THE ADVENT OF CHRISTIANITY AMONG THE BÂWMS
The Bâwms spent many years’ worshiping nature, without knowing the creator God. But fortunately gospel light began to shine among the Bâwms in 1918 through the work of Wales Missionary Edwin Rowlands. According to Darsanglien, the ‘Thado–Kuki Pioneer Mission,’ which was founded in 1913 by Watkin R. Roberts, who was known as Sap Tlângval or white young man and who sailed for India along with Dr.& Mrs. Peter Frazer. It is said that after the Mission work gradually expanded in Mizoram and Manipur in 1918, Edwin Rowlands, who was known as Zo sapthar or ‘New Whiteman’ was sent by ‘Thado-Kuki Pioneer Mission’ to visit the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh and to bring the gospel to the Bâwm people.
Since the Mission work expanded even outside Manipur, in Tripura State and Chittagong Hill Tracts, Roberts changed the name of his Mission ‘Thado-Kuki Pioneer Mission’ into ‘North East India General Mission’(NEIGM) in 1919. Regarding the new name of Mission, Watkin R. Roberts writes:
As every parents named the name of their children, so I give the name of field that God gives me. I call it as, North East India General Mission, which sound pleasant as the parents feel good when they call the name of the child.
It is said that the Mission’s name was changed after the Mission expanded to the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
Due to lack of proper written documents, it is very difficult to put the exact date of Edwin Rowlands (Zo Sapthar) and his friend’s departure from the Mission headquarters in Manipur for Chittagong Hill tracts. But probably they started at the beginning of December 1918, and after travelling many days through the thick jungles, they reached the Bâwm village at Vairelh in Chittagong Hill Tracts on December 12, 1918. In that village they began preaching the gospel to the Bâwm people, showing Bible pictures and explaining the meanings to them. After some days staying they some neighboring villages such as Tlângpi, Fiangpidung and Pankhiang etc. Thus the gospel entered among the Bâwm people in Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh. This Missionary visit has changed the Bâwm people spirit through hearing the good news. From these decades a new chapter began among the Bâwms in their history.
The Establishment of the Bâwm Church
The years 1918-1920 are to be said as a period of silence, hence, there was no continuous the ministry among the Bâwms. Therefore, a Bâwm Christian leader H. Thangnin called this period as the period of “Preparation for the gospel of Christ among the Bâwms.”
Later in 1921, the North East India General Mission (NEIGM) sent three native missionaries, such as Pastor Patlaia, Lianthawnga and Saikunga, from Mizoram to Chittagong Hill Tracts, and the gospel work was continued to the Bâwm people. Among the Bâwm people the first convert were Kualthang, Ngunkhar and Tlingbil from Tlângpi village. The new converts were followed by Lalkim, Niangthluai, Saikham, Thawngnin Thangchul, Rotling, Sawmcheu, Ngunfawm and Altlem. These new converts were the instruments for spreading the gospel of Christ among their own tribes.
Gradually the Christian population increased among the Bâwms and on December 24, 1928 the first Christian meeting was held in the form of fellowship and worship of God at Tlângpi village. This was then followed by the first Christmas celebration on the next day when the twelve new converts were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Thus a new Church among the Bâwm people in Chittagong Hill Tracts, after Edwin Rowlands brought the gospel in 1918.
As the Bâwm Christian population was increasing day by day, more leaders were needed to look after the Mission work. Therefore, in 1929 Pastor. H. Dala who was the student of Dr. Frazer, and Pastor. Ruala were sent to Chittagong Hill Tracts to supervise the mission work there. After living about ten years in the ‘Mru’ area, they moved the Bâwm area in 1939. They lived in the Bâwm villages, such as Pankhiang, Mualpi, Arthah, Munnuam and Lunginkhar. Ruala replaced Patlaia as the superintendent of the Saichal area and Sajek area, and H. Dala was appointed as the Bâwm area mission field Pastoral superintendent. They remained at the same post responsible in the Mission field of Chittagong Hill Tracts until the white missionary couple Dr. and Mrs. Pierce D. Samuels, came and took over charge in 1956.
Dr. and Mrs. Pierce D. Samuels lived among the Bâwms about five years at Arthah and Munnuam headquarters in Chittagong Hill Tracts. When the Government of Pakistan declared the Hill Tracts to be restricted area, putting it out of bounds to foreigners, they moved to Chiitagong and lived there until returning to United States in 1967. Before leaving the Bâwm area in 1965, the Bâwm area Presbytery Committee Meeting adopted the name Evangelical Christian Church, (ECC) for the denomination as stated by Dr. Pierce Samuels in a certificate in issued by him dated February 2, 1967:
Thus Christianity was spread among the Bâwm people and today the Bâwm are 100% Christian. The first adopted denomination Evangelical Christian Church continues its mission till today.