Sonneo Haokip, 21, and Jangboi, 22, from a village in Manipur
Sonneo (Soh-NEE-yoh) and Jangboi (ZANG-boi) were friends. They went to the same Christian secondary school in their village in India. They studied together. They went to the same church and were Sunday school song leaders together. They fasted and prayed together with a prayer team. They talked about the Bible often.
Sonneo’s father was a pastor in the church. Sonneo taught his younger brother and sisters their memory verses even before they went to school.
Jangboi’s mother told him stories from the Bible from the time he was a baby. He never missed a worship service at the village church, and was devoted to God.
Sonneo and Jangboi had another friend, named Manboy. During their last year of high school, Manboy attended a series of evangelistic meetings and became a Seventh-day Adventist. The three friends frequently discussed God and religion, and Manboy began trying to convince the other two that Saturday was God’s holy Sabbath and that Adventists taught the truth. Sonneo and Jangboi tried not to listen to what Manboy told them. They decided to stop spending time with Manboy–they were worried that if they were not careful, he would lure them away from their church.
But one evening the three had homework to work on together, so Sonneo and Jangboi had to go to Manboy’s house. They went after their church’s Sunday- evening meeting. While they were there, the Adventist lay evangelist dropped by for a visit. He asked the boys if they wanted to join him for a prayer. Sonneo and Jangboi could not say no to praying with someone, so they all knelt together. After the prayer they all began talking about the Bible. When the topic of the Sabbath came up, Sonneo sighed. It seemed to him that these Adventists were stuck on an unimportant Old Testament teaching that had no relevance after Jesus’ time on earth and the New Testament.
“You Adventists are always trying to convince everyone that your hard way to heaven is the only way,” Sonneo told the lay evangelist. But the man just smiled and kept talking. They talked about all the Ten Commandments, and the evangelist went through all the Bible verses about the Sabbath. They discussed Peter’s vision in Acts 10 and clean and unclean animals. On each topic the evangelist was able to clearly explain texts that had never quite made sense to Sonneo and Jangboi. He knew his Bible very well, and Sonneo and Jangboi began to question beliefs they had long held. They began to wonder if keeping the Sabbath really was important, the way the Adventists believed.
A week later they went to the lay evangelist’s house, where they began to study the Bible systematically. Every night for a week they studied and prayed. Finally Sonneo and Jangboi were convinced. They thanked their friend Manboy for being persistent in leading them to the truth. They asked to be baptized.
When an Adventist pastor visited the village, the two were baptized together. But deciding to leave the church of their families had drastic consequences. Their church told them they were making a huge mistake. Their families were very angry with them.
“You have disgraced me and our family,” Sonneo’s father told him. When Sanneo’s older brother heard what had happened, he stopped paying Sonneo’s school fees. Sonneo did not have enough money himself to pay his exam fees, and he was forced to quit school just before graduating. His family told him he could no longer live in their home if he insisted on sticking with this crazy religion.
Then the village council summoned Sonneo and Jangboi, and the village chief told them they could no longer enter the village. They made a resolution that no one in the village was allowed to become Adventist. The boys were forced to stay with a lay evangelist in another village because they had nowhere else to go. They missed their families, but they felt that giving up their previous life for God’s truth was a trade worth making. They began helping the evangelist, and speaking at meetings. They help with Bible studies, and many people from neighboring villages have asked to be baptized.
Now Sonneo and Jangboi are planning to study theology at Flaiz Adventist College in Andhra Pradesh. They feel that God is calling them. They know that the people in their village and the surrounding communities are searching for God. They want to be workers for God, change the discrimination against Adventists, show that religious freedom is important—and help the people find what they are looking for.