Perched up in the corner most hills of the North East; Mizoram emerged as the 23rd State of Indian Union on February 20, 1987. It is bounded by Bangladesh and Tripura to the West, Myanmar to the East and South and Assam and Manipur to the North. Mizoram occupies a very strategic position in the Indian Union having an international boundary of 722 kms. with Myanmar and Bangladesh. The State covers an area of 21,087 sq. kms. between 21.580 N. latitude and 92.150 E. longitude, with the Tropic of Cancer running through the heart of Mizoram.
Mizoram has the most variegated hilly terrain in the eastern part of India. The hills are steep and are separated by rivers, which flow either to the north or south creating deep gorges between the hill ranges. The average height of the hills is about 1000 metres. The highest peak is the Blue Mountain (Phawngpui) with a height of 2,210 metres above sea level. About 91% of the state is forested
Mizoram enjoys moderate temperatures and a pleasant climate almost throughout the year. The temperature varies from 200 C to 290 (680 to 840 F) in summer and 70 to 220 C (450 to 720F) in winter. The entire area is under the direct influence of monsoon. It rains heavily from May to September with an average rainfall of 254 cm. per annum.
According to 2011 census Mizoram has a population 1,091,014 and the literacy rate was 91.33 per cent. Mizoram is one of three states of India with a Christian majority (87%). Mizo is the major language, but English, is widely used.
CHRISTIANITY IN MIZORAM
The first missionary who visited Mizoram was the Rev. William Williams, a missionary of the Welsh Presbyterian Church in the Khasi Hills, Assam. He arrived in Mizoram on March 15, 1891 and stayed there less than a month. The visit prompted him to write to the Mother Church in Wales, requesting them to send missionaries to Mizoram. Accepting his proposal, the Welsh Church appointed him to be a missionary in Mizoram. However, the premature death of Williams on April 21, 1892 had to delay the plan for some time.
In the meantime, two missionaries of the Arthington Aborigines Mission, namely, the Rev. J.H. Lorrain and the Rev. F.W. Savidge arrived in Mizoram on January 11, 1894. They laid the foundation for the future mission works and for the basic needs of the emerging Church in Mizoram. Knowing that they had to leave for another place under the touch-and-go policy of their Mission, the Welsh Church sent the newly appointed missionary, the Rev. D.E. Jones who arrived in Mizoram on August 31, 1897. He stayed and learnt almost four months with Lorrain and Savidge who left on Dec. 24, 1897. With D.E. Jones, started the Welsh Mission in Mizoram. Lorrain and Savidge also came back to start the London Baptist Mission works in South Mizoram in 1903. The younger brother of Lorrain also started the mission work in the south eastern corner of Mizoram. The Gospel seeds so sown with indescribable God’s blessings have converted the whole tribe to Christianity within half a century.
PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF INDIA
The Presbyterian Church of India (PCI) came into being through the mission work of the Presbyterian Church of Wales. Starting from the Khasi Hills in 1941, the works of the Welsh mission spread to Cachar Plains, Mizoram and North Cachar Hills. Church governing bodies came into being to cope with the growing Church in character and membership. The first Presbytery and then the Assembly (now the Synod) of the Khasi Jaintia Hills were formed in 1869 and 1896 respectively. The formation of two new Assemblies, viz. the Lushai (Mizoram) Assembly and the Sylhet-Cachar Plains Assembly led to the creation of the Synod (now the General Assembly) in 1926. As time went on, new Synods came into being and in 2017 there are ten Synods spreading in Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, Assam and Tripura.
One interesting thing with the PCI is the changing of its name to suit the changing context. Known originally as the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Church in Assam, it was named the ‘Presbyterian Church in Assam’ when it became a ‘Synod’ (now the General Assembly) in 1924. With the birth of new states in North East India, its name was changed to the ‘Presbyterian Church in North East India in 1968,’ and lastly, to the Presbyterian Church of India in 1992. The Presbyterian Church of India now plays an important role in various Christian movements and activities worldwide.
THE MIZORAM SYNOD
The Mizoram Synod, having its headquarters at Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram State, is one of the constituent bodies of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of India. The administrative set up of the Mizoram Synod is via the local church, Pastorate and Presbyteries, each having their local authority, however, the Synod being the apex authority. The financial operation, the personnel matters, the administration, management and the execution of works of the Church are all directly or indirectly supervised and controlled by the Synod.
Mizoram Synod has 18 Boards/Committees/ Departments to handle and manage different works of the Synod. Among them, the Synod Executive Committee is the highest decision making body under the Synod and there are 15 Sub-Committees under SEC. The SEC exercises the functions of the Synod in respect of routine matters and to dispose of matters which cannot be postponed until the next regular meeting of the Synod.
Financially, the Mizoram Synod is self-supporting without any foreign funds. Its annual income is around two fourty three crore and the main source being the tithe from all the members. On the average, the yearly income received towards Pastoral ministry is one fifty crore and eighty crore for mission ministry. Apart from this, around thirteen crore is received from the selling of a handful of rice (i.e. Buhfaitham) set aside by every house under the local churches.
The Mizoram Synod, apart from its administration, cares for the spiritual welfare of the church members. It deploys a particular committee i.e. the Synod Revival Committee to revive and to strengthen the spiritual life of the church members. The local church leaders keep watch of the spirituality of their church members, thus strengthening, guiding and caring for them as and when necessary. Sometimes, itinerant preachers are also sent to different churches when needed.
Furthermore, Mizoram Synod has the Church Women Fellowship to give member care to the women of the church and the Christian Youth Fellowship for the youth, the Middle Aged Men Fellowship for adult male members. These Fellowships tend their respective members by giving them spiritual leadership, boasting their moral development and prepare them for ministry.
The Mizoram Synod runs one of the most exemplary Sunday Schools. This immensely guide and help the church members in the knowledge of God and His words. This Sunday School records attendance of about four/five lakhs students and teachers every year.
It has Synod Literature and Publication Board, started in 1911, to publish Christian literature and official monthly magazines and also operates printing press which is one of the biggest printing press in Mizoram. It also runs book shop (viz. Synod Bookroom) in various places of Mizoram.
The Mizoram Synod gives tireless efforts in spreading the Gospel and now has 17 mission fields in various States of India. It also serves abroad in partnership with other likeminded churches and mission agencies. In all, the Mizoram Synod has more than 1800 missionaries, around 800 native workers serving in different mission fields through evangelism, medical, education and other essential socio-economic development program. The average income of the Mizoram Synod for mission ministry is rupees eighty crore, (rupees fifty crore is contributed by the church members and rupees thirty crore is received from missionary support scheme.) and all the amounts is spent towards missions every year.
The Mizoram Synod plays an active role in the socio-economic development of the people in particular and the state in general through medical ministry, school ministry and crafts. It promotes community health, education and skill development respectively, in response to the plight of the less fortunate people within and outside the state.
It runs two hospitals viz. Synod Hospital, Durtlang which is the second largest hospital in the state and the John Williams Hospital at Lunglei. The Mizoram Synod run hospitals are known for their nursing care, and especially, for their outstanding practice of giving financial assistance to poor patients.
Mizoram Synod at a glance (2016 – 2017) :
i) Presbyteries – 49
ii) Pastorates – 288
iii) Churches – 1,097
iv) Branch churches – 134
v) Preaching Stn./Fellowship – 568
vi) Ordained Ministers – 560
vii) Probationary Pastors – 66
viii) Ordained Elders – 5,159
ix) People in the Church – 5,94,457
The Mizoram Synod runs academic institutions such as: Aizawl Theological College, Missionary Training College, Synod Higher Secondary School, Presbyterian Girls’ School, Presbyterian Bible School and Presbyterian Hindi Bible School. There are vocational training institutes such as: Synod Multipurpose Training Centre, Mission Development Training Centre and Women Centre.
It also cares for the life and welfare of the students, faculty and staff of the educational institutions. It seeks to empower students, faculty, and administrators in order to manifest God within their respective environment, society, community and the Church and to assist them regardless of creed, to become knowledgeable, committed, and loyal to the Government.
The Mizoram Synod takes initiative in moral reforms, preserving our environment and uplifting the poverty-stricken people. It gives political education to the people, gives awareness about global warming, provide training for unskilled workers. It also engages in prison ministry to help and to guide the prisoners to walk in the right path. Apart from this, it also runs Family Guidance and Counseling Centre in different places to counsel and help those who have problems in their lives.
Furthermore, it strives for the recovery and rehabilitation of people with drugs or alcohol addiction and HIV/AIDS patients. It runs a rehabilitation centre (viz. the Synod Rescue Home) for substance abuse and Grace Home for HIV/AIDS patients.
It also cares for the marginalized people and has a well-furnished and equipped orphanage home (viz. Synod Hmangaihna In) as well as old age recreation centre.
The Mizoram Synod with its proper administrative system is committed to give pastoral care to its members, and excels in mission ministries. It also serves and contributes towards the development of the society and community in the State and hence, the Govt. of Mizoram also gives it high regards.