Located in a far southern corner of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, the city of Lalitpur is small by Indian standards, home to just over 130,000 people. And though caste discrimination is now outlawed in India, small communities like Lalitpur still bear scars from centuries of economic oppression.
In 1940, an American missionary named Elizabeth Mercy Bacon established the Harriet Benson Memorial Hospital to provide this underserved community with access to healthcare. For decades this 40-bed hospital helped everyone from expectant mothers to cancer patients who could not afford treatment elsewhere.
Recent changes to government regulations and funding brought this small hospital to the brink of closure — a disastrous possibility for the thousands of residents who have nowhere else to turn for medical care.
But fortunately, two Haggai leaders on the opposite side of the country were ready for God’s next assignment.
Thomas Kurien Bhanu and his wife Madhurita Singh are both doctors in Tamil Nadu, a prosperous state in the southern coastal region of India. This region is home to some of the country’s leading hospitals and academic institutions, including the Christian Medical College in Vellore, where the couple received training.
When Thomas and Madhurita were approached about moving to Lalitpur to revive the hospital, they knew it was a call from God. With their young daughter in tow, the couple left their home, their jobs, and their families to move more than 1,000 miles away to Lalitpur.
Starting in January 2020, the two married doctors made slow progress in revitalizing the struggling hospital. Leading a team of four doctors, two paramedics, and 30 support staff, they began to implement community initiatives and public health projects.
Their new operation had just gotten off the ground when COVID-19 hit.
Suddenly, this rural community was flooded with migrant workers forced to return home from the large cities where their jobs had been eliminated by pandemic-related closures. Then strict lockdowns brought food insecurity to groups across the city.
Drs. Bhanu and Singh knew their hospital had to help.
In addition to their work at the hospital, they started cooking and supplying 100 daily packets of home cooked nutritious food to local families in need, while educating and equipping the community with infection prevention and social distancing practices.
When this faithful couple uprooted their lives to help a rural hospital, they could not have imagined they would soon be on the front lines of a pandemic. But Haggai leaders never shy away from a challenge, and these two see this as a unique ministry to their country in a time of crisis, saying “At the time of a national crisis, every small effort goes towards easing a nation’s burden.”