It was a true blessing for me to join St. Michael’s “Healing Prayer” Mission to India. I approached the mission taking seriously the requisite for the spiritual gift of healing and struggled to consider how I could be conferred with authority from the Holy Spirit as an instrument for those I would encounter. After all, I’m just a Charleston lawyer who’s rarely felt alienated from our Lord.
This internal struggle was pitted against the absolutely crushing need of the people one is confronted with from the moment of setting foot in India. I didn’t give up on being God’s instrument of healing, but soon realized I wouldn’t be able to assist in my primary interest, helping those who care for the young girls at the human trafficking safe-house in Malda.
As God would have it, I arrived at the Diocese of Durgapur headquarters outside of Calcutta two days after the team ventured from there to Malda. So instead of fulfilling my own expectations, I was projected in a different direction.
The bishop welcomed me as the team’s straggler and discerned that I should stay in Durgapur and while waiting for the team’s return, learn as much as I could about the Diocese and its ministries. And so, I had the chance to meet the 40 children of the orphanage and day school, their caregivers and teachers. On Sunday, I worshiped at the Cathedral on the grounds and later walked with some of the orphans through the neighboring slum where their families remain. Next, I was hosted by staff and 3,000 kids at St. Michael’s K-12 School adjacent to the Diocese offices.
Northeastern India is quite blessed with the leadership of Bishop Probal Dutta, who has in the past 13 years transformed the ministry of the Church of North India in this region. Of course, the church’s support of the orphanage and the safe-house is of his creation. Where there were 15 churches, there are now 184. Where 6 priests and ministers, now 47. The diocese had not one car; it now has a fleet including an ambulance. There’s an eye surgery unit that has saved the sights of thousands. Where there was a Nursing School which had lost its accreditation, there are now 100 students. All 25 in last year’s class received jobs from the state, securing their path through the medical profession and out of conventional subservience as village girls. None of that would exist if not for the leadership of Bishop Dutta.
We went to Sarenga, the home of this nursing school. The school is adjacent to an Indian hospital, certainly built by the British before the war and not updated since. When St. Michael’s Church (Charleston) built a dormitory for first year nursing students, the space vacated was immediately filled as a further orphanage space, saving another 20 at-risk girls from a fate at the bottom of India’s social order. So the ministry builds and leaps forward, and it was wonderful to see. Nothing given goes to waste.
We made an outing to a little, nameless village outside of Sarenga. In the center was a clean and fresh little church, built by our own St. Michael’s. A local group led singing for the 150 seated on the floor and the team offered its ministry, focusing on the protection afforded by the apostle Paul’s “armor of God” against the ravages of man and the evil one, literally just outside the door of that little church. What a blessing it was to see. That sanctuary would not exist if not for St. Michael’s.
We ministered to 4,000 people from Sarenga and laid hands on each. I prayed for some 500 while anointing them, “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, I pray that the Lord Almighty will heal you of all injuries and afflictions and protect you from all harm and oppression. Amen.”
I realized that my raison d’etre was to listen to the needs of the leaders of these outposts of Christianity and find what I could do after I returned home to sustain and help them expand their missions. So for me, the mission is not over; the work is just beginning.