Yes, I am in the hospital. They say I am going to be here for at least 7 weeks; but do not worry, it was a planned move into Mission of Mercy Hospital and Research Centre. In order to be more economically-minded I have taken up residence in the hospital in which I have been working. In an innovative display of tent-making, Calcutta Mercy Ministries has renovated the two top floors of their hospital. The objective is to attract wealthy paying customers, who will occupy these newly remade rooms, in order to fund the hospital and its numerous free-treatment operations. So I have moved into the only finished room on the top floor, which is still under construction. The room is really very nice. My new alarm clock has become the sound of hammering in the hall and my lullaby the sounds of chisels in the room next-door!
I returned from the neighbouring state of Jharkhand on Monday July 31 where I had spent several days travelling with Calcutta Mercy Ministries founder Mrs. Hulda Buntain. We had flown to the capital city of Ranchi early on Thursday morning and were met by a local pastor, Rev. John Topo, and the Superintendent for the Eastern District of the Assemblies of God North India, Rev. Hannok Ghosh. We spent our days visiting and dedicating village churches and schools all across the state. We had full days in which we covered a lot of terrain…and by terrain I mean roads I had only seen on the Outdoor Adventure Channel! I cannot tell you how many times I was convinced that our jeep would not make it up the road, only to find myself up that road after my head had hit the roof several times! I would also like to say that cows, goats and non-domesticated dogs are not afraid of cars and utilize the roadway as their personal lounge.
The villages we visited were remote and often dependant on agriculture. The scenery was unbelievable with mountains, jungle and rice patties stretching as far as I could see in all directions. The life here was simple. We were often greeted with flower necklaces, singing, dancing, drums, and having our hands washed while water was sprinkled on us using leaves. The warmth of the people was remarkable. In all my life I have never seen such fervent, intense and sincere worship and prayer. These people, who lived such simple lives, simply trusted in God and were thrilled to be known as His church.
I was able to speak briefly at almost every place we visited, especially at the main church in Ranchi. Here I got to deliver a sermonette to the youth in the packed Sunday morning service. It was a wonderful time. The highlights and impact of this journey are too numerous to include here, but I must include a few. The devotion of these people to their faith was astounding. We were travelling through areas which were known to be home to the Naxalites, a communist extremist group. I did not think they were a serious threat until we stopped at a clinic that had just reopened since its doctors had a nasty habit of being kidnapped. Yet, the churches were not only unafraid of these people, but had actually converted several members of this group and were even endorsed as a good thing by the Naxalites in several communities.
The pastors I met were just ordinary people, doing great things for God. Their charisma, dedication and love for the people was evident in everything they did. One pastor had in fact been a Naxalite. One day an elderly lady, who was now a member of his congregation, gave him a Bible and said “read this, it will make you a good person”. As he read, he had a vision of Jesus on the cross and he knew that Christ had died for him. Now, in addition to pastoring, he visits his former criminal-colleagues in prison. He said that they are hungry to know God and plead with him to go to their families and share the Gospel. Another pastor had lost the use of his left eye. As part of his ministry he travels to several isolated villages by motorcycle across rugged terrain. The constant bouncing and jerking of this travel had damaged his retina to the point of partial blindness, yet he continues to pastor all of these churches.
Often we look for God in the grandeur of life: the stars, the mountains, cathedrals, elaborate services and rituals yet, He is most evident in the simplistic, over-looked portions of life. We fail to notice Him in the honesty of a grandmother’s quiet prayers, the mud walls of a church, and the rains that fill the rice patties. God reveals Himself unceasingly in the everyday miracles of life. A simple people, a simple faith, in a God who simply loves us for who we are.