India is one of the most interesting and it colorful countries in the world. It offers a great variety of climate, from the blazing heat of the plains at Jacobabad in Sind, to the arctic cold of the Himalayan region, where we find the highest mountains in the world. These mountains on the northern frontier keep off, the dry winds of Central Asia, and also form a natural political barrier. The great rivers of India have their origin there.
One of the most striking things about the Indian climate is the monsoon, which comes in the middle of each year. Owing to the action of the sun, clouds, and wind, rain comes in torrents to water the parched plains. Without this great event each year, India would be unlivable. The rains enable farmers to raise their crops; they fill tanks, streams, and rivers with precious water for all the people. They also help to temper the intense heat of the summer. When the monsoons arrive, almost overnight the country is changed from a bare, brown, parched expanse into one of living green. The rain is by no means evenly distributed over the country. Upper Sind averages only about three inches, while Cherra Pun) i in the Assam hills has about 460 inches yearly. So we find the fertile plains of the Indus and the Ganges, the rich tropical forests of the coasts of Malabar, and the dry, sandy desert regions of Rajputana, Sind, and Ctitch.
Everywhere are found people, people. We are told that in one division of Bihar there are more people than in the whole Dominion of Canada. According to the latest census, the population of the country is approximately 415,000,000. One man in every five is an Indian. Think of this vast number of peoples to be reached by this message ! Just as India offers a great variety in climate and soil, it also offers a great variation in its people, who speak hundreds of different languages and dialects. Many of the people who live in the large cities are extremely poor, earning from fifteen to fifty rupees a month (five to fifteen dollars in our money), on which they maintain a whole family. Many of them work in mills and factories, and are huddled together in sordid slums. Their condition is dreadful. But the greatest number live in the thousands of villages scattered over the country. They are the farmers, whose average income is about thirty cents a day. In many ways their condition is not much better than that of the city dwellers. Infant mortality is very high, and statistics prove that life expectancy of an Indian is about twenty-seven years.
Much of the cultivable land of the country is lying waste, and that which is used is not made to produce to its full capacity. The Indian peasant uses the same primitive methods in tilling the soil as were used thousands of years ago. Instead of being able to use cow dung to enrich the soil, they need this valuable material for fuel. The agricultural department of the government has done much to help the farmers, but because the Indian is loath to accept new ideas, progress is very slow.
This is but a brief description of sections of the great land of India, often called "the Gibraltar of heathenism." To the missionary the most important feature of the country is its needy people. It is for these that we are carrying on work in seventeen dispensaries, one electrotherapeutic institute, and four hospitals.
The work in Surat, a large town 15o miles north of Bombay, was begun under the direction of Dr. G. A. Nelson in 1936. The hospital from its beginning was housed in rented quarters, which were inadequate and entirely unsuitable. During 1940, there was a staff of sixteen at the Surat Hospital. This number included Doctor Nelson and two American nurses, the others being native workers. Three of the native nurses were graduates of the Giffard Mission Hospital at Nuzvid.
During 1940, 1,849 new patients were seen and there were 5,555 return visits, making a total of 7,404 patients treated in the outpatient department, or a gain of 1,367 over the previous year. These figures represent many different ailments, but most of them may be divided into the following: tuberculosis, intestinal disorders, malaria, chronic tropical ulcers, and the usual gynecological cases. We saw scores of inoperable malignancies of the pharynx and larynx, but as we did not have radium and deep X-ray therapy, these cases had to be referred elsewhere.
Surat is a large manufacturing town, surrounded by a fertile rural area. Many people from this town have gone out as merchants to Rangoon, Calcutta, Bombay, and to South Africa and other places. They tell about our work, with the result that we have had patients from all these places.
To provide for the care of women inpatients, the hospital has one eight-bed ward (though the room has often housed more than that), and four private rooms, which are really two rooms divided by partitions. For the men we have two four-bed wards, one two-bed ward, and two private rooms similar to those for women. In one of the outbuildings we can accommodate one private-room patient and three patients in another room. On the second floor a large room is used for the surgery. Here also are a dressing and work room, an adjoining bathroom for a scrub room, and a sterilizing room. The fact that the hospital is wired for electricity is a great aid in our work.
In one of the outbuildings the laboratory is housed. The following is a list of the work done in 1940 according to Doctor Nelson's report:
(See PDF for table)
We have an old-model X-ray machine which is a material aid in diagnosing gastrointestinal and gall-bladder diseases, in reducing fractures, and in genito-urinary work. We also have a good Fischer ultraviolet light and a modern Fischer short-wave diathermy machine, which have proved useful in many cases.
We are glad to report that work was actually begun in 1940 on a new hospital plant. This is to be a fifty-bed institution, consisting of seven units—administration, operating, two private-room units, two ward blocks, and an outpatient department. The new quarters will enable the hospital to give much more efficient service. In the solicitation of funds for the new hospital, Pastors Shepard and Hnatyshyn have done a good work. One Bhora Mohammedan judge in Bombay presented us with 30,000 rupees (about $10,000), and many gifts from 100 to 7,000 rupees have been received.
Spiritual Side of Hospital Work
We do not forget the spiritual side of our work by any means. Morning worship is held on the hospital veranda each day and vespers on Friday, and literature in their own language is distributed to the people. We also have a hospital evangelist who visits with the patients. When our new hospital is occupied, we hope to have the church located nearby, so that more of our patients and their relatives may attend: A chapel building is badly needed.
The Indian people of this vicinity are appreciative of what we do for them. Hardly a day goes by without some one of our patients presenting gifts to us. These consist of fruits, sweets, flowers, and cloth. We tell the people that we are not doing our work for the sake of gifts, but because we love them and want to help them.
The Indians have a touching custom of expressing their appreciation. When a patient is ready to leave the hospital, he often secures lovely garlands of flowers which he presents to the doctor and the nurses as an expression of gratitude. They love to make a little ceremony of this presentation. There was one poor woman who had no money with which to buy flowers or other gifts. She had been very ill and had been in the hospital for many weeks. During the first days following her operation, dressings had to be changed as often as every one or two hours because of the drainage. The patient was discouraged, and felt that she would never get well or be able to return to her village. She wept and would not eat. We feared that she would die. We nurses tenderly cared for her, and told of the God in heaven who could heal her sickness. She responded to this hope and was a very co-operative patient, but in spite of our constant care and prayers, we thought she would die.
However, after many days she was strong enough to go to her village, and how happy she was ! She wanted to do something to show her gratitude, but she had no money to buy garlands. As she was leaving the hospital, she did something that we shall never forget. She bowed low, touching our feet with her hands, and said, "Miss Sahib, I got well because you loved me." That meant more to us than any gift she could have made. We felt that in some small way we had been able to reveal the love of God to this poor village woman of India. Perhaps this contact with Christianity in the hospital may be the only one she will ever have. Who knows? How important it is, then, for us to make use of every opportunity that comes to us to speak to these people of God's love for them.
We think of another patient, a young man from one of the near-by hill tribes, who came to the hospital in a terrible condition. His village was about sixty-five miles away. One Friday he with some others was out on the hillside cutting trees. In some way a tree fell, crushing his leg just below the knee. He was carried on a crude stretcher into his village, where the native doctor did what he could. Since Doctor Nelson had previously made a visit to this village, the people knew about our hospital. They were determined to bring this young man to Surat because they realized that something further must be done in order to save his life. He was carried in a bullock cart to the railway, and reached us on Sunday morning, two days later. You can imagine the condition of his leg by that time. Of course, it had to be amputated. Gas gangrene set in, although we had given injections to prevent that, and the stump was in a terrible condition. Day by day the young man became weaker and weaker. He suffered courageously, and, for the most part, silently. Because he spoke a different dialect, it was often very difficult to understand what he was saying. But there was one language he understood, and that was the language of love. He knew that although the dressings and other treatments were painful, all this was being done in order to restore him to health, and despite his pain, he would always raise his hands and say, "Salaam," which was his way of saying "Thank you." We are glad to say that this young man recovered and went back to his village.
The needs of India are great, and we feel that we are doing so little to help. Yet the Lord has blessed us at the Surat Hospital. Much prejudice has been broken down. The hospital is full to overflowing most of the time, a circumstance which testifies to the confidence the people have in our work. Pray for the work and workers in that needy field.