A Discovery of Christ's Self-Gift

Neville McDonald FAITH Magazine May-June 2007

Due to family tragedies, I was put in an orphanage at an early age and experienced every kind of abuse. I did not know when another meal of dry bread would appear. We children would run to a window at four o’clock each morning to see if the bread wagon was coming – no wagon, no meal. At sixteen, I ran away and turned to drugs, alcohol and gang life. The Calcutta police knew me by name, and I was put through more than a dozen rehabilitation programs – with no success.

One night when I was 21, four other gang members and I were confronted by a rival gang. All four of my buddies were killed. I was badly wounded and had to spend half a year in hospital. At this time, a pastor friend told me, ‘Enough is enough; rehab centres are doing you no good. I will get you a job as a driver with a group headed by someone called Mother Teresa.’ So I went to the Home for Destitute and Dying and sat on a bench to wait. While I was waiting, a sister asked me to give her a hand. ‘

I started but was so disgusted by the state of this man’s feet, that I could not do it. ‘I have to get out of here fast!’ I thought. Just then the sister said, ‘Mother is here.’ A tiny woman appeared, grasped my hands and said the Lord’s Prayer. I had never experienced anything like it. She then bustled me off to her ramshackle ambulance with three sisters, insisting I drive them into the streets of Calcutta to look for dying people.

We came to a 35-year-old man, emaciated and filthy, weighing only fifty or sixty pounds, dying on the sidewalk in rags. Mother Teresa was all business. I waited while the sisters dashed off, returning with kettles of steaming water, which they proceeded to pour on the pavement round the man to melt the ice that froze him to the ground. I was then asked to lift the man into the vehicle, leaving a white patch of maggots where the man had lain. I was extremely upset and couldn’t sleep that night, feeling I could not stand such a life; but after deep thought and praying for the first time in earnest, I realised I had to go back.

At four o’clock next morning I returned to the centre and was warmly welcomed by Mother Teresa, who had sat with the dying man all night. She was stroking his head, and the man’s eyes were open. ‘Have you ever seen Jesus?’ she asked. ‘Who me? Never!’ I replied. ‘Then look deeply into this man’s eyes,’ she said. The man could not speak, and it was very quiet. ‘Come closer and look.’ When I did, I looked for a long time and was deeply moved. The man lived only a few more hours but had a radiant face at the end, dying in peace and dignity. This experience changed my life forever. That was when I met Jesus. I have never looked back.

For the next twenty years, I spent every moment of my spare time helping Mother Teresa, driving the streets to pick up dying people. I also went to leprosy centres to help patients there. I worked for Assemblies of God part-time for about ten years, during which time I married Glenda, also an orphan. I later worked about nine years for the Mennonite Central Committee.

At one point when I was without real work, our three month- old daughter became deathly ill with tuberculosis. We were badly off and went to Mother Teresa for aid. She told me to care for other children around us. ‘What are you saying?’ I replied, ‘I cannot even care for my own family – I have enough problems of my own!’ But I thought about what she had said and soon asked our neighbours if I could walk their blind son to school every day. Later Glenda and I took in an orphan boy who worked at a local teashop, and eventually we took other orphans into our home. We have never seriously lacked for anything since then, and our baby recovered. Once we rescued two little girls from a brothel. There was a lot of trouble and the girls were terrified they’d have to return, but we managed to keepthem. One of these girls is now a teacher in northern India. We have had up to eleven orphans (mostly girls) in our family at any one time, many of whom are now grown and serving others. We are the only Christian family in the neighbourhood, but the local people respect our work, bringing food or helping in other ways. We have a threestorey house, and we hope to invite volunteers to serve in various ministries in Calcutta. We also hope to establish another orphanage in the north of India soon.

I used to get angry in my youth when anyone spoke of God: ‘How can people tell you “God is good,” when you’ve had a terrible life?’ But through my conversion and faith, I have been able to totally forgive and be forgiven. Forgiveness is the only way in life.

With thanks to bruderhof.com

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