THE DAILY TELEGRAPH ARTICLE – By Rosie Murray-West

The Diocese of
Mizoram, in the north-east of India, has already sent one missionary to south
Wales. It is planning to send a second in April, to help the Welsh Presbyterian
Church with its shortage of ministers.
Hmar Sangkhuma with his wife and daughters on the hills above Maesteg


Hmar
Sangkhuma and family on the

hills above Maesteg

The Rev Hmar
Sangkhuma, who runs yoga classes for the elderly and works as a “mission
enabler” in Maesteg, near Bridgend, said that many people in Wales were
suffering from a “spiritual void”.

“There is a
perceived lack of relevance of Christianity to lives based on materialism,” he
said.

Mr Sangkhuma said
that he felt drawn to Wales because of the link with his Church in Mizoram. Many
of the Mizos, as they term themselves, were converted to Christianity by the
Welsh between 1840 and 1960.

The missions, at
the height of the Christian revival in Wales, were phenomenally successful, with
more than 80 per cent of the population becoming Christian.

The Mizos are
believed to be ethnically Mongoloid and are hilltribe people divided into a
number of tribes. Recently some of them have started identifying themselves as
one of the lost tribes of Israel, but the incidence of Christianity is still
very high.

The ties to the
Presbyterian Church of Wales, which Mizos refer to as the “Mother Church”, are
also very strong.

The Rev Zosang
Colney, of the Diocese of Mizoram, said that the churches in Wales seemed to be
“declining physically and spiritually”.

“Many church
buildings have been closed down,” he added. “The Mizos, therefore, have a burden
to do something for their Mother Church in Wales.”

A second
missionary from Mizoram, the Rev John Colney, is expected to move to Wales this
year.

Sylvia Coombes, of
the Council For World Mission, which organises the mission partners, said it was
normal for foreign countries to send missionaries to Britain.

The group has sent
a Zambian missionary and one from Singapore to the area, while it also has a
missionary from South Africa in London. “Look at Mizoram, it is over 80 per cent
Christian – you can’t say that about the UK,” she said.

Wales is
traditionally seen as one of the most religious areas in Britain, following the
great revival of 1904 which culminated in a period of fervent chapel building.

However, that has
now declined and the 2001 census showed that fewer than one in 10 people in
Wales regularly attended church or chapel.

The Rev Daffyd
Jones, the mission secretary for the Presbyterian Church of Wales, said that Mr
Sangkhuma, who is 49 and married with four children, was helping with the fact
that there was a shortage of ministers in the Church.

“He works as a
mission enabler and also runs rehabilitation for young offenders,” he said. “It
is quite moving for us to hear and see how the Mizos describe us as their Mother
Church”.

Mr Sangkhuma said
that the Church in Wales had been “decimated” and that he still advocated
wayside preaching and knocking on doors as a form of evangelism in the area.


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