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Messages from the Rest of World

  • Dear Friends/Family, I would like to share a contribution page with you which has been created in the $bookTitle$ book. To view the page please click on the following link: $findContributionLink$ Online Book for Brother James Kimpton https://www.theonlinebookcompany.com/OnlineBooks/Kimpton/Contributions/Find/RestofWorld0/suedaviesncassidy4
    https://www.theonlinebookcompany.com/OnlineBooks/Kimpton/Contributions/Find/RestofWorld0/suedaviesncassidy4

    Sue Davies né Cassidy

    UK | 1 Nov 2017

     

    Photos of David and Jo Cassidy with Brother James

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Messages from the Rest of World

  • Dear Friends/Family, I would like to share a contribution page with you which has been created in the $bookTitle$ book. To view the page please click on the following link: $findContributionLink$ Online Book for Brother James Kimpton https://www.theonlinebookcompany.com/OnlineBooks/Kimpton/Contributions/Find/RestofWorld0/paulabbottvolunteerfrom19781981andfoundingtrusteeofrtuintheuk
    https://www.theonlinebookcompany.com/OnlineBooks/Kimpton/Contributions/Find/RestofWorld0/paulabbottvolunteerfrom19781981andfoundingtrusteeofrtuintheuk

    Paul Abbott, volunteer from 1978 - 1981 and founding trustee of RTU in the UK

    UK | 1 Nov 2017

     

    In 1978, as a newly qualified teacher, I had offered around 35 missionary or medical organisations three years of my life to work as a volunteer. I received no positive replies, apart from an offer to teach English in a posh school in Jamaica. Disenchanted with the result, I wondered what direction my life would now take. I had become frustrated because I was keen to do something good, perhaps to try to make up for my talent for doing the opposite. This all changed when my mother visited her cousin, a Carmelite nun at Upholland Convent. When asked what the members of her family were up to, my mother explained that four of the five children were happily heading in the right direction but that Paul didn’t quite know what he was going to do. The sister then passed her a letter she had received from Brother James, together with one of his newsletters and she asked my mother to give them to me when she got home. In the letter, Brother James had asked the nuns to pray for him and his work, so that his efforts might bear fruit. This was a letter that was never meant for me, but reading it changed the course of my life. The newsletter described the work that Brother James was doing. It was proper missionary work - building houses for homeless poor; looking after people with leprosy; feeding malnourished babies and their mothers; medical programmes; providing clean water; assisting the aged, the destitute, the desperate, the people without hope, the orphans, the widows and the dying. Every word was like a laser into my soul and I vowed to help him, if I could. I knew the work would be right up my street. I felt I could trust this man. I also learned that he had some angina at the time and needed to step back a little from the intensive work that he was doing. It appeared he needed a hand. So I wrote to him the same day, offering him three years. He said, "Yes, but best to come in November because it was over 40 degrees in the shade!". And he added "….and whilst you’re at it, could you also bring 25 turkey eggs with you, some dental amalgam, ten pairs of secateurs, a typewriter …" and a huge list of other things. My first encounter with this man, who was supposed to be taking things easy because of the angina, was at the moment I entered Boys' Village for the first time. A tall, but skinny man was precariously perched at the top of a 20 foot ladder, with his backside and one leg in the air and his head and hands inside a large water tank. After being disappointed with the taste of the drinking water, he had attempted to find and remove a dead rat from the water tank. I can’t actually remember if he succeeded in finding it, but the memory of my first meeting with him remains. Over the coming months I came to appreciate that my first encounter with him was in no way unusual. We visited Mother Teresa in the second year, when she was staying at a convent in the region. Brother James had done lots of work for the Missionary Sisters of Charity over the years. James and I went to visit the Foundress. I was there primarily to ask for help with the rehabilitation of leprosy patients. At that time, the area around RTU lay within a region with the highest incidence of leprosy in the world. Brother James had established leprosy clinics and control programmes. Part of my work had been to set up small industries for leprosy patients, where wonderful men and women without fingers could be gainfully employed, to produce craft items to generate income for their families. Machines were designed from scratch around the disabilities of the patients, and hand-made by local carpenters and metal-workers. Mother Teresa told me that she did not want her sisters to be involved in work that was in any sense a distraction from their primary purpose, which was to provide comfort and peace to the suffering poor in their most desperate hours. For this reason, assisting in a workshop run by leprosy patients, which also tried to generate income for them, didn’t quite fit. I respected her decision, of course, and I was pleased to have had the opportunity to ask. At that same moment, I was also very much aware that I was in the company of two living saints, one of whom the world knew well, and one who was known by a smaller number of people. But the people who knew him know. Things tended to happen to satisfy the extraordinary needs as they arose. The timely arrival of new volunteers brought new skills and perspectives, and none more than when Keith and Caroline Walker arrived. Keith’s main work was in the laboratory in the clinic in G.Kalluppatti and Caroline brought her artistic skills to the batik workshop, which would flourish as a result. They both brought much more to RTU in the years that followed. James and I had often talked about how the work he had started could be allowed to continue, without it being messed up, and indeed, how it might be allowed to grow. Experience had taught him that good work needed to be protected. This was partly our reason for visiting Mother Teresa. Protecting the work he had started was a constant worry, but the establishment of Reaching The Unreached was the beginning of the way forward. An organisation was needed to provide continuity, especially in the event of something happening to Brother James. This was also important for funding groups in Europe and elsewhere. In 1981 I returned to England, to get married to my Jacinta and to start my teaching career. RTU in the UK was established as a charity a year or so later, by a small group of committed friends and former volunteers, including me. When I left India, James and I both knew we would probably never see each other again. He would not spend RTU money on a plane ticket to England, and I would not spend the same money on a ticket to India. I would rather give the money to him for the work of RTU. But in 2010, during a family dinner on Boxing Day, my father, who passed away last year, told me that ‘my Indian father’, Brother James, would be 85 on the 23rd of May. (Brother James was one year and three days older than my Dad). At that very moment I decided I would go and see him. But I would not break my vow and buy a plane ticket. Instead, I decided to get on a pedal bike and to head East once more. I would see him in India on his 85th birthday. I set off on the 12th March, loaded up with tent, sleeping bag, tools and spare parts, and started my journey, covering more and more miles each day until the average levelled at around 70. From day to day I never knew where I would sleep, but quickly learned to find safe places to put up a tent, under the cover of failing light, around an hour or so after sunset. I cycled through Europe, following rivers that headed south and east. I met all sorts of people, very kind people in the main, and as my facial hair lengthened and my waist line receded, I eventually made it to Istanbul. From there I was forced to fly to India, as every route, via Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia, China, or Saudi and the middle East all led to major trouble. So, although I failed to avoid buying a plane ticket, my promise to see him on his birthday was still on. From Mumbai I ventured South. When I reached Batlagundu, a village I passed through daily over 30 years before, I didn’t really recognise anything. Everything had changed. But on approaching the village of G Kalluppatti, and the place where the RTU office now stood, which was the very same place where I had lived all those years before, I saw James sitting outside, writing something. I got off my pedal bike and stood for a moment, to take a look at the old man my father called my “Indian father”. I’d come a long, long way. I took in the moment, for a while, and then I approached him. “You’ve not changed much”, he said. “Neither have you”, I replied. The following day I went to see some of my old friends, including my friend Vijayraj, a highly skilled carpenter. Together we had designed and built some complex textile machines 30 years before, including the machines specifically designed for leprosy patients. I always had a deep respect for his understanding and wood-working skills. I also met Father Antony Paulsamy. I could picture him running around Boys' Village as a little boy, chasing the metal rings the boys always seemed to play with outside. How fitting it is, I thought, that he should now be the Director of RTU, and the person charged with the responsibility to ensure that RTU remains a place “Where no child cries”. On his birthday, after a day of celebration with the children, staff and friends of RTU, I made James a fish and chip supper, albeit with salted fish and potatoes that were more like sweet potatoes, and green beans instead of mushy peas. I presented them on a tray with a glass of beer and I asked him how long it had been since he had a fish and chip supper or a beer. “About fifty years, I think, maybe sixty”, he replied. I told him, “It’s about time then. Happy Birthday!”. A long time ago, I spent three years with Brother James. I’m now older than he was when I first met him. Naturally, I think of him. Often. He’s with me when cycling, having fish and chips and certainly when I’m up a ladder and many other times besides. But I’m only one of many. How many more people, who are children now or once were, have much more reason than I to remember James as a father figure? I have no doubt that this number runs in the many hundreds of thousands. For each one of these people, Brother James has reached something previously unreached within them. Paul Abbott, volunteer at Boys' Village

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