Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Oddanchatram and the CF Hospital

How does a small village deep in Tamil Nadu, whose name needs much practice to be pronounced properly become a major landmark in the medical missionary heritage of our country. How does this small village with nothing but a few teashops lining the main road become a bustling hub of activity in less than 30 years. How does this remote place with nothing much to boast of in terms of entertainment, eateries or environment attract so many of the so-called cream of our society - the doctors - to live and work here sometimes for their entire lives. The story of the Christian Fellowship Hospital and the transformation it has brought to Oddanchatram and the whole surrounding area will fill many books if it were told in detail. The story of a calling given, heard and responded to, the story of obedience often with perceived and hidden sacrifices, the story of blessings beyond human imagination.

I was privileged to make a pilgrimage to this 'holy ground' where I spent 3 wonderful days with our dear friends Drs. Tarun and Anne Jacob and their delightful son Koby. (For more on this inspirational couple, visit their blog here). As I wandered round the hospital and imbibed the wonderful feeling of Christian community that still reverberated strongly through its busy corridors and shady lanes, I was reminded again of the Ecclessia and the 'utopian' idea of true Christian fellowship. There will always be difficulties, but the CF Hospital, Oddanchatram is a true oasis in the desert that is our Indian Christian Community. A place where many people from totally varied walks of life come together with the sole purpose of living with and for Jesus. Different though the paths may be there is still a unity of purpose and oneness of spirit and mission. Would that God would raise up more Ecclesias. Would that we will be given the grace to be part of one at some point.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Off the beaten track

A long round of travels are over, this time in South India. How different from my travels a few weeks ago. The dense humidity of Kerala and the intense heat of Tamil Nadu do not really compare favourably with the wonderful weather of the North East where fans have not been installed in the houses as they are never required!! But yet, in all the heat, the wonder of creation breaks through. On a drive up to Pachalur near the village of Oddanchatram, deep in Tamil Nadu, a road turned off with a sign showing the way to a dam nearby. And following my heart though not my watch(!!), I came to a place which appeared taken straight out of the cool climes of Meghalaya and transplanted here into the heart of the furnace that is the afternoon in Tamil Nadu. As I allowed the beauty and stillness of the place to speak to my heart it occurred to me - we often miss the abundant life we are promised because we stick to the main road, the known path. Turning off would mean a disruption of our schedule, a change in the status quo and we are often too scared to risk it. Though I was a little late for my appointment in Pachalur, I did not regret it. I hope I will always be ready to turn off the beaten track when I am called, for it is often in the wilderness that God will speak.

Parapallar dam

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

In this morning's sunrise service, we heard a beautiful Khasi song rendered by the nursing students. Music is part of the culture of the people of Meghalaya and they are all born with a wonderful ear for harmony. Every occassion is made that much more special by the music, be it western four-part harmony or the lively indigenous music (see attached video). As I listened to the beautiful harmonies in the hospital lawn, with the sun just rising and the chill morning breeze rustling the leaves, I was transported to that Easter morning 2000 years ago when the women went to mourn at the tomb. The intensity of their emotions when they heard that Jesus was risen is difficult to imagine - from the deepest of sorrow to exultant and wondering joy. They ran back to tell the disciples what they had heard. As the nurses sang, I just wondered - where is that exultant joy that should accompany our celebration of the resurrection of our Lord. Where is the extreme jubilation that should be a part of our commemoration of the victory over death. Where is the overwhelming sense of awe and gratitude for the new life that the resurrection brought. I, and for that matter, a large part of the Christian community seem to be quite content with the platitudes rather than attempting to grasp the real meaning of the resurrection in our individual lives. So today, whenever I wished anyone a happy easter, this was the thought that occurred to me - how happy I and this broken world would be if we could understand a little better the 'costly grace' of the cross (Dietrich Bonhoeffer - The Cost of Discipleship)

At the wedding of a friend

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Modesto Manifesto

During the recent trip with Dr. Raja from Alipur to the medical colleges in the North East, we were discussing about our understanding of 'mission' and whether there was a need to rethink our traditional ideas. I will postpone the details of those discussions to another post, but will mention one of the things which came up - the rules which Billy Graham and his associates made at the beginning of their ministry. I could only remember 2 and so looked it up when I came back and found they had a name - the Modesto Manifesto. You can read a more detailed account here and here. In short the four rules, his 'team' decided to follow were
1. To take a fixed salary and therefore not be concerned about the offerings at the crusades
2. Never to be alone with a woman except their respective wives
3. Never to exaggerate crusade numbers and only quote numbers provided by local government officials
4. Never to criticise local pastors or other pastors who had criticised them
Billy Graham has been such an inspirational figure in the evangelical world and I am always amazed at the simplicity of his message and the number of people whose lives were changed by his ministry. We need more of his kind in our world today.