After the school fire, there was going to be a riot.

tim41

Dear Ezra and Lian (when you’re a little older),

After the school fire, there was going to be a riot. The Mizos and Chakmas were going to have a big fight that night. The Baptist Church of Mizoram (BCM) ran a big school in Chhangte. Most of the people in that town are Buddhists and Chakma. A lot of them didn’t like a Christian boarding school being there. Probably one of them, at least that’s what all the Mizos believed, had purposely burned down a lot of classrooms and student sleeping quarters. In retaliation, young Mizo men would probably go beat up a lot of Chakma men, hurt young Chakma women and set a fire or two themselves. The Chakma young men would do the same to the Mizos. These things had happened before.

I was told these things the morning after the fire. I was asked to go to Chhangte right away and help try to calm things down. Both the Mizos and Chakmas in Chhangte respect me. Because of what I had done for them, the Chakma call me Radamon, named after their greatest hero. Being a Mizo makpa (son-in-law), the Mizos admire me too. I quickly packed a few things and was ready to go.

Then I waited for hours. Sanga, my driver and the best in Mizoram, wasn’t allowed to leave until the elders of BCM finished their meeting to decide what to do. They didn’t want me to get to Chhangte first. I thought they were being petty and prideful, but I waited. Finally we left.

I think it should normally take about 6 hours, but Sanga drove so fast, I think we did it in 4 hours. In the windy, mountainous roads it was like being on a roller coaster. I don’t really do so well on roller coasters. I could barely stand up when I got to Chhangte.

Now, kids, your grandpa is probably the 2nd most important Mizo police officer ever. My Mizo friends all know it. They could have easily asked me to bring justice to whoever burned down a Mizo-run school. One phone call and I could have had at least one Chakma in jail that night for questioning. They didn’t ask me for that. Instead they announced that they would re-build everything burned down at the school. That took a lot of sacrifice. They would have to cancel other building projects in Mizo villages. They didn’t punish the people in Chhangte for this malicious act.

Then we started to comfort the people at the school. The principal and I walked through the ashes of his burned out school. With tears in his eyes, he showed me where things used to be. A little girl showed me where her room used to be. Now all her clothes and books were gone. I should have brought some stuffed toys. All I had were hugs and a few kind words and smiles. I hate to see people cry (that’s why your sister has me wrapped around her little finger.) I would rather have gone to see the police, but nobody said the word justice. We were there to try to create peace. Unbelievably, it happened. No bad stuff happened that night.

You will hear people shout; “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now?” They have no idea what they are asking for. They only what a tiny little piece of justice; the part that benefits them, their friends or their causes or the part that punishes their enemies. They don’t want the part that will ruin them utterly. The Mizos have had so many bad things done to them and as a people they have done many bad things too, especially around Chhangte. As much as I love them and the Chakmas, I will never try to bring them justice again. If you ever get true justice, kids, it will destroy you and everything around you. Don’t seek it. Instead, bring mercy. It heals. It builds. It hugs and wipes away the tears. Especially for those who don’t deserve it. Love, Dad

All Fired Up!

 

tim39Dear Ezra and Lian,

In 2008, I was talking in person to Petra, one of the most famous Christian rock bands of all time. Are we talking about their music, their tour, or India? No. They are asking me for help. Someone is holding all their equipment for ransom. They can’t leave Aizawl, Mizoram, India until they pay all the money one of the suppliers for their concert is owed. The thing is, it’s not their responsibility. The concert promoter who was organizing this tour through NorthEast India owed all kinds of money. Petra was caught in the middle. They were getting more serious threats than just having all their equipment stolen.

(Sigh) It’s the night before I’m supposed to fly to Calcutta and start negotiating and organizing for a big shipment of food to be sent from Canada to Mizoram. This is for the starving people of south Mizoram villages. They are in the middle of a famine. The last thing I need to be worried about, is guitars and amps. Okay. Let me make a phone call. After a couple hours, a small payment gets made and the potential thieves get convinced they have no legal right to Petra’s guitars, drums, etc. So the trucks leave and head up the road. I go to bed.

When I wake up, I start getting ready to go to the airport. I find out that overnight, that these yahoos contacted their “uncle” in the police. He impounded everything up in Kolasib. Now the Petra band members don’t know what to do. They’re probably going to miss their flights because they just happen to be flying the same time as me. They can’t leave all this behind. Now, I’m mad. I’m embarrassed as a Mizo makpa. The thieves are making my favourite place on Earth look terrible. I’m just imagining Petra going on their fan website and telling the whole world, “Don’t ever visit Mizoram!”

One thing was not going to happen that day. No one was going to steal tens of thousands of dollars of instruments and equipment from Petra. Somebody’s police officer uncle in Kolasib isn’t going to keep you out of trouble. I just spent the last few days visiting the chief secretary, government ministers, YMA general secretary, church leaders and oh yeah, my father-in-law is a retired Deputy General of Police. Who do you want to put you in jail? I make a point of never using my “big connections” to benefit me, my family or my friends (sorry, my friends who have visited Mizoram with me). I don’t waste that on frivolous things. It better be REAL important. I figured the reputation of Mizoram was on the line, so I made phone calls to two people not on the list above. I told Petra to load their things for the airport.

Since I had to spend my time working the phones, all I had time to do was give handshakes to all the band members at the airport. I asked them to please don’t think badly about Mizoram. They were totally gracious and in a good humour (much better than me, but they never saw what I did down in the south). They thanked me for liberating their stuff out of Mizoram and we waved goodbye. They flew north. I flew west.

I will be totally honest with you. If I had missed my flight I would have had 24 hours to do nothing but press charges for theft, ride shotgun in police jeeps and watch people get marched off to jail. As it was, if Petra could forgive them, I guess I could forget about them. Besides, I had way bigger things to worry about.

For some fun, watch this classic Petra video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=noRd58N-sic&index=37&list=PLE50C3533DAA0475B

Love,

Dad

The Bus Ride That Changed My life

tim36

Dear Ezra and Lian,

I got off the train late in the evening in Guwahati, Assam, India in February, 2000. At that time, the city was a dangerous place. Over the years there have been bombings there. The wild, wild east of India. I tried to find the bus station and a bus for Mizoram. I spent a long time wandering around a very dicey part of the city trying to do that in the dark. Finally, I got on a bus.

First, we made our way up the mountains to Shilong in the state of Meghalaya. We had a layover there. Many people got off and new people got on. This was a little bit of a risky journey. I knew that your aunt and the shared jeep she traveled in had once been stopped by bandits/rebels on these roads. By bus, this trip would take about 14 hours on a roller coaster ride over mountains, along narrow, pot-holed roads mostly with no guardrails. I had been travelling for days straight across India. I was stressed and anxious and very tired.

Before the bus engine started, an elderly Mizo man prayed for a safe journey. I would come to find out that this happens all the time in Mizoram. The bus pulled away and began to make the long, slow journey to Aizawl. Not 1 minute passed before a young Mizo man began to sign a Mizo song. Then others joined in with perfect harmonies. Young and old alike sang along. Then I knew I was truly on my way to Mizoram. The Mizos had me right then and there. It was like a switch had been flicked on in my heart. I was in love with these people.

The singing went on for hours. They were mostly strangers, but they were united in song. Throughout the trip, I saw Mizo community spirit (Tlawmngaina ) in action. Young people talked to old people. People looked out for one another (especially when we stopped in Silchar).

I didn’t really realize that by the time I arrived in Aizawl, I was a new man. That bus ride changed my life. The course of my life has been forever altered because I got on that bus.

Here’s the thing, kids. If someone had shown me all the things that would happen by getting on that bus, I would have run away.  Even if I knew all the amazing things coming my way like you two, I could never knowingly volunteer for everything else. I only had enough faith to get on the bus. I didn’t have enough faith to live at the bus’s destination or endure the journey. Running away would have been a terrible mistake. I’m thankful I didn’t.

One of God’s greatest mercies to humanity is that we don’t know the future events of our lives. We may get sneak peeks, but we could never handle all the details. God is pulling up in His bus. He has opened the doors. I ask, “Where are we going?” God replies, “Do you trust me?”

“What’s going to happen?”

“Do you trust me?”

“Are we going to be ok?”

“Do you trust me?” Hold my hands, kids. We’re getting on board. Enjoy the ride.