This Week in AG History -- March 31, 1968
Mark Buntain (1923-1989), a longtime Assemblies of God missionary, is perhaps best known for founding a prominent hospital and feeding program in Calcutta, India. He and his wife, Huldah, became iconic symbols of the AG’s melding of gospel proclamation with works of compassion.
Buntain was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the son of Pentecostal minister, Daniel N. Buntain. In his youth he worked as a radio broadcaster, and then after marrying Huldah Monroe in 1944, he began pastoring churches in Saskatchewan. He also ministered as a missionary-evangelist in Taiwan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, and Japan before going to India in October 1954. What started as a one-year mission assignment there turned into a lifetime of ministry. Mark, Huldah, and their 1-year-old daughter, Bonnie, took a three-month voyage across the Atlantic. After arriving in India, they set up a tent on a vacant lot in Calcutta, and started telling people about the love of Jesus.
One day a man entered the tent, interrupting the preaching, and said, “Preacher, feed our bellies and then tell us about a God in heaven.” This changed everything. It became the catalyst for the Buntains to start a feeding program, now part of Calcutta Mercy Missions, that serves thousands of people, mostly children, every day.
Mark’s ministry was featured in the Pentecostal Evangel 50 years ago. The article began with this statement: “Give ye them to eat.” This is exactly what the Buntains did as they carried out their much-needed ministry in North India. Not only did they provide physical food for the hungry, but they sought to meet the medical needs as well as spiritual needs of the people who crossed their paths. A testimony is given of a man named Thottathil Rajan who was suffering from hunger, was a heavy drinker, and a cripple. When New Zealand Evangelist Graham Truscott preached at one of Mark’s meetings, Rajan came and was saved and healed. Soon after this, he felt called to enter Bible school in order to preach the gospel.
On another occasion, Mark went to his office, and a staff member told him, “There’s a small boy dying on the steps!” He hurried out and found a 9-year-old boy who was almost dead. Buntain brought him inside and gradually nursed him back to health. After giving him a bath, he felt even better. Soon the boy went with the other children to attend school. Surprised to discover a new student, the teacher asked him, “Who are you?” “What are you doing here?” Without hesitancy, he quickly responded, “I belong to the Sahib!” (meaning Mark, who was the head missionary).
For many years the Buntains pastored the Assembly of God in Calcutta, which grew to more than 1,500 people in Sunday School each week and 4,000 in church attendance. Mark became the assistant superintendent of the AG in North India and aired a radio broadcast three times a week to a potential audience of 145 million listeners.
Today, more than 60 years later, the Buntains’ hearts to reach the people groups of India still continues. Calcutta Mercy Ministries operates a hospital that serves people free of charge, over 900 churches have been established in North India, there are around 100 schools to educate thousands of students, and a clinic in the red-light district helps individuals involved in sexual trafficking who are as young as 12 years old. Mark and Huldah are possibly best known for the feeding ministry they established, which continues to serve thousands.
Although Mark passed away in 1989, Huldah still helps to oversee the ministry they founded. Calcutta Mercy Ministries continues to feed, educate, and medically assist the poor of Calcutta, India, and surrounding areas.
Read the article, “I Belong to the Sahib,” on page 15 of the March 31, 1968, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.
Also featured in this issue:
• “Tell Me About the Council on Evangelism”
• “Betinho: King of the Night,” by Missionary T. R. Hoover
• “Why Jews Need the Gospel,” by Ernest Kalapathy
And many more!
Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.