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Home  >  Features  >  Looking Back: Letter from India

Looking Back

Looking Back: A Letter from India

A letter from a medical missionary in India, published in the Young Men's Guild supplement in June 1924.


Dr. J.A. Macdonald Smith – No. 4
31st March 1924

DEAR MR. GIBSON – You inquired about the new hospital building. I am glad to say it is really almost completed at last. We expected to have it occupied before now, but the inside work and finishing touches have taken more time than we counted on.

Then three weeks ago, on a Sunday afternoon, we had the experience of a cyclone in Kalimpong, and the new building suffered considerable damage. The front verandah roofs were blown completely off, and also a part of the main roof, and also a part of the main roof, and one of the chimneys, probably struck by the flying roof, crashed down through the upper floor to the ground floor.

The hospital is built on a ridge, in a fine position, looking right down the Rungeet valley. It is rather an exposed position, and it certainly got the full brunt of the cyclone, which is said to have been the worst known in the district in about thirty years. The roof of one of the Industrial School buildings also suffered badly, and many houses in the Bazaar were damaged.

Our building fund was practically exhausted, and how were we to meet this additional outlay? Almost at once the answer came in a letter from the Deputy Commissioner of Darjeeling, who was in Kalimpong on a tour of inspection. Through the magistrate he wrote expressing his sympathy and intimating his intention of giving Rs. 500 from his Tour grant towards the cost of the damage. We are very grateful to the Deputy Commissioner for these evidences of his interest in our medical work, and to God for putting it into his heart to help.

During the past month we have had an epidemic of smallpox and have found the Isolation Hospital very useful. We were prepared for a serious outbreak of the disease, as the cases were very virulent, but fortunately the epidemic has been restricted, due no doubt to the great vaccination campaign carried on and to the previous vaccination work.

We have a Dispensary at Teesta Bridge, down in the valley, which we attend once a fortnight on market days. So far, we have not been able to get a suitable compounder to carry on the work regularly, though we are on the look out for one. The preacher goes to the front of the verandah and calls aloud to the people passing by, telling them to come for treatment. When fifteen to twenty have gathered a hymn is started, and the singing attracts others. The singing is followed by the reading of scripture, a brief address and prayer, after which the treatment of patients is proceeded with.

Recently a preacher, whose usual work is in Bhutan, came with me.  He is a very bright and attractive man, and it was most refreshing to hear his invitation to the people. From the verandah he called – “Come, brothers, we have medicine for your bodies, salvation for your souls. Please come in and hear a few words – words of life – salvation from sin. Medicines for all your bodily ills, for fever, for headache, for worms, for dyspepsia or anything else. Please come and listen first for a few minutes.” No deception there, no camouflage, but a faithful putting of things first.

With kind regards, yours sincerely,



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