James Hudson Taylor

James Hudson Taylor

“Dear God, if you should give us a son, grant that he may work for you in China.” James and Amelia Taylor prayed in the parlor behind Barnsley’s busiest chemist shop.

Taylor’s Childhood Days
On May 21, 1832, Amelia Taylor was 24 at that time and gave a son to her family. They called him James Hudson Taylor—Hudson was his mother’s maiden name. Taylor loved to hear the stories when his grandfather had entertained the family’s most distinguished visitor. Taylor spent his childhood and teenage years at 21 Cheapside, Barnsley which was not far away from the spot where John Wesley had preached in June 1786, while he age 82. Years later, Taylor’s sister Amelia remembered how the children loved to hear their father and his friends talk like:

Theology, sermons, politics, the Lord’s work at home and abroad, all were discussed with earnestness and intelligence. It made a great impression on us as children.1

Taylor has had two sisters and a brother—Amelia, William who died at the age of seven, and Louisa. He himself sometimes would say, “When I am a man, I mean to be a missionary and go to China.” Taylor’s father takes his four children into his bedroom, kneels at the four-poster bed, and with his arms around them, prays for each of them. After that, Taylor and his sisters would go to their own rooms to read their Bibles for a while. Their father always says, “Learn to love your Bible. God cannot lie. He cannot mislead you. He cannot fail.”

Taylor’s Teenage Days
He began to love nature and learned to grow ferns and flowers he had collected in the woods. He was encouraged by his father to collect and subscribe to a natural history magazine, and supply him with pillboxes from the shop for his collection of insects and butterflies. Soon after Taylor’s 15th birthday, a vacancy occurred for a junior clerk in a Barnsley bank. His father was anxious that his son should learn how to keep accounts and write business letters, and Taylor was accepted for the post. From his earliest years, he had seen the value of prayer and reading the Bible. Every morning after breakfast his father read from the Scriptures. That was fine, but then he would pray for twenty minutes in magnificent biblical languages which had begun to irritate Taylor.

He thought:
“If there is such a person as God, then to trust Him, to obey Him, and to be fully given up to His service must surely be the best and wisest course. For some reason or other, I cannot be saved. The best thing I can do is to enjoy the pleasures of this world, for there’s no hope for me beyond the grave.”2

He gave up praying and found going to church a bore. He came to think like his skeptical colleagues. If what they believed was right, there was no need to worry about the doom which his parents thought awaited the ungodly. A month after his 17th birthday in June 1849, Taylor went for an afternoon walk and picked up a gospel tract to find something to pass the time and listened to a song lyrics:

“There’ll be a story at the beginning, he thought, with a moral at the end.
I’ll read the story and skip the sermon.”

This track was about a coalman in Somerset who was seriously ill with tuberculosis. Before he died some Christians visited him and talked to him about passages from the Bible. The coalman was particularly struck by the verse which says that Jesus bore our sins in His own body on the cross. When the visiting Christians spoke of Jesus’ cry from the cross, “It is finished,” the coalman understood its meaning and became a Christian. Taylor didn’t know that he was fifty miles away from his mother who was staying with her sister at home with several hours to spare. Meanwhile, his mother went to her room, locked the door, and made up her mind not only to pray for Taylor’s conversion but to stay in the room until she felt sure her prayers were answered. Taylor reflected on the tract and understood that it was a simple tale and yet it made him sense and said with a question: “A full and perfect atonement and satisfaction for sin: the debt was paid by the substitute. Christ died for my sins.” Taylor knelt on the floor of a Barnsley warehouse and became a Christian. He then was given a text from Ezekiel 36:26: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” One Sunday evening, since the cold kept Taylor home inside, he spent his time talking to God and trying to listen to Him. He repeatedly thanked Jesus for what He had done for him by saying: “Dear God, please give me some work to do for you, as an outlet for my love and gratitude.” Then, he knew just how God wanted him to spend the rest of his life and said to himself.

I felt that I was entering into a covenant with the Almighty. I felt as though I wished to withdraw my promise but could not. Something seemed to say: ‘Your prayer is answered!’ And from that time the conviction has never left me that I was called to China.

Taylor’s Journey for Mission
In the early beginnings of 1850, Taylor discovered that an interdenominational society called the Chinese Association had been organized in London. It planned to employ Chinese evangelists to cooperate with existing missions in taking the gospel to the unreached interior of China. Taylor wrote a letter to the secretary of the Association, George Pearse asking him to send circulars, collecting cards, and anything which could help him introduce the work of the Association to his friends.

One day, a minister of Barnsley’s Congregational asked Taylor, “You may certainly borrow the book, and what, may I ask, is your interest in it?” Taylor replied, “God has called me to spend my life in missionary service in China.” The minister asked, “And how do you propose to go there?” He replied, “I don’t know, but I think it likely that I shall need to go as the twelve and the seventy disciples did in Judea, without a stick, or bag, or food, or money—relying on Him who had sent them to supply all their needs.” The minister gently placed his hand on Taylor’s shoulder and said, “Ah, my boy, as you grow older you will become wiser than that. Such an idea would do very well in the days when Christ Himself was on earth, but not now.” On March 22, 1852, Taylor told his mother that he had made up his mind: his friends at Andrew Jukes’ assembly now believed, as he did, that God was calling him to go to China as soon as possible.

A Man of Gospel Landed in China
On Monday, September 19, 1853, Taylor when he was 21, and his two friends—Arthur Taylor who is also a missionary and an elderly minister whom the Taylors met in Liverpool started their journey to China. Taylor suggested them to sing of John Newton’s hymn—
“How sweet the name of Jesus sound,
In a believer’s ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.”
3

Then he prayed with his firm voice until he commanded to God those he loved and concluded: “None of these things move me, nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received from the Lord Jesus to tell the gospel of the grace of God.” On Wednesday, March 1, 1854, Taylor and his team reached Wusong and Huangpu river towards Shanghai. He saw European ships sharing the French men-of-war. A dozen or more foreign business houses stood shoulder to shoulder with an ornate Chinese temple now used as a customs house. What he had read about in the pages of The Gleaner had become a reality before his very eyes. Every day Taylor gave time to teaching three new Chinese Christians—Guihua, Si, and Tsien; also, he spent time preaching to as many as his house would hold, and going out and preaching on the streets of Shanghai. Taylor changed his dress into a Chinese dress which he used to wear always. This has made him more effective in preaching and sharing the gospel to Chinese people and said, “I concluded it was my duty to follow his example.”

People who landed in Shanghai

Members of the China Inland Mission group that sailed to China in 1866. P.C.: @SCMP.COM/Post-Magazine

 

One day, Taylor was talking to some Chinese guests in the cabin of his boat while at Nanxun. “It’s foolish to worship idols. We are indebted to the One, True and Living God for every good gift,” he said. One Chinese man replied, “But surely you are too sweeping in your statement. There are good idols as well as many that are good for nothing.” “And which are the good idols?” Taylor asked. “They are in there,” he said by pointing in the direction of a nearby temple. “Many years ago, two men came to our town with a boatload of rice to sell. It happened that it was a time of famine. There had been no harvest and the people were hungry. Seeing this, the strangers took the rice and gave it away among the poorest people. Then they couldn’t face going home again.”

“Why not?” “Because they had given away the rice instead of selling it.” “It wasn’t their own?” Taylor asked. “No, it belonged to their master. And as they were afraid to meet him again, they both drowned themselves here in the river. The people said they were gods and made idols to represent them. They built that temple and the two men have been worshipped there ever since.” “Then your idols were only men. And men who stole their master’s property and did wrong by taking their own lives.” Taylor went on to tell his guests for the first time about the true and living God who gave His only Son that whoever believed in Him might not perish but have everlasting life.4

Taylor’s Contributions toward China
Taylor started his work in various ways. His goal was to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all the provinces of China. He shared the gospels to all the people, distributed the gospel tracts on the roads, inside the cities, and in many places. In the year 1865, he summed up his vision for the upliftment of Chinese people, and with great faith though limited financial resources, he founded the China Inland Mission (CIM). Starting from Shanghai, he traveled to almost all the provinces of China, and the gospel spread as widely as possible throughout China. Frequently, Taylor has been forced to return to England as his health condition repeatedly became poor, but had continually concern for the millions of Chinese people who lived in the provinces where no missionary had ever gone.

  • For the first time, Taylor translated English Bible into the Nigpo language.
  • In 1866, twenty-two missionaries including Taylors, the mission grew rapidly in numbers and outreach.
  • In 1905 after his death, China Inland Mission (CIM) became an International body with 825 missionaries living in all eighteen provinces of China.
  • Set up more than 300 stations of work in China.
  • Erected more than 500 local Chinese helpers.
  • Raised 849 missionaries who ventured out for the gospel in China.
  • 1,25,000 Chinese were converted into Christians and followed his steps.
  • He also encouraged single women as an evangelical to live in the interior of China.5

At each meal, Taylor and friends began to sing the prayer:
“Oh, send a hundred workers, Lord,
Those of Thy heart and mind and choice,
To tell Thy love both far and wide—
So, we shall praise Thee and rejoice;
And above the rest, this note shall swell,
My Jesus hath done all things well.

Taylor’s Last Days before Heaven
A young Chinese evangelist and his eighteen-year-old bride had been reading Taylor’s Retrospect, newly translated into Chinese, and decided they wanted to meet the author. At the CIM house in Changsha, they were told the sad news but allowed to join one of the small groups who gathered at the bedside. He held Taylor’s hand in his and said.
“Dear and venerable pastor. We truly love you. We have come today to see you. We longed to look into your face. We too are your little children. You opened for us the road to heaven. You loved and prayed for us for many years. We came today to look upon your face. You look so happy, so peaceful! You are smiling. Your face is quiet and pleased. You cannot speak to us tonight. We do not want to bring you back: but we will follow you. We shall come to you. You will welcome us by and by.”

They carried the coffin—the best the Chinese Christians who insisted on buying it could find—down to a ship moored at the Xiang River. The captain flew his flag at half-mast as they sailed northeast to join the mighty Yangzi. In 1988, Dr. Jim Taylor, James Hudson Taylor’s grandson, discovered the monument stones preserved in the former British Consulate in Zhenjiang, now a museum. The inscription was intact:

“Sacred to the memory of the Rev. J. Hudson Taylor, the revered founder of the China Inland Mission, born May 21, 1832, died June 3, 1905. A man in Christ.”6

The Protestant Mission of China

  • In 1807, Robert Morrison was the first Protestant missionary to enter the country and began translating the Bible.
  • From 1831-35 Karl Friedrich August von Gützlaff (1803-1851) distributed many writings on his trip through China.
  • The reports of the first missionaries created great interest in China in England and Europe. In 1852 the Chinese Evangelization Society (CES) was founded in London.
  • In the course of the Opium Wars, xenophobia increased in China and persecution broke out (1837). The next wave of persecution followed in 1847-52, triggered by the pro-western Taiping Rebellion. When the Taiping were able to settle outside Shanghai for a short time, many believed that the opening of China was imminent.
  • CES asked its first missionary to drop out of medical school and go to China immediately. Sun traveled James Hudson Taylor to China on September 19, 1853.
  • In 1854, Hudson Taylor arrived in Shanghai, China, and quickly realized that the other missionaries had no interest in penetrating inland China. He eagerly set about studying the language and undertook a total of 18 preaching trips, some of them inland. From the ninth trip onwards, he dressed in Chinese. Although he was mocked by his compatriots for this, he sensed the closeness he gained to his beloved Chinese.
  • In 1857, Hudson Taylor left CES (his mission society) for various reasons and lived purely by faith. During this time, he started medical work in Ningbo. In 1858 Taylor married Maria Dyer in Ningbo.

“Do not have your concert first, and then tune your instrument afterward. Begin the day with the Word of God and prayer, and get first of all into harmony with Him.” (—J. Hudson Taylor)7

 

Early Schools and Literacy Works

Early Schools and Literacy Works

Early schooling was a day that started from Watrepara, their home, was one of great excitement. The parents had many misgivings, but the lads were highly elated because of their great adventure. After the years, Omed and Ramke decided to take Christianity as their religion and took baptism on Sunday, February 8, 1863, at Sukheswar Ghat, Gauhati. Time and again, both uncle and nephew approached to send them back to their people by writing an application for their discharge. At the outset, Colonel R. Campbell responded with expressions of interest in the undertaking. So seven of them—Omed, his wife, and three children and Ramke and Suban took a boat down the river and arrived at Goalpara on May 10, 1864.1

Their first endeavor was to gain the goodwill of their relatives—Reban, the first cousin, and Fokira, the second brother of Ramke, who was at Goalpara at that time. On explaining the object of their mission, Reban would have nothing to say to them; but Fokira was friendly and willing to help. So, it arranged that Ramke should open a school at Damra and Omed tour among the villages on the heights above. Then while a schoolhouse was building, they all went up to the hills. In a few days, Ramke returned to Damra, taking his youngest brother and two other boys with him as a nucleus for his school. So, in 1864 the first regular school started at Damra, where Ramke and Fokira look after it.

Six months have passed away since they first went up to Watrepara. They stayed there as long as they could, but at last, they have driven away. They turned their steps sorrowfully away and came down to the foot of the pass. Have they abandoned their purpose? Not at all! On the contrary, this spot had chosen skillfully to further their plan of campaign. Omed can hear them coming, and if he pleases, join them as they go by or wait and watch for their return. He has calculated well. All these must explain, and Omed loves nothing better than telling and commenting on his trust.2

Years go by since 1864 as they came down; it took more than three years to win his own people’s souls to Christ. Despised much hated and reckless situations people took into wrong ways, they ceased their wicked things. Later on, they made a fresh request to Dr. Bronson to Rajasimla and a letter signed by eight Garos representing different villages. With much gladness in his life, Dr. Bronson came down from Nowgong and arrived in the evening at Rajasimla on April 12, 1867. On the next day, he gave baptism to twenty-seven, of whom thirteen were women. Then, Dr. Bronson opened a school at Rajasimla on that occasion and appointed Fokira as a teacher. He soon had a class of seventeen young Garo men, a type of thirteen small boys and Garo girls. “But do you want your girls taught?” he was asked. “Yes, the girls as well as the boys,” Fokira replied. Here was the foundation which led the missionaries to say, “Other schools will follow, and we will soon have plenty of good Christian Garo teachers who will preach while we teach.”3

In the later year 1868, Ramke had 30 students, both young and old; Fokira (Ramke’s brother), who was in charge of Rajasimla School, had another student body of 13, including three girls.4 Since then, with the inspirational employees of the first educational fields, many schools were set up. Now, these institutions are extending, disciplining, and yielding as one of the role models of the Church. The schools are:

  • Rajasimla Junior Basic School (1872)
  • Rajasimla Govt. Middle English School (1914)
  • Adventist Medium English School (1954)
  • Konchil Apal Govt. Primary School (1958)
  • Rongdal Atimbo Govt. Primary School (1965)
  • Omed Memorial Higher Secondary School (1969)
  • Thangkan Memorial English School (1998)
  • Wari Govt. Primary School (1998)
  • Upper Rajasimla Govt. Primary School (1998)
  • Konchikol Apal Upgraded Upper Primary School (2001)
  • Mongsi Govt. Primary School and
  • New Rajasimla Govt. Primary School (2003)5

One fascinating wonder was happened to Dr. Stoddard and his wife at Goalpara. A Garo boy—Rudram and his mother had come to the station on foot in a single day from their village, a distance of twenty-five miles or more. She was a tall, strong, noble-looking woman. “This is my only son and child,” she said to Mrs. Stoddard. “I bring him to you that he may learn wisdom. We Garos know nothing, not even God, only devils.” Then, when asked to remain a few days, she replied: “By no means, my husband is lame and cannot wait on himself much. No one in our village now will even cook rice for him, for we have ceased to worship demons and worship Christ, and we receive great abuse from our neighbors and friends.” Then, at dawn, she was up and away.6

Early Literary Works
The attention was given to plans for educational work, and the Government sanctioned a grant of two hundred and fifty rupees to prepare and print Garo books. Also, a monthly contribution of fifty rupees was given to the school, now called “the normal class” at Damra, and fifty-two rupees for village schools. In reducing the Garo language to writing, the missionaries were free to choose between Bengali, already familiar to the Christian leaders as it used by both the Bengalis and the Assamese, and the Roman character, which would introduce them to the English vocabulary.7 In the early days of 1868, Dr. Bronson came again to Goalpara and stayed at Goalpara for a month, where he prepared a book entitled “Garo Primer.” Later on, with the help of William Carey of Assam (a linguist), again he prepared two books entitled, “A Reading Book” having of some sixty pages and “The First Catechism.”8

It was, therefore, a daily process for students in those schools to study and learn about Christian principles and the way to Christ. The education program in Garo Hills was a Government-cum-Missionary project. When a Garo teacher was sent to open a new village school, he was usually a convert, full of zeal and enthusiasm for propagating the Gospel. Through these mission schools, the Government knew that the Garos could bring under Government administration without blood-shed. As a result of introducing mission schools, there was an immense benefit for the neighboring Hindu villages. Another factor that made an unparalleled contribution towards Church growth during this period was the Garo leadership because the Garos, by nature, were brave and sturdy. During the early period, the leadership of the Church came from men who had served in the police and had become Christian missionaries, volunteered themselves, and sacrificed their lives to pass the Good News for the unreached people.9 Since then, the earlier educational status became one of the factors that led to the advancement of the Church.

One of the Primary teachers said, “Education is the main character for the cognitive process of changing the society and the Church without education no one could spring up and modernize the living conditions of humankind.” Thus, through this educational prospect, the lives of the people in the villages changed, and their lives impacted and prominently enlightened the next generations today.10

Slanting N. Sangma, a retired Headmaster of Rajasimla Junior Basic School, once commented, “All the developments and social changes would not be possible if there were no educational system at Rajasimla.” “Today, our children have an opportunity to take an admission in the schools and mold themselves to be the leaders for tomorrow,” he added. Thus, these schools are effectively attending to the upcoming generations, enabling them to be capable enough to become future leaders for the community life of the Church and society.11

General View
The early schools and literary works have been discussed extensively. From the start, there were a lot of outcomes, which produced the sources of life in a new front and developed into the most abundantly planted green trees. In that generation, people from near and far sought to understand the true purpose of education. Their success was a result of their zeal and enthusiasm for learning. Therefore, the Garos could not forget those beloved individuals such as David Scott, Francis Jenkins, Dr. Bronson, Dr. Stoddard, and his wife, as well as many “others” whose labor helped the Garos become wise and enlightened. The Garos left their savage habits in the mountain ranges as a result of their efforts to improve their well-being, and they now serve as blessing showers.

 

References:

First Church on Garo Soil, Vol-2

First Church on Garo Soil, Vol-2

The Arrival of the Gospel in Watrepara
Omed and Ramke left Damra after a brief stop, heading for their hometown Watrepara. The villagers were wary of them when they learned of their mission, but they were allowed to stay in the village because the villagers’ spirits did not exact revenge for their blasphemy. Despite the fact that it was their own country, they felt like men in an enemy’s. A powerful sense of resentment had already been stoked by the news of their arrival, which had preceded them. Even their relatives were hesitant to provide them with shelter and food out of fear. But when it was time to put their courage to the test, they showed no signs of fear. They spent a couple of days going from house to house and clearing the path before inviting the entire village to hear the gospel after they had prayed fervently for direction.1

The crowd gathered in front of the Nokpante2 and formed a circle there. On either side, other leaders joined the chiefs in the place of honor. Since the meeting had all the formalities of a council and representatives from other villages were present, their swords were embedded in the ground in front of them. They were all crouching on the ground, staring at Omed as he stood to speak, their black eyes gleaming behind bowed brows. The bravest among them should have tested their nerve at that time, but the speaker knew how to touch their hearts when she said:

The Garos believe in demons, but there are no demons. At any rate, there are no demons that have the power to hurt us. We have sinned against God. What shall we do? But there is One who has done everything for us. And He sent Him to save us. He willingly offered himself a sacrifice for our sins, and all who trust Him are forgiven. He rose again after death and is now alive in the presence of God. We, your brothers, who believe it, have great joy in our hearts. And this joy is for all the Garos if they give up the worship of demons and turn to God. Therefore, we have brought you the message.3

When he was done, there was an immediate uproar and a burst of previously suppressed outrage and exclamation!

What, you a Garo, born of a Garo mother, do you presume to know more than the whole Garo tribe, and to teach us, your elder relatives? How did you dare to come here, slighting the demons, and trying to deceive us by pretending that they have no power to hurt or to kill? Beware lest some sudden calamity come upon you! We are not such fools! Who cares for your religion, and who will accept it?4

Omed, however, was not a soldier for no reason. When the commotion died down and the crowd mockingly dispersed, some people drew closer for more conversation as night fell. They engaged in extensive mental reflection before declaring with satisfaction that “the message was excellent.” Once their mission got underway, they would not have succeeded in establishing themselves as true believers’ heroes. Ramke took his youngest brother, two other boys, and himself back to Damra within a few days to establish the core of his school.

Omed has faced Difficulties and Challenges
Omed and his wife Epiri stay back at Watrepara to labor for his people and tirelessly spread out the gospel for several months. But Omed and his household’s life was not easy because the villagers did not like their teachings and new religion. He was blamed for any misfortune that happened in the surrounding area of the village. Different diseases and calamities like cholera, dysentery, drought, and storms brought miseries to the inhabitants which were considered to be the results of the demon’s displeasure at the new religion introduced by Omed. Within two or three days, some people died because of epidemic cholera and even one of his children died. In this critical situation, he was also threatened with death. The villagers viewed the deaths as punishment for the village for tolerating their presence and for their lack of belief. They expelled them from the village because they were bitterly angry with them for bringing the curse of the spirits. Now that his life was in danger, Omed was compelled to leave the village. His family made Rajasimla their home for three weeks, sleeping beneath the large tree at the base of Koasi hill. Omed cut a space in the jungle on the banks of the stream for a small hut he built out of bamboo and grass. At the base of the Rajasimla pass, his family lived in a run-down hut. When Rajasimla was first built, the low-lying areas were covered in reeds and tall grasses, and wild animals like bears, wild boars, deer, and stags frequented these areas. It was deemed hostile and uninhabitable as a result. In the dead of night, the big cats—tigers—came close to Omed’s home and circled the large tree. Later on, the villagers considered the loss of lives as a judgment on the village for harboring their presence, and on them for their disbelief. Bitterly enraged with them for bringing down the curse of the spirits, the villagers drove them out of the village. Omed’s life was now at stake and was compelled to leave the village.5

For three weeks, Omed and his family slept beneath the big tree at the foot of Koasi hill and settled down at Rajasimla. Omed made a small hut of bamboo and grass, clearing a place for it in the jungle on the banks of the stream. It was a poor hut at the foot of the Rajasimla pass where his family stayed alone.6 Those days the low-lying areas around Rajasimla were filled with reeds and tall grasses frequented by wild beasts such as bears, wild boars, deer, and stags. Because of this, the area was considered hostile and inhabitable. At night the big cats (tigers) came near Omed’s hut7 and swung around the big tree. Omed and his family were praying and worshiping God one night while lighting a lantern in their hut. Suddenly, six homicidal Garo people8 arrived in Rajasimla with the intent to kill the entire family. They were puzzled and annoyed when they came across a lantern glowing, so they turned around and fled without carrying out their heinous plan.

When Omed and his small group of friends went to Koasi Hill,9 where puppies and chickens were being taken up for sacrifice, one of the most tragic events occurred. They climbed the stairs with contempt, began tossing aside all the empty baskets, grabbed the stones, and split up. Along with cutting down the trees that were blocking their view, they also took a bundle of bamboo from the bamboo grove as trophies. The Garo people would occasionally emerge from their villages later, buzzing angrily and poised to attack. When Omed and other market participants were selling their wares at Rangjuli on one of the market days, some of the more dangerous individuals suddenly launched a ferocious attack upon seeing them. An update to Captain Morton had been sent through Ramke by the head constable of the Rangjuli police. 50 frontier police officers were immediately stationed at the Rangjuli market by Captain Morton, who acted swiftly. The primitive people demonstrated their allegiance to the British Government and understood that the captain kept his word by glancing at the border police. Additionally, the police officers stayed at Rangjuli until the danger subsided. After a short period of time, unexpectedly heavy rain fell, surprising everyone with these sudden changes in the weather and their current perceptions. Later, the idea of raids was dropped, and Omed and his followers at Rajasimla could stop worrying.10

Rangku11 was present with Dr. Miles Bronson because he was the third convert among the Garos to be baptized by Dr. Miles Bronson at Nowgong on April 8, 1866. At that time, Ramke informed Dr. Miles Bronson in a letter that had just arrived from Rajasimla that the Garos had made the decision to annihilate the Christian families. After receiving Ramke’s letter, Dr. Bronson, according to Rangku, approached him while sobbing and pleaded with him to go help the people. Dr. Bronson responded, “You go on; the Lord will take care of you.” Rangku said, “if they kill me?” “God’s blessings are upon you,” Dr. Bronson wished. “Maybe things are under control now. Anyhow, venture out and exercise bravery.” He looked for boats all night long. Rangku reached Goalpara in two and a half days. He left his luggage there and continued on foot until he arrived in Rajasimla just before dusk. In this moment of the greatest danger, Omed and Ramke were happy to see him and to have his assistance.12 Knowing that their lives were now in danger, Omed and his fellow beings fled with great trepidation. They set a watch for both day and night as they made their way back to Rajasimla. They couldn’t sleep for three days because there were fires lit all around the cluster of huts. Omed may have deeply regretted what he had done, which had put many other people’s lives in danger. Omed, his family, and other people remained unharmed despite those tense situations. The location of the wild animals’ former nighttime prowl and swinging has been marked by the construction of a monument close by.13 People from the nearby hillside villages used this location as a footbridge to access Rangjuli’s weekly market activities.

Omed and his fellow beings have escaped with great tension, knowing that now their lives were in jeopardy. As they went back to Rajasimla, they set a watch both day and night. Fires were lit all around the small circle of huts and they could not sleep for three days. Omed too, perhaps extremely regretted what he had done and put others’ lives at great risk. In spite of those furious situations, no harm befell Omed and his family members and others. Nearby a monument,14 it has been built to indicate the place where the wild beasts used to prowl and swing around at night. This place was also used as a foot pass by the people from the surrounding villages in the hills for their weekly market activities at Rangjuli.

Omed invited the villagers to his modest home for some rest, a slice of betel nut, and a smoke of tobacco, and it became known as the “House of Call” in memory of these people.”

He then seized the chance to preach the Gospel of Christ to the unaware visitors. Omed began to see the first results of his labor as a result, slowly but surely. Slowly but surely, the villagers came to accept Omed’s “new-found faith.” Similar to how Omed encountered numerous challenging circumstances and difficulties while attempting to spread the Good News among the populace. The Garo people were fierce and bloodthirsty, and they still were in Omed’s time. However, the Holy Spirit’s power came to him and reminded him to pray constantly. He moved forward to pray at the base of a cotton tree where the current cemented monument to remember had been placed as the Holy Spirit inspired him to do so in order to overcome those terrible circumstances. Omed frequently knelt down on his knees and offered his three daily prayers there, which was not far from his modest hut saying: “O God my Father, just as the cotton silk of this tree is blown away in different directions, so also let your Gospel spread to every corner of the Garo land and to all over the world.”15

After that, “Omed’s Place of Prayer” became a well-known name for this location where Omed frequently prayed. With such a keen eye for detail, Omed had to endure a lot of hardship, but he worked tirelessly and with enough faithfulness to see God’s kingdom grow as a result of his ministry in the Garo Hills.

Establishment of First Garo Church
Seven of Omed’s supporters sided with him over the course of a year as his strategy for the campaign gradually gained traction. They have stopped worshiping demons and have discovered a new religion. The Rajasimla members increased despite numerous mistreatments and odd circumstances. Late in 1866, Omed informed Dr. Miles Bronson that some people frequently gathered at Rajasimla for worship and that many of them desired baptism. There was no one else to take over, even though it was clearly absurd for him to continue managing the situation from 200 miles away. All he could do was wait it out by sending home new appeals. He had recently received a letter signed by eight Garos representing various villages, which only increased his concern.16 The signed people wrote:

A letter like this would be like a spark of tinder to a man with Dr. Bronson’s spirit. It ignited him. Dr. Miles Bronson made plans to travel to Rajasimla because he knew he couldn’t let a chance like this pass him by. ‘I would rather light the fires of Christianity among those formerly unrecognized tribes than hold the highest position at home,’ he continued. Although the trip had been drawn out and tedious, Rajasimla’s experience was thrilling and motivating. On Friday, April 12, 1867, he began by traveling to Goalpara before setting out with two elephants that Captain Campbell had lent him. Despite traveling for a long time in the heat and dust, he eventually arrived in Damra at five o’clock. There, he met Ramke, and the two of them chatted and sang until it was time for bed. The following morning, he set out early and arrived in Rajasimla in the late afternoon.17 He held a prayer service in the newly built church building that evening and questioned 26 people by warning them that becoming Christians might result in rejection, scorn, hostility, and even death. Even though they anticipated those things, they responded, “Yes, we have given it a lot of thought; we anticipate opposition; and we have decided to follow Christ and be baptized.”

Sunday 14th: A Day of Days!
After the ten o’clock worship service, Dr. Bronson went down to the lovely stream “Rongkil,” which had been dammed for the occasion, and baptized 26 Garos—both men and women. At the bank, a group of untamed, barbaric individuals was gathered, but they all maintained a calm, respectful, and somber demeanor as if they were used to the situation. Aged, middle-aged, and young people were among those who joined Christ’s flock. These were some of the irate opponents from a few months ago.

“I am a disciple of Christ, but I am unable to walk, a crippled man18 said, expressing how much the case of one of them affected him. How do I get baptized?” Dr. Bronson then instructed Omed to have and led him to the water. When asked if he hoped for material success, this man replied in a spirit-filled manner, “No; is it to fill our bellies that we become Christians? It is the salvation we want!” At another time, he declared, “My heart burns to go and tell my people on the mountains of this religion. As soon as my foot is better, I’ll leave.” Thus, twenty-seven people in total were baptized on this first day, of whom thirteen were women. Omed W. Momin as pastor was consecrated on that very day by Dr. Miles Bronson. By admonishing him to “range the hills, to preach, to baptize, to do the work of a Christian pastor, and “to be faithful until death.” Therefore, on that day alone, there were 27 members in addition to Omed, Ramke, and Rangku. The First Garo Church was founded in Rajasimla. Then, in front of everybody, Dr. Bronson ordained Omed W. Momin was appointed as the pastor and was given the duties of a Christian pastor, including “range the hills,” “preach,” “baptize,” and “be faithful until death.”

Monday 15th: April 1867
Dr. Miles Bronson was about to leave Rajasimla to say goodbye to the people when they went into the chapel and Omed told him that ten more people in the village didn’t want him to leave without counting them as followers of Christ. Dr. Bronson wasted no time in leading them back to the stream, where he alternately baptized them with Rev. Omed W. Momin and Suban/Suboni, Ramke’s wife. This demonstrated to the Garos that baptism performed by his or my hands was equivalent, Dr. Bronson continued. Rev. Omed W. Momin used the baptismal formula in Garo, and in Assamese, Dr. Bronson did. A church with forty Garo Christians, including helpers, exists in one village as a result. God gave Omed and Ramke the desire to ask to be sent to teach their countrymen there, said Dr. Bronson.

I saw their earnestness. I saw God’s hand in it, and although I had no funds, I dared not say, No. I can only say, This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes!
(—Dr. Miles Bronson)

 

First Church on Garo Soil, Vol-1

First Church on Garo Soil, Vol-1

In the 1800s, the American Baptist Mission Society started working in North East India. They most likely set up mission stations in the Nowgong and Goalpara areas of Assam. But even though people worked hard for years, not much progress was made. While Omed and Ramke did many great things, one of the most impressive is how they brought Christianity to the Garo people of the Garo Hills. E.G. Phillips says that the names of these first two followers, Omed W Momin and Ramke W Momin, must be included in any history book that talks about how Christianity came to the Garo people. On April 14, 1867, Dr. Miles Bronson opened the First Church on Garo Soil, where Omed W Momin worked hard and constantly. It was in Rajasimla that Momin was made the first ordained pastor of the church.

The Garos Before Christianity

William Carey

The Garos, along with the bulk of hill tribes in the Northeast, have seen substantial turmoil in the last two to three centuries, notably after the establishment of colonial governance in the region. William Carey observed that the speech of the Garos may sometimes be characterized by a dissonant sound like the collision of metal with stone. The Garos were averse to being governed by individuals from other tribes due to their dissimilar physical attributes. In addition, they were unwilling to impose taxes on zamindars residing in the plain regions. On many cases, when the tax collectors demanded payment, they were unable to remain silent and instead resorted to killing the individuals, decapitating them, and seizing control of their settlements. In 1852, Lord Dalhousie made the following statement:

“…But these furious people those who do not obey, not useful at all, even not heeded completely will bring a great tragic and dreadful doom. Though we may send strong soldiers to control them, our work and struggle will go in vain. Even though we try to control North-East hillsides, it becomes useless… therefore; I myself suggest that we should completely remove them from any angle. Until and unless we caught and tortured these crazy killers will continue and will dominant over all…”1

Keeping these suggestions in mind, it became highly satisfactory since the British government decided to accept this and subsequently chose to arrange the Garos’ major strike in protest of the previously mentioned problems, even though this strike significantly harmed their day-to-day existence. They were promised not to behave in such vile ways against the government, and they were persuaded to stop their negative habits and actions.

Earliest attempt at converting the Garos to Christianity
Professor Lindrid D. Shira said about David Scott:
“The Garo people could not forget David Scott, who was a British Commissioner to the whole North-Eastern Frontier of India for which he contributed a lot of good things. Though he could not do much to Garos in terms of the Christian religion, with much struggle he invited some of the American missionaries to work with their full commitment.”2

David Scott first encountered the Garos in 1816 when he was sent to handle problems on the Garo frontiers. He dealt with this ferocious tribe with the utmost diplomacy, and he soon won their obstinate hearts. He was certain that only the spiritual power of the Christian faith channeled through the medium of missionary schools, could ever bring the Garos lasting peace and benefit. He also held the opinion that a missionary was more important to tame this warlike tribe than a captain or a civilian, and he made an effort to convert the Garos to Christianity using this clear-cut belief as his guiding principle. David Scott put a lot of effort into securing missionary personnel to start schools among the Garos in order to achieve this. It’s clear from his letter to Mr. M. B. Baily, a Secretary to the government that he was willing to donate some of his own money to this cause:

“I am satisfied that nothing permanently good can be obtained by other means. I would greatly prefer two or more Moravian missionaries who, along with religion would teach the useful arts. If the Government would insure them subsistence only, I would be willing to take on myself the expense.”3

The American Mission Board decided to find the two missionaries with this crucial consideration in mind after receiving this brief appeal to the Secretary of the Government. However, due to the listed missionaries’ inability to perform as the Board had anticipated, these things did not, in some ways, turn out as planned. While in Assam, Commissioner and Agent to the Governor-General of Bengal, Captain (later General) Francis Jenkins, who shared his interest in and viewpoints regarding the Garos, founded a school in Goalpara district in 1847. His goal was to educate young Garo people in order to send them back to civilize their own people, much like David Scott.

Birthplace and Early Days of Omed and Ramke
Omed W. Momin was born in 1832 in the quaint hamlet of Watrepara.4 Omed was a born leader who was impulsive and forceful from a young age. Despite having been born in the wild, he became interested in reading and writing after going to a nearby market and finding a government interpreter who spoke fluent Bengali.5 Omed was always devoted to his nephew Ramke because he was the older of the two and because he was Ramke’s uncle. He made it a point to impart whatever wisdom or talent he had gained to Ramke. After living there with his uncle Omed for five or six years, Ramke W. Momin was born in 1838. Ramke, a boy of 11 or 12 years old, was for a time prevented by his stepfather, who preferred his assistance with the jhum cultivation to his education. When he was younger, he had a strong belief in demons and worked diligently to defeat them, frequently trapping wild birds to sacrifice to them.6 Ramke was deeply religious and did his best to uphold his native faith even before he accepted Christ as his Savior.7

Education of Omed and Ramke
In an effort to exert some influence and control over the tribe, the government established a school for Garo boys in Goalpara in 1847. Despite their lack of understanding of how providence was guiding them.8 The news that the government wanted Garo boys for a school at Goalpara and would feed, clothe, educate, and produce great men for them was announced one day in 1847 by beating the drums at the Rangjuli market. The rumors reached Omed and Ramke’s neighborhood in the nearby hills as well.9 Omed and Ramke signed up for formal schooling at Goalpara along with a group of young Garos. After some time, it was decided that it would be wise to broaden their perspectives by sending them on a government-funded steamer to Gauhati. The Garo boys were very drawn to a regiment of Sepoy that was stationed there. Omed was asked to participate at first, but he declined. Jongrin and Ronja were initially enlisted. Ramke returned to school to finish his studies at Goalpara, but Omed was compelled and was forced to join the police at Gauhati before he could finish his education.10

Conversion and baptism of Ramke and Omed
The period of active planning for the establishment of the Church in the Garo Hills was between 1847 and 1867. Even though they did everything they could during this time to make the best of things, neither of them was happy with Garo’s doctrine of rebirth after death. Omed and Ramke were resentful of this doctrine since they were young and started looking for other religions that would assure them of eternal happiness.11 Omed was tasked in 1857 as a sepoy with guarding a mission house in Gauhati that would be temporarily occupied by a British officer. He was such a thoroughly honest and sincere sepoy while guarding the bungalow under British discipline that he even resisted the urge to take some old tracks that were scattered on the floor. He hastily picked up one of them and tucked it under his shirt one day after the sweeper had swept some of them outside. Omed read the tract that night incessantly out of curiosity and in Bengali under the title “Apattinashak“ (“Apati Nashak” means ‘The Destroyer of Objections.’ It explained the Christian faith and disposed of different objections to its acceptance). He finally located what he had been looking for for a while.12 However, he didn’t share this idea with anyone until he happened to run into Samuel Loveday, a Bengali Christian who was working as a contractor in Gauhati. In 1859, Loveday persuaded Omed to visit the pastor and attend church services. He also persisted in his conversations with Kandura Smith, but Omed refrained from seeking baptism because, like many hill-men, he found it difficult to give up drinking rice beer.13

Ramke, on the other hand, started studying the Hindu Sastras (bibles) after enrolling at the Goalpara School and sought advice from the Sadhus seated beneath the tall trees there. Ramke spent about 8 or 9 years as a practicing Hindu after being persuaded by the sadhus’ explanation of the Sastras. He began and ended the day by saying “Ram,” respecting the Brahmins, and generously giving them alms from his meager allowance as instructed by Sadhu. A Christian tract called Apatti Nashak was distributed at Goalpara by a group of traveling Baptist missionaries led by Rev. In the winter of 1856, Ruprecht Bion and Ram Jivan traveled from Dacca. He was once more overcome with utter hopelessness and despair after reading this tract. His appointment as a teacher at the Rangjuli Primary School, where he spent about eleven months, distracted him, though. On the advice of a Brahmin, he returned to Goalpara after that and continued his studies there for a while. Omed recently expressed his growing interest in Jesus Christ in a letter to Ramke. Ramke was overjoyed and made his way to Gauhati as soon as the school let out for the summer. There, he enrolled in the Normal School and studied for a year.14 Omed told him there about his brief encounter with the enigmatic tract. In actuality, the nephew and uncle shared a common interest in spirituality and frequently discussed how they felt about spirituality. They were both seekers of the eternal truth. A lively debate about which religion—Hinduism, Islam, or Christianity—they should follow soon broke out between them. The older of the two, Omed, expressed the following opinion:

The animistic belief of our Garo people is indeed detestable. Hindus practice the caste system. If we become Hindus, we will have to stay away from our relatives. Besides, even Ramayana does not teach anything about the salvation of the soul. In the Koran of the Muslims, indeed there is a promise of God to make the followers of Islam a great nation; but not much importance is given to the soul of human beings. Therefore, after examining what is written in the booklet (tract) and after weighing all the pros and cons, it seemed to me that Christianity is the best and the truest of all religions.15

Omed and Ramke were examined by Kandura Smith, who after being persuaded of their sincerity, promised to recommend their baptism to Dr. Miles Bronson when he next traveled to Gauhati. In the end, the baptism was performed for the first time on February 8, 1863, at Sukheswar Ghat in Gauhati. Few people present at the ceremony on the riverbank that day could have foreseen the contribution that the first two Garo Christians would soon make to the cause of Christ.16 Formerly barbaric Garos sat down at the Lord’s table that afternoon for the first time, partaking of the symbols of His broken body and shedding blood in holy fellowship with Him and those who had pointed them to Him as the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world.17

Sukheswar Ghat 1863

Sukheswar Ghat 1863

 

The Arrival of Christianity in the Garo Hills
They wanted to bring Christianity to their fellow Garos in the wild hills18 because they had been proven to be extraordinary Garo soul-winners after accepting it as their new religion. Stayed true to this belief, Omed and Ramke to find a missionary who could share the gospel with the Garos, asked Dr. Miles Bronson. Though his nephew agreed to go with him, neither Ramke’s wife Suban19 nor Omed’s wife Epiri20 gave their consent to be baptized or accept Christ as their Savior. Omed was, however, given the chance to receive specialized training at Nowgong, but he turned it down, citing his advanced age as justification.21 Because they were both completely untrained and inexperienced with the major evangelistic thrust in the wilderness, Dr. Miles Bronson and Kandura Smith disapproved of this idea. In order to be supported by the Christian community there, they persuaded the new converts to stay in Gauhati for a while longer, but they were adamant. However, Dr. Miles Bronson granted their request and agreed to pay them a meager salary before entrusting them with the task of evangelizing the Garo Hills. As a result, they both left their respective positions in March, and on May 10, 1864, they left Gauhati with their wives and children. They were then kept under the direct supervision of Captain Morton, the Deputy Commissioner of Goalpara.22 From Goalpara, they traveled to Damra, where they spent the night and conducted open preaching at the weekly market,23 which is how Omed and Ramke in order to reach their own people, became the first missionaries.

(Volume-2 continues)

 

 

Monja Masuri─Rajasimla

Monja Masuri─Rajasimla

It was originally called “Monja Monsori.” The modern hamlet of Rajasimla was given this name when it became the first Christian settlement on Garo land. The Bodo (or Katchari) tribe is said to have been the first to settle in this region. When they ultimately fled and abandoned the town, the man-eating tigers continued to visit it. It seems that the area was left vacant and grew a dense forest.

The Bodos
The Bodo people of Assam, Meghalaya, and Bangladesh speak Tibeto-Burman languages. The Bodo, Assam’s biggest minority community, live mostly in the northernmost portions of the Brahmaputra River Valley. Despite their previous involvement in shifting cultivation, the bulk of them are now permanent farmers. The Bodo people are divided into various tribes. Their eastern tribes are the Dimasa (or Hill Kachr), Galong (or Gallong), Hojai, Lalung, Tippera, and Moran, while their western tribes are the Ctiy, Plains Kachr, Rbh, Gro, Mech, Koch, Dhiml, and Jaijong. Until before 1825, the Bodo constituted the majority in Assam. In the late twentieth century, it was believed that there were around 2.2 million speakers of Bodo languages in India.

Some Practices among the Garos
Among the Gāro, the village headman is usually the husband of the heiress, the senior woman of the landowning lineage. He transmits his headman’s office to his sister’s son, who marries the headman’s daughter (the next heiress). The lineages of the male headmen and the female heiresses are thus in perpetual alliance. Political title and land title are both transmitted matrilineally, one through one lineage, the other through the other. There are a dozen subtribes, with varying customs and dialects, but all are divided into matrilineal clans. Marriages involve members of different clans. Polygamy is practiced. A man must marry his wife’s father’s widow, who is in such cases the husband’s father’s sister, actual or classificatory. Such a wife takes precedence over her daughter, to whom the husband is already married. A man’s sister’s son, called his nokrom, stands therefore in intimate relationship to him, as the husband of one of his daughters and ultimately of his widow and the vehicle through which his family’s interest in the property of his wife is secured for the next generation, for no male can inherit property.1

Naming as ‘Monja Monsori’
Bodos referred to the location as “Monja Monsori” in their native tongue. They gave it that name because it was said that a Garo woman who lived nearby hid her brass gong underwater in a deep pool out of fear that someone would steal it. But when she laboriously checked it again a few months later, she was shocked to discover that she could not locate it. As a result, the Boro people often say “Monja,” which is equivalent to the Garo “Manja” and means “Don’t get.” “Monsori” (Galor “Muni donga” equivalent) denotes the presence of a magic charm or spell. Because of this, “Monja Monsori” in Boro means “you won’t get anything if it’s hidden under this pool; there’s some magic char or spell.”2

Ran Mari
“Ran Mari” was actually “Rowmari,” the name of a village close to “Monja Monsori” that was later renamed “Raj Simina” or “Raja Simina,” and eventually became known as “Rajasimla.” This location was on the ancient footpath that led to the Matchokgre Hills’ Watrepara and Dambora villages. Rev. and Mrs. Bronson traveled to Rajasimla with two elephants donated by Campbell, a former British deputy commissioner sent to Goalpara, specifically for the journey to open the first-ever Christian church to be built on Garo soil.

Raj Simda
The border of the Bijni Kings’ kingdom was actually called “Raj Simina” or “Raja Simina.” Because the Bijni kings planted those “simul trees” or “silk-cotton trees,” “Bombax malabaricum” to mark their territory as their borders, this village later became known as “Raja Simula,” meaning “The King’s Simul Tree,” after the simul tree that stood there. This makes it clear that Bijni’s kingdom did not extend outside of this location to the hills. In the end, the village was given the name “RAJASIMLA” in the years following the founding of the Christian Church. Today, one of the sites contains a memorial made of a Simul tree stump.

Cotton Tree Stamp

“O God my Father, just as the cotton silk of this tree is blown away in different directions, so also let your Gospel spread to every corner of the Garo land and to all over the world.”

 

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