“Milton, we’ve got a serious problem. We can’t recruit missionaries for India as long as their government refuses to issue visas to Americans.”
Dr. Milton Baker of the Conservative Baptist Foreign Mission Society, already acutely aware of the problem, spent a lot of time on his knees seeking a divine answer to a question that often kept him awake long into the night.
“I think there is a solution,” offered Dr. Baker. “I’ve talked with Morley Hall up there in Canada. He believes that their group of churches might be interested in directing missionary candidates our way.”
“It might work. India and Canada are both members of the Commonwealth, so Canadian missionaries wouldn’t have problems with visas,” said Baker’s colleague. “Let’s talk to them further.”
The year was 1959 and nothing more happened until 1961—this time on the other side of the border.
“Okay, Terry, I’ve checked this letter over six times. I think we’ve said it all, and I can’t find any more typos,” said Paul.
“Mail it,” urged Colin. “We have prayed over this for months now. Let’s see if our churches will listen to six seminary students.”
Colin and Merle Butcher, Paul and Mary Kerr, along with Terry and Carole Madison, were convinced that God wanted them in India. They could have applied to any one of several agencies, but their heart’s desire was to be sent out by the group of Canadian Baptist Churches to which they belonged. The problem: Their churches didn’t have an official overseas arm. The letter they laboured over for so long was addressed to the Executive Committee responsible for the oversight of their fellowship of churches. It described their call to service in India and presented a challenge to the committee. The question was, would the group be willing to respond to this kind of “grass roots” movement and start a whole new agency simply based on God’s call to three young couples to serve Him overseas?
Protocol demanded that the Indian High Commissioner in Ottawa be approached on the subject.
“So, I recommend that you send these young couples to India under the auspices of a mission already established in India.”
Charles Tipp threw a quick glance at Bob Brackstone, who had accompanied him to the interview with the commissioner. They both knew about the agreement that had been signed with their American counterparts. That the High Commissioner should practically countersign an agreement he knew nothing about seemed divinely orchestrated.
So IMPACT INDIA became a reality. In 1964, Paul and Mary, along with their young son, Tim, headed for India. Several other couples quickly followed. However, the window of opportunity did not stay open for long—not even for Canadians.
“They won’t give me a second chance. Once the visa is refused, that’s it.”
It was 1967, and nurse Hannah Leutbecher, her barrels packed and ready to be shipped to India, felt devastated. An American by birth, she became a Canadian citizen specifically to be able to get into the land to which she felt God had called her. Unhappily, being Canadian was no longer good enough.
Arm in arm, the American Missionary Society, and its Canadian counterpart came up with a solution. The Americans operated a women’s hospital in Pakistan that was crying for nurses. Maybel Bruce, the doctor in charge of the Shikarpur Christian Hospital, hearing about the young nurse’s situation, immediately cabled: ENCOURAGE HANNAH TO COME! And she did, spending many years of fruitful service in Pakistan.
The Canadian missionary force that had taken advantage of that small window of opportunity to enter India eventually dwindled and disappeared.
“Well, what do you think, honey? Should we go?” the man asked his wife.
A recent visit to India, the land of his roots, had deeply affected them* both. The need they saw to train pastors and spiritual leaders, coupled with an invitation from the church he had grown up in, sent them to their knees.
“We are ready to go…back to India—to the city of Calcutta.”
His answer, confirmed by hers, sent the Canadian Baptists back to India almost fifty years after Paul and Mary Kerr first arrived to serve there. For Paul, the news brought deep satisfaction. This particular man had once been one of Paul’s star students during his ministry at the Calcutta Bible College. Now, so many years later, God was completing one circle to begin yet another.
*Names withheld for security reasons.
Note: the facts are true; the conversations are not.
Kolkata is now Calcutta's official name
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