This summer my family and I had the unique opportunity of visiting one of the oldest and best-known mission fields of the Mar Thoma Church in Hoskote, Karnataka. The trip opened my eyes to the mission work carried out by the Mar Thoma Church. More importantly, I was struck by the spirit of God that I felt was prevalent in the mission field
We set out from Bangalore on a Saturday afternoon. Our driver Sadhu, a Tamil Catholic, drove us swiftly over an unusually smooth highway, passing by places such as K.R.Puram. When we reached Hoskote, we were greeted by James Koshy Achan and Mini Kochamma. We first visited the current church which is used for worship. Its doors are left open during the day for villagers who wish to pray, especially patients who visit the hospital. Next door was the original and smaller mission church. There was a sudden burst of rain and we had to tarry till the rain subsided. I enjoyed sitting in God’s house for a few minutes with Achan, Kochamma and their 8-year old daughter Muthu. There are only a few benches in the main sanctuary; most people sit on the carpet during a church service.
While we sat in church, a young bearded man entered. Binoy Achan introduced himself to us. He was born in Bahrain. After a few years of college, he heard a senior Achan give a call for missions during a church service. He felt a “force pushing him” and he responded. Since then, he has served the Lord in Hoskote. He spends most of his time training young evangelists to go into the local villages.
After the rain, we walked next door to the old age home; people who are stranded on the street, or similarly abandoned, are taken in and cared for by the Church. One moment left an indelible memory. Achen’s wife hugged a woman who was lying in bed, unable to move. I saw a bond between the church and the older people; the Church treated the older inmates (and even a few lepers) as individuals — without a trace of superiority.
Finally, we visited the child development center. The director, Mr. Johnson, told us two wonderful stories. First, he described how village children are often caught in a cycle of poverty: their parents make them work as laborers by the age of 14. But abandoning their education makes it likely that they will stay in low-paying jobs all their lives. The child development center provides an alternative: it gives poor kids food and education, tells them about Jesus, and encourages them to pursue higher learning. In Mr. Johnson’s own words, “There is a chance that these boys and girls can come out of this place as engineers, doctors, lawyers, and evangelists instead of boys becoming laborers and girls having children too early”. The wonderful irony was that Mr. Johnson himself had been such a child in Hoskote years earlier!
Mr. Johnson also told us a second story: how he had met Manoj Uncle from our own San Francisco Mar Thoma Church and shown him needs in other villages. This inspired the formation of a charitable organization “Light the Candle International Inc.” with six board members. Now this organization is supporting Four different Child development centers in India.
The children sang their VBS songs for us with Kannada words and actions. I can remember their faces and their smiles. Who knows what great leaders wait in the wings among those children?
We ended with a fine tea that Kochamma had made for us. Achan’s mother, who was living with them, joined us, as did his niece who teaches at the Nursing School. Muthu rushed out for a song practice for the upcoming Hoskote anniversary celebrations. The meal was interspersed with constant phone calls for Achan as he dealt with numerous Mission matters. As we sat eating Obbattu (a Karnataka dish that is like a sweet Chappati), I reflected on the sweetness of the mission of Jesus Christ and the hope it brings: hard and wearying work certainly, but alive and well in our own Mar Thoma Church.