Ministering in Mother Teresa’s home for The dying Destitutes, Calcuatta, India -- By: JoAnn Ford Watson

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 21:0 (NA 1989)
Article: Ministering in Mother Teresa’s home for The dying Destitutes, Calcuatta, India
Author: JoAnn Ford Watson


Ministering in Mother Teresa’s home for
The dying Destitutes, Calcuatta, India

JoAnn Ford Watson

Dr. Watson is Assistant Professor of Christian Theology.

Personal Observations and Experiences

I had the opportunity to travel to India and serve as a missionary volunteer in May, 1988 in Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying Destitutes, Nirmal Hriday in Calcutta. Nirmal Hriday means “Place of the Pure Heart”. As a missionary volunteer, I worked with the nuns of Mother Teresa’s order, the Missionaries of Charity and the Missionaries of Charity Brothers and served the poorest of the poor in Calcutta.

As I first approached the door of Mother Teresa’s home, I was shocked at the poverty that surrounded the stark, stone building. There were dirty, crowded streets. Calcutta is a city of 18 million people, 1 square foot per person. There are 750 million persons in India. There is no mass electricity, water, sewage, or refrigeration. The democracy of India is a third world country in the earliest stages of an industrial society with few factories or machines. Most labor is still done by hand. It is predominately a Hindu country. Many people live on the streets, on the sidewalks, huddled together on straw mats. The people wear rags or bits of clothing. Other people crowd into hundreds of little makeshift shacks or huts that are merely hovels along the streets. There are rows and rows of little dark shops and street tent bazaars.

Piles of human waste and debris fill the gutters of the streets. Women tend small open cooking stoves on the sidewalks. Cattle, sheep, pigs, and dogs run freely. The streets are not only full of people, but they are also full of bicycles, cars, taxis, oxen carts and rickshaws pulled by men. Children bathe naked in common water pumps along the sidewalks that flow into the gutters. Mothers often comb children’s hair and pick the nits of lice out right in plain sight on the streets. Old men, wrapped in white cloths called dhotis, around the waist often sleep curled up on their little straw mats on the street curbs in the midst of the noise. The poor can live on one rupee or ten cents a day. The average annual income is about $300.00.

Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying Destitutes serves the poorest of the poor of Indian society. In India, these people are the “untouchables”, the persons at the bottom rung of the Hindu caste system. Although the caste system has been abolished as law since 1947, the time of the democratic policy of Gandhi, it still flourishes in the minds of Indian people. Therefore, these poor people are often neglected by society, rejected by hospitals and left with nothing and no one to care for them. They are sick, dying, and destitute. Moth...

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