I was walking to the spot I hoped my train car would stop. I saw a thin woman in her thirties, dressed in an old brown sari, carrying everything she owned wrapped in a blanket on top of her head. I first noticed her feet. They were swollen to four times the normal size, a sign of severe malnutrition. She walked very slowly, taking small steps, each one taken as if stepping lightly on sharp stones. She held her hand out to a man, and in it was a two rupee coin. The man shook his head and motioned her on. As I passed her, I placed a one hundred rupee bill (about $1.50) in her hand. I walked about ten more steps and turned back. She had stopped dead in her tracks; tears were streaming down her face. Not knowing what to do, I turned and walked on, wishing I had given her more. But what about the leper and the man with no legs, the hungry child—what could I give them? I felt completely inadequate.
In 2013 I organized a medical team to go to India and train India pastors to do medical missionary work. We trained the pastors during the day, and in the evening took them into a village and set up our medical team in an Adventist church. The Bible workers and I would scatter throughout the village, telling people that we had a medical team at the church. Hundreds of people would come. It gave us a chance to give the pastors some hands-on experience. One particular evening two boys around 11 years old followed me everywhere I went. They spoke a little English, so we laughed and poked fun at each other all evening. At the end of the evening, standing in the middle of a sea of people, one of the boys looked up at me and said, "Sir" (pronounced su), “we're hungry.” I said, “I am sorry, but I have no food.” He said, “But sir, we haven’t eaten all day.” I left those young boys standing there hungry, and it nearly broke my heart, but there were hundreds of people and I could not feed them all. I felt completely inadequate. I no longer wondered what the disciples must have felt like when Jesus asked them to feed the 5,000. The disciples said, “Lord, we must send them away,” but Jesus said, “No, you feed them!”
We weighed and measured hundreds of children on that trip, and found that 60 percent suffered from nutritional stunting due to undernourishment. We cried out to God, asking what we could do, and an idea started to develop. My friend and mission partner, who is a public health nurse, told me that because of the filth and contaminated water in India, a good share of the nutrition these children were getting was spent fighting germs and disease. We started to realize that if we could teach the mothers of these children to treat or boil their water, teach them cleanliness and basic hygiene, it would go a long way toward allowing what food they were able to eat to build strong minds and healthy bodies. We wondered how we could teach hundreds, thousands, even millions of children to wash their hands and drink clean water and then God reminded us that there were thousands of health training centers in small villages and cities throughout India—they were called Adventist churches!
The natural person to train a mother in India is another woman. We found that we had a ready and willing workforce just waiting for the opportunity—the Adventist pastors' wives. For the last two years we have been training the wives of our Adventist pastors in India to be medical missionaries. Through the Adventist East Central Indian Union Women's Ministries Department, we stipend forty-two women and ask them to make eight home visits a day, five days per week. These women are currently making over 50,000 health visits a year. We pay each woman 2,000 rupees a month plus expenses (about $45; their husbands make around $65). Our plans are to find sponsors in America for these women so that we can train and hire hundreds more.
We came to God with our meager loaves and fishes and He has multiplied them beyond our wildest dreams. He has shown us how to feed the world the bread of life through the Adventist health message. This simple message is still the right arm of ministry and is currently doing a powerful work in India through ultimate Mission's Healthy Heart India Team.
Shared with the Oregon Conference by Jim Reynolds of Ultimate Mission