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Former hostage visits Upper Room

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The Rev. Tongkhojang Lunkim
Dec. 18, 2006

By Jeanette Pinkston*

"While I was kidnapped, you were in captivity here praying for me until my release. Because of your tears and prayers, the Lord has brought me back," the Rev. Tongkhojang Lunkim told worshippers in the Upper Room Chapel on Dec. 13.

Lunkim, publications coordinator of four editions of the Upper Room Daily Devotional Guide in northeast India, was captured on Jan. 16 by a group of rebels called the Kuki Liberation Army. Held in solitary confinement for 61 days, he was released in mid-March.

"I am alive. It is me," Lunkim told the staff of the United Methodist Board of Discipleship during the weekly chapel service. Gesturing toward the carved picture of The Last Supper in the front of the Upper Room chapel, Lunkin recalled first seeing it when he spoke there in 1980. As a captive, "I prayed to God to let me see it one more time, and here I am, standing before you today."

The Upper Room is a ministry of the Board of Discipleship. Lunkim came to Nashville to visit the Upper Room staff and personally thank those who prayed for him while he was a hostage.

While in captivity, Lunkim said there was nothing to do but read the Bible and meditate. When he became downhearted, he read Psalm 27. "I was reading the letters, but I heard a sound in my ear. The Lord spoke to me," he said. "Those verses kept coming to me."

Lunkim compared his capture to that of the apostle Paul. He said the boy who arrested him was one of his own people.

"They sent him to kill me, but he could not pull the trigger," he said.

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Courtesy of Board of Discipleship

The Rev. Tongkhojang Lunkim (center) personally thanked staff members of the Board of Discipleship for their prayers while he was held hostage by a group of rebels in India.
Lunkim was kept in a tiny cabin about the size of his small-frame body. The building was covered with tarp he had donated when his village was burned. He thought his captivity was the end of his ministry. "Mentally I was preparing to be with the Lord," he said.

Lunkim suspects that he was kidnapped because of his work either as a human rights activist or as a Christian. He has led a ministry in northeast India, where Christians are a small minority among a predominantly Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim population. He is a leader in the Kuki Christian Church, which publishes the Upper Room in four indigenous languages. The Kuki Church is a collective of hundreds of Christian churches in northeast India, Myanmar (Burma) and Bhutan.

Lunkim is convinced that for two months he was kept silent so God could do what he could not do. Many people spoke on his behalf. Christians and non-Christians prayed for him.

"I cannot deny that I [was] afraid," he says. "They [had] guns. I prayed to God, 'I am ready. My life is in your hands.''

*Pinkston is media relations coordinator for the General Board of Discipleship, Nashville, Tenn..

News media contact: Kathy Noble, (615) 742-5441, or

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