Reflections on India Mission
By Jean Corbett
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors, and deliver us from evil, for thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory, forever and ever! Amen.
How many times did I pray the Lord’s Prayer before we finally arrived to our first day of ministry in Malda? Air travel from Charleston to West Bengal was a challenge with many delays. The team was so determined to forge ahead that everyone spread open suitcases on Kolkata’s train depot walkway where literally thousands of people pass on a daily basis.With neat and tidy suitcases? No! Vendors transport produce, textiles, fresh fish, newspapers, hot and cold foods, chickens; public home for dogs, cows, homeless men, women, beggar children, and plus the grime from trains, trucks and other vehicles. Thy will be done…
Kolkata Train Depot
Part of our preparation for the mission is to gather for an overnight retreat so that we really get to know each other and our gifts. So, on the mission, we shared a great level of trust and support with each other. “Put me in, Coach!” was a common reminder to Johnnie when schedules changed unexpectedly. A great team!
We spent three nights in the Tourist Bungalow in Malda. This has been a haven of rest for the teams for the past four years. The Pastors who travel with us do not want us to wander out of the hotel, but stay within the safety of the building. One evening, I went to the Reception Desk for supplies, and walked to the outside glass door to peer into the street. Something moved just outside the door. I looked down and there sitting on some cloths spread on the sidewalk was an elderly woman making her “bed” ready for the night. And, to my surprise, about 10 feet closer to the street was a cur dog, already curled up asleep on the sidewalk. I asked the receptionist about food for the woman. She said they give her food.
This was a typical Indian street scene, but it was not typical for me. I had just devoured a hefty meal of rice, dal, vegetables, chapatti, chicken and fruit. I could not do anything except pray blessings for her — and the dog. As I write this, the tears still swell. No, I did not grab my camera and take a photo. She deserved my respect. Give her this day her daily bread. Deliver her from evil.
Thursday morning, when we arrived at the Indian Missionary Society in Kunoor, we were greeted by our friends with leis, song, dance, hugs, foot washings, tea and cookies. Many Bibles were distributed. Talks were given for adults and children. Of course, healing prayer lines!
On Friday, we arrived at St. Michael’s Safe House, Baldahura. Team members presented the 21 little girls with small gifts. There were special gifts for five girls who are sponsored by members of St. Michael’s. One child received a knit cap and gloves. Pastor Pande pulled the hat (with gloves still attached) onto her head. With a giggle she jumped up on her bed just as any little happy child could do. Lord, bless these little girls and those who care for them!
Saturday morning we arrived — finally — to the Diocesan Headquarters where hundreds of children were checking in for the first Children’s Festival of Hope. It was awesome to watch the faces of children who had never traveled outside of their rural villages. I must admit, I startled a couple of the young boys that I greeted at the registration desk. The boys recoiled when I said, “Hello. Namaste.” Privately, I asked our Registrar, What happened? Why were they alarmed by my greeting?” He said, “It was your eyes.” “My eyes? What’s wrong with my eyes?” He replied, “Your eyes are a different color — blue.”
Admission was for everyone with a blue Kidz Rock With Psalms, Festival of Hope cap. After introductions and opening prayers, the team members participated in the Lighting of the Lamp ceremony — a reminder of Jesus, The Light of the World. Bishop Dutta was glowing with joy as his vision for a Festival of Hope for 500 children exploded with praises, song, dance, skits, talks, talent show, Bible quiz, and so much more! The theme: “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness. Come before His presence with singing.” Psalm 100:1-2
Sunday morning worship was in the Cathedral of St. Michael’s. David Booman, honored guest preacher, delivered a superb sermon to an attentive congregation.
Monday morning we were in Asansol, in an historic Hindi speaking church. There was a really sweet presence of the Holy Spirit within the congregation.
Tuesday, we went to Sarenga for two days. We had morning teachings in Grace Chapel, with many of the nursing students in attendance. Dr. Bose and Mrs. Gorai presented beautiful gold colored stoles and bouquets to each team member. Linda Wall and I had the privilege of teaching many of the students how to use our hands for prayer and the ministry of healing touch.
Isaiah 49:16 “See I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”
The rains poured down on Wednesday morning. This was our first rain in India in five years. But, the rain did not prevent folks from attending morning teachings in St. James Church, Kuchlaghati — a Dalit village. There was a poster on the Cathedral bulletin board that identified SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 12 as DALIT LIBERATION SUNDAY; RELIGIOUS FREEDOM OF DALITS, posted by the National Council of Churches and the Catholic Bishops Conference of India. I asked our translator, “Who are the Dalits? Why do they need liberation?”
He replied, “There are four levels of people in the caste system. The head. The shoulders. The legs. The bottom of the feet. But, the Dalits are not acknowledged as being — anything.” So, our team arrived in the rain — they gave us their umbrellas. We were welcomed in the rain with a royal welcome of song and dance. We were thirsty, they served tea and cookies. They lifted their voices in praises to God — we joined them. Many had attended the Festival the previous night, received prayer, and testified to the healing power of Jesus for their ailments.
Tuesday evening, Johnnie preached the Gospel to the crowd of 3,500 under the big tent erected on mission grounds, Sarenga. Wednesday evening, David preached the Gospel to more than 4,000 people. The pouring rain leaked through holes in the tent onto prayer teams and recipients of prayer. To avoid getting too wet, we just moved our lines over a step or two. One young member of the praise band asked me to pray for his exams to become a policeman. I am praying for him.
Thursday allowed for packing to leave; a quick shopping trip for souvenirs; a lovely concert by Ruth Pugh’s music students; followed by a special reception with staff and Bishop and Mrs. Dutta. Friday morning came too early. It was time to depart for Kolkata, Delhi, Newark and return to Charleston. I have many heart memories of our time in India. I pray God will continue what he has begun in the people we encountered and within us.
If you were an intercessor for the mission, you were on the Team! Thank you! If you were a donor for the ministries in West Bengal, you were on the Team! Thank you! God bless you all.
Puja is our precious God Child!