Arrival of First Baptist Missionaries to Chin Hills Remembered
16 March 2011: Yesterday marked the 112th anniversary of the arrival of the first American Baptist missionary couple, Mr and Mrs Carson, to the Chin people in Chin Hills (now officially called Chin State), Burma in 1899.
Rev. Arthur E. Carson and wife Laura Hardin Carson arrived in Hakha on 15 March 1899, six weeks after setting out from Thayet Myo, Magway Division in central Burma, where the first Chin Mission was established.
Chin churches and Christians remembered the 15th of March as one of the most significant dates that brought the light of Christianity on the ‘unreached and uncivilised’ Chin people in the past and changed the whole Chin Hills.
Rev. Dr. C. Duh Kam, Execitive Minister of Chin Baptist Fellowship of America (CBFA), said: “Today, 15 March 2011, is the anniversary of the arrival of our first siangbawi Rev. Arthur and Laura Carson, with the gospel to Hakha, the capital of Chinland – our day of change from darkness to light.”
Chin Baptist Church in Texas, USA is to hold a special commemorative worship service of the Carson arrival on 20 March 2011, designated as ‘Carson Sunday’ and also in honour of Laura Carson as the ‘Mother of Chin Christians’.
Former President of Zomi Baptist Convention (ZBC), Rev. Dr. Chum Awi said Mrs. Carson did deserve what Rev. Dr. Robert G. Johnson noted in his book that reads ‘With good reason, Laura Carson is called the mother of the Chin Christians.’
“Even after the death of her husband Mr. Carson, Laura remained in Hakha and continued working for both the spiritual and physical development of Chin people until her return to the US due to health problems,” added Rev. Dr. Chum Awi.
Today, more than 90 percent of the whole Chin population are claimed to be Christians.
In her book ‘Pioneer Trails, Trials and Triumphs’, Laura Carson mentioned: “Chin villages abound on the neighboring hillsides. Many thousands of people are accessible from this place [Hakha], not one of whom is a Christian and not one can read and write in any language.”
“Their only religion is the sacrificing of animals to evil spirits; it is also their only system of medicine. To these poor people we hope to introduce the elevating, uplifting influence of the gospel of Christ and teach them the Way of Salvation.”
The Carsons and their helpers (Karens who went with them to the Chin Hills) continued their arduous efforts six years before the first convert in the Hakha District was baptised, according to J.H. Merriam. In late 1905, a schoolboy, Shia Khaw, became Christian as the first Hakha convert, and was baptised on 1 January 1906.
The Chin people were animists before Christianity was brought to them and it was only on 11 May 1905 that the first four Chin believers, Thuam Hang and wife Dim Khaw Cing, and Pau Suan and wife Kham Ciang, were baptised in a natural rock-bound pool in a little stream near Khuasak and Thuklai villages.
Rev. Dr. Robert G. Johnson noted that Thang Tsin became the first baptized convert in the Zanniat tribe in September 1906 and In March 1907, the first Ngawn convert, also in Falam area, Tsong Kham by name, was baptized.
Rev. Arthur E. Carson died of appendicitis on 1 April 1908 and was buried in Hakha. Leaving Chin Hills for the US in 1920 due to ill health, Laura L. Hardin passed away on 19 July, 1942.
Van Biak Thang