Go Tell It On the Mountain
Smiling faces watching intently
Different ethnic smiling faces
Sydnors with Ashneu and Demo Bobu Venulhu Vesavo Dunuyi copy.jpg
...that Jesus Christ is born.”
The words of that Christmas Carol have come alive to me in a new way, as Bucky and I met Venulhu, the son of the first Christian convert in Nagaland, a state in northeast India. We had been invited by our missionary colleagues in Nepal, Demo and Ashenu from Nagaland, to attend their church’s Golden Jubilee. So, we traveled with them to Nagaland. One of the days before the celebration, we drove three hours from Kohima to Demo’s village of Chozuba. It was there, way up in the mountains, this song took on a new meaning for me.
Many, many years ago American Baptist missionaries took that song seriously and went to the mountains of the Nagaland people –the head-hunter tribes of Nagaland – with the Good News of Jesus’ birth. Years later Bob and Helen DeLano, whom we knew from our home church, came and served the Naga Christians in this area as some of the last missionaries to Nagaland. Ashenu’s father was a teacher who taught with Bob DeLano in the school in Kohima.
And now more than 20 years after personally hearing from Bob and Helen their stories of Nagaland, we were way up in this remote mountain village of Chozuba meeting people with whom the DeLanos ministered. Bucky and I were meeting 81-year old, Venulhu, who was 20 years old when he knew Bob DeLano. Venulhu was pastor of the Chozuba Village Baptist Church for 26 years and has been in ministry 58 years. We met 70 year old Dunuyi, also remembering Bob’s presence there, whose father had been one of the church’s first deacons, who himself was still a deacon in the church. Coming down from his residence in the church’s prayer tower, Bobu, at 101 years of age, grinning from ear to ear greeted us warmly. The present pastor, Vesavo, whose parents decades ago persecuted Demo’s parents when they became Christians, was at the church, as well.
Up there on the mountain top, we were surrounded by the visible results of the ministry of those now among our great cloud of witnesses who came years ago to these mountains to tell the good news that Jesus Christ is born! Needless to say, it was a very humbling and moving experience.
This experience made the previous day, when we attended the annual Hornbill Festival, even more unique. Named after the country’s national bird, this Hornbill Festival is a time when all the 17 tribes of Nagaland gather together in the ethnic dress of their tribe and perform dances from their culture. It was a day filled with the steady rhythms of beating drums leading the dancing feet, brightly colored hand-woven clothing and smiling faces both reflecting each tribal group’s different ethnicity.
Sitting in the semi-circular arena, all faces watched the tribe in the center perform its own ethnic dance, each dance having a specific meaning. This country has moved from being head-hunters and expecting the specific dances to control the events in their lives to being a country with 95% of the Naga people being Christians. These two days in juxtaposition were a visible testimony to the power of the good news “that Jesus Christ is born.”
God honored the ministries of those over years past who heeded the words of the song to “Go Tell It on the Mountains… that Jesus Christ is born,” our Savior, who has brought redeeming life to these head-hunter tribes tucked away in the isolated mountains of Nagaland, who now, years later, are also preparing to celebrate the birth of their Savior.
The words of that Christmas Carol now have a new meaning to me.
May God give you a new meaning to one of the familiar Christmas Carols you sing this Christmas Season as we all prepare our hearts to celebrate that Jesus Christ is born!
Merry Christmas to you from Nepal,