Under the theme, ‘Revisiting a Shared History,’ the Molungkimong Baptist Church organized a Mission Walk in the first gospel route (Sibsagar to Molungkimong) which began on 10th February and culminated on 12th February 2017. The Mission walk was embarked with the purpose of revisiting the coming of Christianity to Nagaland and to reaffirm our faith, and also in honor of the great sacrificial works done by our gospel pioneers: Supongmeren Tzüdir (native of Molungkimong), who initiated the path of Christianity and education by playing the role of tutor as well as mediator; Godhula Brown, the first evangelist to the Nagas hills who opened and ‘converted’ the Nagas to the gospel and Missionary Rev. Dr. E. W. Clark who planted the first Church in Naga Soil at Molungkimong on 22nd Dec’ 1872. The Mission Walk was also organized in preparation of the 150 years of Christianity in Nagaland (Sesqui Centennial Celebration) in the year 2022.
In all 63 delegates were invited for the walk signifying the Mission trio of Supongmeren, Godhula and Dr. E. W. Clark and the 60 Molungkimong warriors who escorted Dr. Clark all the way from Sibsagar to Molungkimong. Representatives from Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC), NBCC Youth Department, NMM (Nagaland Missions Movement), Ao Baptist Church Council (ABAM), Phom Baptist Christian Association (PBCA), Yimchunger Baptist Church Association (YBCA), DABA Youth Ministry, MTABA and other dignitaries took part in the mission walk programme.
As scheduled, by 11:00 am on 10th February, the eager delegates of the Mission Walk 2017 started coming in at the specified place at Nagaland Gate, Amguri and the organizers and volunteers got busy welcoming the delegates, getting them registered and changing them in whites Tees and blue caps. A formal introduction and briefing about the journey was conveyed by the pastor of Molungkimong Baptist Church, R. Ali. This was followed by a mass prayer and the team headed for Central Baptist Church Sibsagar. A short service was held in the Church. The team visited the Mission Bungalow where Dr Clark resided while at Sibsagar. The team then headed back to Col. Buckingham Bungalow at Amguri tea estate, the very place where Dr Clark took rest on the night of 16th December 1872 on his first journey to the Naga hills. From there the team travelled to Tzürang river to rest for the night. At nightfall, the weary team reached Tzürang (Tero) river, the river bank where Clark and the 60 warriors slept on their way to Molungkimong on the night of 17th December 1872. The team then settled down to refresh. After dinner, a short camp fire service was held where Rev. Z. Thsantiu, Exec. Secy, YBCA thanked the Molungkimong Baptist Church for organizing the Mission Walk, which was not an easy task, and that it was an opportunity for all the participants to revisit the history of how Christianity dawned in our land. A short yet powerful message was delivered by Toshi Sanglir, Youth Secretary, ABAM. In his message, he stressed on Repentance taking from Godhula’s song and that the same song on repentance seems to be invoking the Nagas even today.
Under the breezy winds of the Tzürang valley, the team slept off for the night while some of the volunteers kept the bonfire alive in an attempt to keep the ‘campers’ warm. More excitement and adventure awaited the next day.
The next morning, the team woke up rejuvenated knowing the days uphill walk. After breakfast, a short service was held where Y. Nuklu Phom, Executive Secretary, Phom Baptist Christian Association, delivered the message. In his message, he highlighted the sacrificial works of our pioneer missionaries and exhorted the need to remember our leaders. He said, “Today it is time to not only remember our leaders and follow their trail but also to take the mantle of leadership.” Most importantly, he said that our society has reached a stage where as Christians we need to change our faith model in combating the challenging issues confronting the Church today.
After the service, the team was treated to lunch and after a brief rest the team started the uphill journey at about 9:30 am leaving the beautiful campside. Refreshment packets were given for physical nourishment in the course of the uphill walk. The team started in small groups slowly. The uphill journey was indeed excruciating. Some elderly in their sixties were heard saying Haliluyahs indicating that the journey was indeed tiring. After several stops, the team reached Angotzükong hillock in groups around 1:00 pm still 1.6 kms away from Molungkimong Village. The team was welcomed by the Molungkimong Watsu group and also provided refreshment. It was the same hillock, from where a smoke signal was sent out to the villagers declaring the arrival of Dr Clark on 18th December 1872. Significantly, and reminiscing the past, a fire was lighted sending a smoke signal. The delegates, who were mostly first timers were taken back to the events in history and also the significance of Angotzükong hillock. After resting a while, the team marched the rest of the uphill journey. The team led by the Molungkimong Village Council finally reached the Village. The sight of the delegates taking rest conveyed a huge sense of relief who were physically exhausted in the course of the journey. Nonetheless, a sense of accomplishment and gratification on a successful mission in being a part of the shared history was written on their faces. The team then went to the historic First Baptist pool where they were taken back to history of how the first fifteen converts were baptized by Dr. Clark. One can visualize that cold Sunday morning of 22nd December 1872 with Dr Clark conducting the Baptism of the converts and Godhula leading the hymnal singing as the converts take the plunge in the water for rebirth in the gospel. Some of the delegates were seen partaking in the water of the pool seeking prayer of blessings and with thankfulness. There are various testimonies of the Baptism pool water having a healing effect especially on those who seek God’s healing.
The team then went up the steps leading to the first Gospel gate where a short programme of Prayer was held around the spot near the gate where Clark on his first arrival knelt down and prayed with tears for the warring Nagas. Eager villagers had gathered around the gate to welcome the Mission Walk group. The Village Council ceremoniously welcomed and opened the gates to the village. Once in the village, the team visited the places of importance transporting back to history and after a thanksgiving prayer outside the Church the team had a well deserved scrumptious food.
In the evening of 11th Feb a service was held inside the Church where Rev Ponen, Pastor, Mokokchung Town Ao Baptist Church exhorted the congregation that, we want change but we seem to be crippled by fear and the will to change. He challenged that, “Change will come only when we go in God’s name.” We need to erase fear, for God says, “Do not be afraid for I am with you.”
The team which was scheduled to disperse only on the 13th morning had to leave the village by Sunday evening itself due to news of the bandh from the next day. As such, the last Mission Walk service was held right after the devotional service.
In the devotional service, Richard Yimto, IPS, DIG, who was the special guest of the Mission Walk said that “Molungkimong is the Holy Land of Nagaland” because it is from this village that the gospel of Christianity spread out and he exhorted the people of Molungkimong to spread the light. He also credited the evangelizing work of Rev Yabang of Molungkimong among the Yimchunger people for over 40 years. The sermon was delivered by Rev. T.W. Yamyap, Finance & Property Secretary, NBCC. In his message, he described our pioneer missionaries as ‘foolish’ because it was a ‘foolish act’ on their part to leave all their comforts and taking great risk choose to evangelize the head hunting Nagas. And it was because of their faith and belief in the Lord. He challenged the congregation to have a strong belief system and further, stressed on the need to be faith oriented Christians; to be strong and rooted in our faith like our pioneer missionaries were.
In the afternoon service, Rev. Khevihe Yeptho, Associate Director NMM, shared from his own experience by elucidating that serving the Lord never goes in vain. Further, elaborating on the state of Churches today, he stated that Churches should become a living Church and we as Christians should not just be listeners but as ‘doers of His word.’ Rhetorically, he also challenged the Molungkimong Baptist Church that it was time for the Church to go beyond ‘milk and flesh’ and that it was time to chew ‘bones.’
Some of the delegates also shared their experiences of the walk while also recommitting their call to duty in the service of the Lord. Overall, it was an enriching walk. In the course of the mission walk from Sibsagar to Molungkimong, the history of the coming of Christianity to Nagaland was revisited in walking through the first Gospel path which was the Ahom-Ao Naga Trade Route. It was not just another journey but a soulful and a soul-searching one. It was indeed an opportunity for the delegates to reaffirm and recommit ones faith in the Lord and carry forth the responsibility of the mission of the gospel to the many who are yet to know about the gospel.
The history of coming of Christianity to our land is a unique history written by God and it is a shared history of the Nagas. Let it be reminded that, it is a history which unfolded with a lot of danger, threat and sacrifice; a history that was carved out in an uncertain pretext of better or worse, blessing or curse upon their clan of those who got converted and on the whole village. Today, Nagaland shares the fruits of this sacrificial history.