Letter from Behala
Greetings to all from the Oxford Mission family, Bahala, Kolkata.
By the grace of God I have once again received the gift of writing to you wonderful people about the works of the Mission and about the unending love, affection, gifts, concern and caring that we get from you all constantly. You also assist in nurturing the lives of many boys in the hostel, who look forward to a healthy future with your guidance.
We started this year with a bang we had the pleasure to be in the company of a down-¬to-earth person, our president Bishop Bill Down. I received him at the airport, and from a distance I could see the smiling face and waving hand of a lovely person. It was great meeting and greeting him. Bishop Down had quite a programme this time. The weather was nice and cold congenial for him. He made a courtesy call to the British Deputy High Commissioner, Simon Wilson, at the High Commission office, and spent some time with him. The same evening, at the invitation of Bishop Samuel Raju, Bishop Bill Down had an interactive evening with priests of the Diocese, Principal of schools and Colleges and other important people at St. Johns Church. Everyone was impressed to hear Bishop Bills varied experiences in the field of different postings in the Church of England, from the beginning of his life as a clergy, Chaplain of the seafarers and Bishop. He kept everyone spell-bound, and left a big impression upon them. He also preached at St James Church one Sunday.
Bishop Bill was invited to dinner by Bishop Samuel Raju, and, of course, I was not left out. It was a lovely secular evening with Bishop Bill, Bishop Raju, Mrs Leena Raju and their daughter Ruth and I dining in a very nice restaurant and discussing various aspects of present day life. Bishop bill was quite impressed to hear about the project Ruth runs for the upliftment of street children known as Pathfinder. He also visited her small, busy, cosy office in the slum area where they function, which is fascinating.
At Mission House, whenever we were free, Bishop Bill and I always discussed the beauty of a mission, especially of the Oxford Mission. I shall remain ever grateful to him for his advice, guidance and elucidation regarding the passages in the Bible where it talks of the difficult work of a Mission and even more difficult work of Missionaries. His knowledge is enormous, his insight luminous and profound. Bishop Bill kindly accepted to have dinner with my wife Kanchan and myself one evening, which we greatly enjoyed.
As usual during his visit, Bishop Bill walked into a curio shop and purchased some very nice sandalwood carved elephants. I happened to notice a big queue of such elephants in his study in Witney when Kanchan and I visited him and Sally in 2004. Surely, if he carries on at this pace he will soon have an elephant sanctuary in his house!
The second visitor was a youngish-old Father Alwyn Jones, who was with us in December 2007/January 2008. I salute him for all his enormous energy and elephantine memory, as well as his sense of duty with his lovely charming behaviour. Everyone at the Epiphany Festival enjoyed his small speech in Bengali. His silver hair was well appreciated, he looked striking. He also preached in Bengali at St Peters Church at a Sunday Eucharist service.
Father Alwyn is a very independent person who went about his business alone and came out in flying colours. He even went to the Tolly Club for pony riding. Thats the time I worried about him, but all was well. He kindly visited my house and met my mother who was quite taken up to hear him saying the prayer in Bengali. Thereafter, Kanchan, Alwyn and I went out for dinner, which Alwyn appreciated. I have asked Alwyn to write further on the Oxford Mission at Behala from where Hundred Years in Bengal ends. There are still so many people around who could contribute to the history of the Oxford Mission.
We also had with us Professor Hugh Davidson, nephew of Sister Esther. Sister Esther is the founder of St Josephs Primary School, Oxford Mission, founded 50 years ago. This year is the jubilee year and Hugh was happy to be in the school premises meeting pupils and teachers. He interacted with them and took quite a few photographs. Thank you Professor for the interest that you have evinced in the work of Oxford Mission, and thank you Hugh for visiting us and the school.
The boys at St Nicks are very happy with their multi-colour double-decker beds. They take a lot of care of the coloured fishes in the aquarium. They also enjoy their studies and are doing well in their classes. It is a sight to see them having a cricket match between the 30 of them so full of enthusiasm also the nurse works overtime to dress their wounds! They are growing up so well with your grace, support and aid. From this session (May April), 10 extra boys will be admitted in St Nicks for which 5 more bunk beds have been ordered, and we shall increase more next year.
The big boys are very busy with their exams. Seven of our boys are sitting High School exams and so far have done well lets see what the results say. Their exam centres are far-flung in different schools, so we hire 3-wheelers (auto) to take them and bring them back. On 08 March, they participated in the OM Retreat and were a great encouragement for all, as they were so attentive and saying some very touching and meaningful prayers. The Chaplain, the Revd Ranjit Banerji, and I led the Retreat, our theme being I am the way, the truth and the life. The residents of Santi Nivash also attended the Retreat.
This years Sports Day went off well. The ex-staff members and their families were invited to enjoy the day and were thankful.
Five staff members from ISOM were relieved of their duties from Oxford Mission week ending 01 February 2008. They have received their settlement dues, and we thank them for their service and immense help to the Mission. We pray to God for their prosperity, peace and comfort.
The Mathieson Memorial Music Centre (MMMC) is being well used by our boys. We have had a few concerts, with Father Alwyn being present at one. Sanjib has been given the responsibility to get more concerts arranged in the MMMC so that we may receive donations for its maintenance.
We at the Mission, both past and present, were shocked to hear of the sudden demise of our beloved Barbara Di on 13 December 2007. Everyone at the Mission was very sad and depressed. We had a memorial service for Barbara Di on 14 January 2008 at 5.30 p.m. in the Chapel, which was well attended. We thank God for the life of Barbara Di and her immense love, help and concern for Oxford Mission, Behala, and also her affection for the boys, staff and also everyone who came close to her. May her soul rest in peace and rise in glory.
Before I conclude, I thank each one on the OM UK Committee for their unstinting support to me and for their care and concern for the Mission and the golden boys. It is your doing that makes us big and will continue to grow bigger. I thank all the donors, well-wishers and supporters of Oxford Mission and convey our love, gratitude and respect to each one your greatness is our glory.
I thank our Chairman The Rt Revd Samuel Raju for his tender love towards the Mission and his vision to bring more facilities to community people by suggesting various projects. I also thank the Trustees for their immense help, guidance and advice to upgrade the work of the Mission. It has been a source of strength and courage to me. I also thank the members of the OM Consultative Committee for their encouragement and support to allow me to carry out my day-to-day varied duties.
Last but not least, I thank all the staff for their work done so diligently, without whom I could not have kept the Mission compound, work and service in ship¬shape form. I also thank them for being patient in doing the work in haste, as most of the time I need the work done immediately, which they accept gracefully. Here once again proves the unity of the Oxford Mission Family, Behala.
I wish you all a very Happy Easter, and ask that you please pray for us.