Story of God's faithfulness
The community at AKS, Lamtaput has been living and working together since 1991. The following story is an account of the happenings that lead to what is now a movement. It is important that the right perspective be kept as a community and that the work in Asha Kiran be seen as a working of God's purposes in Lamtaput and that each of the individuals who make up the work at Asha Kiran are part of this work of God. It is hoped that this document will focus on God as he alone deserves all honor for the happenings here.
Dr. Verghese Phillip and Dr. Joseph Thomas, were part of the CMC Vellore EU and friends in medical school. Dr. VP had been challenged by the life of Dr. RAC Paul and Mr. Trevor Locke to dedicate his life to serve the primitive Bondo tribal group in Orissa. Joy had been similarly challenged and committed his life to work for the tribes in India. There were a few other friends who shared this deep desire to serve God and had formed a loose team in the late eighties. Soon Dr. VP married Dr. Nirmala Tharien and Joy married Grace Thomas from Calcutta. A few more preliminary meetings and discussions followed and in 1988 all the contemporaries from CMC Vellore, with a desire to serve God, met in Bangalore. Here the desires were firmed into resolutions. VP and Nimmy as well as Joy and Grace decided to find a place to serve tribal groups in India.
In 1989, EMFI and EFICOR jointly agreed to fund a survey of Orissa, which was one of the poorest states in India. This was done on 2 different occasions with teams led by VP. Dr. Naveen Thomas, Bro J.V. Raj and Bro Sunny Daniel also helped in the surveys. All their findings were compiled and published as 'Orissa Beckons' in 1990. The following conclusions were arrived at:
- The tribals of Orissa are one of the most disadvantaged groups of people with high levels of mortality, poor economic conditions and a desperate spiritual state.
- They are also at cross roads - the pressure of 'development' impinging on their highly insulated societies.
- Any involvement with the tribals would require an integrated approach.
By 1990 more clarity had emerged. Dr Manoj Jacob (batch of 1983) while working in Christian Fellowship Hospital, Oddanchatram was challenged to serve and reach tribal groups and expressed his interest in joining the two couples. In the month of March 1990, with the encouragement of Dr. Kuruvilla George of EMFI, and the doctors at CFH Oddanchatram, the two couples and Manoj met at Montauban, Ooty. It was here that the first draft of the Montauban covenant as well as the desire of the team to live and work together developed. A few months later, Dr. Manoj married Dr. Manju Matthew, and she too agreed with the covenant and signed the document.
It was decided that the general location should be in the Koraput district of Orissa. Finally it was decided that Jeypore, which is a big town in the Koraput district, would be the ideal place to stay and learn the language and also continue to survey the area around for a possible future location. Mr. Sunny and Rachel Daniel, Brethren evangelists graciously agreed to provide the initial sanctuary in Jeypore.
In May 1991, a dedication service was held in Oddanchatram where the three couples and three nurses – Arokia Mary, Ruth and Pushpa, were prayed for. The team had with them Rs. 8000/- as cash to start the work and a faith that Gods work done in Gods way would never lack Gods resources.
God was also working in the heart of others. Deen Dayal was one of them, who felt specifically called to reach out to the Bondo tribal group. He was in touch with Manoj and when he heard that the team was finally moving to start work in Jeypore, he waited at the railway station in Vishakapatnam to join the team, bag and baggage ready to be part of the work in 1991. He underwent training in Community work.
By the time the entourage reached Jeypore on 4 June 1991, Sunny Daniel had already rented two houses and made arrangements for an Oriya teacher, whose name was Tuni. The whole team started learning Oriya while simultaneously surveying the surrounding regions, in search of a suitable base in the near future.
The village of Lamtaput was chosen as the base in August 1991. A building was rented to start the clinic. An Outpatient clinic, which was open twice a week, was started by the end of August with the team commuting from Jeypore. The local Block Development Officer inaugurated the clinic. Also present on the occasion were the Daniels, Mr. & Mrs. Dilip Mahapatro and Tuni along with her husband. On the first day there were about twenty patients and soon the team was managing approximately 120 patients a day.
A building, which was being built in Lamtaput, was ready in February 1992 and was taken on rent. The first toilets in the area were built for the team before they moved in. Living together in cramped quarters and eating together had its joys and difficulties. The Christian Fellowship Hospital in Oddanchatram continued to help with nursing and lab staff.
Bobby a civil engineer was led to join the team in December 1992 and oversaw practically all the construction activities that were going on during the period. In June 1992, a missionary training camp was organized at Lamtaput and two of the participants decided to join the team in response to the challenge. They attended the training at OTI of IEM and also went to ODC for more training in Community Health, after which they joined in early 1993. Even though facilities were minimal and the dangers real, from bears knocking on doors and tigers walking on the roads, the joy of life and following God were paramount.