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Transforming villages in India

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We had been waiting for the closing ceremony to begin and I was getting impatient. Obviously, the special visitors weren’t going to come. Having previously lived in India, I should be used to delays, but still wondered, why didn’t we just go ahead and start?

I was back in India to help J.L. David, director of Mennonite Brethren Development Organization (MBDO), as he initiated a community health project. Over three days, we taught 30 women selected by village leadership. Topics included women’s health, worm infestation, diarrhea, and other illness common to life in rural India.

The goal of this community health project is to train women so they can return to their villages to teach and help others. Even a little knowledge can go a long way toward improving life. Along with improving the physical health of individuals, David looks to find ways to impart spiritual truths. As a nurse practitioner, I too am passionate about providing physical and spiritual help for hurting people.

After the initial seminar, David provides opportunities for further education and for the women to come together to discuss health-related problems encountered in their villages. His plan includes monthly seminars over two years. MBDO hopes these women will function in their villages and provide mutual support long after their training has been completed.

Using a combination of lecture, discussion, small group sessions, skits, and music, the seminar has been very successful. The women were excited and engaged in the learning process. Now, we were waiting for the start of the closing program – a celebration and sending ceremony customary in India.

The ceremony begins

At last, the four men David had invited to the ceremony arrived. These influential men from the surrounding villages were not Christians. Taking their place at the front of the room, they gave speeches and congratulated each participant as she picked up her certificate and a small gift. We all listened as two women stood and recited three days’-worth of learning. I couldn’t understand what they were saying, but it was obvious the women had learned a great deal – and our guests were impressed.

Later, I learned why we waited. Despite discouragement from others on the compound who said “these people are not interested in what we do here,” David had faith the men would come. He wanted to them to recognize MBDO’s benefit to the community, so they wouldn’t be suspicious of his activity.

Suddenly, I felt foolish for my impatience. Though I don’t always understand the details, I know God is using David to improve the health of many in rural India.

The closing ceremony ended with each woman lighting a small candle from the big one at front. The room was transformed with the individual lights of women excited to go back to their villages with knowledge to improve the lives of friends and family. As they continue to meet with David, we hope their lives will also be transformed with the knowledge of the light and hope of Jesus.

Teresa Regier is a nurse practitioner who worked on health projects as an MBMS International worker in India from 2004–2005, and provides consultancy to the financially struggling MBDO. For more information on the project, visit www.mbmsi.org/connect/countries/india.

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