Balamma Satrum Home for the Needy
Fr Jeff’s Journal – Week Two
7th -10th October 2012
Trying to cope with extreme heat is difficult for a healthy person to survive in this area of South India, but for someone who is only hours from death it is an enormous struggle. On Friday night, Nirmalah, the sick old man that I spoke about last week was very close to death. He could hardly breathe. As I prayed over this man, Mary tried to help him by cooling his body and also giving moisture to his lips as they were sticking together. In his last minutes he died very peacefully. Within thirty minutes Mary and I, along with two of the men carried his body to rest in the chapel overnight. So much care was given to him as we placed him directly in front of the tabernacle and lit candles of jasmine and sandalwood. The smell was heavenly.
The following morning after breakfast Mary collected all she needed to wash the body and to prepare Nirmalah for his funeral Mass. This is the first time that I had helped to prepare a dead body. Mary took this in her stride as she had done this before on previous visits. As she said, “It is a privilege to do this and to realise that the soul of Nirmalah had now journeyed to meet God face to face!” Everyone in the village attended the funeral and afterwards Mary and I helped to carry the body to the grave that is on our land. There he was laid to rest with great dignity in the hard parched ground.
In the afternoon one of the eldest sponsored girls came back to see us. She told us that she had received her Diploma in Nursing and was working in a neighbouring village Primary Health Centre five days a week. This news really gave us a boost to know that our sponsorship programme is bearing fruit in helping others.
Sunday morning was spent very quietly and then we had a concelebrated Mass with the congregation once again being made up of Catholics, Christians, Hindus and Muslims. After lunch, I spent a great deal of time with a co-sponsored child called Sreekanth. We finalised his placement on the Bachelor of Pharmacy degree course at the Tirupati University. In September 2005, I met this young shepherd boy who was without any education and now in 2012, he has achieved high grades in his ‘A’ Levels. These results give us all a great buzz of satisfaction knowing that our efforts are not in vain.
On Monday we travelled by train to Chennai on the final part of our journey in India. Even as we left the village we were not sure that the trains would be running. Early in my journals I have spoken about the lack of constant electricity in the rural villages. This had impacted on the reliability of the trains as necessary repair work had been delayed. For ten days there were no trains running through Kadapa, however, when we needed the train God was by our side as our train was the first train to run and was only one hour late. Even on the train we felt God’s presence helping us in a difficult situation. Originally the only seating births we could get were on the top tier. However, the couple below us got out at the next station, which is very unusual for the train to stop at a local junction. We were then able to have their places for the seven-hour journey. In Chennai I took the chance to have a proper shower before travelling to the airport – England here we come!
If I could sum up this fifth visit to India I can honestly say that the rural people are suffering more than ever. Even the richer people are not able to freely grow their crops due to the lack of rainwater. The area surrounding the Home for the Needy has been without rains for two years now and there is no real chance of rain before April or May 2013. The whole diocese of Kadapa is suffering also through the lack of foreign aid due to the world recession. The Bishop is therefore unable to sanction many necessary pastoral programmes. This is why Fr Sarves, through our
giving, has taken on projects like the young women’s empowerment programme, which is delivered by the village Sisters. The elderly in our care are well looked after as they receive shelter, food and are kept in a clean safe environment. The children continue to grow in confidence. They are working hard at school to equip themselves with the necessary skills that will help them to become self-sufficient in the future. This Indian project has helped me to realise that we all have a responsibility to share what we have to help care for the most vulnerable and needy in our world today. We do this in many ways but especially through our constant prayers for others and our financial assistance. For Jesus said, “When I was in need you came to my help.”
I take inspiration from the life and words expressed by Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997).
‘Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.’
‘It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.’
‘A life not lived for others is not a life.’