In the autumn of 1900 Mizos began
courageous and unaided evangelical tours.
Mizo evangelists were generally given even less respect by villagers than European missionaries. They were regarded as simpletons and wandering beggars. As lazy layabouts or homeless vagrants. They carried their possessions on their backs in a small bamboo basket (or ‘em’ in Mizo) and when they asked for shelter problems were put in their way. Later, they had great difficulties in finding suitable wives as there were so few Christian girls. Heads of families were reluctant to let their daughters marry Christian men.
In the autumn of 1900 the first Mizo men braved the prospect of going on unaided evangelical tours. They were in their late teens or early twenties. Khuma, Khara and Phaisama made a tour of south Mizoram and pressed on as far as the Chin area in the south-east, travelling through rough countryside. Phaisama featured in these early endeavours but like Khara he proved something of a disappointment. He had come to Aizawl from Chhippui in early 1900 and had been very responsive to the Gospel. He later joined the Salvation Army, then the Roman Catholics, before becoming a Hindu priest in Manipur State.
One of the earliest converts, Thanga, described an interesting journey he made with Khuma. Wherever they went it was their custom to try to persuade people not to sacrifice and reassured them that if they chose not to then God would protect them from the consequences. As a result the people were curious to know what would happen if a Christian became ill. Did they recover, or not? Sometimes death occurred but there were also instances of dramatic recovery. The evangelists taught that God is greater and stronger than all the demons. His reward was everlasting life and punishment awaited those who rejected his Word.
Thanga and Khuma’s journey took them to Sawleng and close to the Manipur border. From the Barak River they turned south, parallel to the Burmese border, past Tawi mountain, and eventually linked up with Phaisama in South Mizoram. After visiting Lunglei they returned to Aizawl. Despite persistent opposition they were able to give very encouraging reports of the responses they found to the Gospel.
It was on a visit to Pukpui that Jones ‘Zosaphluia’ heard an account of a vision that powerfully affected the attitudes of Mizos to the Gospel.
This is a well-authenticated story and Jones’ ‘Zosaphluia’ account of it is as follows:
“We had already heard that someone in the Khasi Hills (before anyone had ventured into the Mizo Hills) had foretold that a messenger would preach the Way of Salvation to the Mizos. Something similar happened among the Karens in Burma, people who are not unlike the Mizos. A prophet had told them that two white men would come to them from beyond the sea, with God’s word in their hands as well as in their hearts, and this prophecy was fulfilled more or less literally. An American mission has been at work there for many years (in fulfilment of the prophecy as it were).
“A short time before the government established itself in the Mizo Hills a man named Darphawka lived with his family in an obscure village called Pukpui (the Big Cave). Later they moved to Lungmawi (Pretty Stone), also in South Mizoram. Once Darphawka fell into a trance and was in it several days, during which he had some very remarkable visions. Afterwards he announced that there would be two great lights shining, one in the north, and one in the south. This was fulfilled in the establishing of two separate mission stations, the Baptist in the south, and the Calvinistic Methodist (Presbyterians) in the north. Both of them became centres of light and everlasting salvation to the majority of the Mizo people.
“I visited the first-named village on my first journey south (1898-99) but the seer himself had died some years earlier. His words had left an indelible impression on the villagers and, when I was there, it awoke a desire among many to hear the Gospel. Two of Darphawka’s daughters, Tlawmi and Khumi, were among the earliest converts in that part of the country. Both these girls came to Aizawl to learn more fully about the Gospel and went to our school for a while. They were great supporters of Christian work in their village for many years, though they suffered persecution because of their faith. Their own brother was partly responsible for this.
“I also heard from J. H. Lorrain that another man, Selkhuma, by name, long before the time of Darphawka had had similar visions and these had influenced Dharphawka.” (Translation from the Welsh)