Nagaland Revival (1957-1990)


Revival amongst the Head-hunters

(From Head-hunters to Church Planters, by Paul Hattaway, Piquant Editions, 2006)


Nagaland is a province of India, hidden in the Himalayan Mountains. You can see Bangladesh and China when you stand on the high peaks.

The Nagas were headhunters. They worshipped the rocks, moon and stars as their ‘fathers’. In 1872, an American missionary, rev. E.W. Clark and his wife went to the Naga Hills and took the gospel to the Nagas. That was the beginning of headhunters becoming fishers of men! Many more missionaries followed. Slowly, the gospel penetrated the different regions of Nagaland. Each group has its own dialect, but they all share a common language known as ‘Nagamese’. However, their official language is English.

The British came to Nagaland in 1878 as part of their colonial expansion. In 1929, the Nagas started their struggle for independence. During World War II, they fought bravely on the side of the British. When the war ended, and it was clear that India would receive independence from England (which happened in 1947), the Nagas hoped that England would remember them and help them to become an independent state. However, Britain forgot about them. The Nagas felt betrayed.

Since the beginning of the 1950’s, a war has existed between the Nagas and the Indian Army. A meeting between the Nagas and the Indian Prime Minister was scheduled for Nagas to state their case for an independent homeland. Some 15,000 Nagas came to the meeting with great expectancy. However, ten minutes before the meeting was due to start, they were told that they would not be allowed to say anything or ask any questions! The Nagas left the stadium. It was a huge humiliation for the Prime Minister. All hell broke loose in Nagaland as India retaliated.


Very few people know about what has happened since 1955 because it occurred in the remote and isolated Naga Hills. When you know the background of this war, it becomes clear that the Indian government’s intention was the total annihilation of the Naga people. Troops sent to Nagaland did not go to make or keep the peace or even to try and force surrender. They went to pillage, rape and massacre as many Naga people as possible! The Naga National Council appealed to the United Nations for help. They received no answer.

Six months after their appeal to the U.N., further Indian troops were sent to Nagaland. The horror and nightmare in Nagaland multiplied a hundredfold! People were slaughtered irrespective of age, gender or occupation – babies, children, women, men and the elderly. Villages were burned, and everything was destroyed. One historian, Kaka Iralu, describes this period as follows: “In the subsequent orgy of violence that engulfed these beautiful mountains and hills, a hundred thousand cries of agony rent the air and reverberated across the valleys and mountains of Nagaland, but their cries were never heard except by their tormentors. They bled, they cried, and they died, but the world never heard their cries of agony. Every Naga soul felt the repercussions of this nightmare. Every Naga family was desecrated, and almost every village, of every tribe, was burned to ashes.” 

At least 200,000 to 250,000 Nagas died in this genocide.


The Persecution Coincided with Revival

In the 1950s, amid these terrible atrocities, Naga Christians started to cry out to God. A missionary, Dr. G. E. Hunteri, who worked among the Ao (one of the major Naga tribes), had a heavy burden for revival among the Nagas. However, he was forced to leave Nagaland in 1952. Others soon took up the baton and prayed for revival. Revival began to break out in many churches. People confessed their sins, and many got converted. Others prepared to go out as missionaries. Prayer meetings increased. There were healings – blind eyes were opened, the ears of the deaf healed, crippled bodies restored, the dead raised, and the demon-possessed delivered and healed.

Sometimes, meetings had to stop because people cried out for more mercy, so it was impossible to continue with the meeting. All the gifts of the Spirit listed in the Bible were experienced in the Naga churches!

The conventional form of worship, formal praying, singing, and preaching methods have changed. Prayer meetings continued for hours. Often, preachers had to stop in the middle of their sermons because people were crying out for mercy and confessing their sins before the whole congregation.

The power of God shook whole communities to their foundation! Many miracles, signs and wonders occurred that put the fear of God into everyone. Powerful and remarkable incidents happened, many of them well documented. In a certain place, the church lifted about one meter off the ground! Immediately, people fell on their faces and started to confess their sins. Even so, some people refused to be converted.

One night, some hardened unbelievers were having a party and a demon manifested in their midst. They were so scared that they ran straight to the church and repented of their sins!


On 22 September 1957, during a prayer meeting, tongues of fire could be seen flickering just above the roof of the church. At another church, as people were leaving to return home, a flame appeared in the church! It descended and settled over the pulpit, accompanied by a mighty sound, like a loud roar. The people were terrified! The flame divided into tongues of fire, and people began to prophesy; some saw awesome visions.

In one instance, a church member prophesied that God would send a pillar of fire and that everyone should confess and repent of their sins. He said that when the pillar of fire comes, it will burn down every unbeliever’s house. That night, between 7-8 p.m., a strange pillar of fire shone above the church. After a short time, it vanished. Soon, people noticed that the house of a non-Christian by the name of Tesinlo Khing was in flames! Although houses were built very close to one another and constructed of highly flammable materials, only this one house burned down!

On another occasion, a prophecy was given that if people continued to murmur against the workings of the Holy Spirit, hailstones would pour down from heaven to undo their unbelief. A short time after the lady had finished prophesying, a storm of hailstones came down from heaven, crashing down on the church roof in broad daylight without a single drop of rain accompanying it! A similar prophecy was given on another occasion because of the people’s murmurings and unbelief. Immediately, a heavy rain shower came down from heaven to undo their unbelief. This happened in a completely cloudless sky!


Many unbelievers resisted God during the revival. One man, Gwanilo Seb, was a drunkard who had been excommunicated from the church because of his unrepentant heart. He did not believe the revival was God-sent. One night, he went to the church out of curiosity. An elderly man pulled him inside the church towards the pulpit. Suddenly, an invisible hand struck him so hard on the back of his head that he fell to the ground and couldn’t speak! He came under deep conviction of his sin for an entire day! Due to his dumbness, he asked for chalk and a blackboard. He asked for the forgiveness of the believers and asked them to pray for his re-admission to the church. They prayed for him, and he could speak again when they wrote his name in the church register!

At least four people were raised from the dead. These events were witnessed by hundreds of people who gave first-hand accounts.

The monsoon season in Nagaland lasts from about April to November every year. During the rains, roads and trails turn into mud; landslides are common, and rivers are impassable. On one occasion during the revival, God told a prayer group at the Sendenyu Baptist Church to take the message of repentance and faith to surrounding communities and tribes. Through prophecy, the Holy Spirit told them the exact date and time they should cross the River Nra to share the gospel with various Sumi villages on the western side of the river. The team obeyed, and on the specified date, they went to the river – the widest and deepest river in the area. The prayer group found the river in flood and impossible to cross. There were no bridges or boats. Some wanted to turn back, but others felt God had spoken and commanded them to go on that specific date. They had to obey the Lord at all costs. Someone took a step into the river, another person, and another one. They found that the water was not as deep as they had thought. They boldly walked across the river to the other side; they could feel the riverbed under the soles of their feet!

Afterwards, they said they did not know how God had enabled them to cross the river. Perhaps He had made the river shallow for a time. The river at that crossing point was later measured and found to be at least 10 meters deep during the rainy season! (The same testimonies came from the revival in the 1960s and ’70s in Indonesia).

Many people were delivered from demons. The Nagas were headhunters and animists who worshipped the spirits and demons their ancestors had worshipped for centuries. To break the power of the strongholds over Nagas, who were still entangled by these demonic strongholds, Christians had to pray much and often set aside times of fasting.


On one occasion, several Christians fasted for the strongholds to be broken among the people of a particular region. Three things happened that day: Outside a village called ‘Senenyu’, there was a hill called ‘Mountain for Drying Human Flesh’. It had a large cave called ‘Demon’s Cave’, where villagers believed Satan roasted human flesh. The cave roof collapsed that day, and nobody could ever enter it again!

The second thing that happened was the disappearance of a huge rock. On a plain near the village, there was a huge rock between two rivers. Humanly speaking, it was impossible to move it. It weighed several tons! Stories were told of people who went near the rock and got sick. Some even died. On that specific day, the rock simply disappeared, and nobody could find it!

The third incident involved three wild rubber trees planted at the village entrance. Over decades, they grew into one another and looked like one tree. The villagers ascribed spiritual power to these trees. Occult rituals were performed there, and the severed heads of people killed during headhunting were hung there. These trees were called ‘Tree for Hanging Human Heads’. Suddenly, without warning, the three trees fell down that day with a great crash!

Bit by bit, the power of the evil one was eroded all over Nagaland, and many people were set free from demons.

The revival of the 1950’s reached its peak in 1958-59. The revival was so intense that people could not continue planting or harvesting – they sought the Lord!

A ‘Side-note

In November 1972, Billy Graham visited the Naga church, which significantly boosted them. More than 100,000 people came to Kohima to listen to him. Some travelled for several days on foot through the jungle. One has to bear in mind that the city’s total population was only 30,000! Unbelievers were confronted with the reality of faith in Christ, the truth of the gospel and eternal salvation.


The 1976 Revival

M.I. Luen has carefully recorded the events of the 1976 revival. He was a Baptist minister and gave an account of his experience. He says simply, “I only give an account of what I personally saw and touched.” In the following paragraphs, I have used his book, The Fire of Revival, as my source.

Every town and village in the Ao region had at least one Baptist church. These churches were Luen’s entry points during the revival. For six years, a ‘Chain of Prayer’ happened in all Ao Baptist churches, pleading with the Lord to send revival to all the churches in Nagaland. “They prayed day and night with tears.” In the sixth year, the Lord rained down His Spirit upon the people, and a great revival broke out in Nagaland.

The First Outpouring Started 6-9 May 1976

His denomination set aside Pastor Luen as an evangelist with two tasks: (1) to conduct revival messages in the churches and (2) to be the director of Radio Broadcasting for the program The Gospel Hour, broadcast from Manila in the Philippines.

In a meeting on 5 May, Luen called people together to pray. Some fifty people heeded the call. He started 3-day revival meetings over weekends, called ‘The Hour of Revival’. The next morning, fourteen people met for an early-morning prayer time. During the meeting, they experienced a definite touch from the Holy Spirit. Some cried and laughed joyfully as they saw the heavens open up and angels rejoicing. This continued for hours!

They examined their hearts before God for sins and iniquities committed from birth and saw them as filthy rags. They saw their sins as they had never seen them before. They saw that their ‘righteousness’ was merely self-righteousness, and they responded by calling on God with cries and tears for His forgiveness. God touched them and cleansed them. Their joy had no bounds, and they experienced the power of the Holy Spirit! It was not emotionalism; it was the joy of the Lord! Their prayers, joy, and witnessing became different; they understood the Word as they had never before and desired to take the gospel to the whole of Nagaland.

The following are direct reports from church leaders about what happened in their churches over the two years that ‘The Revival Hour’ meetings were conducted:

There were healings. A woman who was paralysed was instantly healed. Many seriously sick people were brought to the church and healed.

Visions. In one church, sixty people saw visions at the same time. Sometimes, people were in a trance, talking to people and relating to them what God was saying. They often told people about hidden sins in their lives. Through this, many came under the conviction of sin and repented. Sometimes they would hear the Word of God.

Jesus and angels were seen. Time and again, people saw angels. Sometimes, they heard the angels singing. Very often, people had visions of Jesus or the Cross. Many times, the Holy Spirit was manifested as a dove. In one conference, God opened the eyes of believers, and they saw thousands of angels. The angels stretched out their hands and guarded them. Several times, it sounds like the ringing of bells came from heaven. 

Lights and fire. It was common for people to see lights and balls of fire coming down from heaven. This happened hundreds of times, witnessed by dozens or hundreds of people at a time. Sometimes, people were surrounded by fire. Healings, lights, balls of fire, visions and sightings of angels always lead to deep conviction of sin, repentance and the strengthening of people. In one case, while people were worshipping and praying, a bright light, like a fireball, appeared on the cross in the church. God came in such power that people fell to the ground, searching their hearts! Many received spiritual gifts. The light continued to be there for three weeks! Sometimes, people also saw a pillar of light.

The glory of God. Sometimes, unbelievers were drawn by the glory of God, but in other cases, people ran away because they could not withstand the glory and refused to repent of their sins.

Conviction of sin. In nearly all the meetings, there was conviction of sin, and many came to the Lord. Signs, wonders, miracles, singing of angels, visions of Jesus, deliverance from demons and healings led people to confess their sins and glorify God. There were often terrible times when people confessed their sins.

Prayer increased. The moment a community was touched by revival, prayer increased—churches filled with more and more people coming to pray.

Missions. One of the most remarkable features of the Nagaland revival is the thousands of young and old people trained as missionaries to go to other provinces in India and several additional nations. This is always one of the features of true revival.

Long meetings. Meetings often lasted for 18 hours, sometimes 26-30 hours! Such long meetings were not uncommon. 

People raised from the dead. In one family, the father was not saved. One morning, his daughter was found dead in her bed. Counsellors gathered around and prayed for her. The father repented of his sins and gave his life to the Lord Jesus. His daughter had been dead for six hours, and she opened her eyes and was alive again! In another instance, an unsaved woman passed away. The pastor prayed for her, and she came back to life! The pastor spoke to her about salvation, and she and her husband surrendered their lives to Jesus. Five minutes later, she died.

Deliverance from demons. Many people were delivered from demons. In one case, an evil spirit left a woman and entered a swine. It fell to the ground and died.


Pastor Luen tells a very interesting story about what happened in one of the meetings: “I was speaking, and suddenly the devil started to work. I felt myself becoming physically weak and saw that my words were not reaching the people. I saw people dozing off in the church. They did not hear my words. At that moment, someone who had ‘spiritual eyes’, saw the devil in the form of a goat coming right to the pulpit where I was preaching. He ate and swallowed all my words. In the middle of my preaching, that man stood up and said, ‘Mr Luen, the devil is eating all your words. Come, let us pray.’ The whole congregation stood up, lifted their hands, and prayed to God to bind the powers of the devil and drive them out of the church. People with the ‘gift of seeing’ saw the goat leaving the church.”  

People who resisted God. In one village, several farm workers refused to attend a church meeting. Suddenly, one by one, they stopped work and came running and crying to the church. In another instance, a young girl of fifteen had a vision which told her to go to the parents of one of her unsaved friends. She told them that if they continue to harden their hearts, their child will die in three days. The sick girl begged her parents to repent. She said she was not afraid to die because she was ready to meet Jesus, but she feared for her parents. The parents refused to repent and hardened their hearts even more. The girl died on the third day.

In another village, a family of seven were all opposed to the revival. They were negative about miracles and the works of God. In one day, five of them died, the father included. In another village, seven village elders opposed the revival and tried to stop it. One family member in each of six families died, and in the seventh family, two died. In yet another village, a man resisted the revival and became insane. He stayed that way for several months. After he repented, God restored him. Yet again, some heathens resolved among themselves to persecute believers. Suddenly, fire fell from the sky and burned the granary of their ringleader! In another instance, several people opposed revival and stopped the Revival Hour team from conducting meetings. Their leader was a woman. Suddenly, the fire of God struck her. She fell and died on the spot!

Persecution. Christians were often physically attacked, and in several cases, some were even killed. Amid all these remarkable events, people still opposed revival. Some pastors’ and church leaders’ houses were locked, and they were chased away. One pastor had no home for three years!



It is simply amazing how much resistance people experience during revival. Unbelievers reject it and simply laugh at or ridicule accounts of miracles and healings; however, bigger resistance often comes from the church. Sometimes, a handful of pastors and Christians resist the power and work of God. Other times, large numbers of pastors opposed the revival. Not a single revival has been uncontested by Christians or church leaders! Many revivalists testify that when revival starts, all hell breaks loose! It becomes a fight for the souls of men and women. This aspect is not often recorded, but the more one researches revival, the clearer it becomes.

The revival in Nagaland was no different: Pastors were often driven from their churches, homes, towns and villages. Churches and houses were torched, and some pastors were physically beaten. It was not that uncommon for church members and pastors to be killed! Many pastors and Christians ended up in prison and were tortured.


Why Such Dramatic Manifestations?

Headhunting still occurred in the 1960s and 1970s: One man had 42 heads in his collection, another 50, a third 60 and another 62! Before 1970, the Yimchung area was called a ‘paradise’ for headhunters. Some headhunters surrendered their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ and became His servants during the revival. In the confrontation between the light and darkness for roughly 100 years (1890-1990), headhunting was eventually abolished entirely. We can ask why God worked in such dramatic ways during this revival, but we must remember that the Nagas were headhunters steeped in animism and other forms of demonic worship. It was the remarkable works of God that plucked them like branches from the fire.


The following is a quote from The Fire of Revival, by M.I. Luen, a man God used powerfully in the Nagaland Revival:

“Trials and tribulations began coming to us. And yes, it was like a storm. Reports of lies came against our works, suspicions arose, and we were falsely accused of things, with some of the people bringing false witnesses against us. Some sowed seeds of doubt among the people. Some people accused us of bringing a new denomination. There were times when people, and even friends, became foes; they mocked and condemned the works of God. When the Lord works among the people, His name is glorified greatly, the devil hates it, tries to discourage and weaken the people’s minds in many ways… The devil started his work, slowly dissensions came, and there was confusion among the people. There were oppositions, and the believers faced persecution. Likewise, when the revival fire broke out and consumed the churches, the devil sowed the seed of confusion, and many people began to oppose the revival. But the more they opposed the work of God, the higher the flames went up, and it spread over the place. Along with the increase of invitations and fruit came opposition, disturbances and false accusations that were the devil’s work. Without a doubt, he was alarmed by the increase of God’s mighty works and its progress. I often went through physical and mental stress, which threatened to affect my ministry.”

What M.I. Luen describes above is very much the experience of most revivalists.

About the author

Bennie Mostert
By Bennie Mostert