India Mission 2018

2018 01 06 india mission web 05This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth - 1 John 3:17-18

What do you think of when you think of India? Perhaps it's curries, spicy food, crazy traffic, the film Lion, Bollywood dancing, saris or temples. From 04th until 18th January this year, six staff connected to Pacific Hills visited southern India. The team comprised Bill and Carolyn Sakoulas, Gayle Davisdon, Janine Crocker, Vonette Munro and Nathan Francis.

Since her 20's, Carolyn has been to India 13 times, 9 of which were for mission related work. She has a special connection to the place with her dad being born there and the work of her late aunty Joy Tilsley who established Holland Wharf Girls Hostel in Narsapur, on the banks of the Sacred Godavari River. The hostel has provided thousands of girls with a good education, balanced diet and medical aid over the 50 years it has been operating. Currently 270 girls live there.

After some days in Hyderabad to visit Christian workers and some ministries to the poor and disadvantaged, including a hospital with a facility for children with multiple disabilities, as well as a centre for AIDS patients, the team travelled by overnight train to Narsapur. It felt like they were coming home and were treated like family, constantly greeted by a cheerful chorus of "Good Morning Auntie!" or "Hello Uncle!". Seeing these girls given a new chance in life refreshed the team's own spirits.

The team appreciated forming bonds with both the staff and girls at the hostel. A staff picnic to the beach was a first and especially enjoyed by those who had never been to the sea before. A large number of girls are sponsored by Pacific Hills Christian School and Pacific Coast Christian School in Tweed Heads so it is great to have that involvement.

I love introducing new people (adults and students) to the colour and beauty of this immense land! I long for individuals to gain a wider worldview and to examine their own privileges and wealth in the light of the heart-breaking poverty to which we are exposed - Carolyn Sakoulas

Despite the burgeoning middle class, there are still over 300 million of the population living on less than $1 a day. The Dalits or "untouchables" of India are considered the lowest in society. So much so that they are given dispensable clay cups to drink out of so that no one can 'share their germs'. "When you come and visit you touch us, you hug us", was one moving response to the team's presence. The caste system is still deeply engrained within Indian society and these people face widespread discrimination.

"Every time I visit, there are always new things I learn. I hear some more personal stories from people I hadn't thought to ask.

For example, I know one woman who got married when she was 15. A year later her husband died and she found out she was pregnant with her first child. The child died at birth. It's a heartbreaking story. In Australia we have medical aid and the mortality rate of children is far less"- Carolyn Sakoulas.

Conference meetings at Bethesda Leprosy Hospital were also very positive. The team presented their testimonies, short talks and a skit which related well to the over 250 adults and 150 children present. Everyone was very touched meeting and getting the chance to pray over needy folk like leprosy patients, those terminally ill with HIV AIDS, as well as pastors and their wives from remote tribal areas.

Some chose to view surgeries performed on leprosy patients, providing a new level of compassion. Leprosy or Hansen's disease (HD) affects the skin, mucous membranes and nerves causing painful lumps on the skin. Roughly 500,000 In India still suffer from the preventable disease and it's most prevalent in older people.

They also got to visit the humble homes of local poor believers and participated in a couple of church services, a ladies' meeting and a rooftop Sunday School. Perhaps one of the most special moments for the team was having the privilege of naming a baby. Through prayer, the name Timothy which means "Man of Honour" was given. This was the second naming of a child, having named his brother Nathan two years ago. The team were also invited to join in the Jubilee celebration of Dr Kaliani's work for 50 years at Narsapur Christian Hospital.

After another overnight train trip the team travelled to Chennai. A highlight was a day trip to CMC Vellore (a huge Christian Hospital begun by Dr Ida Scudder). The amazing dedication and care of the 9,500 staff was most moving.

"It's important to stand behind our brothers and sisters who work in very confronting situations and don't have all the resources. They often live in quite poor conditions and it's not a comfortable environment. They need that encouragement to keep going. The relationships formed last a lifetime" - Carolyn Sakoulas.

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