MISSION TALK-SURYA DEVASSY
Dr Surya Devassy talks about her yearlong mission as a doctor in Arunachal Pradesh, India.
Imagine travelling to the end of the world, living with a group of people who don’t speak your language, or share your culture. Imagine living there for a year! That’s exactly what Dr Surya Devassy, a doctor from Kerala did. She took a one-year commitment and went to Mengio, Arunachal Pradesh. Read about her incredible journey of mission.
The land of the rising sun
After attending the professional conference, Proficus in 2012, it was Surya’s dream to work as a Jesus Youth mission doctor. She prepared herself and her parents for the same. Though she didn’t ask for a specific place, the Lord blessed her to be a mission doctor in the land of the rising sun, Arunachal Pradesh.
Surya worked in a Public Health Center (PHC) run by Karuna trust in Mengio, a small interior village in Papum Pare district, Arunachal Pradesh (India). Mengio is considered as the end of the world. Transportation and communication facilities are very primitive. From Itanagar, which is the state capital, one has to travel eight hours to reach Mengio. And the roads are bad.
Along with two priests, Surya reached Mengio on September 18, 2017. Though there were six of them at the PHC, most of them were always on leave, leaving Surya to deal with everything. It took her six months to learn the language and finally, she was able to communicate with her patients in their local language, Nyishi.
Village touring with the priests and youth helped her to understand Mengio people in a deeper way. Every house is made of bamboo. They are famous for their hospitality. The villagers made the bed with their blankets and would even tuck them in. They prepared food and brought water to wash hands. You just have to sit wherever you are. This is how they show their respect towards the guest.
People in Mengio doesn’t take a shower or wash their clothes. Every village she visited, Surya had to take classes on cleanliness as well.
They usually take food only twice a day – rice and boiled leaves. Once in a while they will have boiled meat. It’s a farmer’s community and their main cultivation is cardamom for living and paddy for food.
The villagers practice polygamy and child marriage. However, after Christianity came to these villages, there’s a considerable decrease in these practices.
Faith in the villages
Mengio is a whole Christian community – Catholics, Baptists and Revivals. Surya’s parish had 17 village churches. Surya shares that village touring was great experience and a time of celebration. She could visit 14 villages as part of medical duty.
Christmas and Easter play a major role in their culture. The celebrations last for a week. During Christmas, people from every village church come to the parish and stay in nearby houses. There will be traditional cultural and sports competitions and prayer hours. On Christmas night, after all the celebrations, people will be dancing till early morning. Similarly, for Easter.
Surya shares that she was amazed to see the faith of the villagers. They radiated a sense of real Christian community. “If someone got sick they will gather in the house and pray for the healing. They are well aware that Jesus is the only answer to their problems. We will feel ashamed in front of their faith,” says Surya. “They help others with their prayers. Their houses and fields are always open to everyone. Even if the house owner is not there we can enter into the house and have food and water. It’s a local custom. Those who are hungry and thirsty are always welcomed.”
WORKING HERE TAUGHT ME THAT FOR LIVING WE
WON’T NEED MUCH. WITH ALL THE NECESSITIES, WE CAN BE MORE
THAN HAPPY. ALL THOSE LUXURIES WE ENJOYED BECAMESUPER LUXURIES
Lessons from a remote village
Ask her about her transformation experience and Surya shares it’s the small things that made a deep impact. “I’m not sure if I went through some reformation or anything. But I became firm in my trust in God.”
Today, she is more confident about her career and her future. It seems, she has found her purpose. “Working here taught me that for living we won’t need much. With all the necessities, we can be more than happy. All those luxuries we enjoyed became super luxuries,” she shares and adds, “I think my lord taught me to be more affectionate and show empathy to my patients and fellow beings. And, I fell in love with simple life.”
Living in Arunachal helped her to appreciate other culture and languages. She also shares that the stories of pioneer missionaries in the region has deeply inspired her.
More than that, she is amazed at the way God took care of her simple dreams. She had always dreamt of living in the mountains. Mengio is a picturesque place. All her life, she wanted a room for herself, a bit of personal space. In the village, she was living in a wood house all by herself.
Dr Surya’s experiences are examples of how God can change something ordinary into something extraordinary. It was not easy to live in a strange land for a year, away from family, friends, away from your culture and food. Yet, He made everything beautiful.