The Madonna Missions is a committed group of people who partner with Save A Family Plan to carry on the work of the late Father Richard Saldanha. Their generous support is helping to promote education and infrastructure development in a rural area of Shillong in the north-east of India. Mr. Jack Geerts, Chair of the Madonna Missions Committee, shares a reflection on his experiences in Meghalaya.
The year was 2009 when my wife, Julia, and I had the good fortune to travel to India in a group of 20 with our parish priest, Father Richard Saldanha, who was born, raised and spent the bulk of his life there. He had started several small missions in India and he raised funds for them by taking small groups there annually. Though excited, my fear was that I would witness abject poverty and not be able to turn away from it and put it out of my mind. In other words carry on my cozy life as if nothing had happened, like nothing had affected me. But I couldn’t and it did.
There began some serious soul searching because I couldn’t turn away. My fears had become my reality, a reality that stayed with me each waking hour. I had to act. So in 2011, I returned alone to the one place that had affected me the most, the small state of Meghalaya in the northeast of the country. This area is inhabited by mostly tribal peoples and in this particular area the Khasi tribe. Missionaries of different Christian faiths had started arriving here in the nineteenth century and a strong Christian belief was present.
I had the good fortune to connect with some of the Visitation Sisters of Don Bosco and from here was able to visit their far flung missions where they administer to their own people. In each mission centre, four or five sisters who are trained as nurses, teachers, evangelists and social workers live in small convents. There they teach school and run a dispensary with medications for malaria, diarrhea, etc., for many of the local people still succumb to these treatable diseases. If ever there could be “angels” among us, I felt it certainly would be these little nuns. They are totally committed to their calling of service to others, while themselves enduring the ravages of malaria, homesickness, loneliness and extremely primitive conditions with a sweet smile.
I returned home with a new zeal, determined that I would do all in my power to continue to provide funds for their mission. What started as an apprehension has now become one of the greatest joys of my life. We are extremely grateful to Save A Family Plan for partnering with our Madonna Missions Committee. In the meantime, I have fallen in love with the Khasi people! Their warmth and welcoming spirit has touched me deeply and I have come to the realization that the poor are the true heroes of this world. In the quest to help them, I feel it is I who has received the greatest blessing.