August 15th, 1947, was one of the great days in world history. One-fifth of the population of the world gained its independence on that day from Great Britain.
India was split into two countries, Pakistan and India. Most of the 90 million Muslims moved to the northwest portion the country, the newly created Pakistan. The 250 million Hindus, 6 million Sikhs along with Christians, Buddhists, and other smaller religious groups, remained in the new India.
Today, India is approximately 82% Hindu, 12% Islam, and 2.5% Christian, with the balance of the population Sikh, Buddhist and smaller religious sects. While the country is still very poor, the economy is booming, and millions of people are moving from poverty to the middle class.
The Rt. Reverend Dr. Probal Kanto Dutta became the Bishop of the Diocese of Durgapur, which was on the verge of being closed down, in September, 2003. Bishop Dutta told me he felt lucky that God had chosen him to take over this Diocese and spread the good news of Jesus Christ to so many people.
The Diocese of Durgapur is a church body that spans approximately 43,340 square kilometers. The Diocese is on fire with activity as they seek to meet the practical and religious needs of so many of the people who live in this area. Some of the things they do include managing a college, several elementary and high schools, hospitals, an eye clinic, a nursing school, and over 180 churches. Recently, the Diocese of Durgapur took over operational control of an additional 58 churches started by the Indian Missions Society. We attended the grand opening of two new churches that were funded by St. Michael’s Church.
They help people of all religions, have hundreds of full-time evangelists and an amazing staff, and are doing great works to meet the needs of so many people in this area and spread the good news of Jesus Christ. They value St. Michael’s Church as one of their biggest supporters.
~ Arthur Ravenel, III
On a Sunday, a week or so before leaving for India, I was praying with our prayer walking team in the St. Michael’s graveyard. My prayers and thoughts turned to the India Mission trip ahead of me. My prayer was a plea for help. To quote the Rev. John Barr from our November 14 Day of Healing Prayer, I needed “to get me out of the way, so that I could get Jesus in the way.” For a brief moment, I found myself in a state of unconsciousness, until I heard the words very loud and clear in my mind, “Bloom in the Resurrection.” I had no clue where this came from, but I woke up to find myself at the Meeting Street side entrance to the graveyard, staring at the dark brown, tightly wrapped Camellia flower buds located deep in the center of a large Camellia bush. In the middle of these rather non-descript buds was a large, radiantly beautiful Camellia bloom, basking in the light; it was the only bloom on this entire bush. I found myself repeating the words out loud and questioning their meaning: Bloom in the Resurrection, Bloom in the Resurrection.
What immediately came to mind was an answer, “If I can take these brown buds, hidden deep in and among the dark spaces of a Camellia bush, expose them to my light and produce this gloriously beautiful flower from it, just think what I am going to do for you in India.” At that moment, I felt a release – Such encouragement could only come from God and answered prayer. I could not wait to uncover the real meaning behind this message.
My report for India Mission 2015 is about a simple witness and message of God’s amazing grace to bring thousands of people out of darkness and into the light for the hope that is found through a saving knowledge and personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
It was incredible to experience, from tribal village to tribal village, how much our team was welcomed and honored. There was no question that the love of Christ and hearts had been prepared by the loving hands of Jesus well before we stepped foot in India. Bishop Probal Dutta and his team of pastors and evangelists, along with the generous financial support from St. Michael’s, had moved thousands of people in India out of darkness and into the light and love of Jesus Christ, through education, clean water, the construction of churches and a Safe House, nurses’ training facilities, doctors for community health, the distribution of Bibles and blankets, medical care, the new construction of churches, music training, and overall care for the poor, sick, and needy.
At each Festival of Hope, we heard stories of people traveling great distances by foot to hear from the Americans from St. Michael’s, Charleston, SC, who had traveled halfway around the world to share the healing light and hope found in Jesus. The word definitely got out, and people came in large numbers of both Christians and non-Christians. Everyone was well fed, both physically and spiritually. There was singing, dancing, and an atmosphere of joy. Praise and worship songs filled the large covered area, and the people raised their hands high into the air to shout, repeatedly, the one word we all understood at the end of the praise and worship music: Halleluiah, Halleluiah, Halleluiah!
Jean and Johnnie Corbett, our leaders, had clearly established the core message that would be taught, preached, and witnessed over the course of our ten-day ministry at the five Festivals of Hope in Sarenga, Baldahura, Koonor, Jargo, Koreng, and Jhalda: Jesus Christ stands outside the door of your heart, waiting and knocking, and only you can invite Him in. You could feel the presence and power of the Holy Spirit at each Festival. Many people were healed, and you could see the hope and light of Christ swell up through the tears, smiles, and hugs of gratitude from all of the people we anointed and laid hands on through healing prayer.
As the Festival of Hope got underway in the Tribal Village of Coonor, I experienced first-hand what I believe God meant by His message, Bloom in the Resurrection. Our team was on stage, under a large canopy filled with hundreds of children and adults praying and worshiping Jesus. I could feel the God’s presence through the prayers and the music, so I felt compelled to open my eyes to witness and better understand what I was feeling. My eyes went directly to a little boy in the front row of the congregation who could not have been more than 9 or 10 years old. He was weeping and praising God with his hands held high above his head. Other young children around him were also singing and praying, but not like this little boy. What an amazing sight. I couldn’t help but think back to my experience in the graveyard at St. Michael’s when I witnessed the miracle of God taking an obscure little “bud” to a gloriously beautiful “bloom” through the love and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was definitely the confirmation of God’s message that I had been looking for.
~ David Richardson
What a blessing it was to be part of the Healing Prayer Mission to India! Our team was wonderful, and it was especially meaningful to be on a mission with my husband, Arthur. It was a long trip over, flying to Newark, Delhi, and then Calcutta, where Trishikh Dasgupta, Bishop Dutta’s brilliant, young communications director, collected us for the three-hour drive to Durgapur. Trishikh organized all of our activities and accompanied us everywhere we went, attending to every detail and ensuring our comfort on many long journeys. He is also a wealth of knowledge and helped us to learn and understand a great deal about India.
Calcutta is the capital of the state of West Bengal, and Durgapur is three hours north of there. The diocese of Durgapur is very large and extends north almost to Nepal; it is bordered on the east by Bangladesh. We traveled throughout the diocese by train and van, proclaimed the Gospel, taught healing prayer, and prayed with thousands of people at Festivals of Hope, organized by the diocese at rural churches. We ministered to Bengali people and to members of the Santhal tribe, so everything had to be translated into those two languages. The Santhal are one of the largest tribes in India and are indigenous to northern India and Nepal. There are more than two million Santhals in West Bengal, many of whom are Christian but still celebrate many of their tribal traditions in dance, music, greetings, and hunting. We were very blessed to be welcomed to their churches and to worship and pray with them.
When we arrived near the church in Sarenga that was built with GIC funds from St. Michael’s, we were greeted by parishioners singing, dancing, and drumming. The dancers formed a procession and led us towards the church, while others brought us flowers and showered us with marigold petals. They asked us to be seated, and then washed our feet as part of their traditional greeting. Afterwards, we dedicated their church, which was newly built by the diocese, and had lunch. In the afternoon and evening, the team did a series of preaching and teaching, and then we prayed with more than a thousand people.
The translators told us their prayer requests, and we anointed them with oil, laid hands upon them, and prayed for them. What a privilege it was to pray with these precious people! And thanks to the Bible fund at St. Michael’s, we were able to leave them with Bibles in their native Santali language.
We spent that night at the nursing school that Bishop Dutta had established to serve the medical clinic in Sarenga. Young women come to the nursing school from villages in the area and receive four years of training, with the caveat that they must return to their villages after graduation and provide medical care there. They have wonderful opportunities for clinical experience at the hospital and are well qualified upon completion of their training. They also participate in community health outreach led by the missionary doctor husband and wife team who serve at the hospital.
Our team was awed and amazed by the number of ministries that Bishop Dutta and his team have implemented in the Diocese of Durgapur. They serve so many people, no matter what their faith, and they give wonderful Christian education, preach the Gospel, and show the light and love of Christ to all in an area of darkness and great need. We were very humbled by the opportunity to minister alongside these amazing Christians.
~ Heidi Ravenel
“People want to go to big cities to minister. They don’t want to come to this area, but the people are hungry. The India people are spiritual. They will come and pray. Bring them to Jesus!” Bishop Dutta shared his heart’s desire as we drove to Sarenga. Upon arrival, we celebrated with Khayerpahan Wesley congregation, who only a year ago sought for a replacement of their deteriorated mud church. We joined them in praise and prayers in their beautiful new church building.
At the KSN Nursing Training School, we were warmly welcomed by the Director Mrs. Sangita Gorai and a hundred students. Hospitality abounds in India! Dr. and Dr. Bose, Indian Missionaries serving in the 150-bed hospital at the School, invited us to tea. He said hospital patients only pay 30 cents for excellent care. Dr. Bose shared his heart’s desires to teach basic health protocol to the surrounding villages.
In April, Nepal was struck by an earthquake that killed thousands of people. Small mud houses in the northern most part of the Diocese of Durgapur crumbled. One night, we followed a trail by flashlight to a new bamboo and tin home, donated by St. Michael’s. The team gathered in the small space and prayed God’s blessings upon the home and the family. A tiny cross is imbedded in the concrete wall, a reminder of God’s grace.
In the village of Koonor, we prayed with more than a thousand people at the Festival of Hope! There were many testimonies given, thanking God for healing their bodies of disease, pain, and distress in various forms, such as stomach and digestive issues, acid reflux, back and neck pain, and body pain.
During a Festival, I looked to my left and my right, checking on the team members. Everyone was praying for masses of people. Then, I looked in front of me and was overwhelmed by the view – a sea of pain.
We prayed with people with tuberculosis, leoprosy, a 15-year old with a brain tumor, a 9-year old with a stomach tumor, babies with fever in their mothers’ arms, barren women, and students who asked for prayers for their studies. (Note: If students do not pass their government exams, they cannot move up to the next level of study.)
A teaching moment! After a morning teaching, each team member was paired with a pastor or translator and led to the shade of a tree where those in attendance could go to a prayer team and state their requests. A little boy about 7 years of age and two lay evangelists became part of my team. When a large crowd surrounded us, each one taking turns sitting in a plastic prayer chair, I sensed the Lord was directing me to instruct everyone in the laying on of hands. I invited everyone to touch the person receiving prayer. “My little boy” touched each person on the arm with the face of an angel as he silently prayed. I wish I had a photo to share.
We met with about 34 Indian Lay Evangelists from the Indian Missionary Society who wanted our prayers of blessings! They serve under the authority of the Diocese of Durgapur.
I left India with the knowledge that many foreign and Indian missionaries have gone before us and paved the way with their lives and with prayer. The Diocese of Durgapur is on fire with the passion to share Jesus Christ with everyone who will listen. Their leader, the Rev. Dr. Probal Kanto Dutta, serves under the headship of our Lord.
Please pray for Pastor Amiya Das, Bishop Dutta’s Assistant, who will have heart surgery in January.
Thank you, Intercessors and Financial Donors, for supporting the Third Healing Prayer Mission to India!
~ Jean Corbett
We left Charleston on November 30, for the Diocese of Durgapur, West Bengal, India, and arrived December 2. We rested that evening and had breakfast the next morning at 5:30. The team traveled by van to Sarenga, where we dedicated a renovated church and parsonage, funded by St. Michael’s, Charleston. Next, we drove to Khayerpuhari Wesley Church for the inauguration of a new church, again funded by St. Michael’s, Charleston. In the afternoon, we held a Festival of Hope in a large field. The tent accommodated a portion of the more than one thousand people in attendance. We taught on “Who is Jesus?” The Team prayed for everyone. Many were healed of various diseases and ailments.
Friday, we returned to the Diocesan compound and enjoyed a beautiful Christmas concert presented by the children of Diocesan Child Development Center in Durgapur.
Saturday, we left at 6:00 a.m., for the train to Malda (English Bazaar) which is about 300 miles north of Durgapur. We spent two nights in Malda Government Guest House.
Sunday morning, we dedicated Shoglepara Church. Musicians, drummers, and dancers led the procession through the street lined with hundreds of children and adults showering us with flower petals. Village girls washed and anointed our feet – a humbling event. After the dedication, we drove to the St. Michael’s Safe House in Baldahara, for an afternoon Festival of Hope under a tent for teaching and prayers. We distributed Bibles to adults and children. Warm blankets were presented to children.
Monday morning, we drove to Koonor and held a Festival of Hope for more than one thousand people. Everyone received laying on of hands and prayers for healing. The following day began with testimonies from many who had received a healing touch from the Lord. A pastor who was blind and led to the Festival the previous day testified that he could now see and did not need to be led. After the customary lunch of rice and dahl, we had another service for hundreds of people who were healed by the Lord.
Wednesday morning, we returned to Durgapur by train.
Thursday at 6:00 a.m., we headed out to Purulia for a Festival of Hope. People from three Villages filled the tent to overflowing. We witnessed God touching and healing physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs of the people.
Friday we drove to Kolkata (Calcutta) for our flight to Delhi, then to Newark, and back to Charleston.
On this trip, we dedicated two new churches and one renovated church funded by St. Michael’s Church. We saw the construction progress of the new Music Room for the Children; the Good Shepherd Eye Hospital Administration Room; and the new hostel for 25 students at the Nurses Training Center in Sarenga. Through GIC and special generous contributions, St. Michael’s has made a significant impact on West Bengal.
St. Michael’s has funded:
Six new church plants
A Safe House for young girls (the youngest is 8 years of age) rescued from sex trade
A hostel for 25 girls at Nurse Training College. The girls receive four years of training and return to their village where they may be the only medical resource for the community.
Good Shepherd Eye Hospital and Administrative Office (The Government recognizes the hospital and requires an Administrative Office to be located on the premises.)
Several hostels for boys and girls who came from slums. This gives them a safe place to study, learn, have recreation, and for some, a place to live.
Distribution of 1000’s of Bibles in tribal languages for children and adults.
Thank you, St. Michael’s, from the Diocese of Durgapur!
~ Johnnie Corbett
India – an assault to the senses! There is so much to see, so many colors, so much activity, so much noise! Then there is the driving – at first it appears to be sheer chaos on the roads, but after a while you begin to understand the unwritten rules of the roads. Everything is on the roads – trucks, vans, cars, scooters, and bikes. In the country, add ox carts, pedi cabs, dogs, goats, pigs, cows, chickens, and children. Thank you to our intercessors who prayed for us each day. Prayers worked! The size of the country is overwhelming, the number of people (1.2 billion) is overwhelming, and the need is overwhelming. But our God loves these people, and so do we.
I am completely awed by the number of ministries the Diocese of Durgapur is involved in. It is as if Bishop Dutta sees a need and immediately finds a way to meet it. At the Diocesan compound, my small guest room was located at the far end of the recovery room of the Good Shepherd Eye Hospital. To get to my room, I walked past classrooms filled with children. Every day, numerous children would greet me as I walked to and fro. I was charmed. The children practiced their music in the courtyard, because they don’t have a practice space yet. These are children from the area slums, and at this school, they are being given a good education and a chance at making a good life for themselves and their families. Our team had an opportunity one day to pray for all the patients awaiting their eye surgeries. We toured the eye hospital facilities and laid hands and prayed with each patient. A renowned eye surgeon donates his talent to help the least. In the past year, I have had three eye surgeries, so I was humbled to be able to pray with these precious people.
At Sarenga, we stayed overnight at the Diocesan Nursing School. Right now, one hundred girls from the villages are enrolled in the four-year nursing program. The school is actually a hundred years old but had closed; the bishop reopened it when he came to Durgapur. The girls are given a good education and then return to their villages to provide medical services where none are currently available. Therefore, the nursing program serves not only the students but also their communities. St. Michael’s GIC funds are building additional dormitory space so that the school can take on an additional twenty-five girls. My guest room was in the current girls’ dorm – an old, retrofitted building with iron gates at the front door that are locked with a padlock at night. My morning was filled with the sound of girls as they got ready for school, such a sweet sound.
We conducted our first Festival of Hope in Sarenga for over 1,000 people. The people of West Bengal love their festivals.
There was praise and worship and singing and dancing. We did teaching and preaching, followed by our team laying hands on and praying with those 1,000-plus precious people. They all wanted prayer. At first, the large number of people who wanted prayer overwhelmed me, but then I stopped looking at the crowd and focused only on the one person in front of me. I thank our Lord for showing up, because I couldn’t have prayed for almost 200 people all on my own. Sarenga was the first of several Festivals of Hope we conducted in different locations.
The morning our team left India, I stepped into St. Michael’s Cathedral to hear the children practicing their Christmas music program. The music was beautiful, and I was in awe knowing these children come from the area slums. This music program is just one of many gifts the Diocese provides for the children. I am grateful to have been able to see and experience what the Bishop is doing to alleviate the suffering of those in his diocese while spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.