A young boy and his father walked together up a winding trail that led to the summit of a mountain in the hills of Manipur, in northeast India. Chawnga, the father, laid his hand upon the shoulder of his son as together they climbed the mountain. Chawnga remembered the story of Abraham and Isaac that he had been told long ago by a Welsh missionary that had brought the Gospel to the Hmar people. On this day, symbolically at least, Chawnga would lay his son, Rochunga, on the altar.
At the summit of the mountain, the two stopped and faced the rising sun. This was the special place where Chawnga always came to pray. Today, it was to be the place where the father sent the son away on an important, dangerous journey.
Rochunga, the ten-year-old boy, knew fully the reason for which his father was sending him far away to go to school. The Hmar people had no Bible. For years, after the missionary had been forced to leave these hills, Chawnga and other converts had continued to worship the God of the Bible and teach their people the truth of salvation through Jesus Christ. These men were getting old, and if the truth of God was to continue among the Hmar people, they must have a Bible. But the Hmars did not have a written language. The task was immense, and Chawnga and his wife had dedicated their son to the task.
Would he and could he honor his father’s request and do his father’s will? The first step in that long journey lay 96 miles away across the jungles of India. To send a young boy alone on such a journey seemed foolish, but Rochunga’s father had prepared him well for his journey. Mountains would be climbed, rivers would be crossed, and wild beasts would need to be avoided. But Rochunga was not afraid. He knew that his father would be praying for him on this mountain.
Chawnga gave his son some parting words of loving advice. He pointed out the place on the distant horizon to which the boy must direct his steps. “When you climb to the top of that mountain at the far end of the valley, look into the morning sun. You will see there another mountain at the place where the earth touches the sky. It is called the horizon. Wherever you go, my son, the horizon always stays before you, leading you onward.”
As the two were about to part, an elephant trumpeted in a nearby clearing. The boy looked up into the eyes of his father. Chawnga gave Rochunga some words of experience, handed down from his own father before him. “If an elephant chases you, run straight ahead. Then make a sharp turn to the right. Move straight ahead again, and make another turn. Four times, and you will be back on your path. All elephants are left-handed. They cannot turn quickly to the right. They always fall to the ground when they try.”
Then Chawnga added some words of advice drawn from years of experience as a Christian: “Satan is like a rogue elephant. He is left-handed too. In the outside world, Satan will try to lead you into sin. When evil tempts you, tell Jesus about it, and He will tumble Satan on his back.”
Rochunga asked, “Will I know, my father, when I am tempted?”
“You will know,” Chawnga answered. “I will be praying here on my mountain.”
With those words, Chawnga pulled his son to his heart in a final embrace, “God keep you.” Rochunga started off into the jungle. The last sight he had of his father was Chawnga silhouetted against the sky, standing on the summit of his mountain.
By the grace of God, Rochunga made it through almost 100 miles of jungle and all the dangers the forest contained. When he met an elephant on the trail, he remembered his father’s words. He forded rivers. He avoided a large bear by running downhill. He trapped and ate small game for his meals. At one point on the trail, he caught a glimpse of a large Bengal tiger in the bushes. The tiger watched him, but did not attack. Rochunga moved onward, and saw the tiger moving too. Mile after mile, the tiger followed him. At first, the tiger’s presence alarmed the boy, but he gradually realized that God had sent that tiger to ward off other dangers and hostile tribesmen. The tiger was his defender, and he thanked God. In his heart, Rochunga knew that his father was praying on his mountain.
Rochunga’s long journey led him from mountain to mountain and eventually from ocean to ocean. Although he failed at times and was distracted from his purpose, he always returned to his commitment to honor his father and follow the horizon that God had given him. Rochunga traveled to Glasgow, Scotland, to study Bible languages. From Scotland, he journeyed to Canada and the United States of America. In Canada, Rochunga met the aged Welsh missionary, Watkin Roberts, who had once visited his native land.
After many years of waiting, the day finally arrived for which Chawnga had long prayed and waited. As a joyful crowd of Hmar people watched, Chawnga opened the crate that contained the New Testaments that his son had translated. Rochunga had honored his earthly father by fulfilling Chawnga’s prayers and hopes for his life. In doing so, Rochunga also honored his Heavenly Father.
Rochunga Pudaite spent the rest of his life giving the Bible to the world. He married a Christian Indian girl whose name, Lalrimawi, means “the name of the Lord is a beautiful sound.” Rochunga often called her Mawii. Together, Rochunga and Mawii taught the Hmar people to read the Bibles they now held in their hands. The couple went on to found an organization called Bibles for the World, which continues to this day to send Bibles around the world. Rochunga always liked to say that his family was once a family of “headhunters,” but now they are a family of “hearthunters.”
Rochunga went to be with the Lord in 2015. The vision that the father Chawnga began and his son Rochunga fulfilled still continues today under the leadership of the third generation, Rochunga’s son, John Pudaite. The multigenerational hope of the Pudaite family is that many hearts might be won for Christ until the glorious day that Jesus reigns from sea to sea and from horizon to horizon.
Sources and Further Reference:
Joe, Musser. Fire on the Hills. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1998.
Hefley, James and Marti. God’s Tribesman. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 1981.
Pudaite, Mawii. Beyond the Next Mountain. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1982.