Communications Department

INTRODUCTION :

Man’s need for communication is as strong and as basic as his need for food, sleep and love. Lack of it therefore, creates physical and mental problems for all people irrespective of class, age and religion. In writing this article, my objective is not to discuss the meaning, perspective and importance of communication as such, but to give a brief description of the ministry of communications within the Baptist Church of Mizoram. For this, we will do justice in pointing out its earlier name Literature and the so-called Literature Committee, which took up all the Literature programmes and paved the way for the emergence of the present Communications Committee/Department in the Baptist Church of Mizoram.

THE BEGINNING :

The two pioneer missionaries, J.H. Lorrain and F.W. Savidge were gifts to the Mizos not only for bringing the Gospel but also for their remarkable contributions in the field of Literature. During their four years stay as missionaries under the Arthington Aborigine Mission (1894-1897) they worked hard to learn the Mizo language. They even reduced it to writing. They translated the Gospel of St. Luke, St. John, and the Acts of the Apostles. They also wrote the Lushai Grammar and Dictionary. In this way, they gave the Mizos a written language and a literature, which prevented Bengali from becoming the trade and court language of the Mizos.

THE DEVELOPMENT :

The same missionaries, after spending some years in what is now known as the Arunachal Pradesh, among the Abor and Miri tribes, returned to work in Mizoram in 1903 as missionaries under the Baptist Missionary Society, and worked in the southern part of Mizoram. They formed a Station Committee at Serkawn, the Mission Headquarters. This Committee was responsible for collecting funds for publication of Christian literatures. It was continued until Mission and Church integration was formally made in 1959. The missionaries continued literature works with all sincerity and priority was given to Bible translation from 1913. The co-operative work of the missionaries as linguist and as educationist/scholar, with the help of those talented native leaders in Mizo language made remarkable progress in Bible translation as well as in the publication of School text books. Moreover, a number of songs were translated and composed by both the missionaries and the native leaders. The names of the Revs – Chuautera, Challiana Murray, Zathanga, Haudala, Khawnghinga and Elder Darruma deserved mention for their valuable contributions in Bible translations. Moreover, with regards to preparation of School text Books, music, poetry and drama, Pi Zirtiri (E.M. Chapman), Pu Lalmama, Pu Liandala and Pi Nuchhungi played very important roles. All of them, except Pi Nuchhungi were with the Lord in glory.

LITERATURE AS DEPARTMENT COMMITTEE : In 1948, a Joint Committee, which comprised of missionaries and native church leaders, was formed at Serkawn. This committee took over the literature works until 1959 when the mission and church was formally integrated. This integration had introduced the new administrative structure, which put the different ministries under four Departments namely, Education Department, Medical Department, General Department and Literature Department. The first budget of the Literature Committee was spent for Office maintenance and salaries of workers at the Press and Bookroom as these two institutions were under this committee. In 1983, the Assembly of the BCM accepted the Planning Commission reports and thereby the Literature Committee was again made a sub-committee under the Board of Institutions and it was also authorised to have both the copyrights and the publishing rights for all publication of books for the Assembly.

FROM LITERATURE TO COMMUNICATIONS : In 1995, the Assembly of the Baptist Church of Mizoram after approving the Planning Commission reports, changed the name from Literature Committee to Communications Department as a full-fledged Department under the Assembly. The BCM By laws Chapter 6:38 (6) says; “There shall be Communications Department which is responsible for writing, publishing and distributing books according to the need of the Church. The Committee which looks after Department shall be called; “The Communications Committee” The term of office for the Secretary who is also the Head of Department is three years”. The supervision of Press and Bookroom had been under the Communication Committee till 2000.

COMMUNICATIONS AS SINGLE DEPARTMENT : The 106th Assembly of the Baptist Church of Mizoram in 2001, accepted the planning commission reports, and adopted the new Constitution and Rules. This had made considerable changes in the administrative set up of the Baptist Church of Mizoram including the Communications Department. The Press and Bookroom which had been together with the Literature/Communication Committee for a long time were taken out from the Communications Department and upgraded to departments of their own with managers as Heads of respective Departments. The Communications Department is now headed by the Director who is also the secretary of the departmental committee by virtue of his designation. The posting of Director, proposed by the Assembly Nomination Committee and approved by the Executive Committee is a three years term and the same person should not be posted more than two consecutive terms except on special cases. The purpose of having Communications Department, as per the BCM Constitution and Rules is to spread the Gospel and to communicate Christian values and teachings through media such as Music, News Letters, and Audio Visual productions for public education. For proper running of the Department, three sub-committees are formed whilst the Audio-Visual production programmes have to be monitored by the Communications Committee. The three sub-committees and the A.V. programme function to fulfill the annual working plans of the Department. Let us see briefly the activities of each sub-committee:-

1. Christian Music Committee :

This committee, with its former name ‘The Assembly Music Committee’ had been functioning under the General Committee for the past many years with commendable success. Since Elder C.Hrangdula, the present committee secretary is assigned to write the ministry of Christian Music Committee I need not deal any further here.

2. The Editorial Board :

The first Editorial Board was formed in 1983 that is after 26 (twenty-six) years of the publication of the Church official organ called ‘Kohhran Beng’. The Board has to oversee the on-going progress of this magazine. Prior to the formation of this Board, the overall responsibility was in the hands of the Editor. Only some special issues relating to it are put up to the General Committee for deliberations and official sanctions. Due to some changes affected by the planning commission of 1983, the General Secretary becomes, for sometimes, the publisher of the Church official organ on behalf of the BCM. The responsibilities of the Editorial Board are added with the emergence of the BCM Weekly News known as ‘Baptist Today’.

A. Kohhran Beng :

Owing to the need for having quicker and wider information of Church matters to the members everywhere, the Presbytery passed a resolution in 1947 at Pukpui to publish an official organ of the Zoram Baptist Church. It was the late Rev. Challiana Murray who gave a very compatible and meaningful name Kohhran Beng. The first issue was released in February 1947, 15 (fifteen) copies were printed then. It was to contain sermons, news and views of the church, national and international news, and Christian teachings on various subjects and issues, obituaries, questions and answers and any other as the need arises from time to time. The growth rate of Kohhran Beng can be seen as follows:-

YEAR COPIES
1947 (first issue) 15
1947 (May) 100
1972 1600
1977 2150
1984 3050
1989 3900
2002 (September) 8000
For many years, special fund had been received from the Council of Baptist Churches in Northern India (CBCNI) for Kohhran Beng publication. Besides this, the Presbytery/Assembly had to give financial assistance for the insufficiency of printing cost due to many defaulters. Kohhran Beng is a very useful means of communications for the members of the Baptist Church as well as for others within and outside Mizoram and many readers have been receiving spiritual blessings from it.

List of Kohhran Beng Editors
1. Rev. H.S. Luaia 1947 – 1956
2. Rev. C.L. hminga 1957 – 1958
3. Rev. K.T. Chungnunga 1959 – 1961
4. Upa K.L. Vanngaia 1962 – 1964
5. Rev. C.L. Hminga 1965 – 1970
6. Upa V.L. Ngena 1971 – 1978
7. Rev. P.L. Lianzuala 1979 – 1984
8. Upa K.L. Vanngaia 1984 – 1990
9. Rev. S.L. Saihnuna 1990 – 1996
10. Rev. R. Lalchamliana 1996 April – June
11. Rev. C. Sangkama 1996 – 1997
12. Rev. K.T. Chungnunga 1997 – 1998
13. Rev. V.L. Zawnga 1998 – 1999
14. Rev. H. Lianngaia 1999 – 2000
15. KMS. Dawngliana 2000 – till date

 

B. Baptist Today :

Following the decision of the BCM Assembly of 2001, a Baptist Weekly News in addition to Kohhran Beng, was started. The Communications committee gave Baptist Today for its official name. This weekly news is also to contain sermons, bible study, information of BCM, news of BCM as well as Baptist and other Christian news from abroad, advertisement etc. The first issue was published on 1st July 2001 with a minimum copy of 3500. The copies grew rapidly due to good response from the church members. By the end of September 2002, the number of copies reached as many as 7300. Rev.C.Sangkama, the executive Editor of the Department was the first Editor and he held the rein for three months (i.e. July-September2001). He was succeeded by Mr.KMS.Dawngliana, who is also the editor of Kohhran Beng. This BCM official weekly news becomes very important and helpful for quick information of BCM activities and other related news from Mizoram and outside. The subscription rate is Rupees five per month only.

3. BCM Publication Board :

The publication of literatures for the church had been taken up by the Literature Committee for some decades. However, the new Constitution and Rules of BCM, which was adopted in 2001 Assembly, gave birth to BCM Publication Board, which takes up all the works of the then long standing Literature Committee. This board is chaired by the Associate General Secretary i/c Service Departments and the Director of the Communications Department is the Secretary. The board is entrusted to choose and published books for the interest of the Assembly. Varieties of books on various subjects including biblical commentaries, devotional books, church histories, apologetics, Christian life, Sunday school lessons, children guidebooks and other study books etc had already been published. The number of books published by the Literature/Communications/BCM Publication Board amounted to more than 280, excluding BCM Prayer Guide book and other booklets. For the improvement of Literature works, some of our Pastors were sent for training in this field, but this could not be implemented due to need of leadership in the church as a whole. Other strategies implemented for the improvement of Communications are – Writers’ Workshop, Readership Survey, Orthography seminar, Literary propagation programmes, opening of more sales counters (Bookroom) and awareness campaign of the total ministry of Communication in various Pastorates.

Roll of Literature Secretaries: Since the introduction of Mizo alphabet, the literary work was mainly done by the missionaries with the help of native leaders. It was from 1959 only that we could have the roll of Literature/Communications Secretary as stated below:-

1. Lalmama 1959
2. F.J. Raper 1960 – 61
3. Rev. C.L. Hminga 1961 (only for a few months)
4. K.L. Vanngaia 1961 – 62
5. C. Kaisanga 1962 – 64
6. Rev. C.L. Hminga 1964 – 68 (first full time secretary)
7. Rev. K.T. Chungnunga 1968 – 69
8. R.T. Bawia 1969 – 80
9. Rev. Raltawnga 1980 – 83
10. Rev. H. Hrangena 1983 – 84
11. Rev. V. Lalzawnga 1984 – 85
12. Rev. Raltawnga 1986 – 88
13. Rev. P.L. Lianzuala 1989 – 90
14. Rev. V. Lalzawnga 1990 – 91
15. Rev. C. Sangkama 1991 – 98 (first Communication Secretary)
16. Rev. H. Lianngaia 1998 – 2001
17. Rev. C. Rothuama 2001 – 2004 (first Communication Director)
18. Rev. R. Lalchamliana 2004 – 2007
18. Rev. C. Lalbiaksanga 2007 – till date.

4. Audio-Visual Production :

Audio-Visual production is a new programme for educating the public on social issues, proclamation of the Gospel and church’s activities through modern technology like Radio and Local T.V. channel. To run this programme, the BCM first deputed Mr.Vanlalruata Kawlni, the then Head Assistant of BCM Headquarters Office, to Asian Academy of Films and Television at Noida for three months training course during October to December 2000. The programme was started by him in February 2001 following his release from the Office and he is designated as Audio Visual-Manager. After one year he is assisted by Mr. C. Lalengkima, A.V. worker since April 2002 on contract basis. The work is now in progress and the two workers try their level best to achieve the Departments’ annual working plans. Making video coverages of many programmes. The Communications Department takes minimum charges for its sustenance and as a source of income.

Besides these, BCM Mission Field in Tripura is already covered and film shooting, with the help of Venglai TKP, on drug awareness is on the process, which is expected to be completed during October 2002. The Department has a standing project to cover all the BCM Mission Fields in co-operation with Mission and Evangelism Department with a view to arouse and revive the missionary zeal of the members of the Baptist Church of Mizoram. The BCM Documentary film is also one of the targets to be materialized in this programme.

CONCLUSION :

From this report, we learned that God has done marvelous things in and through his servants the BMS Missionaries, who rendered their services unsparingly for the cause of the Gospel and Mizo literature. I must say that the literary genius and the untiring labour of our missionaries with the help of native leaders elevated us to level grounds with our fellow Christians in India and abroad. This is the Lord’s doing and we are proud of it.

What had been done already in the field of communications might be so great yet; we have miles to go as people of God to be blessings for our contemporaries as well as the generations to come. It is an urgent programme, as the Baptist Church of Mizoram, to promote communications in various ways. Man’s need for communications is deeper and deeper with more highly sophisticated instruments. Let the church prepare her people to face the challenge of the day.

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