Righting Southern Manipur’s Mission Approach and Christian History

Published on May 8, 2015

By Rev. Mangthianlal Thangniang

One of the outstanding hallmarks of Southern Manipur’s Christianity is its commitment to mission and evangelism. And for good decades, in this area, we have wonderfully impact different parts of the North East and deep India, apart from frontier areas of Myanmar. I am proud to be a disciple cared and nurtured under this kind of Church. But our understanding of mission and evangelism must constantly have the right perspective. If our mission approach is blown out of proportion to one extreme, the other areas of ministry will have a great setback. The result can be a sick Church which produces a sick society.

Therefore, our missionary zeal to share the goodnews to the farthest parts of the world must be balanced by our compassionate action and concern towards the happenings in our land and society. At Glocal Volunteers, we have a favorite quote which goes something like this: Mission and evangelism that shines the farthest must shine and lighten the hometown too. We must not give up far off missions, but we also must care about surrounding calling. Macedonians calls are at home and far from home. It must go together as a Church vision. This must be intentional mission approach. If we fail here, down the years, we will surely fail in our missional practice and Christian authenticity.

For this reason, I lay down before us what I call “ADOPT A NEIGHBORHOOD” mission.  Every local Church, in terms of evangelism, revival, care ministry and environment areas, there is a miracle we can all do, with holy spirit’s blessing, in our town if we focus on a passionate, committed and strategic level at the neighborhood area. This neighborhood has to be our primary area of influence and target. Every local church must have and share this vision. We must know that primarily all local churches are salt and light in their geo-political location. If we fail miserably here, we will only be a clanging gong in far off missions. And if we are fruitful here, our mission works will go very far and the foundation will be strong and healthy.

Another approach I would like to lay down is a collective and unifying Christian history concerning Southern Manipur. At times, it belongs to the writer who must be included or omitted. Instead of advocating for one or two of the pioneer missionaries and evangelists – whom we have closer ties – and if we can have an inclusive write up on them all, it will have a far reaching effects in our Christian history. Instead of continuing with our sectarian historical narrative, if we adopt a unifying historical account, the mentality of divisiveness will have its brake to a good extent. After all, what pleases God is that we give all accountings rightly as best as we can in all areas of life, not just financial accounting but historical records and events too.

We know that the gospel of salvation had taken its root with the arrival of Watkin Roberts in the mission field of Southern Manipur through Senvon. He crossed seas and trekked treacherous mountains to bring the message of the savior, Jesus Christ, to us. Therefore, he must have a prominent place in the annals of Christian history in our land. Our historians record that the king of Senvon, Kamkholun Singson, was the one inviting Watkin Roberts to explain to him a copy of John gospel which was given to him. Reverend Lungpau and Reverend Thangkai, the then students in Aizawl, accompanied Watkin Roberts to be his eyes and mouth to enter Manipur through Mizoram’s border. On their way back, they accepted Jesus Christ as their personal lord and savior at Vervek. Thus became the first missionary converts in the entire clans of southern region of Manipur.

Upon returning to Aizawl, Dr. P. Fraser and Watkin R. Roberts were enthusiastic and eager in preparing a way to send missionaries back to Manipur’s Senvawn and other areas. They asked for volunteers. Three persons – Savawma, Vanzika and Thangchhingpuia @ Taitea, all of them who were supported students responded with great excitement. And we are told and retold that this wonderful committed team had a profound eternal impact after their arrival in Senvawn and other areas. There are others too who should be included in the gospel historical narrative. But the three names I just mentioned above cannot be ignored if we are to be true to the true historical account and are willing cooperators in unity of spirit.

This is what a wonderful picture of historical narrative where every bits and pieces have fallen in the plan of the divine order. If one of the pieces were missing, mission history would have had a very different story. From the very beginning, Southern Manipur’s gospel account is a partnership in cooperation and in unity of spirit and oneness of heart. And this narrative must be told and retold today in the memory of our children and children’s children.

Let us not tear into bits and pieces what God has in the first place to be a unifying gospel historical account and cooperation in partnership with oneness of heart. May the gospel movement move on. May it bring healing, revival and transformation in our land and to the far-off.

The writer is president & CEO of Glocal Volunteers (www.glocalvolunteers.org), a faith-based organization in Manipur, India. He can be reached at glocalvolunteers@gmail.com or manganart@gmail.com.

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