Thursday, January 12, 2006

Missionaries in Mizoram - Some Reflections

Happy New Year to everyone!

Today, I read from the Chennai Mizo website that the pioneering work done by JH Lorrain on translation of English Language to Mizo Language is already online. You may click this link to check it out Lorrain, J. Herbert (James Herbert) Dictionary of the Lushai language . As I read this, it took me back to 1994 when the Gospel centenary was celebrated at Mizoram. I was part of the Centenary Choir and it was a wonderful experience. Many foreigners who came to Mizoram as missionary also came all the way from their country to take part in the celebration.

In fact, JH Lorrain was one of the two British Baptist missionaries, who ventured into the hills of Mizoram in 1894. One of the missionaries was William Frederick Savidge. To quote an article written by Rev. Richard Howell,

"The first missionary to visit Mizoram was William Williams, a Welsh missionary to Khasi, in 1891. J.H. Lorrain and F.W. Savidge came to Mizoram on 11th January 1894. During their four year stay, they reduced the Mizo language to written form, taught a number of Mizo to read and write and translated the Gospels of Luke and John and the Book of Acts into Mizo language. They also prepared a Mizo grammar, a dictionary, a number of small books and a catechism. Before they left in 1897, D. E. Jones of the Calvinistic Methodist Church came to Mizoram, who was soon joined by Edwin Rawlands. The Church they planted, namely the Presbyterian Synod of Mizoram, became the biggest denominational Church in Mizoram.

"In 1903, the Baptist Missionary Society, after an agreement was made with the Calvinistic Methodist, sent the former Arthington missionaries, J.H. Lorrain and F.W. Savidge to Southern Mizoram. The church they planted became the second largest denomination in Mizoram. R.A. Lorrain, started work among the Lakher (Mara) sometime after 1910, as missionaries of the Lakher Pioneer Mission, an independent mission agency. These three foreign missions worked in the beautiful mountainous land of Mizoram".

Regarding the Gospel centenary celebration in Mizoram, in 1994, Harold Kurtz (Executive Director of the Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship,Portland, Oregon) had written,

"A couple of years ago I was asked to share in the one hundredth anniversary of the arrival of the first missionaries to the Mizo people in northeast India. They are oriental people and when the missionaries arrived they were still head-hunters. The British journals give ample evidence of this and the people themselves readily spoke of their bloodthirsty, violent past as they now celebrate the transformation of their lives and society by the presence of Jesus. The state of Mizoram may house the highest percentage of Christians in the world. Certainly I came away feeling I had been to the most Christian society I had ever experienced--I felt I had been to a Christian Shangrila.

"What I found especially fascinating was the stories they told and the historical records which documented the rapid spread of the Gospel which was life and culture transforming and so all inclusive in the society. The Welsh missionaries had been deeply touched by two Welsh revival movements and carried that movement of the Spirit with its somewhat wild enthusiasm, back with them to Mizo land. That revival spirit caught fire among the Mizo and allowed the Gospel to run free within the culture, out of control of the missionaries and the Western worship patterns up and down the valleys and over the hills. The Gospel spread so fast it was impossible to keep things in order and the Gospel literally got out of control".

Some of the resources relating to Missionary works in Mizoram are below [not an exhaustive list]:

1. Brian Stanley,The Legacy of Robert Arthington

2. Rev. Richard Howell, The South Asian Scene- With Special Reference To India

3. BMS World Mission

4. Zari Malsawma, The Mizos of Northeast India: Proclaiming the Gospel to their neighbors near and far

5. Gwen Rees Roberts, MEMORIES OF MIZORAM - RECOLLECTIONS AND REFLECTIONS, Bwrdd y Genhadaeth (2001). [To quote a review by one website "A fascinating account of the missionary work of Gwen Rees Roberts in Mizoram, 1944-68, comprising reminiscences of happy and hard times spent in India, and of various people she worked with during a lively period in the history of the missionary movement. 2 black-and-white drawings and 1 map."]

6. Harold Kurtz, Must the Faith Get Out of Control? The Word In The Mother Tongue and Life In The Mother Culture
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