A Tour of India
In January, On His Path Founder John Mitchell, MD Orthopaedics Medical Consultant Dr. Matthew Prihoda, and Water Our Thirsty World Director Todd Baldridge, visited several areas of India to meet with and receive updates from our partners in God’s work.
On His Path recently funded a new clubfoot clinic in partnership with CURE Interntional. The clinic, housed in Gandhi Hospital in Hyderabad, has been in operation for two months serving seventeen active patients with great hope for swift growth. The response to the Ponseti method of treatment has been excellent and the dedicated physicians and counselors working with the program are excited to not only provide healing through treatment of the clubfoot deformity but also to share the healing word of The Gospel of Jesus Christ. Amid Christian persecution, the counselors are carefully trained to humbly share the love of Jesus.
The team was blessed to not only visit the new clinic but to also make a few home visits. As they left one family, they noticed a young girl named JyaShree or “Honey” walking home from market with a severe right clubfoot deformity. Scott Reichenbach, CURE International Operations Director, stopped the car and jumped out to engage with Honey along with CURE local counselor, Kavya. In their discussions, JyaShree invited the team to her home to visit with her mother and grandmother. Invited in, they were surrounded by Bible passages on the wall and were graciously greeted by a faithful mother of Christ who works to provide for her family as a public relations director at an area hospital. Abandoned by her husband, she sought out local care that included surgery for her daughter that had obviously failed. Santosh, head of CURE, India, gave instructions for JyaShree to visit the clinic in early March to receive direction and advice for her complicated case. JyaShree’s mother cried tears of answered prayer as we gave glory to our “Just in Time” God.
Upon completing their time with CURE International in Hyderabad, the team flew to Rajahmundry to meet with Pastor Paparao of Mission to the Nations, our long-time and trusted partner. The first stop was the Vimukthi Children’s Home School sponsored by On His Path. Greeted by nearly 1,000 smiling faces, garlands of flowers, and the voices of angels singing songs to praise Jesus, the team was overwhelmed with joy and thanksgiving.
Since OHP’s last visit, the school has grown from 600 to over 950. A new school addition of four classrooms provided for by On His Path was dedicated with a ribbon cutting by Pastor Paparao, John Mitchell, and the head school master Y. Krishna Swamy and his wife Raji. The gleaming light blue metal roof and clean, bright rooms on a solid elevated concrete platform has the look of hope and permanence. Touring the classrooms and witnessing the teaching, encouragement and proclamation of the word of God to these beautiful children of God was one of the trip’s highlights.
Future considerations including immediate need to remove a section of the existing building with collapsed roof and the addition of eight more classrooms to house the increased demand was discussed. The following day, the team was graciously received at the Kakinada Community Church with over 400 in attendance, a great eight-piece band, and both an adult and children’s choir up front singing for over one hour before Pastor Paparao led an impassioned sermon on Matthew 28: 18-20.
After church, a very special trip was taken across the Godavari River by river barge to visit three churches with wells sponsored by Water Our Thirsty World. The nearly two hour car ride flew by as they were drenched with the raw beauty of the sights, sounds, and smells of rural India. The traffic was a symphony of chaos that included scooters, motorcycles, TukTuk 3-wheelers, bikes, water buffalo, and goats. Pastor Paparao’s new nickname was “Super Mario Cart” as he weaved, darted, braked, and honked (a lot). Brilliantly colored shrines and temples seemed to be at every corner and village. Fields of rice, fish farms, and more rice looked from a distance like executive golf courses. The faces of the people looked weathered, hard, but determined, content and with a ready smile. The team was escorted by MTTN sponsored pastor #49 who was beaten by Hindu extremists just a few months ago, still serving the Lord faithfully.
Three wells were visited but one simply stood out; well #51. Supervised by the “mighty” Pastor Daveedu Raju in the village of Vemavaram new Vilasa, this well has a story. The Pastor’s church has been burned to the ground on two separate occasions by anti Christian Hindus, fortunately without casualties. His church walls and ceiling are made of carefully stitched white rice bags covered with a thatched roof. Daveedu stands no more than 5-foot tall and as such, the ceiling height is equally low. Best entered on their knees, it sounded like the appropriate height for any church! Mighty Daveedu and his wife with two beautiful kids persist, despite not having support, and is one of 150 pastors who carry on the word of God without financial backing. He and Pastor Paparao’s impassioned pleas for help is hard to ignore. Over 50 people were there that night to both celebrate and plead for healing and miracles of their members. Two women wanted us to pray over their small bottle of oil so they could anoint healing on others in the congregation.
A humbling example of the power of faith and the execution of God’s love to members of the body as described in James 5:14. It was hard for the team to leave these faithful warriors but realized they are in great care of the mighty man with his sweet water well and his rice sack church.
The following day proved busy as the team had the privilege of sharing in one of Pastor Paparao’s most treasured possessions; a library of adoption portfolios, testament of an adoption program that he and his beloved wife ran from 1994 through 2001. Opening the cabinets and seeing all the files of children, both adopted and not, was like opening Pastor’s heart and mind to a vault of precious memories long tucked away. He knew every face and every story behind each child. Over the course of actively adopting children, he and his wife matched 249 children with families all over the world including the US, Sweden, Australia, Spain, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Italy and of course, India. To this day, he keeps weekly updates with the courts of India and has all the required certified documentation. Sadly to say, virtually none of the matched families continue to communicate with Pastor or MTTN and none are currently financially supportive.
The rest of the day was filled with many visits, one of them a visit to the sewing center microenterprise which serves victims of sex trafficking by training them in a valuable skill to lift them out of poverty and servitude.
On His Path is currently working with these precious women to hopefully produce an accessory product for the clubfoot braces manufactured by MD Orthopaedics. There is also an opportunity for them to become involved in producing braces for the CURE clubfoot clinic in Hyderabad.
The leper colony was next and included watching the cleansing and bandaging of wounds, feeding over 200 people, and handing out blankets and food supplies. To see a special community of God, right next to a dump site amongst rooting pigs, at the footsteps of their own church was humbling. These people have no chance for occupation, virtually no family contacts, no religion that loves on them (with exception of Pastor Paparao), and no government support. Most notable are the children born to lepers who will be displaced from the families when they are able to go to school around age 5. They will go to schools like Vimukthi and stay with family members to give them a future and minimize their risk of contracting the disease. How very blessed we are. What problems do we have the truly compare?
That afternoon the team was taken to a thatched roof village on the fringe of Kakinada where MTTN provides a food distribution station. An estimated 200 widows from the area were gathered for the event. After a prayer of thanksgiving, the widows were served rice, potatoes and fresh vegetables. There was desperation on their faces and during the event, pushing and shoving started to take over the otherwise well-organized process. Control was restored and all were served with extras.
The reference to “widows in distress” in James 1:27 was clearly observed this afternoon and was a powerful reminder of our calling “…to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
The evening was spent visiting both the Government Hospital in Kakinada and the Foundation Hospital run by MTTN. The contrast was stark. The tour began in the government hospital newborn area first and they were able to distribute fresh fruit, knitted hats made by Johnna Stultz from Faith Baptist Church and prayer dolls by Marcia Baldridge and friends. The orthopedic ward was jam-packed with victims of accidents, primarily from motorcycles. The area was dark, the walls had peeled paint and mold, along with the smell of raw humanity. The bandages were clean and the care by the doctors looked appropriate. Family members hovered around each patient, in charge of all aspects of their care otherwise. They truly appreciated the fresh fruit. Going to the foundation hospital was a breath of fresh air. The area was clean, well-lit, bright, and very well staffed. They were impressed to see the addition of the elevator provided by OHP that allowed use of all three levels of the hospital that are fully operational. The pharmacy is right up front and very well-stocked and managed although the need for funds to purchase IV antibiotics was repetitively mentioned. The doctors were very pleasant, had excellent training and were extremely dedicated to the mission of the hospital, all provided voluntarily. The need for up-to-date equipment was apparent and it was amazing how much they were able to do with so little.
How fortunate we are to live where we do; to not truly know want or desperation. How blessed we are to worship freely and to have access to the necessities of life. How called we are in our abundance to follow Colossians 3:12:
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
Serving the crippled, poor, hungry, thirsty, and lost is our greatest calling.