When a delayed ceremony could improve health care in India
By Teresa Regier
We had been waiting and waiting for the closing ceremony to begin, and I was getting impatient. Why didn’t we just start? Obviously they were not going to come. I should be used to waiting, as my family and I had lived in India several years ago, and I know that culturally things move at a much slower pace. Meetings and functions usually do not begin when expected.
I was back in India for a short time to help J.L. David, director of Mennonite Brethren Development Organization (MBDO), as he initiated a community health project. Over the last three days we had been teaching 30 village women, selected by their village leadership. Instruction included various health topics such as women’s health, worm infestation, diarrhea and other illnesses common to life in rural India.
The goal of this community health project is to train and empower these women so they can return to their villages to teach and help others. It is recognized that even a little bit of knowledge can go a long way toward improving life in the village. Along with improving the physical health of individuals in the village, David looks to find ways to impart spiritual truths as well. I wanted to help David with this project because as a nurse practitioner, I am passionate about improving the physical and spiritual health of those that are hurting.
After this initial teaching seminar, David will continue to meet regularly with the women. He wants to provide further education and an opportunity for the women to come together and discuss health-related problems they have encountered in their individual villages. His plan includes monthly three-day seminars for one year followed by a year of monthly one-day meetings. It is the hope of MBDO that these women will continue to 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 had been excited and engaged in the learning process. In India, it is common to end the sessions with a closing program—a ceremony marking an official completion and a sending of the women into their villages. It was this closing session that we were waiting to begin.
At last here they were, the four men from the community that David had invited to the ceremony. These were influential men from the surrounding village; they were not Christians. They took their place at the front of the room. Each gave a short speech and congratulated each participant as she made her way to the front to pick up her certificate and a small gift. They listened as two women stood and recited three days of learning. Though I couldn’t understand what they were saying, it was obvious they had learned a great deal, and the village representatives were impressed.
At the end of the day, I learned why we waited for these men. David had invited them despite the comments of those living on the compound where the training had taken place. “Those people will never come,” they said. “They are not interested in what we do here.”
David, however, had faith that the men would come. He wanted to introduce these leaders to what he would be doing among the villages in their area. He wanted them to see that it would benefit the community so that they would not be suspicious of his activity and try to stop him.
Suddenly I felt foolish for my impatience. Though I don’t always understand the details, I do know that God is using David to improve the health and welfare of many in rural India. The closing ceremony ended with the women lighting their small candles from a big candle at the front table. The room was transformed with the individual lights of women who were now excited to go back to their villages with knowledge to improve the lives of their friends and family. It is our hope that as they continue to meet with David their lives will also be transformed with the knowledge of the light and hope of Jesus.
Teresa Regier, a nurse practitioner living in British Columbia, hopes to return to India within the next year to continue her work with MB Development Organization (MBDO). To support MBDO’s work to improve health care in rural India, donate to MBMS International under project C0221.
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