Page 10: An inhospitable and inaccessible land.


As seen from the outside world the whole area was regarded as very inhospitable. It was far removed from the thickly-populated and busy trade centres of the rest of India and provided no access to any other land. Only the rugged and unexplored region of the Chin Hills of western Burma lay beyond it. The only access was a difficult and tedious bridlepath to Aizawl and access to the southern region was even more restricted. Thus it had little attraction to other missionary bodies until the unmistakeable success of Christian work became known.


A natural Mizo church structure develops.

The Government itself had no wish to let in more than the minimum number of outsiders. The Mizo Hills were made an excluded area. This policy helped the infant church to grow in a natural way. The understanding and co-operation between the Baptists and Presbyterians grew over the years and the division into North and South was seen as conveniently following the Government’s own territorial division. No Presbyterian church has ever been established in the Baptist area, nor a Baptist church in the Presbyterian area. This policy was changed in 1985.

The nature of Church organization was more due to the Mizo heritage than any structure introduced from the West. It depended on consultation and representation and was not difficult to maintain.

Traditionally the elders in a Mizo village were appointed by the invitation of the Chief. Church elders, however, were appointed from below as it were, by the members of the local congregation. These elders were later approved and ordained by the Presbytery. Practices North and South were alike, which for Baptists gave authority to the Presbytery at the expense of the local church. A departure from normal Baptist practice elsewhere.

Jones ‘Zosaphluia’ and Rowlands ‘Sapthara’ spent so much time away from their base, surrounded only by Mizos, and in constant contact with their practices, traditions and opinions that they developed over the years a superb understanding of the Mizo mind. A picture of slow progress and a satisfying joy in their work becomes clear from the missionaries’ letters of the period.


Translation and printing.

Meanwhile the work of translating more of the Scriptures (mostly the New Testament) continued, and the little store of other literature in the Mizo tongue began to grow steadily. With this, the extension of the schools, and training of new teachers, some amendments and improvements to the alphabet proved necessary. Changes to the symbols and sequences of the letters were soon made. The changes were made chiefly in the North, but after consultation with the South, were accepted henceforward throughout Mizoram.

Initially the word ‘Jihova’ was used for God, but it was soon replaced by the Mizo word ‘Pathian’. Also ‘Jisua’ was used for Jesus, but the initial ‘J’ was dropped to make ‘Isua’ as it was easier for Mizos to say. There is no ’J’ in Greek as there is none in Mizo. New words had to be found to express new concepts. Mizo words for salvation, redemption, and justification etc. had to be adapted from words already in existence. The words for church (congregation), chapel (building), and days of the week, and so on, had to be freshly coined. Because Mizo is monosyllabic it lends itself easily to the creation of new words. But words like Christmas, Cross, Pharisee etc. were taken bodily from English. Others were taken from Khasi and Bengali but, surprisingly, there was little need for such borrowing.

Such minor adjustments were frequently made in the early period as the need arose, before errors rooted themselves in the language. The science of Phonetics was largely in its infancy. Assam, which has over a hundred languages, would have profited from a single alphabet. The Mizo language was fortunate in being provided with a simple but excellent alphabet. Today Mizo uses a 25 letter phonetic alphabet:

[a, aw, b, ch, d, e, f, g, ng, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, r, s, t, ţ, u, v, z. (1)]

Apart from the ease with which it could be taught and learnt it could be typed on cheap and common typewriters. Type for printing was also easily available and cheap. Soon magazines and small books could be printed on small, foot-operated platen machines, but in the meantime books had to be sent away for printing.

The first Mizo books (apart from the Scriptures) were printed at the Assam Government Press in Shillong in 1895. Subsequently, according to Jones ‘Zosaphluia’ in his autobiography, books were sent to be printed in Shillong, Sylhet, Dacca, Calcutta, Allahabad, and Madras. The reason for sending print orders to all these places was that sending proofs to and from Aizawl took an inordinate amount of time. No press could afford to keep a lot of metal type standing while proofs were being checked. A letter to any part of India usually took a week.

The S.P.C.K. and the Christian Literature Society generously allowed their school textbooks to be translated. The textbooks proved very suitable for Mizo students. First print runs were for 500, but these quantities soon proved inadequate and the purchase of books of all kinds increased greatly.


David Evan Jones ‘Zosaphluia’ marries.

Towards the end of 1903 Jones ‘Zosaphluia’ married Miss K. E. Williams at the Scottish Church in Calcutta.

Miss Williams trained as a teacher and had worked among Bengali women in the Zenanas (2) of Sylhet since 1894. After her long experience of the rigidity of traditional customs among both Hindu and Moslem Bengali women it may have made it difficult for her to adapt to the vastly different and much freer Mizo society.

The bridlepath from Silchar to Aizawl had recently been completed and Jones ‘Zosaphluia’ brought his new bride along the new path instead of by river. They left Silchar on 5th January 1904 and arrived on the 14th. For six days the bamboo and trees blotted out the sun. Huge black monkeys were often seen and smaller brown ones were everywhere. The fact that they had only one pony between them made for an arduous journey which life on the Plains would not have prepared Mrs. Jones for.

“We passed not a single village”, writes Mrs. Jones, “saw no people, but hordes of monkeys. We saw many tiger prints... I had a very warm welcome in Aizawl. About seventy children came and a large number of folk from surrounding villages”.

In a letter written in September 1904 Mrs. Jones notes admiringly that the Mizo Christians had a plan for regular giving and that most tithed their money, which was very little. For example a teacher had recently sold a pig for twenty rupees and at once brought two rupees to give to the work of the Kingdom.

She also mentioned that two evangelists had returned from the South and both of them had suffered persecution in their own village.


Mizos used to be wife-hunters rather than headhunters.

Jones ‘Zosaphluia’ was appalled to discover an important fact of Mizo life. Infant mortality was as high as 50% and many mothers died in childbirth. Jones noted that this was often the reason why Mizos raided the Plains. They were on wife-hunting, rather than headhunting expeditions. Also, an old man told him that wars among Mizos were of comparatively recent origin. They used to be a very peaceable people.



Note:

(1). See: Mizoram Language in Wikipedia:

(2). Zenana is Persian/Urdu word which refers to the part of a house belonging to a Muslim family in India or Pakistan reserved for the women of the household. The Zenana are the inner apartments of a house in which the women live. The outer parts, reserved for guests and men, are called Mardana.

The Zenana missions are missions by women missionaries to Indian women in their own homes, with the aim of converting them to Christianity. The Baptist Missionary Society inaugurated Zenana missions to India in the early 19th century. The concept was later taken up by other churches and extended to other countries.

By the 1880s, the "zenana missions" added medical work to its ministry to encourage conversions and became the Zenana Bible and Medical Mission. This involved recruiting female doctors, both by persuading female doctors in Europe to come to India and by encouraging Indian women to study medicine in their pursuit of conversion. They also provided schooling for girls, including the principles of the Christian faith. As a result, the Zenana missions helped break down the male bias against colonial medicine in India to a small extent.

See: Zenana in Wikipedia.

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