A. The Gospel Light to the Chin Hills
The first persons to bring the Gospel Light to the Chin hills were Mr. Authur E. Carson and his wife Laura L. Hardin, and as such, let us see some sketches of their lives.
Arthur E. Carson was born on the 6th August 1 860 in Columbus USA. He arrived at Rangoon as a missionary on the 13th December 1886. Laura L. Hardin was born on the 28 September 1858 in Coming, USA and came into Burma to work as a missionary, and on the 28th November 1 883, she reached Rangoon. These two missionaries were married in 1 886 at Bassein.
After having worked for several years in Burma with the Asho Chins of Thayetmyo and vicinity, they started out on the 2nd February 1899 and reached Hakha on the 15th March 1899. At the time of arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Carson, the living standard of the Chin people were so low that people were practically without decent clothing to speak of. This condition depressed Mrs. Carson so much that she was sad to have bitterly and the encouragement given by her husband and the fortitude she got from God could make her a worker for the Chin people in the succeeding years.
Rev. Carson died on the 1st April 1908 after working for a consecutive period often years and he was buried at Hakha. Mrs. Carson, Dr. E. H. East, Dr. J. H. Cope continued to take up the work left by Mr. Carson. The American Baptist Missionaries who came to the Chin hills and their dates of arrival are as follows:-
- The Rev. A. E. Carson and wife 15th March 1899
- The Rev. Dr. E. H East and wife 21st March 1902
- The Rev. Dr. J. H Cope and wife 21st December 1908
- Dr. H. H Tilbe and wife 1902
- Dr. J. G. Woodin and wife 3rd November 1910
- The Rev. C. U. Strait and wife 27th October 1925
- The Rev. F. C. Nelson and wife 3rd December 1939
- The Rev. Johnson and wife 7th February 1947
- The Rev. Johnson and wife 7th February 1947
Mrs. Laura Carson stayed in the Chin Hills for quite a long time and she went back to America only in 1 920, twelve years after her husband died.
The Rev. Dr. East M. D and wife Emily East were medical missionaries to the Chin people, and due to ill-health had to return to the US in 1 902. He was the missionary who baptized the first batch of Chin converts. He came back in the 1 903 with his new bridge and some fund to built a 20 beds mission hospital in Hakha.
Dr. Henry H. Tilbe and wife Clara Tilbe came to the Chin Hills in 1902 to help the East but after 2 years they went back to U.S.
The Rev. Dr. Joseph Herbert Cope and wife Elizabeth Cope came to the Chin hills in 1908 to succeed the Rev. A. E. Carson and on the 19th April 1910 he transferred his headquarter from Hakha to Tiddim Dr.Cope work for 30 years not only as a missionary but with the consent of the British government he was acting as the Honorary Inspector of Schools in Chin hills. Dr. J. H. Cope died on the 11th June 1938 of diarrhea in Haka and was buried there.
The Rev. Chester Ulyses Strait and Mrs. Florence Strait arrived in 1925. He translated the New Testament into the Hakha dialect and completed it in 1932. When he was responsible for the first Bible School for Chins, the said school existing during 1928-1932. He returned to America on the 3 rd January 1942.
The Rev. Franklin O. Nelson and wife Mrs. Phileda Nelson arrived at Tiddim on the 3rd December 1939. During the World War II they evacuated to India. At the end of hostility he came back and opened Bible School in Tiddim, the said school was operative from 1947- 1950. On the 19th February 1951 the Nelson Family returned to their homeland for good.
The Rev. Dr. Robert G. Johnson was the last American Baptist Missionary to the Chin hills. His wife is Elizabeth E. Johnson. He opened Bible School from 1948- 1950 in Hakha. On the 28th May 1 966 he went back to the United States of America.
Thus the American missionaries came to the Chin hills so that we may see the light and the seeds they brought and their labour of love could be discerned as shown below:
- First and foremost, importance for Chins, was education and therefore they established missionary schools at various towns and villages. Those who taught in those schools were both teachers and evangelists from Karen Christian.
- Hither to the Chin people’s only means of getting cured when they were sick it was propitiated the evil spirits by sacrificing domestic animals. To show that there was a better way to get treated, they sent Medical Missionaries and practically showed us how to get medical care.
- The first to be educated under their tutelage were absorbed in the ministry and therefore they opened means and ways to let them get theological education as well.
- How to dress properly and how to cultivate the fields and how to conduct life generally had been taught to us. When they so worked in the Chin hills it was imperative that they get some helpers. These helpers were recruited by them from Karen nationals and these teachers cum evangelists made much progress according to the plans and schemes ofthe American missionaries.
The following are the name of the Karen teachers cum evangelists who came up to the Chin Hills to work:
|1||Thra San Win||(1900) Hakha|
|2||Thra Po Ku||(1902) Tiddim upto 1904 and thence transfered to Tonzang|
|3||Thra Shwe Zan||(1904) Khuasak, came up from Hakha on March 31, 1904|
|4||Thra Maung Kya||(1905) Zokhua|
|5||Thra Maung Gone||(1906) Laizo|
|6||Thra Po Aye||(1906)Lumbang|
|7||Thra Maung Lun||(1906) Died in Zokhua|
|8||Thra Kyi Ghine||( )Hakha|
Missionary School continued to flourish and more Karen teachers came up to help in the programs; they were:-
|3||ThraAung Dwe||Hakha and Khuasak Siyin Valley|
|4||Thra San Tun||Falam|
|6||Thra Kyaw Khin||Tiddim and Khuasak Valley|
|7||Thra Maung Maung||Hakha|
1. Reverend Sang Fen in his note book record that before Thra Maung Lun arrived to work as missionary cum teacher, Saya Maung Kya and Sya Kyi Kaing (Asho Chin) had already arrived Zokhua.
2. Before Thra Shwe Zan arrived at Khuasak, the Assistant Superintendant of Tiddim sent Saya TunAung but this individual was always drunk and was sent in his place. (According to Captain Kham Cin Khai’s note).
B. The First Chin Converts.
The Rev. A. E. Carson and wife arrived at the Chinland in 1899 and they immediately started opening schools at various places. The teachers employed at these schools not only taught the lessons but they preached the Gospel at the same time, and the result was the conversion of some 19 souls in the Chin hills as follows: Thra Shwe Zan arrived at Khuasak to take up this dual post of teaching and preaching in 1904, through his ministry Pau Suan and his wife Kham Ciang, Thuam Hang and his wife Dim Kho Cing became Christians, accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord and personal Savior, in the same year. Thra Shwe Zan was so glad of these events that he sent the following letter to Dr. E. H. East:
25 July 1904
Your letter came to me and tell about the school which you spoke with Mr. Fowler. We little three here were very glad. The time when we arrived here Koset till this time, we try as well as we can for preaching, so that one man named Paung Shwin, he is among three chiefs which you have been seeing, he believed Jesus can save him from his sin in to life. He gave up all the bad things and came to us for worship God together every time with his wife and mothers. He’s very earnest but he do not care what was the people said to him. As he knew more about Christ he preach more and more to other people. The time when you come to Koset he will be Baptist at once. As well as my master can come soon.
Now we little here glad everytime to preach. We hope our master and mama and Sya San Win and his wife will glad with us in prayer. I cannot write English well, if I can write you will glad more than this.
One man name ‘s Tum Harm, he is chief among the three chiefs. Now he begin to believe Jesus. This night he came up to me for praying God. Dear masters, please remember for Tum Harm in your prayer. O my dear master if you arrive here this time, how you will be very glad for Christ.
As to School, the people begin to build the school now. They got some post to the school place; in a few day I think school will finish. Some time I wrote about to stop school until the school house finish, and you tell I must stop; but I think in heart it is better to learn every day so that I have school in my house.
Remember Paung Shwin and his house hold in your prayer As well as lean try in write English. Please know that I mean as well as you can.
Your Obedient Servant,
When we read this letter we come to know that Saya Pau Suan was the first to accept Christianity and Thuam Hang accepted Christ as his saviour on the 25th July 1904.
This letter is of utmost importance to us Chin and Dr. & Mrs. East were very happy too as he noted in his diary as follow: –
When the Easts received the news in this charming letter, they could scarcely restrain their Jubilation. They laughed and cried. Hjalmar East reported that he shouted: “The King of Glory has surely made His entrance into the Chin Hills. The bells of heaven were ringing as the shepherd brought home the lost sheep”. At last Northern Chins had to have Christ and were willing to acknowledge Him as Saviour and as Lord of Life. 2
In the traditional Siyin custom strictly prohibited was made for either a male or woman to marry his marry or her opposite sex from the same relatives in a village. Pau Suan was one of the pioneers who deliberately trespassed this strict customary law in order to have social reform and infanticide to illegal children was stopped.
He accepted Christianity, accepting God as his personal Saviour, through the teaching and preaching of Thra Shwe Zan in 1904. As stated above already, Dr. E. H East baptized him on the 1st February 1906 together with Thuam Hang and wife and seven others. 11th May 1905. He learned the ways of God under Thra Shwe Zan and was thus the first in the Chin Hills to become the first preacher. In 1910 Theizang Baptist Church and Thangnuai Baptist Church were transplanted from the Khuasak Baptist Church, and Saya Pau Suan was the first pastor of the Thangnuai Baptist Church.
He was, however, never ordained, because he discontinued his works in the ministry. He died in 1951
His first wife Kham Ciang died long before him and he remarried Son Kho Dim, a niece of Kham Ciang, and with the first wife he had two sons viz. Saya Lian Zam, the first pastor of the Tiddim Baptist Church. The younger son Vai Ko Thang (The father of Rev. Kenneth Suan Za Nang of Adventist Development and Relief Agency) and with the second wife he had a son Vum Za Lian.
2. Rev. Thuam Hang
He was born in 1870 at Khuasak Village of Thuantak tribe Tongseal clan, his father Hang Suang was the most illustrious Chiefs in the Chin Hills in pre-British time, a real statesman of international calibre that the Burmese King of Ava gave him the title “The Chief Envoy of Chin Hills”. His name was Pu Hang Suang, a warrior of highest rank, and a judge or magistrate under the Zeyagyo Swabwa. Thuam Hang’s mother was Pi Hau Cing, daughter of the famous Buanman Chief Pu Thuam Hau. Since his two eldest of six sons and two daughters born by Pi Hau Cing.
His conversion was this wise. When Thra Shwe Zan was working as a teacher cum evangelist at Khuasak, Thuam Hang’s son Suang Kho Kam was seriously ill. According to Animistic ways this family spent all their possessions in propitiating the evil spirits but the boy Suang Kho Kam never was better in his condition. One day Thra Shwe Zan paid a call to Thuam Hang’s house and in the frontal courtyard at the usual place trough. Through curiosity Thra Shwe Zan asked what was the purpose of the big rope. Thuam Hang replied that he was afraid the evil spirit might devour his son and therefore made a promise to the said spirits that he would worship them with a gayal and the rope was to tie the said animal with, and it was just a hoax so that nothing evil may come to his son. Thra Shwe Zan replied: “Don’t worry, if you will only worship the God who I worship, evil spirit cannot do anything to you, you don’t have to be afraid of them. If only I pray to God about your son’s sickness he will surely recover: Thuam Hang was very glad and on the 25th of July 1904 he paid a courtesy visit to Thra Shwe Zan and said in effect: “With effect from today, I and my family will accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and personal Saviour”.
Beginning from this event, Thuam Hang continuously went to Thra Shwe Zan to learn reading and writing as well as to learn more about God. As he was one of the first to embrace Christianity, he also was the first Chin who become a preacher. And Thra Shwe Zan was appointed pastor of the Khuasak Baptist Church as soon as its inception on February 17th 1906, until 1917 when he had to return to Henzada, Saya Thuam Hang was given the responsibility to look after the Theizang Baptist Church as well as other communities in the Thangkai (the other side of Letha Hill).
While living in Theizang, Saya Thuam Hang’s children were playing one day at tribal worship “court” (tual) and they innocently, in childish manner, stuck some animal skulls to the ones already stuck on the post of the court. For this juvenile crime, the Animists of Theizang sued the family on the charge of criminal desecration of other’s object of worship. In consequence Thuam Hang and family were ordered by ruling government to go back to Khuasak Village.
In those days according to the opinion of the majority Animists, Christian were regarded as some one who destroyed indigenous religions and customs, and as such, Thuam Hang and family were not allowed to live within the perimeter of the Khuasak villages as determined by their annual sacrificial rite when the entrails of the cattle slaughtered for the ritual, was dragged around the village, encircling the village, and excluding evil spirits there by. Thus Thuam Hang and family had to live beyond this boundary in a place called “Khuakhuan” and the surviving descendants still live there up to this moment.
Unlike condition prevailing nowadays, in those days pastors were not only to oversee their particular Churches but they must look after folds else where, and Thuam Hang also had to look after Christian communities or Churches in the Tiddim and Sukte areas.
During these missionary tours, Thuam Hang started translating hymnals and also the Bible. After a long time service in the ministry he was ordained at Hakha in 1925.
Saya Thuam Hang as well as Saya Pau Suan suffered much opposition, persecutions and hardships. Their houses were burnt down by arsonists, their fields were denuded of crops by infidels, etc, and therefore there were many noteworthy incidences in their lives which cannot be recalled now.
Rev. Thuam Hang worked as the pastor of Khuasak Baptist Church till he was in has eighties and he left this world to be gathered to his Maker as a good and faithful servant of God. in 1951.
His eldest son Saya Suang Kho Kam, died many years before him. The middle son was Kham Za Cin who died while in his Youth. The youngest son Mang Khaw Pau (second ZBC G.S) still alive today. He had two daughters called. Mang Za Cing and Khan Huai; who were the first Chin girls to be educated and the former worked for some years as the 1 st women and teacher in Chin Hill at the ABM School at Khuasak. Khan Huai was married to a teacher Saya Khai Kho Lian and these two sisters had died quite long ago.
The First Christian Converts of the Chin race.
|1||Saya Pau Suan||Khuasak||11-5-1905||Dr. E.H. East|
|2||Daw Kham Ciang||Khuasak||11-5-1905||Dr. E.H. East|
|3||Saya Thuam Hang||Khuasak||11-5-1905||Dr. E.H. East|
|4||Daw Dim Kho Cing||Khuasak||11-5-1905||Dr. E.H. East|
|5||Saya Shia Khaw||Hakha||1-1-1906||Rev. A. E. Carson|
|6||U SonVung||Tuitum||27-2-1906||Dr. E.H. East|
|7||U Hen Za Kam||Tuitum||17-2-1906||Dr. E.H. East|
|8||Saya Thang Kyin||Lumbang||5-9-1906||Rev. A. E. Carson|
|9||Daw Lakhu||Hakha||1-10-1907||Rev. A. E. Carson|
|10||Evan Cong Kham||Bualkhua||31-3-1907||Rev. A. E. Carson|
|11||Saya Shwe Hlaing||Lungpi||1897||Unknown|
Note: Complied from “Trials and Triumphs of The Chin Pioneers” by Rev. D. Kip Thian Pau, Published by Literature and Publication Department, MBC Yangon