In His Own Time
By Hoineilhing Sitlhou
We have heard with our ears, O God; our fathers have told us
What you did in their days, in days long ago—Psalm 44: 1
The work of missionizing did not end with the book of Acts in the Bible. It continued to spread to every nook and corner of the world and acquired varied forms and style—church planting, evangelisation, missionary enterprises like education, literature and health care institutions. The story is about the Kuki society’s saga with the first colonial missionaries, affectionately called “sapkang pastor te.”
During the course of my fieldwork in the hills of Manipur, I had insightful discussions with old men of the villages. Older people still remember their encounter with the foreign missionaries whom they thought look like some animals, with their white skin and tall features. The very sight of a missionary poses great pleasure to the people. Mr. Douthang Singsit, an old man in his early eighties recollects how he and his friend tried to climb over some fences that mark the missionary compound to have a glimpse of the white men.
In its early days, the mission field in Manipur was divided into two main camps. The North-West was under the Baptist Mission with Pettigrew and Crozier spearheading it. Crozier was especially in charge of the Kukis in the area. He was responsible for the establishment of leprosy centre in Kangpokpi besides translating the Bible into the Thadou dialect. One story narrated by a retired pastor Satkholal Lhouvum was particularly interesting. The event happened after the Kuki Rebellion (1917-1919) during the time of missionary G.G.Crozier, affectionately called by the local people as “Crozier sahib.”
There was a chief name Loonpilal (Lunpilal) of one Santing village. At that time, Santing was in Tamei subdivion under Laijang province, which has now become Tamenglong district. The village was big and had about a hundred residents. Crozier said to him, “Lunpilal, your village has become very prosperous and big. I have a proposition before you: accept the Christian God and I will build a school in your village and construct a road between Kangpokpi and your village.”
Lunpilal at first readily agreed to this. He added, “Sahib! I have an unmarried sister name Chongkholam, who is always sick. Please heal her too in addition to all that is there in your proposal.” G.G. Crozier agreed to this and said, “Yes! I will surely see to it that she is healed.” However, after the meeting was over and Crozier party had left the place, there was commotion in the village. The Semang-pachongs or the council of Ministers under the chief expressed their annoyance and reluctance to the chief’s decision to collaborate with the white men. Since, the second meeting was to be held at the end of the year, there was terrifying speculation as to what could be the outcome.
At the fixed time, Crozier sent words to the chief Lunpilal, “after your village is done with the harvesting work, I will come with my wife and my cabinet and take over the whole villagers as Christian converts. As per the terms of our agreement, I will build a school and a road from Santing to Kangpokpi. I have also treated your sister Chongkholam of her illness.”
Upon hearing this, the ministers were bending upon killing Lunpilal. There was chaos all around, so much so that when Crozier and his party reach the place, the chief court was deserted. They had all ran away to avoid meeting them. Now, the chief had a big courtyard outside his house. A dejected Crozier realising the situation, kneel down in the big lawn outside the chief’s residence and prayed. It is said that Crozier wept profusely over the failure of the plan to convert the people of that place.
That day crozier prayed in the courtyard, “Pathen! Tuni a nasohpa keiman hiche Santing kholai ahi, nangma houbung tun doh tei ding a kana ngaito ahin. Kumlhung keiya ka programme jouse tuni hin a lawsam tan. Ahin tun keima mihem hina a kamolso joulou jongleh nang man pha nasah phat phat leh hiche Kadinna munna hi na maicham inn nahin sah ding ahi.” (Lord! I, your servant had made plans to build a church in this Santing village. Today, my yearlong plan is about to become a failure. Nevertheless, I am confident that what I as a mere human being cannot do, is not impossible for you. In your own time, turn this place and the very ground I stand into a place of your sanctuary.)
They left the place feeling dejected and embarrassed. Since the proposal to build a church, Mission School and a road between Kangpokpi and Santing did not come through; the mission directed their interest to a village in Ukhrul who readily agreed to the offer. Our narrator, a retired pastor Satkholal Lhouvum, narrated his own experience in the story. He was a pastor in the same village between the year 1969 and 1978. He said that the Takou people built a church in that same place where G.G. Crozier had knelt down to pray. Therefore, God in His graciousness answered the prayer made by G.G. Crozier in 1930 in the year 1978.
God’s timings are often slow, but it is a solace to know that our petitions are never wasted. We might forget them but He does not because He is a sovereign and faithful God who is concern with our needs. What is required of us it to be able to put our faith in God to engineer circumstances around us, also “to be still and know that He is God.”
The writer is a doctoral candidate of Sociology at Jawaharlal Nehru University, India.