A LIFETIME'S AMBITION FULFILLED
For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to visit my great-aunty Flory (Sister Florence S.E,) in India. Having spent time with her on her last few visits to Britain, I grew more and more curious about where she lived and what she did. As she was about to enter her one-hundredth year, I could wait no longer and frantically saved for a trip to Behala, Kolkata with my friend Ben.
So, last Christmas, we finally went, arriving in Kolkata on 23rd December, to be met at the airport by the wonderful Mr Roy. As soon as we settled into the Oxford Mission car and made our way across Kolkata to Behala, our senses were pummelled by the sights, sounds and smells of a truly amazing city.
Despite frequent contact with my aunt, we really had no idea what to expect. As soon as we went through the gates of the Sisterhood, I was taken aback by how peaceful and tranquil it was, with a lake to our right and Sister Florence's cottage to the left, amongst the beautifully kept gardens.
Bonno was immediately on hand to help us settle in and make us chai, and then we rushed to see Sister for the first time in fifteen years. I found her exactly as I remembered her and she was so pleased to see us, full of news and stories the minute we arrived.
I really enjoyed exploring the Mission - the Brotherhood, the Chapel, where the boys live, study and train, and the Old People's Home. Having visited the Chapel on several occasions during the Christmas period, I was continually impressed by how well-turned-out and polite the boys were. They sang beautifully and put on a superb Nativity tableau on Christmas afternoon. Everyone we met was friendly and welcoming. It was so lovely to meet people around the Mission that were once boys there and had now moved on to a variety of different occupations, all of whom spoke fondly of Sister Florence.
As for meeting Sister Florence and experiencing her lifestyle first-hand, I was pleasantly surprised. Of course, her living conditions DO seem simple and primitive by Western standards. The work she has tirelessly carried out for 57 years HAS made a huge impact upon the lives of hundreds of people. People that visit her feel a great sense of privilege and satisfaction. Yet she still wonders what all the fuss is about! God has called her to do this and it is with immense love and satisfaction that she carries out her work.
On Christmas Day, she reminded me of the Christmas story, in which Mary and Joseph were constantly told No room at the inn. Yet even they, over 2,000 years ago, found room eventually. Day in, day out, families all over Kolkata, never find room at the inn. And so the work of the Mission continues...