TIRUNELVELI LINK NEWSLETTER News from the link of Churches Together in ALL Lincoln shire with the Church of South India dioceses of Tirunelveli and Tuticorin/NAZARETH
No.10. June 2013
CTAL Visit to South India â€“ August 2012 Report by Rev. Eric Lomax In August, I accompanied five other representatives of CTAL (Churches together in all Lincolnshire), on a visit to the South of India. The visit was part of an ongoing partnership with the Church of South India (CSI.), and has helped provide support for a number of key projects in the region. The CSA was formed in 1947, following Indian independence, and united the Anglican and Protestant Churches into a single ecumenical foundation. I had a basic awareness of the religious heritage of India, and understood that over 80% of the population, are Hindus. There was evidence of this everywhere we travelled. We visited the busy town of Madurai, and the Beautiful Meenakshi Amman Temple with it's fourteen beautiful decorated gopurams, or towers. To gain access, we had to hand in our shoes at a kiosk close to the gateway. As we entered in the middle of the day, the pavements scorched the soles of our feet. The temple was vibrant with the aroma of incense, and the colourful Saris and the robes of worshipers. One of the most striking things about Hinduism is it's diversity, with a plethora of deities, all expressions of Brahman, the ultimate, and infinite spirit of the universe. Such a varied faith suits the diversity of this spiritual nation, and it must be remembered that it was not only Hinduism that was cradled in this ancient culture, but also Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism. It is not unreasonable to assume, therefore, that such soup of faith could also provide an amniotic fluid in which to nurture the Christian gospel. When we arrived, I expected Christianity to be a fragile faith. In contrast, however, we found the church to be a alive and growing. The theology of Christian redemption creates new avenues of spirituality. Many people in India regret the perceived trap of the Caste system. One of our hosts described to us how the concept of caste is a structural evil that gives religious justification to an unforgiving level of racial and class prejudice. Another individual we encountered, spoke to us of how this serves to subjugate women. She felt that the sari, the traditional dress of women, was the symbol of this. The church, however, was filled with women who seemed to find liberation in prayer, and in the knowledge of Christian equality and redemption. That was the most striking things about the churches. They were beautiful white buildings modelled on the architecture of medieval Europe. Inside, however, they were free from the Christian pews which mar British churches with passivity in worship. Worshipers, particularly women in their colourful saris, were knelt in prayer on the bare marble floors, a reminder to us of the true nature and expression of Christian worship. It has to be said that this is, indeed, a minority faith in India, however, official figures do not fully represent the scale of the church. We were told that people who claim to be Christians on official forms, often find they lose entitlement to state benefits, or even certain career avenues. Many people, we were told, are officially Hindu, and only unofficially Christian.
The impact of the Church of South India, can be seen in terms of its work, not only its worship. This is not a passive institution, like we, in many places have become. It is an establishment that takes the Christian vocation of service to others, very seriously indeed. Although we visited many churches, and fixed ecclesiastical projects; The new Diocesan office building being one of them, most of the places we visited were active projects focusing on some form of social education or care. Orphanages, homes for the elderly, St Luke's Leprosarium, which which truly addresses the issue of social isolation in society, and also the key area of education. We encountered a number of schools, all of which had an explicit Christian ethos. Examples of these would be The Caldwell school at Tuticorin, The Victoria girl's school, and the very successful Sarah Tucker Girl's school at Tirunelveli. The latter has nearly six thousand students, and is organised with an almost military discipline. The school is such a success, that people of other faiths also opt to send their children there. We also visited several schools that function for various disadvantaged groups in society. Schools for the blind, the deaf, and those with special educational needs. We visited St Luke'sCollege, which was inspirational in that it provided a further education for girls from disadvantaged backgrounds. The students here gave the visitors a wonderful welcome, and despite their challenging backgrounds, their talent and courtesy was tangible. We were awestruck at every stage, by this new generation of young people in India, and the comparisons that we can draw with perceived attitudes of European youth. These children are truly formidable, and will no doubt help give birth to the new world order. The other thing we saw, however, is a level of spirituality that we just do not witness anywhere else. These schools and colleges are helping to develop this. What is astonishing, is that in many cases, the Church of South India is pulling this talent out of the gutters. The Kallur Orphanage we visited one evening, had little to offer in terms of physical resources. These feral children slept, ate and played in one room, yet they thrived in the care that their community gave them. The diocesan Youth camp at Courtalam, gave us some sense of how the young people are influenced by this Christian love in action. Thousands of young people were present, enthusiastic about the Christian faith. Faith was not to them, something that they had simply grown up with, it was something they had actively chosen and engaged with. It seems that there are lessons that we can learn from the Church of South India. They teach us about caring for the young, about demonstrating a ministry of liberation to the marginalised, and they also teach us about the value of prayer. Eric Lomax
News from St. Luke's Leprosarium, Peikulam Extracts from the Christmas Newsletter In 2012 there were 40 new cases of leprosy with 285 in-patients and 1,550 out patients and non-leprosy patients have also been treated. 165 medical students from Tirunelveli Government Medical College have participated in the programs. The Girls Home tin roof has been replaced by a concrete roof with thanks to many donors. The Leprosarium now has a website â€“ www.leprosarium.org â€“ well worth a visit! Cured leprosy patients are often ostracized and the Leprosarium continues to help them with rehabilitation programs in useful trades to enable them to make a living. Their products are sold in a shop and the money given to the patients. An Emu Farm has been established and patients trained in the care of the eight birds . A Dental Department was opened in September and nearly 35 patients were treated. All the in-patients as well as villagers in and around Peikulum are benefitting. All the expenses are met by well-wishers and donors.
Dr. Vethabothagam's Concluding message:Leprosy service is not yet finished. A disease, chronic by nature needs constant care, attention and rehabilitation. Not only of the patients, but also their children. This is in order to make the leprosy patients independent and self-reliant till their future generations to come. Kindly pray for our ministry. Kindly do share our ministry with your families, relatives and friends. MAY GOD BLESS YOU. Yours sincerely, CHRISTMAS – 2012 Dr. Haebus S. Vethabothagam, PEIKULAM. Medical Superintendent, Staff, Home Children & Patients.
THE STORY OF Mr. NARAYANAN I am Narayanan, I am 67 years old. I am a Farmer. When I was 40 years old, a few insensitive patches appeared on both my legs. I did not know that these patches were symptoms of leprosy. I went to a native doctor who told me that this was due to some insect-bite and so gave me some herbal treatment. There was no improvement with this treatment. So I ignored these patches. After a few years, sensory loss developed on my left hand and both my feet. My Forefoot was not functioning normally. My right ankle joint was unable to extend. My sandals were slipping from my feet. Ulcer developed on the plantar surface. This affected my work of livelihood. My family started to bear the brunt. I met a Health Inspector from the Government. He advised me to go to St. Luke’s Leprosarium, Peikulam. Since the Peikulam Hospital is near to my village, I went to St. Luke’s. Here, leprosy treatment was given and ulcer healed. Then I was referred to Trichy Hospital for surgery on my right foot. After surgery, my right foot’s function became normal. Protective footwear was given by St.Luke’s. Then I happily went to my village and joined my family. My two girl children were joined in St.Luke’s Children’s Home. The elder one completed a Computer Course and is working in Chennai. The younger one had I.T.I Training at The Leprosy Mission Vocational Training Centre, Vadathorasalur and is employed in Chennai too. I received a cow and calf from St.Luke’s. These milch animals are very helpful to earn my day to day livelihood. My wife and my son are also helping me with my work. I am happily living with my family. Thanks to St.Luke’s and its supporters. This Christmas, I am sharing my life story with you, from what I was to who I am now, the joy of giving and receiving and to Cherish God’s love in action. Narayanan.
News from the Chittenden Deaf Centre Extracts from the Christmas 2012 Newsletter SCRIPTURE EXAMS FOR DEAF PEOPLE The scripture exams for the deaf students as well as for the deaf people were conducted on 25th March. About 80 deaf students and 50 aged deaf people participated. Golden crosses of 3grams, 2 grams and 1 gram were given for the highest scorers. Another examination was conducted on on 2nd December EMPLOYMENT PROJECT BUILDING OPENING AND INAUGURATION OF PROJECTS AT THE BRANCH CENTRE The Employment Project Building at our branch centre was opened and the projects inaugurated on Easter Day 2012 by our beloved Bishop Rt. Rev Dr H. Christdoss and his wife, Mrs Christilda Christdoss. Five different units were inaugurated â€“ Teashop, Bakery showroom, Bookstall, Tailoring unit and a photocopier unit OPENING OF THE NEW BAKERY UNIT
DEAF WEDDING A deaf couple were married on 24th august 2012. The bride is working in the deaf centre Bakery unit
VISIT OF CHURCHES TOGETHER IN ALL LINCOLNSHIRE FRIENDS A team of six members from CTAL came to South India for a two weeks programme and were able to spend about five days in Tirunelveli Diocese, visiting schools and projects and some tourist centres. They also visited the Deaf Centre. It was a time of friendship and fellowship.
VISIT OF BISHOP GROSSTESTE UNIVERSITY COLLEGE STUDENTS AND STAFF For the first time the BGUC has sent students and staff under the banner of BG Global India to our Diocese. Their visit was mainly focussed on visiting schools and colleges to explore the method and system of education in India. They also visited some interesting site seeing places. The students were happy to learn about the activities of the Deaf Ministry. ANNUAL DEAF CONFERENCE The annual Deaf Conference was held from 7 to 9th September at the waterfalls town, Courtallam. It was attended by more than 600 deaf friends and some of their families. Our Bishop presided over the | conference and blessed the gathering th
REGULAR MINISTRY AND PROJECTS By the grace of God the deaf signed worship services are conducted regularly in all seven towns and the basic, social and economic needs of deaf people are met now and then. The Gwdenda Chittenden home for adult Deaf women is functioning well. The families of deaf men are given groceries regularly under the family based care programme. The other projects, Tailoring, Bakery, Tea Shop and agro based farm are functioning well through which we are able to give employment to 15 deaf persons. FUTURE PLANS 1. Plan to start a residential home for aged deaf men 2. Plan to construct an Employment project building at Yuckerammalpuram near Palayamkottai 3. To start a printing press and a new Bakery Showroom
PRAYER REQUESTS 1. Pray for the spiritual and social activities of the Deaf Ministry. 2. Pray for the Employment projects both at Palayamkottai and Sankarankovil. 3. Pray for the Deaf people of our region and elsewhere in the world that they may enjoy equal participation and dignity. 4. Pray for deaf young girls and boys who are about to marry. May God help them to find their life partners. 5. Pray for our Bishop Rt. Rev. J J Christdoss and his family, all Clergy and church workers of our Diocese. 6. Pray for good rainfall in Tirunelveli District.