A number of fellowships had cropped up under the Baptist Church of Mizoram (BCM) since its inception. The Baptist Men Fellowship was the latest and recent organ developed after the 1980’s. This chapter attempted to provide a brief account of the motivation, formation, development and ministry of the Baptist Men’s Fellowship.
During 1974-1979, Raltawnga, the former General Secretary of BCM and the present Executive Secretary of Aizawl District, was posted at Thingsai pastorate or parish under the Baptist Church of Mizoram and stationed was at Cherhlun village. His short ministry ushered a fresh incentive for the formation of a separate fellowship for men in the local church. He shared about Men’s fellowship created within Baptist Churches in western countries and their tremendous contributions to the Church’s ministry. There were interested male members who wanted to bring changes into the spiritual life and action of the insipid adult male church members who took part in dirty local politics and wasted time unwisely in the market place. Upon the hearing of the Pastor’s words, three prominent leaders in Cherhlun Village unofficially declared to have formed men’s fellowship i. However, nothing was materialized until 1981.
K.Thanzauva, the present General Secretary of BCM, who shepherded the churches in Thingsai Pastorate from 1979-1981, replaced Raltawnga. When he saw a good number of adult male members of the church, he felt uneasy. He said, “I was deeply touched by the sight of a number of people uninvolved in the church activities and ministry. Rather they wasted their time aimlessly near the vendor, indulged in chitchatting over unproductive local politics, played unprolific games like Carrom Board, Draught board, Poker etc. It was my heart’s desire to bring them back to Christ so that they might be a useful channel of blessings for others.” ii
In his public speech, he convincingly expressed about Men’s Fellowship created under the Baptist World Alliance with their contributions towards worldwide evangelization. His articulated lecture pierced the hearts of the audience so much so that Mr.Thankima, one of the male members of the church, could not even sleep at night. He had a burden with the unsaved and restless souls of his fellow Christians. One midnight he burst into tears with a loud cry. His wife woke him up but he gave no response. The next day he was working in the jhuming cultivation with his wife, he suddenly fell into a trance weeping with uncontrollable tears. His love and concern towards his fellow members grew more and more. He reluctantly met the pastor asking for certain devices for the formation of male fellowship through which indolent people might be blessed in one-way or the other. The pastor gave a negative reply, saying, “It wouldn’t be desirable to form a separate Fellowship manned by male adult members who took part in local politics that might engender division or create harmful atmosphere in the church.” iii Mr.Thankima backed home frustrated. But he still pressed on to accomplish his heart’s intent.
Having heard some suggestions and seeing the pressing need of the situation, the pastor put up the matter to the local Church Committee in its sitting on 29th April 1980. After a long and careful deliberation, the committee considered it good to form a separate male fellowship in the church not necessarily be a permanent entity. Two deacons (Upa.Chhingtawia and Upa.Thanghauhva) were appointed as Conveners for the proposed fellowship. As per decision of the committee, all adult male members of the church were informed to get together at Deacon Nikunga’s house. Under the chairmanship of Deacon Chhingtawia, 21 members present in the meeting unanimously resolved to create ‘Baptist Men’s Fellowship’ on 4th May 1980 at 3:30Pm.iv It was on this very day the new Baptist Men’s Fellowship, the first of its kind within the Baptist Church of Mizoram, was formed locally in Thingsai Baptist Local Church. The members in the meeting instantly elected new Office bearers to gear the Fellowship.v
Even though the Baptist Men’s Fellowship existed locally, there was a felt need to have certain guide. The rules and regulations was drafted and approved by the Local Church Committee and thereby sent to BCM Headquarters for information. Though the Fellowship was first initiated in Thingsai Baptist Church, the name “Baptist Mipa Pawl” (BMP) a Mizo name meaning ‘Baptist Men’s’ Fellowship’ was first coined in Cherhlun Baptist Church where the BMP was formed on 9th February 1981.vi Whenever and wherever a new Men’s Fellowship was formed, it bore the name ‘Baptist Mipa Pawl’ popularly known in its abbreviated form ‘BMP’
The number of Baptist Men’s’ Fellowship was increasing by leaps and bounds After two decades there were nearly one hundred units with a total membership of about 8,536 in the entire state of Mizoram. vii
Since there were no proper guides prepared by the Assembly, every local Unit organized itself and functioned under the whims and fancies of the local Church Committee to which the fellowship belonged. Though numerous in numbers, the BCM Assembly did not centrally administer the Baptist Men’s Fellowships for they were not constitutionally recognized. Recently, the BCM in its Assembly of 2002 adopted new Rules and Regulations for its guidance. It can be summarized as follows :- viii
The name of the Fellowship be the “Baptist Mipa Pawl” (BMP). The motto of the Fellowship was based on Joshua 1:6, “Be strong and courageous”. Since BMP was put within the constitutional framework of BCM, they have to abide by all the Rules and Regulations adopted by the BCM Assembly. For each unit functioned under the supervision of the local Church, it must not act against the resolution of the Local Church Committee. The BMP Unit has a right to put up agendas to various committees of the local Church. It could have a separate Worship service as per permission of the local Church Committee. Every Fellowship Unit should consult the Local Church Committee on certain crucial programmes or issues. Any male baptized members who were not a member of youth Department could be an active member of BMP. Each unit ought to elect its own Office bearers to hold the gear of the over all administrations. A portfolio was given to each member of the Office bearers. Two Senior Advisers, appointed by Local Church committee, acted as a bridge between BMP and the Local Church Committee. No committee could sit in his or their absence. The Fellowship could sit in council on several occasions i.e. General meeting, Executive Committee, Office bearers meeting, Programme Committee.
SOURCE OF INCOME:
As the BMP members committed them to render service for the Lord, they worked hard to earn money to accomplish their God given tasks set before them. Every unit prepared annual budget. Their sources of income were of varied kinds:ix
- Envelope system: An envelope was given to every member. They brought them or sometimes collected them and opened on the appointed date. The money they received were carefully counted and entered into the treasurer’s account.
- Monthly contribution: Monthly collection was made from each member.
- Concerted work: The BMP entrusted two or three leaders to seek for a suitable work where all members worked together on daily wages for their targeted projects. Concerted work created a sense of unity and a spirit of cooperation.
- Sale of meat: They butchered animals like, cow; pig; goat; etc in the market place for sale.
- Fishing: BMP members, especially in the rural areas, went to the river for fishing and sold fishes that they caught.
- Sale of crab: They caught crabs by means of traditional cane trap from the brook and sold them in the local market.
- Talent Show: Each member was assigned to make use of God given talent. They brought their hand made materials on the appointed day for auction.
- Faith promise: Sometimes a special Faith Promise Envelopes were distributed to all members. They inserted to the envelope as much money as they wish to give on faith. Again they collected them on the counting day appointed before hand.
- One-day income: It was made known to all members to give one day’s wage for the furtherance of the gospel.
- Individual target: Individual target was given to each member to meet the budget prepared annually.
- 11. Outreached gathering: Physically the BMP members could not go to the mission field but they could go with their giving and prayers. Having this purpose in mind, the BMP members, in the appointed time and place scheduled before, got together and brought any things they have (vegetables, fruits, chickens and any other items including money). The meeting was conducted in a fellowship type by singing and praising God with prayer, followed by sale of those items brought.
The Rules and Regulations of BMP, enshrined in the Rules of BCM Fellowship Organizations Departments, succinctly laid down the aims and objectives of BMP especially in its ministry, which reads – 1) To prepare and build up the spiritual life of Baptist men. 2) To build Christian family. 3) To grow themselves as useful pillar of the church. 4) To work for the welfare of the society as a whole. The ministry undertaken by BMP units in various places might differ from one another according to their ability and circumstances.
The ministry of BMP in Town Baptist Church Aizawl was noteworthy:
- The unit supported a missionary by giving a monthly contribution of Rs 2,500/- to the Mission Headquarters at Serkawn.
- It extended its helping hand to the bereaved family of fellow BMP members as an indication of love and concern as well as of sharing in their suffering, sorrows and weeping.
- It was a practice of giving financial help, amounting to Rs2,000/- when visit to a needy small local church.
- BCM Missionaries on furlough in Mizoram were, as a rule, given Rs 500/- to meet certain personal needs.
- If a missionary, with a letter of permission from the concerned authority, made an appeal to a church for a specific purpose, the BMP unit gave as much contributions as they could.
- It pulled its fund for helping small local churches for the construction of church building. The members rendered lots of physical help with great exertion.
- The BMP unit supplied many items of material requirements such as pots, gas burner, drums and utensils for public use, both for the Pastor quarter as well as for the Local Church.
- The local church committee frequently entrusted the BMP to take up all the physical help and arrangement on special occasion like Wedding day, Christmas day, special meetings and conferences. The members were faithful in their commitment.
- The members committed themselves to help the Mission Department of BCM in any possible ways. In this current year, they made commitments to construct a Church building and school building at Dampa Rengpui where BCM started a mission station under the Home Mission area.
- Special Camping, mainly for spiritual rejuvenation of BMP, sometimes organized, for which quest speakers from outside were invited.
- The members met twice a month for fellowship to see whether the BMP projected towards the progression of its ministry and to discuss certain crucial issues.
Aizawl City Joint Sport and Fellowship Committee organized a sport in which all the units within Aizawl City took part. A special feast was also prepared for the participants. This programme intended to provide a sense of unity and comity among the members of the BMP.xi
The BMP involvement in the ministry of the church varied from place to place. Some of the activities from rural areas might be summed up as follows:
- The Local Church committee, in the annual budget preparation, assigned the BMP Unit to contribute fund towards the General Fund of the local church to be submitted to the BCM Headquarters.
- Some BMP Units set apart their fund for the support of BCM missionary by sending a fixed amount of money or on lump sum basis to the Mission Headquarters.
- They gave financial assistance for the relief of their co-members who were hospitalized.
- They often rendered help to the needy local churches either in the over ground church or in the mission field as a token of their love and concern.
- The BMP members pulled their funds for the relief of the poor and destitute in their respective units.
- Many BMP units celebrated their Rising day by arranging a special worship Service in which special quest speakers were invited. It was meant for spiritual revitalization or renewal of the members within.
- They handed over certain amount of money to missionary on furlough as an indication of their involvement in missionary endeavour.
- Some BMP members make costly pulpits, benches, drums, cemented baptistry, tables etc, for the local Church.
- There were some BMP Units, in their annual plan, scheduled a fraternal visit to other units. It was a time of sharing, fellowshipping and interaction. Their reports brought a fresh impetus to work for the Lord. This kind of programme created better relationship and cooperation.
- Some units paid a salary of local Church chowkider, who took care of Church building and other Church properties.
- A few BMP units were regular donors towards the Bible Society of India and the Leprosy Mission.
Even though the BMP had a simple beginning, it grew rapidly throughout the length and breadth of Mizoram and even beyond Mizoram. Its creation would certainly fulfill the aspiration of the one who had a clear and farsighted vision. The mighty work of God brought in thousands of male adult members to the fold of Christ, the Church. Not only had they come to the mainstream of the church but also became a channel of blessing for the poor, destitute, hungry, thirsty both physically and spiritually within and outside the church. Their contributions to the Church ministry and the society were apparently tremendous. But the BMP Unit existed and functioned locally within the administrative set up of the Local Church to which it belonged. There was no coordination and unity among themselves because they were not constitutionally recognized and centrally administered from the Headquarters like the Youth’s Fellowship, the Women’s Fellowship and the Children’ Fellowship. Let the church update itself to be more open for Men’s Fellowship. So that men of the Baptist Church will be given more opportunity to see the world beyond Mizoram and tap their potentials for world wide missionary enterprise in fulfilling our Lord’s Great Commission before He comes.
i B. Ralthanga, secretary of Cherhlun Baptist local church, A letter to the author, dt 27.7.2002. Prominent leaders like Mr. Pathala, Mr. Donguna, and Mr. Kaplina unofficially declared the formation of Men’s fellowship. Also A telephone talks with Raltawnga, the present Executive Secretary, Aizawl. dt.8.8.2002
ii Interview with K.Thanzauva, the present general Secretary of BCM, Aizawl, dt.7.7.2002
iii B.Chhawnkiauva, Chairman Thingsai Baptist Local Church, A letter to the author,dt.8.5.2002
iv K.Thanghuta Secretary, Thingsai Baptist Local Church, A letter to the author,dt.8.5.2002
v B. Chhawnkiauva, A letter of the Author, dt.8.5.2002. The new Office bearers are :-
Chairman – Mr.Haubuanga, Vice Chairman – Mr.Chalbuta, Secy – Mr.Kapliana, Asst. Secy – Mr.Raltawna, Treasurer – Mr.Vanruma, Fin. Secy – Mr.Remsiama, Senior Advisers – Deacon Chhingtawia and Deacon Thanghauhva.
vi B. Ralthanga op.cit. Also Interview with K. Thanzauva Aizawl dt.7.7.2002 stated that Baptist Mens’ Fellowship was originated in Thingsai but the name Baptist Mipa Pawl (BMP) was first coined in Cherhlun.
vii Baptist Today, BCM weekly News vol.ii, Issue No xxxiv, Serkawn dt.1 Sept 2002, p.3 shows the total number of membership but not the number of Unit. From the letter of my respondents it is roughly estimated that there are more than 100 units in Mizoram. KMS Dawnga, Editor Kohhran Beng, A Telephone Talk, from Serkawn, dt 15.9.2002 also believes that there will be not less than 100 units. This new fellowships are not administered from the BCM headquarters it is impossible to get a correct information.
viii BCM Fellowship Organizations Department, Inkaihhruaina Dan (Serkawn:Baptist Printing Press, 2002) A short summary of the rules and regulations showing development in its organizational level.
ix Respondents of my questionnaires and through personal Interview, Telephone talks,as well as letters from several Units namely B.Chhawnkiauva and K.Thanghuta from Thingsai, B. TRalthanga and F. Lianhrima from Cherhlun, C. Lallianzuala from Bazar Kohhran Hnahthial, C. Lallianthanga from Electric veng (Hnahthial), Thangzawna from Centenary Baptist Church (Hnahthial), P.Laltlansanga from Salem (Hnahthial), V. Lalhmingsanga from Peniel (Hnahthial), H. Lalremtluanga from Chawngtui (Hnahthial), C. Laldintluanga from Aithur (hnahthial), B. Lalngura from Lungleng (Hnahthial), Lianhluna from Aizawl Twon Baptist Church, J. Thatlinga from Republic Aizawl, H. Zaithuama from Ramhlun south, gave me valuable informations regarding their sources oc income. Summaries of their reports were listed.
x Interview with Lianhluna, Vice Chairman of BMP Aizawl Town Baptist Church,Aizawl dt.30.8.2002
xi H. Zathuama, Secretary, Aizawl City BMP Joint Sport and Fellowship, A telephone talk,dt 11.10.2002
xii Respondents of my questionnaires, through personal interview, telephone talks, letters from individuals namely : B. Ralthanga from Cherhlun, B, Chhawnkiauva from Thingsai, K. Thanghuta from Thingsai, C. Lallianzualal from Bazar Kohhran Hnahthial, C. Lallianthanga from Electricveng Hnahthial, Thangzawna from Centenary Baptist Church Hnahthial, P. Laltlansanga from Salem Hnahthial, V. Lalhmingsanga from Peniel Hnahthial, H. Lalremtluanga Chawngtui Hnahthial, C. Laldintluanga from Aithur Hnahthial, R. Lalngura Lungleng Hnahthial, gave me a detailed informations about the ministry of BMP Units in their respective areas showing the reality of the rural areas.