So it has been a while since I last posted. Sorry for the delay, but life got busy! So let me share some of what I have been doing here in Kolkata. During my first week here I got to visit a number of the smaller satellite clinics that are spread around the edges of the city. We are trying to ensure all of these clinics work together with the hospital to ensure that the poor in each area are receiving the very best in free-treatment. This will be an ongoing process throughout my time here.
The bulk of my time has been spent working with children and youth who suffer from thalassemia (a group of debilitating blood disorders) and leukemia. The hospital is in-process of profiling each of these patients in an attempt to raise funds to make this treatment free. Most children require a blood transfusion monthly or bi-weekly. These treatments often cost families almost half of their monthly income per treatment. Clearly, there is a great need.
I cannot tell you how much these kids have impacted me. They are the highlight of my day and I often feel very humbled as I leave the ward. Most are Hindu or Muslim and have never known life without this disease. Though they would have every reason to be angry or depressed, I have found that these people are some of the most positive, forward-thinking, and refreshingly honest people I have ever met. They often thank me for my help and I feel embarrassed as they do. Every single blessing, no matter how small, is an everyday miracle to them. I have been blessed by these kids and have even had the opportunity to pray with a few and their parents.
In the area just north of Kolkata there is a strong Muslim concentration. The region is known for being resistant, and even hostile, towards Christians. I had the opportunity to visit a pastor who has started to work in this area. He and his wife have assumed Muslim names and have begun a small clinic and church in the largest village in that area. There is literally no medical facility (hospital or clinic) in this area to serve the nearly one-million villagers. The pastor has bought land in several villages throughout this area and is hoping to build clinics with churches attached. Presently, he has converts in most villages and is equipping those leaders to run small house churches. Their ministry is remarkably contextualized to the Muslim setting, but God is undeniably at work.
I have also had a chance to visit a number of interesting ministries around the city. I was able to attend the dedication of brand new Assemblies of God school for bustee children. A bustee is a term used for a shanty village of squatters. This particular school serves a bustee where families live in a landfill. Also, through a chance encounter I met some missionaries fromAlaska and they took me to visit their mission. It is a home run by Project Rescue that houses young girls whose mothers work in Kolkata’s thriving red-light district. My time there was great fun and I even acquired a new nickname: “Uncle Coconut” – since I am tall enough to reach the coconuts hanging from the trees!
Missions of Charity is the work pioneered by Mother Teresa. It is literally a ten-minute walk from where I am staying. Calcutta Mercy Ministries works closely with this organization and I was able to attend a meeting with the lead sister at the mission. Walking through the compound was a remarkable experience. I visited the memorial to Mother Teresa and her burial site. It is proof that one person really can make a difference. Individually we cannot save the world, but we can impact those around us in a way that they are forever changed. We can live out the Gospel.
On a completely separate note, I have officially been approved by the World Missions Department of the PAOC. It is remarkable to see how God has walked me through the journey from saying “Missions – I am going to give you a heart for missions” to actually being established as a missionary with the PAOC. Five years ago, if someone would have told me what I would be doing today I would have laughed, and yet God knew and He brought me through. I cannot even begin to understand what the future will bring, but I have every confidence in the One who goes before me.