Morung Express Feature
Chizami (Phek) | March 24
At the age of 34, Neitsukhaü Akami is the youngest pastor of the Chizami Baptist Church that was set up in 1931. Significantly, she is also its first woman pastor. Tucked away in the hills of Phek district, Chizami has set many precedents for Naga society—as its own community has progressed, the church has kept up.
Pastor Neitsukhaü is well rooted in Chizami village, having been born and brought up here. Born to a family of cultivators, with 8 siblings, she was schooled in Chizami followed by theology degrees from the Baptist Theological College in Pfutsero and a Diploma in clinical pastoral counseling from Thomas Mar Athananius Institute of Counseling in Kerala.
“How I wished to be one of them!” says Pastor Neitsukhaü of how her journey began—attending Chizami Baptist Church as a child, she would be fascinated by theology students visiting the church, singing, preaching. She returned to the village after completion of her studies in 2012 and became the women’s department pastor at the Church. The pastor nomination committee began search for a new pastor at the Church, to work with the senior Pastor, in 2017 and zeroed in on Neitsukhaü who was selected as pastor to the 5-year tenure, beginning early 2018.
“Every congregation here is attended more by women than men. Even the men in the church wanted a woman to come out as a church leader,” notes the young pastor. Working with the mothers of Chizami as a women’s pastor brought her enormous experience and encouragement. “I was the youngest and all the mothers supported, encouraged and prayed for me consistently. They taught me to give, to pray, and I slowly rose up,” she acknowledges.
Her days are now occupied by home visitations, reading scriptures, preparing sermons, counseling people who feel discouraged, taking part in devotion services, and, alongside the senior pastor, leading services and preaching to the Sunday congregation.
“I was very nervous in the beginning. It is one thing to preach and another to live up to it. I had to learn to be more careful with my sermons, and this gave me the chance to read more about the word of God,” expressed the light hearted and positive Pastor, happy to have touched the dream she aspired for.
In 2017, when a pastors’ fellowship of 100 churches affiliated to the Chakhesang Baptist Church Council happened in Chizami, she was a bit upset that only three women were part of it. “It is not to compete with men, but more women are needed in leading the church,” she reflects as we speak in her chamber. “Women bring a culture of dialogue and think deeply about issues. We should not think of ourselves as timid and incapable but stand firm and emerge as leaders.”
Given challenges to the Naga church today, Pastor Neitsukhaü’s journey has just begun. “Sometimes I am confused. At a time when our people have become unstable in our faith, how will I reach out the word of God to my people?” She answers her own dilemma. “We have to work not just inside but outside the church if we have to bring our people closer to God for God alone can bring us peace.”