Passing the Baton

Since my childhood, one of the sports that always make me excited is a Relay Race, and the most crucial part of the race is passing the baton from one runner to the other, then to the others. If anyone dropped the baton or had a difficult hand off, you would lose precious seconds that would be hard to make up.

In this short reflection, my intention is not to talk about how the baton is passed on to the next leader, but I would like to focus on the importance of passing on the baton to the next leadership as many good examples found in the Bible. Most of the stories of the passing of leadership baton in the Bible are between very close Leader (Guru) and Disciple/s (Shishya) for example: – Moses passed on the baton to Joshua, Elijah to Elisha, Jesus to his disciples, Paul to Timothy and Titus, in our modern day, the outgoing leader to the incumbent leader in various Government Offices, Institutions, NGOs, Churches, etc.
Biblical stories of passing the baton signify that God’s mission is on the move, alive and progressing in order to reach the goals, targets, plans, dreams and vision in the Mission of God.

The story of Moses follows God’s plan to hand the leadership baton to Joshua. As per the plan of God, it was Joshua, not Moses who would take the Hebrew people on the next leg of their journey to enter the land of Canaan (Ref. Book of Joshua). According to Deuteronomy 34:7, “Moses was 120 years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone.”  In the case of Elijah and Elisha, God’s plan was to take away Elijah from the living even as he was in his prime life and passed the prophetic mission on to Elisha (2 Kings 2-4). The age of Elijah is not mentioned in the Bible when he was taken to heaven alive. However, many scholars are trying to gather information through research based on archeological findings in certain geographical locations to say Elijah could be 51 years old when he ascended to heaven alive. Elijah was from Tishbe in Gilead. The narrative in 1 Kings relates how he suddenly appears during Ahab’s reign to proclaim a drought in punishment of the cult of Baal that Jezebel was promoting in Israel at Yahweh’s expense. ( )

When Jesus was ascended to heaven after his resurrection from death, as recorded in Luke 24:51, “Jesus leads the eleven remaining disciples to Bethany, a village on the Mount of Olives, and instructs them to remain in Jerusalem until the coming of the Holy Spirit: “And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven.” He left behind his 11 disciples with instruction to remain faithful for greater glory of God’s great mission. Jesus must be only 33 years old when he was taken up to heaven.

Apostle Paul considered Titus and Timothy as his sons, his confidantes and his fellow missionaries (The New Testament – letters of Paul to Titus and Timothy). Paul taught them sound theology for the two friends to take care of the churches for their spiritual as well as physical nurturing. When the baton is passed on from one leader to the other, God intervenes and commissions leaders, as in the stories of Joshua, Elisha, Disciples of Jesus and the two close fellow missionaries of Paul, God releases a mantle over them. These mantles give them the ability to complete their mission.

On March 1, 2023, in Logos, the Central Office of the Bible Society of India, had a moment that witnessed “passing the baton” from the former General Secretary of BSI Rev. Dr. M. Mani Chacko to the new General Secretary, Rev. Dr. Kavito G. Zhimo with a symbolic action by handing over the “Holy Bible”, the baton, the most important instrument that contains the “Word of God”, the most powerful weapon to transform the world, the most important daily bread to nurture and nourish our spiritual growth, the basic source of life to draw wisdom and understanding to deal with our everyday’s life. The Vice President of BSI, Dr. Bijaya Kumar Pattnaik said the opening prayer and the President of BSI, Dr. (Mrs) Leelavathi Vemuri, with words of blessings and encouragement and with prayer inducted the new General Secretary to his official seat to take charge of the leadership responsibility as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Bible Society of India. That was a proud and blessed moment for the new GS. The new GS was accompanied by his wife Mrs. Khelibo Ayemi. The GS and his wife are from the beautiful state of Nagaland in North East India. The Officers of the BSI, the Senior Management team and the BSI staff in Logos office were present in the induction service of the new General Secretary.

To have the induction service of the new GS may be understood as fulfilling the custom of the BSI, but, beyond this custom lies it’s theological, missiological and practical implications. As the Bible Society of India is built on the foundation of Missio Dei, God’s mission to make the Bible available, accessible and affordable for every tongue, every heart language, be it printed, audio, motion picture and sign language. With the baton in his hands, we look forward with prayer for Rev. Dr. Kavito G. Zhimo, to lead the BSI with new vigor, new dream, new vision and new goal to take BSI to greater heights.

To start the day during the Morning Prayer in Logos at 9 a.m. before induction ceremony, the President of BSI, Dr. (Mrs.) Leelavathi Vemuri shared the Word of God. Her message from the book of Isaiah chapter 43: 1-7 was very encouraging for the staff of BSI even as our journey begins with God’s appointed and ordained new Officers of the BSI – the President, Vice-President, Treasurer and the General Secretary to move. The former General Secretary Rev. Dr. M. Mani Chacko welcomed all the new BSI Officers even as he laid down his office on February 28, 2023 as his last working day. After the induction service, the senior management team spent time with our new BSI Officers for a brief moment of introduction and exchange of pleasant words and blessings for each other.

By Dr. Hrangthan Chhungi,

Asst. Director

Church, Public Relations and Resource Mobilisation