Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Book That Set My People Free

Let me take you half a world away and tell you the story of Rochunga Pudaite, an Indian national from the people known as the Hmars.  He tells his story in a volume titled The Book That Set My People Free (Wheaton, Ill: Tyndale House, 1982).

The Hmars were at one time one of the most feared tribes in India.  They had descended from Mongols who had come from central China, crossed the lower Himalayas, and settled in northeast India.  They were headhunters, and when they fought they took heads that they hung over the doors of their bamboo huts.  The British, who ruled India in those days, called them "barbaric tribesmen" and said they were almost like animals.  When the British tried to enter the Hmar territory, the Hmars fought back.  On one occasion they took five hundred heads in just one raid on a tea plantation.  The soldiers pursued them.  A few Hmars were killed, but most escaped back into the jungle, which is where they were when a Welsh missionary by the name of Watkin Roberts brought the Bible to their tribe.

Roberts was a chemist who had been converted during one of the great Welsh revivals of the last century, and when he read an account of the pursuit of the Hmar headhunters by British soldiers, he felt that God wanted him to take the Bible to them.

When Roberts arrived at the border of the Hmar territory in India, the British authorities would not let him proceed, declaring the area much too dangerous.  So Roberts did the next best thing.  He found some Lushais from a tribe adjoining the Hmars and began to translate the Bible into their related language.  When he received a small gift for the work from a lady in England, he printed a few hundred copies of the Gospel of John and sent a copy to each of the tribal villages.

One of these copies came to the village in which Pudaite's father was living.  A Lushai tribersman happened to be there and read the book to him.  Pudaite's father could not understand what it meant to be "born again," and the neighbor could not explain it to him.  He suggested that the chief invite the translator to the village.

When Roberts asked the British agent for permission to go, he was told not to enter the Hmar territory.  "When I go in there, I take along a hundred soldiers for protection, and I can't spare a single soldier for you," said the agent.  Roberts showed him the tribal chief's invitation but was told it was deceptive.  "They only want to chop your head off," he said.  Roberts went anyway and was able to explain the gospel to the people.  After a week of teaching, the chief and four Hmar men announced that they wanted to make peace with the God of the Bible by believing on JesusChrist.  One of the four men was Pudaite's father.

This man, whose name was Chawanga, became one of the first Hmar preachers.  He traveled all over the territory, teaching the Bible, leading people to Christ, and founding churches.  These early Hmar preachers founded churches in almost every village.  Many people came to Christ.  They were tired of their fighting, drinking, and fear.  When they became Christians they began living different lives.  They began to work harder and built schools for their children.

Strangely enough, the British branded Watkin Roberts a troublemaker for his part in this tribal transformation and ordered him to leave.  As a result, he left only a part of the Bible in the Lushai language.

The Hmars chose Rochunga Pudaite to do the Hmar translation. Although none of them had ever been out of their own area of northeast India, they sent Pudaite to a mission school and then to a college in India.  The missionary worked with others to see that Pudaite was able to continue his education in Scotland and then in America.  Pudaite did the translation and later became the new head of the mission Watkin Roberts had founded, the Indo-Burma Pioneer Mission, which later changed its name to the Partnership Mission.

Today, reports Pudaite: "The Hmars . . .have become one of the most advanced ethnic groups in all India.  At least ninety-five percent are Christians, worshiping in over 200 churches.  Except for Mr. Roberts, the only missionary they have had is the Bible.

"Hmar population is now up to about 125,000.  Eighty-five perent can read and write, a phenomenal perentage in India (and a higher percentage than the citizens of Philadelphia).  They have eighty-eight church-sponsored elementary schools, seven junior highs, and four high schools  -  one with an enrollment of about a thousand.  They even have a good hospital, staffed by Hmar doctors and nurses.

"One of our Hmars holds the rank of ambassador in the Indian Embassy in Yugoslavia.  Another is the Indian charge d'affaires in Saudi Arabia.  Another is the highest ranking civil servant in India.  Another is the administrator of a large state.  Every year the government gives tests to select the outstanding young men for government service.  Only about twenty are selected in the whole country.  For several years one or two Hmars have been in each group of winners.  And there is only one Hmar for every 7,000 people in India."  {The quote is from 1990}

The Hmars have also begun taking the gospel to other tribes, starting hundreds of churches in other territories.  They have taken food to tribes that were starving.  As for Rochunga Pudaite, he is now head of an organization called Bibles for the World, which has already mailed millions of  Bibles to postal addresses in scores of countries and has a vision for mailing in this decade {1990}at least one billion Bibles to the more than one billion telephone addresses worldwide.

Pudaite says, "The Bible is the Book that reveals the mind of God, the heart of man, the way of salvation, and the blessedness of believers.  It is the Book that tells us where we come from and where we are going.  It is the Book that set my people free."
  (James Montgomery Boice, Romans, Volume 3)

"God does not work through big battalions, He is not interested in numbers; He is interested in purity, in holiness, in vessels fit and meet for the Master's use.  We must concentrate, not on numbers, but upon doctrine, upon regeneration, upon holiness, upon realization that this is a holy temple in the Lord, a habitation of God."   D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

1 comment:

  1. Hi, I came across this article and found it very helpful. But would you be able to cite your sources?