After departing in the morning yesterday (Friday) from UBS, we did indeed run into traffic problems due to the annual Varkari pilgrimage. Because the main section of highway was closed, we had to drive an additional 30 km out of our way to get to Mukti - but we made it!
The Mukti Mission sits 60 km outside of Pune, on 100 acres of land that were gifted to the mission in the 19th century, mostly because it was deemed as barren. Their vision is as "A Christ-centered home where destitute women and children irrespective of their background are accepted, cared for, transformed, and empowered to be Salt and Light in the society."
Our new friend and gracious host at UBS, Usha, joined us on our visit to the Mission today. Through conversations over the past few days at UBS, she has shared with us her personal story of growing up with her sisters at Mukti. We were blessed to have her introduce us to various people who are serving, many of whom grew up with her at the Mission. We visited with some of the women and young girls living there, listened to them sing and watched them work. From farming to cooking and administration, not to mention running a hospital (public), two schools (one in the regional language and one English Medium school), care for persons with special needs and a school for the blind, a nursing home for the elderly and a nursery for orphans and single mothers with small children, there's a lot of work to be done! The kitchen alone has a team that works to cook for and feed the almost 1000 women and children 3 meals a day, 7 days a week (we were told more than 50 KGs of wheat flour per day for chipatis alone!).
We shared a delicious lunch with volunteers serving at Mukti. One of these was an especially cool connection for Madeline, who is interested in Environmental Sustainability with an Agriculture focus - a gentleman from Austrailia happened to be there volunteering for a few weeks. His life work is bringing all of God's creation: energy, water, land and plants, climate, animals and humanity into harmony to provide for low cost natural, organic and efficient production. I could talk for awhile about his story and work alone, but for the group and Madeline especially, this was a neat example of the ways being intentional about our time and changing our perspective can make way for God to bring about incredible people into our lives.
The most impactful learning for the day however was about the unsung matriarch of the Mukti Mission. Before today, none of us in the group had ever heard of Pandita Ramabai, or the legacy she has left behind. Not only did she found this mission in the 19th century, but was the first to translate the Bible from the original Greek and Hebrew into Hindi, the language which she was a strong advocate for making the national Indian language. Standing 4-foot nothing, Ramabai sounds like a force to have even reckoned with; a progressive in her day, she was a strong advocate for women's rights and provided shelter, food, and water for more than 2000 women and children during the famine early in the 20th century. The list seriously goes on and on with her, we will link the mission's website here on the blog and post more information somewhere to come.
This evening we were also given the opportunity to celebrate with the community at UBS for their annual "Freshers" Welcome! This is the time when they welcome all the first-year and certificate program participants on campus. It was a beautiful celebration of the various cultures represented from around India and a few from abroad. The team enjoyed the music and drama presentations as well as the tea and refreshments afterwards! This was the perfect end to our time here at UBS.
The whole story of how we even found out about Mukti in time to make space in our trip is surely an example of how this team has been open and perceptive to some of the ways God is working here in India. Celebrating with the community at UBS, and the presence of relationships and stories from Menno-Clinic in our discussion this evening are further examples of this.
This morning is our last morning in Pune - we are planning to visit the Aga Khan Palace and a few other places before heading to the airport Mumbai. Aga Khan is where Ghandi was held under house arrest and will be a great way end our time in India.
What an incredible Journey.