Observations of a pilgrim in search of a ‘Christian ashram’: Part 2

Kachwa Christian Hospital

The next morning I called Kachwa (a village an hour or so away from Varanasi) Christian Hospital, which I had also been told I must visit: “They’ve really caught the vision of what the gospel is about – they are doing amazing things. Doctor Raju, who is in charge, is India’s equivalent of Francis Schaeffer.” Dr Raju wasn’t actually there the weekend I was around, but he had given me the number of Anthony, the hospital administrator, when I had emailed. Anthony encouraged me to come as quickly as possible. I came by taxi, and arrived just before lunch. Anthony greeted me, and quickly hurried me around the site to see the multitude of projects and to meet the various people involved.

And the place did not disappoint. The story runs thus: a missionary hospital that has been around about a hundred years, but had become run down and dilapidated and was about to be sold off as it was simply losing money without accomplishing anything. Enter Doctor Raju, an Indian who had worked as a neurologist in London for twenty years, but had returned to India to be involved in missions. He came to Kachwa and has unleashed a vision which has put the gospel at the heart of the work: so that it is absolutely clear what the reason for the hospital is. When penniless villagers are treated free of charge for the snake bites whose antidotes they cannot afford (snake bites being a common problem due to the fact that people are afraid to kill cobras because they represent Siva), they are told the gospel. When middle-class patients come to the hospital because the quality of care is better than the equivalent government service, they are told the gospel. Church-planting was started in earnest: sent out two-by-two, they would go walking through the area, praying as they went and essentially following the instructions given by Jesus to the disciples he sent ahead of himself into Galilee (cf. Luke 10): staying in the house of a ‘man of peace’, healing the sick, driving out demons, and proclaiming the gospel. [Writing about this now as I sit in England, this mention of healings and exorcisms seems to need some extra justification – but it is precisely the straightforward simplicity with which people in Christian ministry (whether in Delhi, Kachwa, or Kurukshetra) talked of times when they had driven out demons that impressed me. In fact, I was told that the majority of conversions to Christianity in rural India happen because of healings – whether of the person himself or a family member.] Vocational training projects have also begun with a substantial personal/biblical component included, with the idea that the people trained will go back to their village churches with useful skills but also with spiritual fire. And it was this fire that impressed me. You saw it in their eyes. You saw it in their eagerness to share their testimonies. You saw it in their quickness to pray. Statistically, they say that in the forty years before Dr. Raju’s arrival, there had been five baptisms in the area – and in the last five years there have been four thousand!

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