Women Continue the Giving Tradition
Kolkata is India’s third largest metropolitan area, with 14.6 million inhabitants. While Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta) can be an area of uncommon beauty the city also has desperate needs.
In the heart of the city, near the Hooghly River, a hospital brings hope. Assemblies of God missionaries Mark and Huldah Buntain founded Mercy Hospital in 1977. For perspective, in the United States a ratio of 27 doctors and 30 hospital beds for every 10,000 people exists. However, in Kolkata, every 10,000 people have access to nine beds and six trained doctors. Those statistics create a crisis for the people of the city. Conditions would be worse if not for Mercy Hospital.
“Our ethos for this institution has been compassion with excellence,” says Sanjay Prasad, the hospital’s CEO. “When we as a church community started this hospital program, it was with the idea of serving the underserved.” Currently, 40,000 people receive no-cost treatment each year.
The hospital has 10 clinics, the majority of them catering to women and children specifically, even to the point of surgery free of cost when it’s needed, explains hospital chaplain Philip Bari.
Because of its emphasis on care for women and children, Kay Burnett, AG Women national director, chose Calcutta Mercy as the premiere ministry focus for a new project-driven missions model called Light the Way. Through monetary gifts and prayers, AG women can unite to reach the lost, restore the hurting, and resource ministries and individual women seeking truth.
“Compassion and generosity have always been marks of Assemblies of God women,” Burnett says. In fact, in 1951, the General Council bestowed the first name for the ministry as Women’s Missionary Council. By 1957, the Etta Calhoun Fund was established to help missionaries purchase large appliances and indoor equipment for AG institutions worldwide. The name of the fund changed in 1998 to Touch the World Fund. By 2017 — the 60th anniversary of Women’s Ministries — missions giving by women in the Assemblies of God had reached almost half a billion dollars.
While launching the project-driven Light the Way, Burnett explains that Touch the World Fund will remain in place to provide for many needs worldwide and broaden the scope of giving to missions.
“Assemblies of God women can now give to Light the Way to make an impact on each year’s specific project — or choose to give to Touch the World Fund as a general donation,” Burnett says. This year, AG Women Giving Day is Sept. 22.
Those who choose to give to Light the Way throughout 2020 will help Calcutta Mercy in two specific areas: thalassemia treatments and a mother/child center. Light the Way donations will allow a child to receive blood transfusions at no cost to his or her family and experience a comfortable, complimentary stay at the hospital with guardians. And when mothers travel long and far for their babies to receive specialized medical care at Mercy Hospital, a safe place to lodge, eat, and recover is a glimmer of joy in the midst of challenging times.
Ranu Singh, medical services coordinator for Mercy Hospital, explains that thalassemia is a disease prevalent among children in India.
“It is a blood disorder where the hemoglobin does not come down [to regular levels],” Singh says. Many of the children, even after detection and treatment, may only live a decade longer. She notes that the cost of treatment is expensive.
“There are women and children coming to us who would never be able to afford the same kind of treatment in the villages where they live,” Prasad says. “We ask ourselves, ‘If not us, who will stand in the gap and serve them?’”
“Calcutta Mercy is at the heart of ministering to the lost and broken,” says Evelyn Klingler, AG Women’s Leadership Ministries and Missions specialist.
For more information on Light the Way or Touch the World Fund, contact Klingler at firstname.lastname@example.org, call AG Women at 417-862-2781, extension 4062, or visit women.ag.org.