Our longest-ever visit to Kulpahar is almost history. As I reported earlier, we first came here in 1975. Our Indian friend Dr. Vijai Lall told us if we wanted to see Americans doing missions right, Kulpahar was the place to see. We’ve had a connection with the mission ever since, returning from time to time (too infrequently, though).
We were pretty busy this time. Joy assisted in the office along with her art and photography work and I taught two two-week classes and preached on Sundays. To my surprise almost every night more than thirty church members studied the early church in the Book of Acts with me.
I taught in English and Mr. Lal translated into Hindi. He did the same for the smaller class. The church preaching team (four men plus Mr. Lal) met for an additional hour each evening. All teachers, they came after work for the two one-hour sessions. They had to be tired, but they didn’t let me know it. I was impressed and humbled.
MacLawrence Lal is one of my heroes. I told him I want to grow old like him. He’s 86 and not in the best of health, yet he stood beside me every class session. He had to do the heavy lifting. It’s one thing to talk, which was my job. It’s far harder to listen and then translate into another language. Mr. Lal’s native tongue is Urdu. He told me he had to listen to the English, think about it in Urdu and then speak in Hindi. This he did effectively every evening. Finally, after several days of pleading, I was able to convince him to sit (following my example!) during the second class period. He didn’t miss a session.
I haven’t said enough about Linda Stanton and Sharon Cunning-ham. Linda came to Kulpahar from Central Christian Church in Mesa in 1978, the year before Joy and I moved there. The mission needed a nurse and Linda answered the call.
After Leah Moshier died, she took on the duties of administering this complex organization. She’s still doing it, and doing it well, at 75. It’s been fun to reconnect with her. Her mother and father were members of Central when I became the pastor there. Her sister Laretta is the missions pastor at Yuma First Christian Church. I got to work closely with her when I was president of Hope International University, as she was a trustee during my tour of duty there.
Sharon Cunningham came to Kulpahar after completing her master’s degree at Hope to assist Dolly Chitwood at the school. When Dolly died, Sharon became the school manager—and continues in that position today. She’s 72. When I was pastor of East Thirty-Eighth Street Christian Church in Indianapolis in the 1970s, her grandmother Mary Fivecoat was a respected member. I later conducted funerals for Sharon’s mother and grandmother, treasured memories. Two other events stand out: giving Sharon her diploma when she graduated with her Master’s from Hope and then speaking for her ordination service.
Being here with Sharon and Linda has felt like a family reunion. Joy and I are very proud of these “aunties” to so many Indian children and adults. We marvel at the responsibilities they carry—as they did on Friday evening when one of the hostel girls suddenly became seriously ill and had to be taken to the hospital. When you are in effect the mother of over 90 children, you are never off duty.
Sosun John continues to play an important role here. She was left on the front porch as an unwanted, neglected, nearly dead baby in the late 1940s. Leah nursed her to health. I like standing beside her. She’s 4’ 4.” She makes that little body do the hard work you might expect of a much younger, stronger, healthier person. When she had completed her post-high school education, she returned to the mission and devoted herself to assisting the aunties. Now in her 70s, she, too, is still at it. Her husband is Vijay John, my old biking buddy. One of their two daughters teaches in the school.
Savita and Uttam Singh brighten every day. They’re newlyweds, married less than a year. Both are quick to smile, eager to help, and fun to be around. Uttam drives and does a miscellany of other jobs for the mission. Savita, whom Linda raised from the two-pound two-ounce baby that was given to the mission, is on the job daily, helping wherever she is needed.
Monday was a day off, so I joined the ladies on an excursion into town. Joy had to return a dress she had bought earlier. It didn’t fit.
I went along to make certain she didn’t buy anything else. Incredibly, I succeeded. She got her money back and didn’t buy anything else. This was one of the best shopping trips I can remember.
We wish that in addition to these pictures we could transmit the sounds and smells and general ambience to you–
and the sense of adventure that you feel when, taking your life in your hands, you negotiate your way through narrow streets jammed with people of all descriptions walking in every direction, and stalls selling fruits and vegetables and clothes and trinkets and everything else you can think of, and motorcycles and trucks and cars and auto-taxis and bicycles and buses and cows and water buffalos and goats and pigs and dogs and chickens all fighting for the same space. I was so glad not to be driving! Walking was equally challenging. You have to watch out or you’ll step in something.
We were the only white faces in town. Ask me if we were noticed.
On our last Sunday the church hosted a farewell reception for us.
Everybody from the congregation was present. Linda explained that the proper way to put on a reception here is to place the honored guests up front in special seats, have the pastor make a speech about them, serve tea and treats, and let the crowd stare at the honored guests. This was a proper reception
We leave here shortly to return for a few more days in Damoh, the site of the World Convention last month. We’re looking forward to being with those good friends again, but we are sure going to miss Kulpahar.