In Kalchini, amidst tea plantations, there is a very active Christian community. Announce the Gospel in daily life with gestures of love for everyone.
I had the joy and grace to visit our mission in Hamiltonganj – Kalchini, West Bengal state, India. The people of the area live from their hard work on the tea plantations. In particular, women spend the whole day moving slowly among green bushes: with very rapid gestures they pick the leaves by placing them in large canvas bags carried on the shoulders. In the Hamiltonganj mission our sisters share the life of these simple people, at the service of the children present in the hostel, the young people who attend a job oriented training school and the Christians of the parish.
In the Christian community, a group of people has begun to meet after work to pray and to accompany the sisters in their mission of visiting families and especially the sick. Observing the commitment and sacrifices of these poor people, the sisters proposed that they found a group of Lay missionaries,
to share the charism of our institute in evangelization through the witness of life. In West Bengal, the majority of the population belongs to other religions and especially the Hindu religion. It is not permitted openly carry out the work of evangelization, but it is possible to live charity and love for all as a sign of the Gospel. And so with so much faith and enthusiasm, the sisters offered these people a missionary formation, transmitting to them the passion for proclaiming the Kingdom of God starting from the situations of the day and simple every day life. With great creativity, each one has found her own way of being active in the mission: some have dedicated themselves to preparing children for their first communion, others to preparing couples for marriage; there are those who have taken people addicted to alcohol to heart, encouraging them to pray with them and obtaining real miracles of liberation from addictions.
The group visits Catholics and non-Catholics, inviting everyone to pray. The women who work in the tea gardens recite prayers and sing melodies during their work and this arouses questions and curiosities about who Jesus is and what is written in the Gospel. Some have found a way to tell Bible stories while doing manual work. Like true Christian community, as poor people they help other poor people with their earnings and are especially close to cancer patients. Fully integrated into their environment, they participate in important social events, offering their collaboration.
In these simple people, the acceptance of the Gospel has generated the awareness of being missionaries with their lives and not just with words. Alma’s story is an example of this and also paves the way for our perseverance: she comes to meet me in the village chapel, during a moment of celebration; she has a beautiful little girl in her arms, whose mother unmarried, wanted to have an abortion due to the difficulty of welcoming the child. Alma convinced her to give up on her plan and assured her that she would take care of the child. The baby was born and Alma adopted her together with her young mother who is now studying supported by her new family.
I have seen and bear witness that the word of the Gospel runs through the bushes of the Hamiltonganj tea gardens… as in many parts of the world it “bears fruit and develops” (Col 1;6), thanks to those who welcome it and let it enter daily life.
Sr. Marilena Boracchi – General Direction