved in this ritual. In those designated places, you light a candle or burn some incense. My sister used to perform this evening worship ritual.
And one day somebody said to me, “Sanjit, if you want to be a good student, do this evening worship.”
I asked her, “What should I say to God?”
She said to me, “Tell God whatever you want or wish.”
It’s unbelievable what a simple belief of a child can do.
The next day, I approached my elder sister and said, “Sister, can I perform the evening worship?” Fortunately she consented. And immediately I started performing the evening worship. From that day onwards, I started my daily duty: performing evening worship.
At first, my sister didn’t believe that I would do so faithfully. Even if I went out for playing in the nearby fields, before the sun set, I would leave the playing field and run home just so I could perform the daily ritual in time. It’s unbelievable what a simple belief of a child can do!
Everyday in performing this worship ritual, I would kneel down and offer my long prayers to God. And at the end, I used to pray: “Lainingthou, make me good in studies.” (‘Lainingthou’ in Manipuri means ‘Almighty God’ or ‘King of gods’) Because I was tired of ridiculing me by my fellow students and I was tired of the rebukes of my teachers at school, as I was poor in studies.
People from my neighborhood used to make fun of me saying, “Sanjit, what do you say in your long prayers? I would return a smile at them without saying a word.
I would continue doing this evening ritual until I was in sixth grade.
As a child, my concept of God was: There is one big and powerful God. Below Him, are many gods. I didn’t know His name. I just addressed Him as ‘Lai-ningthou’ which in Manipuri means ‘King of gods’ or ‘Almighty God’.
Since I started doing the evening worship, surprisingly I started to see some change in me. I was quarrelling less in school. I would return home with torn clothes less. And slowly I started climbing in ranks in my class.
In those days, in government schools, there was Class A, Class B, and then there were Class 1, Class 2, Class 3 and so on. By the time I reached Class 1, I was ranked 30 out of 50-60 students in the class. At least, I was happy that I was climbing up in ranks in the class. And at school, I had less days standing up on the bench, and I had less rebukes from the teachers. Still, I was the object of scorn for many.
By nature, I am quiet and introvert, but I was determined. And I continued the same prayer in my evening worship ritual.
By the time I reached Class III, I became the topper in the class. In the first term examination in that year, I stood first in the class. And soon all the bad things about me seemed to turn into good. All the teachers started to say only the good things about me: “Sanjit, you are brilliant.” Here I need to mention my mentor teacher RK Bijoy for the guidance I received in those days.
Once you are ranked 1st in the class, you are a good boy or good girl. It doesn’t matter what’s really inside of you. It doesn’t matter whether you are deceitful or not, it doesn’t matter whether you are a liar, or filthy in thoughts or wicked in heart. The world doesn’t really care about what’s inside of you. The world only cares about how many marks you secured.
When people say only the good things about you, or sing praises to your name, you get puffed up. Most people in my locality knew me, because the word was spread that I was the topper in the class. In all this, pride entered me, unknowingly.
Pride goes before the fall. I learned it by heart in school but I never understood it.
Every time people talked good things about me, the pride in me continued to soar. At that time, National Children’s School had classes up to Class V (Grade 5). Topping the class, I finished my primary schooling in that school in 1991.
I had to change school for further studies. In those days, sending children to private schools was only possible for rich parents. And poor parents could not afford to send their children to private schools because of the high fees.
My parents were poor, but heeding to the voice of people, my parents sent me to St. George High School located at Wangkhei, Imphal East for my Class VI studies. But in the meantime I appeared for the JNV (Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya) Entrance Exam.
St. George High School (January – July 1992)
The year was 1992. I got admitted in St. George High School, an English medium school. Beginning of the academic year which usually falls in the month of February, I entered the portal of St. George High School with childhood curiosity. I was in Class VI section B.
This time I would peddle on my bicycle to school because the school was far from my house.
If I go down my memory lane, the first thing I saw in St. George High School was the picture of Jesus Christ. A picture of Jesus Christ was placed in every classroom. And there was an icon of crucified Christ at the entrance of the school building. No eyes could escape a stare at that crucified Christ icon.
Every time I saw this crucified Christ icon at the school entrance, I used to wonder and ask inside of me, “Why would this people worship a god who is crucified and helpless to save himself?”
As a young student, my idea of God was strong and mighty, but not weak and helpless. Every other god I looked around, they are depicted as strong and mighty with their special weapons of war. But when I looked at Jesus Christ, he is depicted as weak and helpless with no weapons of war like the other gods. This all confused my young mind, and this bewilderment existed in me until a time came.
But despite all the distractions in the world, I continued to focus on my studies.
At St. George High School, for the first time in my life, I was exposed myself to the English medium school culture. At first it was uncomfortable and hard for me transitioning myself from Manipuri medium curriculum to English medium culture. Most of the teachers were non-Manipuris and spoke a few words of Manipuri. Which meant that I had to know English well. Coming from a Manipuri medium school, I had a tough time to understand what the teachers were teaching in the class, let alone the books.
I struggled a lot more in studies at that time. I had a used English to Manipuri dictionary which became my best friend in those days. But I continued to pray the same prayer in my daily worship ritual: “God, make me good in studies.”
And in the first term exam in St. George High School, I stood 5th rank in the class of 80 students. And my pride never came down.
My days in St. George High School were shortened and fewer than expected. Around the middle of that year, I got selected in the JNV Entrance Exam. I was so happy when I heard the news. As a child, there was always a fear inside me that my parents would not be able to pay my school fees. Raising six siblings, including me, was a herculean task for my parents.
Getting selected in JNV meant no more worries or fears in regards to paying fees, because it was free. It was like lifting away a big burden from my head and from my parents’ shoulders.
Indeed, God showed His mercy on me.
There were two things about me that I didn’t notice at that time. One, I had great pride as big as a balloon, because I was good in studies. Two, I had great fear because my parents had difficulty in paying fees on time.
Now that I was selected in JNV Entrance Test, number two in the list is gone. But number one…. pride… I never understood it until a time came.
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. – Proverbs 16:18, NKJV
But whether you know it or not, your pride… As long as your pride inside you has space or room to grow big, you have nothing to worry or fear. Pride is like a balloon. But when it has no room or space to grow bigger, it bursts. When it bursts, it hurts and disillusionment sets in.
(October 1992 – March 1999) – JNV Khumbong, Imphal West
By God’s grace, I got selected in the JNV Entrance Test. And I became famous in the small locality. Getting famous even in a small locality meant more pride in me. Already I was famous in my small locality because I was a ‘brilliant student’ at that point in time. And getting selection in the JNV Entrance Exam meant more praises and applauds from people.
And more pride built up inside of me without my noticing. And my balloon of pride grew bigger.
For some reason that year 1992, admission of students was delayed for JNV Khumbong. So I landed in the campus of JNV Khumbong in the month of October with my medium-sized trunk. And I received the Admission Number 332.
The Vidyalaya had Classes VI through XII. I was in the community of ‘selected students’ and I was excited to start a new journey.
Truth be told, I was not good healthwise. Often I would fall sick. My eyesight was already poor because of long hours of reading in the candle light. Power supply was pathetic in those days. Candle was the main source of light at night.
I learned in school books that health is wealth. I learned it only in my head, but it never sank deep in my heart.
What do you want to become when you grow up? This was the question that began to pop up in my head at that point in time.
And when I was in Class VII, for some reason I decided to become an IAS officer. I never told this to anyone and I kept it in my heart. Towards this ambitious goal, from that time on, I started reading Competition Success Review (CSR) and General Knowledge Today (GKT). These were the monthly student magazines for IAS aspirants. Even today they are popular and regular choice for IAS aspirants.
I used to read these student magazines borrowing from one of my senior brothers. In those days, Competition Success Review (CSR) was priced at Rs. 5, and General Knowledge Today (GKT) at Rs 2. I had to spend Rs 7 every month for these two magazines.
My parents used to visit me in school one or at times two Sundays a month, and they would give me Rs 50, sometimes Rs 100 for my pocket money in those Sunday visits. And I would happily save them to buy CSR and GKT magazines.
Every month, I would buy and read CSR and GKT without fail out of my pocket money savings. The more I read CSR and GKT, I began to focus more on magazines or periodicals, and little less on my school studies. But still I was among the top 3 in the class.
I began to appear in the State Level Mathematics and General Knowledge competitions. Sometimes I secured top positions and my name would be announced on the Radio. And my balloon of pride even got bigger.
When your pride grows bigger, you grow bigger than yourself. And when you grow bigger than yourself, your vision begins to blur. Then you can’t see things clearly in your life. That’s what it did to me.
In this day and age, you are known by the marks or grades you secure in exams. Everything else doesn’t really count in this world. It doesn’t really matter whether you are good or evil inside of you. Now the world doesn’t really care who you are inside. The world looks at the outward appearance, but inside of you is what really counts in life exam.
But what many people don’t understand is that out of the heart spring the issues of life. That’s why many people fall when the storms of life hit them. Your high marks or grades don’t come to your rescue. Who you are inside determines the next course of your life.
In June 1999, my balloon of pride burst. And I truly sensed my hollowness and helplessness in myself. The reality of life hit hard at my face. At that point, I realized: I cannot save myself. In fact, you cannot save yourself too.
Now matter how strong you are; no matter how many gold medals you won; no matter how brilliant you are in solving Maths or Physics problems, at the end of the day, you cannot save yourself. We are helpless human beings living in an illusion made of pride and self-exaltation on a short-stay planet called Earth.
I passed Class XII in the first division from JNV Khumbong. And I returned home, and in those days, I would fall sick often and feel lonely. The truth is beautifully captured when someone said: “If your pride is bigger than your heart and your ego is bigger than your head, grow up or you will be alone for life.”
It was a time of deep soul searching. Outside, I was a good student. Inside? I was hollow! Outside, I looked calm and composed. Inside? Noises and turmoil filled my whole being.
Before the eyes of others, I had good future prospects. Inside, I sensed the end of the world. Negativity filled me and I was on the verge of the end. I saw no hope, and eventually I saw no life. A moment of inner turmoil and also a moment of deep soul searching.
The Night of June 18, 1999
At that time, I was at home. Not knowing what to do, and disillusioned out of deep despair over my life, on the night of June 18, 1999, I knelt down on my bed with my eyes welled with tears, and cried to the Unknown, “Please show me a way. Now I see no way before me.” I prayed to God of the Universe, the Unknown. And I slept very late that night.
The next day surprised me! My brother-in-law and another person came to my house. I woke up late that morning. And while still in bed, I overheard their conversations with my parents. They were talking about a college in Hyderabad.
At first I felt happy in my heart that God answered my prayer. But in the next few days, I learned that the college they were talking about was a Bible college. To my utter ignorance, I never heard about Bible college before that. Yes, I heard about so called Christian colleges, but I never heard about Bible colleges before.
My moments of joy didn’t last long. Dark clouds of confusion began to hover over my head. My decision: I didn’t want to go to that college because in Bible college they teach only about Bible. And I had been preparing myself for the UPSC exam ever since when I was in Class VII.
But deep down inside me, a fierce battle erupted between me and my conscience. My conscience was posing questions like, “On that night, you prayed ‘Show me a way; I have no way before me’, but now when God shows you a way, you are refusing?”
As a god-fearing person, I couldn’t answer that question. You can cheat or deceive anyone in your life, but you cannot deceive your conscience. Even when nobody is around, your conscience bears witness to everything that you do.
Having done well in Mathematics and Physics throughout my high schooling, I used to put questions before making a decision. I did the same this time. Why would God select a Bible college for me? Why God of the Bible only answered my cry, while the million other gods remained silent? My years of learning in logic and reasoning failed.
The only way to find out the answers: I had to go to that Bible college. And finally, I said yes to going to this college.
One ‘John’ who was working as a teacher at a school in Lamphel Sanakeithel at that time was taking me and another friend from my locality to Hyderabad. On 3rd July, 1999 my journey for Hyderabad began.
I had my own ambitious plans in my mind. My first plan was to know this God who answered my prayer. And then after that, I would secure admission in college in Hyderabad to continue my secular studies to pursue my dream of becoming an IAS officer.
But contrary to all my thinking and ambitious plans, my journey to know God began. And it wasn’t easy and straight. It was just the opposite of what I thought.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts
Nor are your ways My ways,
For as the heavens are higher than the earth
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts” says the LORD. – ISAIAH 55:8-9 (NKJV)
(July 1999 – May 2000) – Manna Bible College, Masab Tank, Hyderabad
On July 9, 1999, we reached our destination: Masab Tank, Hyderabad. The auto we were hiring from the Secunderabad railway station came to a halt before a big gate with a sign post “Rock Church, Masab Tank”.
I wondered, and repeated in my head: ‘Rock Church! Not a College?‘ But I didn’t say a word out. We took off our belongings and luggage from the auto rickshaw.
As we entered the Rock Church campus, I saw a signboard on which was written: “Manna Bible College”.
Rock Church was a four-story building, and Manna Bible College was attached to the building. We climbed the stairs to the 4th floor despite the long train journey and tiredness with our suitcases and luggage. Unfortunately, few months before our arrival, a cyclone that swiped the state of Andhra Pradesh completely wiped away the roof of the student dormitory. So we stayed in one of the classrooms until the dormitory was repaired.
There was a clash between imagination and reality. I was a student of books, and I am fond of reading stuff. Whatever was happening in my life at that time was contrary to my beliefs and my thinking.
At that time, repairing work of the damaged roof of the Manna Bible College student dormitory was ongoing. And we students used to help carry the bricks up to the 4th floor climbing the stairs, and we did the work daily. And the Hyderabad summer heat was sweltering. And I didn’t study in the college because I couldn’t.
I went to this college because God answered my prayer that was offered on the night of June 18, 1999. Now at that point, I felt like God cheated me of my ‘beautiful dreams’ and ‘ambitious plans’. I wanted to run away and leave the college, but I couldn’t, because deep down inside me, there was something that weighed me down. I felt like a big stone was hanging around my neck and I couldn’t move. And I felt like I was a prisoner to this God.
At that time I was given a Bible by a senior brother, and I began to read. And it didn’t make sense. It all seemed like a story book to me at first. I thought I was wasting my precious time there. But I began to attend Church meetings and Sunday services. And I was a ‘non-believer’.
At Church meetings I used to wonder in disbelief when I saw people crying and weeping in tears. This kind of thing I saw only in movies. I used to think ‘Is it real or just faking?’
But from their faces, I knew it was not faking. And deep down inside, I wanted to know this God, because all I knew at that time was that only this God answered my prayer, while the other million gods didn’t care to respond.
During this time, I was busy doing manual labor. During daytime, we used to carry the bricks up to the 4th floor for the roof repairing work. At night, some fellow students and I used to transport the unused broken bricks from Masab Tank to Kismatpur on a small truck Rock Church owned at that time. Sometimes I would lie my back over the bricks on the running truck and see the beautiful, clear starry night sky. And it was a beautiful sight to behold.
In early September 1999, I and another friend who accompanied me were informed by the Dean of the college that to be a student of the Bible college, one must have taken baptism and must have known Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. But my desire was to know God first, and if needed, I would take baptism.
My view of religions at that time was that they are all same, and only difference was the name of God. As the saying goes: All roads lead to Rome. God is one but has different names. I was taught in school that the road you are taking may be different but has the same destination for all.
I was surrounded myself with walls of my own belief systems and was not easily going to be broken down. But to allow myself to stay there in the college and study the Bible, I took the baptism in the Lord. Truth be told, at that time I was not a ‘believer’; I was a seeker of God.
As I continued to read and study the Bible, it turned out to be completely different than I thought it to be. The Bible is a collection of 66 books written by different persons who lived in different times and eras and in different places. And all these books written by different men of God at different times and eras talk about the same God and His message: salvation of mankind.
In short, Bible is the product of a team work of distinct and different people of God who lived in different times and eras in the human history. And surprisingly there is not an iota of point of contradiction or contention in all these books in the Holy Bible. From Genesis to Revelation, the line of thought is clear: the ultimate solution for the sins of mankind.
At Manna Bible College, at that time it was more of physical labor and church activities, and little of studies. At that time I was baptized, but I didn’t know the Lord. This happened to me.
But deep down I was seeking Him because this God of the Bible answered my prayer while the million other gods didn’t care to respond a word. Because of this reason, I could not leave the place even though I wanted to run away.
In my helplessness and frustration, I continued to pray at night saying “Lord, I don’t know you. I came here because you answered my prayer. I want to run away but I can’t, because I want to know you first.”
In the same month of September, 1999, one night I had a dream, and I hadn’t had like that one before or after. In that dream, I saw a winged creature, or I should say, an angel, flying into the just repaired boys’ dormitory room where I was sleeping. In his hand was a pair of tongs, and in it was a burning red coal.
In that dream, the winged creature or the angel said to me, “Open your mouth.” At first I felt scared and I hesitated out of fear, and then after a while I opened my mouth. The angel put the burning red coal into my mouth, and he left.
The moment the red coal touched my mouth, I felt the hotness of the burning coal inside my mouth. But the hotness soon turned into a sweet taste that I had never tasted before in my life. (That sweet taste on my tongue lasted for three days.) I woke up immediately in surprise wondering about what had happened that night.
After that incident, slowly I began to see a change inside of me. I continued to read the Bible with more interest. During my school days, I learned from others and books that Jesus was crucified and died for the sins of mankind. And the story finished there. Period. That’s it.
But I never knew the other part of that story: Jesus Christ was raised from the death on the third day. I never heard about that until I came to Manna Bible College in 1999.
1 Corinthians 15:3–7 (NKJV): For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.“
In the month of December, 1999 I had another dream. In that dream, I was drowning and mired in a vast sea of waters all alone gasping for breathe. And the waters were muddy. And I thought to myself: surely I will die all alone. Suddenly a Big Hand stretched out from the sky and picked me up from the muddy waters, and put me in a dry land.
Fear of God entered my heart. The walls of pride I had built up around me began to fall down like Jericho walls. I was a prisoner in the balloon of my own pride, and it got burst wide open. When you are boastful in yourself or your ability, you get puffed up. When you get puffed up, you are blinded by your own pride. And you can’t see things clearly as they are.
But when the walls of your pride that you surround yourself with begin to fall apart, you begin to see your true self: a helpless being without an anchor. And when you see yourself in God’s mirror (which is the Word of God), you fall flat before a Holy God. We are all like boats sailing in the sea of life, and we all need an anchor to hold on to.
The month of December 1999 was an eventful period in my life. From around the mid-December, we used to visit houses in Hyderabad singing Christmas Carols at night. At that time the Y2K rumor mill was churning at its peak that the world was going to come to an end. The message of fear was all around and in the air. But I was busy singing Christmas carols. Actually I was a fill-up guy standing behind the group, because the group was small in number.
In those days, another rumor mill was churning in churches that Jesus was coming and Rapture was going to happen on the night of December 31, 1999. I was not well versed in Bible at that time, and I didn’t know much about Rapture and the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
But the night watch service on December 31, 1999 at Rock Church, Masab Tank, Hyderabad was overpacked. The night watch service started around 9:30 PM and it went on till the daybreak. Many believers were expecting Rapture to happen that night, but didn’t happen.
Thank God the world didn’t come to an end, and the year 2000 began without any computer hiccups, and I began to read the Holy Bible more earnestly. I began to believe in the Lord Jesus. And I also began to read more of the Christian literature available in the library of Manna Bible College. But I decided to leave that place, because I wanted to pursue my dream of becoming an IAS officer.
So from the start of the year 2000, I began looking for colleges in Hyderabad. But then I was disheartened to realize that my parents were not in a position to pay for my secular studies. So anyway I decided to go back home. However I had to wait till April – May.
In those days, we began using library at Manna Bible College, and the library had monthly periodicals and magazines from many colleges in India. One afternoon while I was reading in the library, one magazine caught the attention of my eyes, and it was the magazine of Southern Asia Bible College (SABC), Bangalore. I grabbed hold of the magazine, and I was casually flipping through the pages, and I put it down on the table saying to myself, “This college is not for me. I am going back home.”
In those days, I and some fellow students used to pray until late into the night on the rooftop of the Rock Church building. And I used to pray to God, “Lord, I am going back home in a few months’ time. But if you really called me out, please give me an assurance.”
I was in a state of confusion. On one hand, I wanted to pursue my dream of becoming an IAS officer, a Government servant. On the other hand, something in me was leading me to the direction of becoming God’s servant.
A few days later, during the library hours, in the afternoon, the same SABC magazine caught the attention the attention of my eyes again. I grabbed hold of the magazine and began flipping the pages and I saw the college fee structure. Saying to myself, “Who will pay all these fees?”, I put down the magazine on the table. And then there was a strong urge inside me to apply to this college: Southern Asia Bible College.
For a few days, I was not at peace with myself, because I was resisting the urge inside of me, the urge to apply to SABC. But I was resisting that urge.
At last I applied to SABC. I sent the application to SABC through registered post, thinking to myself: “What do I have to lose? Anyway I am going back home.“
The month of April 2000 was an eventful one with Good Friday and Easter Sunday services at Rock Church. And one day, I received an enveloped letter by registered post. And on the envelope was written “Southern Asia Bible College, Kothanur, Bangalore.” I opened the envelope, and it was the admission acceptance letter. For many, it should have been a moment of joy. But I didn’t feel that way: I got confused all the more.
As usual, we (I and some fellow students) used to pray late into the night on the rooftop of the four-storey Rock Church building. Now I began to pray earnestly and fervently: ‘Now what should I do?‘
A couple of weeks went by, the voice in me was saying: “Don’t go home. Go to SABC.” Truth be told, after having experienced what happened in a Bible college, I never wanted to go to another Bible college. And many who came to Manna Bible College started returning to their native places. And I also already decided to go back to my native place. And the only thing that was standing in my way was the admission acceptance letter from Southern Asia Bible College.
In those days, I continued to pray more fervently, because I was in a state of confusion. On one hand, I decided to go back to my native place, and on the other, now I had in my hand the admission acceptance letter from SABC, Bangalore. And I used to pray: “Lord, I do not know what I must do now. Some of my batchmates returned to their native places. I am also thinking to do the same. But now I have the admission acceptance letter from SABC in my hand, what must I do now?”
One late night, while I was praying on the rooftop of Rock Church building, I heard a soft voice say to me, “Go to SABC.”
I said to the voice, “Lord, who will pay all those fees?”
Immediately the voice said, “I will pay.”
At that moment, no more words came out of my mouth. At that moment, all the voices that were chattering in me kept quiet. And at that moment, I knelt down and began to weep in tears. And truth be told, that moment on the rooftop of Rock Church building that night completely changed the course of my life. And on that night, I let my childhood dreams die. And I decided to go to Southern Asia Bible College, Bangalore. And my faith walk with the Lord began.
In the first week of June 2000, I set out on a journey — journey of faith — by train from Secunderabad to Bangalore via Chennai. I had around a thousand rupees in hand that were sent to me by my parents. My luggage included: The old medium-sized trunk bearing Admission Number 332 marked in red color, which my parents bought when I got admission at Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, Khumbong, Imphal West, in the year 1992; and a small airbag. And I traveled alone for the first time in my life.
During the whole train journey from Secunderabad to Bangalore, I kept quiet most of the time, because I was busy speaking to myself. My small brain was bombarded with several questions, mostly questions of doubt and fear: “Sanjit, are you going crazy? Are you leaving behind your childhood dreams?” “Don’t you love your poor parents who had high hopes and expectations from you?” “Sanjit, are you going insane that you are believing this voice? What if He doesn’t pay your fees?”
The next morning the train stopped to a halt at Bangalore City station. And I landed on the soil of Bangalore for the first time in my life with unanswered questions filling my hot head. I was standing alone amidst the crowd. I didn’t know which way to go. I didn’t know anyone in Bangalore at that time.
All I had was the map of Bangalore City showing the way to SABC, Kothanur that came attached to the acceptance letter. And I was holding that map in my hand. There was not mobile or GPS at that time. From the Bangalore City railway station, I hired an auto rickshaw to Majestic Bus Stand.
After a short while, the auto rickshaw stopped at the Majestic Bus Stand. I unloaded my luggage from the auto, and stood at the Majestic Bus Stand for a long time. During that waiting time, many questions kept bothering me again. And I began to think, “Am I truly going insane?” “Am I really going out of my mind?” I had no answer. Yet the reassuring voice I heard on the rooftop of Rock Church building on that night kept me going.
After standing at the bus stand for about two hours or so, I looked up to the Bangalore sky. And I said quietly, “Lord, I don’t know what I am doing. Please help me.” In the meanwhile, the bus that passes through Kothanur, came, and I went inside the bus with my luggage. The bus was not crowded.
When the bus was about to reach my destination, the conductor of the bus alerted me, “Your SABC has come”. And the bus stopped in front of the gate of Southern Asia Bible College. I took my luggage down from the bus, and I stood for a while with my luggage in front of the gate.
(June 2000 – March 2003) – Southern Asia Bible College, Bangalore
By nature, I am shy, timid and introvert. I was hesitant to enter the gate of Southern Asia Bible College. See, I had less than a thousand rupees in my pocket when I reached the SABC gate. I was hesitant to enter the gate, because I had no money to pay for the admissions. But the voice in me said, “Go enter”.
I was holding the admission acceptance letter (call letter) in my hand, and I entered through the gate of SABC. To this day, I still wonder from where did that courage come from, if not from God.
The gatekeeper allowed me to enter the campus. It was around noon time. The hot sun was overhead up in the sky, and the stillness of the campus calmed my tired soul.
As I passed through the gate, at a distance I saw two men standing under a tree in front of the building (that building turned out to be SABC library). As I was approaching near to them, the man who looked younger in age greeted me and said, “You’re a new student, right?“
“Yes sir, I am here for B.Th.” I replied, and I handed him the SABC letter. And he handed the letter to the older man who later turned out to be Sir Jacob Cherian.
Looking at the letter, Sir Jacob said, “Pangambam Sanjit Singh, welcome to SABC.”
‘Thank you sir.‘ I replied and shook his hand.
Sir Jacob Cherian said, “Where are you from, Mr. Singh? “
“Sir, I am from Manipur.”
“Oh, you must be tired from the long journey.” Supposing I was coming all the way from Manipur, turning to the younger man who was standing by his side, Sir Jacob Cherian said, “Sidharth, please show Sanjit Singh his room.”
The younger man introduced to me, “I am Sidharth Chatterjee. I am doing my M.Div. second year. And don’t call me sir.” Brother Sidharth helped me carry my luggage and led me into a room. He brought me a bucket, towel and soap, and showed me the bathroom, and said, “Sanjit Singh, if you ever need help or something, please let me know.” He showed me his room and left.
No wonder I still remember to this day all that had happened on my first day at SABC campus. Indeed, these two men: Sir Jacob Cherian and brother Sidharth made a lasting impression on me that day. They helped release the tensions and fears that were welling up inside me at that point in time. Indeed, first impressions do last.
I took a refreshing bath in the bathroom and I said, “Thank you, Lord for helping me this far.”
I was one of the earliest arrivals in the SABC campus for that academic year. In the next few days, students started arriving in the campus for the new academic year. It usually started in the second week of June each year.
I had few hundred rupees left in hand after buying bucket and daily use items. I didn’t have money for admissions, and I went to SABC because I believed in the voice that said ‘I will pay’ while praying on the rooftop of the four-storey Rock Church building at Masab Tank, Hyderabad.
But I always used to wonder how God was going to pay the college fees. The rubber of my faith began to hit the road at Southern Asia Bible College. And I learned this one thing: To really walk on the road of faith is to go insane before the eyes of people. Human reasoning cannot comprehend it and logic fails before faith. Because faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).
First semester B.Th. (Bachelor of Theology) first year began in the middle of June 2000 without paying any fees. There was a ‘jungle’ just opposite across the SABC gate; that was the place I used to spend time in prayer during daytime. At night, the SABC football ground was the place I used to spend time in prayers.
At SABC, there was a system called work scholarship: you get paid for the number of hours worked. But limited number of hours was allotted to each student. And I got some pocket money from work scholarship. So I didn’t worry much about pocket money. But I always worried about the college fees.
First semester was going well. No summon came from accountant or the Admissions office yet. And faculty members at SABC were all friendly and supportive. But towards the end of the first semester of my B.Th. first year, the Admissions office started summoning students who had not paid or cleared their fee dues.
But for me, even after a week, no summon came from the Admissions office. And one of my classmates said to me, ‘Someone must have paid your fees.’ And I also thought God must have paid my fees. I felt happy, and I even thanked God. But my happiness didn’t last long.
The very next day, after lunch I was summoned into the Admissions office. Sir I. Pravinkumar was the Director of Admissions at that time. When I entered his office room, Sir Praveen said, “Pangambam Sanjit Singh, till date you haven’t paid a single paisa towards your college fees? Who is going to pay?”
At that point, I realized God hadn’t paid my fees. I wanted to say, “God is going to pay.” But I stood still and kept quiet.
Sir Pravin continued, “Pangam, if you don’t pay these fees, you’ll have to leave SABC.”
I left the Admissions office with my eyes welling up in tears, and I went straight into my room. Brother Simeon P. of M.Div. 1st year was my roommate at that time. And he saw my face and knew what had happened at the Admissions office. And he put his hand on my shoulder and prayed for me. Brother Simeon was a man of prayer.
I realized at that point in time that the ‘road of faith walk‘ is not straight and smooth, but is paved with stones, thorns and thistles.
That night, I was in the SABC football ground praying, crying out, “Lord, You said You will pay my college fees. That’s why I came to this college.” Late into the night, I prayed crying until I was exhausted. It was dark in the football field, but when I looked up, the sky was lit with stars. And God was silent. The whole world seemed to stand against me. And I felt all alone.
One brother used to tell me, “Sanjit, no one was expelled from SABC because of not paying fees. So don’t worry.”
The Dean of Students also called me in his office. Sir Edelbert Kharsyntiew was the Dean of Students at that time. He also prayed for me, comforting my worried soul.
When I look back today, I realize it was a period of testing of my faith, and I was walking through the fire. The easy way was to quit. The other way was to endure. But I didn’t want to quit.
After a week, I was hospitalized in the Baptist Hospital and was in that hospital for almost a week. That’s when the whole SABC community rallied around and prayed for me. All the faculty members visited me in the hospital. I realized at that point on the hospital bed that I was not alone. To this day, I don’t know who paid my hospital bills. But all I know is that God uses people to carry out His will. And my fees were paid through college scholarships for that year. Thus the Lord kept His word for my first year B.Th.
Lesson learned: We have a tendency to push God to our desired timing or schedule, and we don’t want to wait patiently for His perfect timing. God is no respecter of persons.
B.Th. first year came to an end. Summer break came. Duration was two months. In the first week of April 2001, I came home for summer break. During the summer break, pastor Tomba was helping me. I was a pastor in the making, and people in my village began to call me ‘pastor’, though derogatorily.
On June 14, 2001, the ceasefire agreement between India and the Naga outfit NSCN-IM was extended to all Naga-inhabited areas ‘without territorial limits’. This angered especially the Meitei community in Manipur. Starting the next day, the whole valley areas flared up in anger and fierce forms of agitations began.
A week before, I already booked a bus ticket for Imphal to Guwahati scheduled for the morning of June 18, 2001. And I also booked a train ticket for Guwahati to Bangalore scheduled on June 19, 2001. And the agitations and protests were becoming intense and fierce all around the valley areas. Now a big question mark was put before me whether I should go back to SABC or not.
It was a testing time of my faith. And if I never went back to SABC, the promises of the Lord would have been invalid and void, and my faith in the God of the Bible hang on those promises. And if I never went back to SABC, the voice that I heard on the rooftop of Rock Church building had to be someone else, and not from God.
The hope of going back to SABC after the summer break was getting dimmer and thinner as each day passed by. I began to doubt my going back to Bangalore. And I began to pray, “Lord, what should I do now as the agitations and road blockades are becoming intense?
The voice in me said in Manipuri, “Go.”
But the reality on the ground was far more worse than I could imagine. It was almost impossible to go out in the street. The streets were filled with burning tyres. Sometimes big trees were put across to block the road.
In the early morning of Monday, June 18, 2001, my father accompanied me to the bus stand which was at the GM Hall Gate, Imphal. When my father and I reached the bus stand, we saw only three buses; and some buses already left. And there was urgency seen in the people sitting inside the counter. The same was seen among passengers. Anything could happen at any moment.
At around 8:30 a.m., the bus I was traveling in left Imphal for Guwahati. And the bus did not halt until we reached Mao gate.
At Mao gate, the bus halted for lunch, and I ate my lunch there. I never knew what had happened just few hours after I left Imphal in that last bus, until I reached SABC campus. On that day, June 18, 2001, 18 persons lost their lives to the bullets of the security forces.
The next day, June 19, 2001, in the early morning, I reached Guwahati. The bus stop was just nearby the Guwahati railway station. So I walked into the railway station and I chose to wait for the train in the station, and the train was scheduled in the afternoon. And I boarded the Guwahati to Bangalore train in the afternoon.
And I reached Bangalore in the morning of June 21, 2001. By the time I reached the SABC campus, it was around noon time before lunch. Classes had already begun. I was the latecomer. Many in the college never expected me to come back. But the Lord made it possible to return to SABC for my second year.
God’s miracles do happen in our life, and when they do happen, you come to know that they are a testimony from God Himself. And when they do happen, they surprise you.
I returned back to SABC after summer break for my second year Bachelor of Theology with around Rs. 1500 from my parents. The church I attended during my summer break gave me around Rs 500 or so from their tithes. And I kept that money separately, and used that money when I was in great need.
3rd semester in the second year went well without any hiccups. I was given more work-hours so that I would have some pocket money. I was even enlisted in Chapati making team of SABC; we were four in the team. On chapati and puri days, we used to get up early while still dark and we prepared the chapati and puri ready.
Fourth semester in the second year B.Th. began a period of testing in my life. I was in need financially. My parents used to send money occasionally for my pocket money. But at that time the fountains of financial help ran dry. I lived out of bare minimums, and my classmates, roommates, and some members of the faculty at that time used to help me in cash or in kind. I am grateful even to this day to each one of them who helped me survive at SABC. May the Lord continue to bless them and use them for His own glory.
But you never forget incidents wherein God’s helping hand is clearly visible. When God does something in your life, be it small or big, He does it so that you will never forget it for the rest of your life.
It happened during the fourth semester in the second year B.Th. For a few days, I was worrying about my toothpaste, because my toothpaste was running out. I never told anyone about my toothpaste. And I was too shy to tell God about my toothpaste, also.
That morning, I didn’t brush my teeth. But that early morning before breakfast, there was a knock on the door. When I opened it, brother John Reuben, who was in the 3rd year B.Th. at that time, was standing. Before I opened my mouth, brother John Reuben said, “Sanjit, take this.” He handed me a pack of toothpaste. And he hurried away before I could say anything, and I was left wonderstruck standing in the doorway for a while.
I was wonderstruck because I hardly talked to brother John Reuben. All I knew was: he was a man of prayer. But how did brother John Reuben come to know I was in need of toothpaste? Even my roommate at that time didn’t know about my toothpaste condition. In a little while, my eyes were welling up in tears and said, “Thank you Lord; you even care for my littlest of little things.”
Matthew 6:25-27: “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?”
Gold Medal Seemed to Glitter More Than God
In the first year, I stood first in the class. And at the beginning of my second year B.Th., on the college library table, one afternoon I found the SABC magazine. I picked up the magazine and flipped the pages. And at the end of the magazine, I saw the gold medalists of the previous academic year along with their photos. And I wanted my photo on that page some day.
On that afternoon in the library of Southern Asia Bible College, the seed of pride was sown in my heart stealthily. There is nothing wrong to aim high and get good marks in studies. Where I did go wrong was the focus I had put into.
I wanted to get good marks. I started studying for marks. I continued to fast and pray; I continued to read the Bible. But my focus slowly shifted to getting more marks in the exam. Gradually this attitude of mine gave way for pride to come into my heart. At that time, to me gold medal seemed to glitter more than God. But I forgot: the LORD searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts
You can be full of pride, and still be fasting and praying. Your heart can be filled with pride and still be regularly reading the Bible. But God hates pride.
January 2003 at Southern Asia Bible College Chapel, Kothanur
It was in the second-week of January 2003. Missions conference was being held at that time. This conference used to be held in the month of January… a fresh start on a new year and towards the end of the academic year. And it was all about missions… preparing for sending out students of the Bible in the field of their calling. It was also a period of prayers, praise and worship and about drawing closer to God.
On the last day of the missions conference, in the evening there was a big Map of Indian Subcontinent drawn on the Chapel floor. Students of the graduating classes were supposed to place and light a candle on their choice of places where they were going back after graduation.
That night we worshipped the Lord, and sang praises and gave testimonies. It was about past midnight. After all the praise and worship, prayers and washing of the feet of graduating students by our teachers, each one of the graduating students had to place and light a candle on the places that they were going back after graduation.
I also placed and lighted a candle on a place where I had supposed to go back. But to this day, honestly I really don’t know where I had placed my candle on that map of the Indian Subcontinent on that night.
After I placed the lighted candle on the map, I returned at the back of the Chapel near the door. From the back of the SABC Chapel, I saw everyone worshipping God, praying and crying before God. Even after so many years, I still remember that night so vividly as if it happened some days back before my eyes.
I was standing at the back of the Chapel, and suddenly I heard a voice in my right ear – a voice so clear that I could hear even in the midst of the loud noises of fellow students crying, praising, worshipping the Lord. The voice said: “Go home. And remember, never let the name of Jesus depart from your tongue.” In surprise, immediately I looked back, but saw no one, except the Chapel door.
After hearing the voice in my right ear, I felt sad deep inside of me, because Graduation Day was approaching in two months’ time. And this graduation ceremony was going to be like no other before, because the college was celebrating its 50th year…Golden Jubilee. And it was going to be special.
And moreover, I was highly likely going to be the recipient of the gold medal for the 3-year long academic race that I ran for the course. And I didn’t want to miss the gold medal.
But the voice in the SABC Chapel was telling me to go back home. And I was still standing at the back of the SABC Chapel, perplexed.
Then I went back to my room, and I slept.
I didn’t tell anyone about what had happened at the SABC Chapel on the last day of the Missions conference. The voice said clearly, “Go home.” Notably, that was the same voice that had instructed to me three years before, “Don’t go home. Go to SABC.”
Now the voice was telling me ‘Go home.’ But the Graduation was just two months away, and I wanted to attend the graduation ceremony. And I wanted to go back home with the gold medal.
Instead of sharing my concerns in regards to what had happened at Chapel on the last day of the Missions conference, either with faculty or anyone, I began to rationalize. And I thought it was OK to stay a little longer until Graduation day. But deep down in my heart, I felt it was not OK, and it would mean to disobey His voice.
There was a conflict of thoughts in my mind. But my own pride had blinded my eyes. In disobedience to the voice, I stayed a little longer and attended the SABC’s Golden Jubilee Graduation ceremony which was held in March 2003. Before the large crowd, I got a gold medal for the three-year academic race and a certificate made of paper. But years later, I came to realize that I had lost God in doing so.
At that time I didn’t know much. But now I know the consequences of disobeying God. So Psalm 95:7-8 says “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” If you hear God’s voice today, do it today. Don’t rationalize like I did. Pride is like a tall wall that blocks the word of God from entering your heart.
God kept His word and paid my college fees through scholarships. I disobeyed His voice. As a note, God was not against me for winning the gold medal, but the problem was with the intents of my heart, for the LORD searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts (1 Chronicles 28:9)
People become wiser in the word of God after attending seminary, but I became a fool in the Word. The problem was not with the seminary, but the problem was within me all along.
April 2003 – December 2003, Imphal, Manipur
I returned back home in Imphal, Manipur in the first week of April 2003. I was one of the very few believers in my whole village. After returning back home from SABC, my friends in the village began to call me pastor, though derogatorily.
In those days, I used to give tuitions to students upto Class X for my livelihood. And I continued to fast and pray hoping for miracles in my village. I was zealous for the Lord and the pride of the youth filled me.
Despite fasting and praying alone, there were no miracles. Gradually I grew tired and weary. Eventually I slowly drifted away from the Lord. One of my biggest mistakes: I was not part of any congregation or church.
Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Without Me, you can do nothing.’
Moreover, the act of disobedience on my part while at SABC displeased the Lord. The Bible says, ‘Cursed is the one who disobeys the voice of the Lord (Deuteronomy 27:26).
Though I continued to fast and pray regularly, I started to deny having secured my theology degree for people. And I became a liar before God. Sin begets sins and before you know, it already got multiplied exponentially. One act of disobedience led to many more.
But God gave the solution for disobedience in the Bible: Repent. (And I did not come to this understanding until recently. It took for me 18 years to come to this realization.) And I did not repent before the Lord at that time, but God waited very patiently for me to repent. And I did not know this all these years, because I was blinded by my own pride. And another reason was: I thought God left me. In reality, God never left me.
From here follows the narrative concerning the consequences of disobeying the voice of God.
Click here to read on to the previous part: Testimony: Why I Believe in Jesus Christ
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