Pilgrimage to India

Pilgrimage 1: December 27 - January 7 (L to R)
at the Atlanta Airport on December 27: Tadd Huff, Lawrenceville First, Molly McDaniel and Nancy McDaniel of Sandy Springs Christian, and Kyle Packer of St. Stephen's Catholic Church in Lilburn.
Pilgrimage 2: February 7 - February 21 They left Hartsfield Jackson airport on February 7: (L to R) Barb Duren, Dale Williamson, Landa Simmons, Courtney , Chris Furqueron, Pam Callen, Janice Harris.

Pilgrimage I

Disciples of Christ from Disciples’ churches across the Georgia region took a People-to-People Pilgrimage to the Christian Hospital, Mungeli, India in the winter of 2008-9. Sponsored by the Division of Overseas Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the UCC’s Global Ministries Board, these Pilgrimages put churches in contact with their global mission partners around the world.

To learn more about the Mungeli Hospital and the work of  its director, Dr. Anil Henry, our Global Mission Partner please:

Christian Hospital
Over 20 people from Disciples churches in the Georgia region were called to be God’s witnesses on a People-to-People Pilgrimage to India, although in this instance they were witnesses in a very different way.  A witness is one who testifies to what he has seen and heard and knows to be true.  While these pilgrims will surely testify to their own faith, the purpose of our journey lies in our desire to become witnesses to the living out of the Good News at the Christian Hospital, Mungeli India.  They have seen first hand how our Global Ministry takes place at “the ends of the earth”.  I hope that as a result of seeing and sharing the “witnessing, loving, and serving” of Drs. Anil  and Teri Henry, their Christian hospital, school and congregation in Mungeli, that all of us will be become better witnesses to our own faith.  “Sometimes we must travel far to find what is near.”

People-to-People II Remembrances: Landa Harris Simmons

A young student welcomes
Landa to the Rambo School

The Rambo Memorial English School is the best school in town and would be among the worst by any American standards. The teachers are kind and lovely and desperate to improve their own English and skills. We took and created the first library of books in English. They had NO books— imagine! No pictures on the walls! Pre-school children (ages 3 – 5) were sitting in wooden desks from 8 – 11:30 with no crayons, clay, blocks, music or anything else to stimulate them.

Pre-school students at their desks

During recess one day, several of the teachers were talking with me when one of them stopped conversation altogether by asking me "What do you think about religions?"

When I stared at her, my mind racing, she went on, pointing to the different teachers in her group as she said, "Christians, Hindu, Muslims" (the students are also of all 3 faith groups).

Dr. Henry shares the plans for a
new school

Having no idea how to answer this question in a region where the fundamentalists had railed against the observance of Valentine’s Day as a corruption to the culture, two people in our group were never given Visas because they put "mission trip" as the purpose of their visit, and Christians had been rioted against in a neighboring state just last fall, I took a gulp and said "I believe we’re all the children of God".

Faces beamed, smiles broadened, and I knew that I had given the "right answer"! Soon thereafter one of the Hindu women insisted on placing two of her "bangles" on my arm. Knowing how tiny Indian women are compared to large boned, shall we say "healthy", American women, please try to imagine how hard she had to work to finally get them on me. Yet, my "right answer" meant the world to her, and she had to share a part of her world with me. It’s an unforgettable moment.

A newborn on the way to meet
her mother

Another cherished memory occurred in the operating theater. A young Danish medical student of both Iranian and Danish, Muslim and Christian descent and a concurrent volunteer at the hospital stood next to me administering IV medications into a patient’s arm. The young woman was delivering in an emergency caesarean. Awake and anesthetized from the waist down, the patient’s head and arm were directly in front of me.

Almost automatically I reached down to hold her hand. Not knowing what I intended to do, the young Hindu woman seemed startled until I whispered the Hindu word for ok, "tik-ay". She grasped my hand in return. The young soon-to-be doctor leaned toward me and said, "You do that so well." Seeing that I had no clue what he was talking about, the young man nodded toward our clasped hands and said, "I don’t know how to do that".

Amazed by the thought, and thinking surely everyone knows how to hold the hand of a hospital patient, I joked and remarked "Oh, we can fix that. When you go home tonight, all you have to do is practice with your girlfriend", also a medical student volunteering at the hospital.

Other pilgrims in the OT observed what happened a few minutes later when I slipped away to go and see the newborn. As I turned to leave, unbeknownst to me the young medical student reached out to take the hand that I was dropping. He continued to administer IV medications without letting go of the patient’s hand, something reported to have been no small feat. When I reentered the OT and saw him holding her hand, my eyes welled with tears, for then I knew "He’s going to be a real doctor now." The director of the hospital, Dr. Anil Henry, told me later that the hardest thing he has to teach the medical students who come there is "people skills". They know medicine, but he has to push the students to get them to interact with the patients, and yes, to touch them. The very next day, the director asked the same medical student to remove a drainage tube from a young boy. As I walked by, I saw him reach out first and take the young boy’s hand before he began his procedure. Here I thought: someone has learned something that can’t be taught in a classroom.

See More Photos from the 2008 Trip to India

“Come and See” by Barb Duren, Sandy Springs Christian Church

Dr. Anil Henry visited SSCC about one and a half years ago. At that time he invited us to “come and see.” To see the hospital, to see the school. To see the people--not as a tourist but living and working with them. To see God working through the staff--through "Dr. Anil" and Dr. Teresa. I was amazed at Dr. Anil's story and the pictures of the hospital. I wanted to go see for myself. So, on February 7, I set out on a pilgrimage with six other pilgrims. I will remember forever what I saw. I saw God in so many ways. It is almost impossible to pick out “high points.” Watching a C-section (as soon as we arrived) and seeing new life as a baby comes into the world. How could I forget seeing Dr. Anil on rounds--surely God is in his touch as he talks to each patient-- young and old. It is obvious how much he is loved and respected. The hospital staff as they hung the Hospital Art panels we painted last year on Anniversary Day of Service. The patients, their families and the nurses watched carefully as the panels were hung and applauded when the painting was completed.

These things and many more remain in my heart. What I really want to share with you is where I saw God in my fellow pilgrims.

I saw Jesus in Julie when all the children flocked to her when she took pictures and showed them--how big their smiles, how bright their eyes. I saw God when Dale led the Lord’s Prayer in chapel and another morning when he volunteered to be the liturgist. I heard God when Pam sang “Here I Am, Lord” in chapel. I saw God’s hands sorting books and preparing them for the school library, using Janice’s hands. I saw God the morning after Landa gave blood for a cancer patient and the woman thanked Landa--no interpreter was needed. I saw God at work when Chris joined the hospital staff in doing work on the grounds and the aviary--and when he went with Dr. Anil in the ambulance to take a patient to another hospital for further care. Every evening at mail call I saw God in the notes and cards we received from family and friends--a connection to our home support system of prayers. Kyle remained in Mungeli after the first pilgrimage, and I saw God in his caring about the people--the children at the school--how they love him and how he connected with our group. Nancy was on the first pilgrimage, and God used Nancy to help us prepare for our pilgrimage-- even making us a “packing list.”

Did I step way out of my box, as someone said? Yes. Yes, I did. Will I ever fit back in the box? No way! I grew too much!

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