It was a late summer’s day in 1993 and my host and I were finishing our lunch at an Indian restaurant in a leafy suburb of south west London. Several months earlier, whilst walking along a footpath in Mussoorie, in the foothills of the Himalayas, Dr Raju Abraham had encouraged me to contact his colleague, Ram Gidoomal, on our impending return to the UK. Neither of us had met until that lunch and the conversation across the table had been relaxed and wide-ranging. Then Ram smiled and said, “Well Paul, I think you and Su should join us at SAC”. At that moment I realised that SAC believes in ‘doing things differently’ and I had just been ‘interviewed’ for the next step in our journey with God!
We were at a crossroads. After 20 years in cross-cultural mission in South Asia we had felt led by God to be in the UK for a period, supporting elderly parents, and children in school and college. Now I knew the ‘why’ of our meeting but almost nothing of the ‘how’.
There are so many vivid memories, gathering South Asian believers, for distinctly different times of fellowship, teaching and prayer: London, Birmingham, Leicester, 24 hour vigils, sleeping on the floor, worshipping in Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu, sharing wonderful meals and laughter. A different way of things! Then in predominantly Caucasian churches, as a team, teaching about South Asian cultures, family life and religions. Creative partnerships flowed in, particularly after SADP* (sister to SAC) published Ram’s research of the 1991 UK census, identifying the ‘South Asian Corridor’.
In the New Testament Jesus deliberately selects small numbers of followers, of seemingly limited impact, enabling them through His Holy Spirit. Whether recorded in the Gospels or Acts or the Epistles; He brings Kingdom fruitfulness beyond their dreams and prayers. Yes, that often means ‘Doing things differently’. Around this time the Indian medical mission, Emmanuel Hospital Association, with its holistic vision, for hospitals and community health, launched its master-plan to upgrade its personnel and infrastructure, in its twenty-one units. This was close to our hearts, as we had been deeply involved in the leadership and spiritual life of EHA hospitals for 13 years. Another SAC creative partnership came into being as a result, as we registered EHA (UK). For almost 10 years, it was a joy to raise prayer and funds for this massive project, often amongst those who had never heard of EHA, but trusted a recommendation from SAC.
Each year we brought EHA leaders to the UK to churches and colleges, whilst we also took prayer tours to India to meet and pray for healthcare workers and local pastors.
The spring of 1999 saw the Kosovo refugee camps overflowing into Albania. Businessmen from Hindu and Muslim communities funded SAC/EHA to send two Indian medical teams, which Su and I had the privilege of taking to their destination.
2005 marked another change, as we moved to Delhi where we stayed for about eight months a year over the next decade. We had already registered a tour company, giving us business status with the Indian government. Serving several organisations in different ways kept us busy, especially with SAC’s sister CONCERN, focusing on leadership development, mentoring, pastoral care and marriage enrichment programmes. Through CONCERN’s Lalchuangliana, we became partners for counsel and governance for two children’s homes in Himachal Pradesh. We thank God for His leading to join a local church, where I was invited to regularly teach and extend pastoral support.
A joy of living in Delhi was helping to launch ‘The Biblical Counseling Trust of India’ alongside its visionary founder, Dr John K John. He and his wife Annie, from south India, had worked as crosscultural missionaries in EHA and other ministries in the north since the mid-1970s and we continue to grieve his sudden death in 2017.
In 2015, with 70th birthdays in sight, we again sought His way and being very used to ‘doing things differently’ followed a past trail, to Herbertpur, living walking distance from the hospital where we had started our ministry in 1973. The location is strategic, our village bordering three states within a 20 minute drive. We seek to have special friendships with pastors who are mentoring others and building ‘families’. With a local co-worker couple, Mukesh and Kamla, we have enjoyed seeing workshops started for pastors’ wives and ‘marriage enrichment’ programmes.
We visit in the hospital at least twice in a week for fellowship and prayer. Homes from all the communities in the villages around are open to us, to drink ‘chai’, share and to pray for their needs.
So the journey goes on – our 25 years as part of this amazing SAC family moves from here to there and back and forth at the blowing of the wind of His Spirit. Thank you to everyone who prays and supports us and therefore journeys with us – ‘doing things differently”.
Article by Paul East, SAC Partner
*South Asian Development Partnership