Sunday Chronicles #236 2/21/21
….”One day in the late 1970s I was in my cubicle at A/G headquarters typing,. I felt someone watching me, and I turned around. An older woman I had never met sat there smiling at me. “I see you’re a lot like me, dear!” she said. I cast about in my mind what she meant. I was at least 30 years younger than her, and had no idea who she was or why she was there. Then she continued, “You wear your hair like I do!” She was right. I had my hair done up in a bun to keep it out of my face while working, and she had a similar bun! That was the beginning of my friendship with Anna Tomaseck, missionary to India for more than 40 years! Oh, the stories she told!” ….
Anna went to India in 1926. She worked in various missions ministries for 10 years; then God revealed to her that He had a special place for her to serve Him. God gave her a two-fold mission: to raise children that no one else wanted and to reach people in Nepal with the love of Jesus, a small nation closed to the gospel.
Looking at a map of the railway system, Anna set her sights on Rupaidiha, the last village in India, a mile from the Nepali border. In 1936, she purchased a one-way ticket to Rupaidiha and rented the house nearest the border – the last house in India – and began learning the Nepali language.
Anna brought along with her three children who had been subsisting on whatever scraps they could find after their parents died. Soon local people understood that the young American lady would take in children, regardless of their health or status. Babies were brought to her home, from both India and Nepal. Some were orphans, some were unwanted by their families, and some were abandoned because their parents could not afford to feed them. Some had leprosy. They were all starving and sick. Anna became their “Mamaji” — “Precious Mother.”
Mamaji received criticism for using her time to care for sick children rather than evangelizing, but she had heard from God and she was undeterred. Soon her bedroom was lined with 10 cribs, all it would hold. She instituted a teaching program that provided life skills for her children, seeing that each boy learned a trade and that each girl was taught childcare and home management.
One Sunday when the cribs were all full of fretting babies, Mamaji sent the older children to the village church and she stayed to care for the sick babies. Weary from being up all night, she prayed, “Lord, please don’t send me another baby today!” She had hardly finished her prayer when a group of men approached, one of them carrying a baby. Its mother had died of snakebite, and they had no way to feed the infant. Would Mamaji please take him? Anna looked at the apparently healthy child. Could she turn him away to starve? When the girls returned from church they found Mamaji bathing another baby, and she seemed happy about it!
After lunch, and the babies put down for naps, the older girls took over their care so Mamaji could have a nap. She had hardly got settled under the mosquito netting when one of the girls came for her. Another group of men had come with a baby. On the porch was the filthiest baby Mamaji had ever seen. Lice fell from the rags she was wrapped in. Her parents had died and the rest of the family did not want the child; she was too sickly and cried too much, they said. Mamaji stripped off the rags and ordered them burned, and she held the baby, little more than a skeleton, in her arms. Suddenly her heart overflowed with God’s presence, and she named the child Shanta, which means “Peace.” A dresser drawer with a pillow in it made a bed for Shanta, and after a warm bottle of milk, she slept.
But there was no rest for Mamaji; another group of men had arrived. They were Nepali workers who had been working in India. Two women had been with them to do their cooking, and this baby had been born in India. To cross the border into Nepal, each person had to go through a ceremony of religious cleansing which included eating a wafer made of urine, dung, saliva, and whey from the milk of a sacred cow. The baby was too young to eat this wafer, so could not cross the border into Nepal. Mamaji tried to persuade the men to take the baby with them, but their fear of the gods prevailed, “No,” they said, “if you do not take the baby we will leave it by the side of the road for the vultures to eat.” Mamaji’s heart sank. Once she had refused a baby, thinking the parents would keep it, only to hear its screams as the vultures tore it apart. She would not refuse this one. So another baby had a warm bath, probably the first in its life, and another dresser drawer served as its bed.
This last baby weighed only 33 oz and could take milk only from a dropper. Mamaji decided to feed her every hour during the night, hoping to save her life. She set her Baby Ben alarm clock to ring in an hour. Taking the two tiny babies in dresser drawers under the mosquito net with her, she went to bed. When the alarm rang, she got up, turned the alarm off, fed the tiny baby, cared for any others that needed her, reset the alarm clock, and lay down for another hour’s rest. Thus the night passed.
In spite of Mamaji’s devoted nursing care, the tiny baby died, and Mamaji sent word to its father. A few weeks later a group of men arrived from the hill country of Nepal. They had no baby with them, and Mamaji could not understand their language. A national worker on the grounds interpreted their request. “They want to see the talking God,” he said. Finally one of the men mentioned the tiny baby that had died. Mamaji assured them she had sent word to the father. They made clear that they cared nothing about the baby. But its father had hid outside Mamaji’s bedroom window that night she got up each hour to care for the babies. Her “god” called her! Finally, Mamaji understood. When she turned off and reset the alarm each hour that night, the man thought she was bowing to a god. He had told these men what he saw, and now they wanted to see her alarm clock! One of the children brought the clock, and Mamaji showed the men how it worked. Then, carefully choosing her words, she told them about the God in heaven who loved them and wanted them to know Him. They heard the plan of salvation for the first time!
For months, groups of men came to Mamaji’s porch asking to see the “talking god.” Apparently, the baby’s father was traveling through an area where missionaries could not go and telling his story. God had used a tiny baby and an alarm clock to bring scores of people to her porch to hear about Jesus and His love.
Mamaji soon found that she was able to cross the border into Nepal without police permission, as she was escorted by border guards whom she had raised. A string of churches was planted in southern Nepal, and much of the leadership of the Pentecostal church traced their roots to her ministry. God saw the need in a remote part of the world and He enabled a young single woman to raise up believers, teachers, laborers, and pastors who would go where missionaries could not go. Mamaji’s abandoned babies became men and women of the Spirit who built His church in India and Nepal. In three decades of service on the Nepali border, Mamaji raised 420 children in the Nur Children’s Home, teaching each of them about the love of Christ.
Anna Tomaseck retired in 1976 at age 74. She moved to Maranatha Village in Springfield, Missouri, and passed away five years later.
In Matthew 25:35-40 Jesus explains that what we do for the “least of these” – those among us in need but ignored, not considered worthy of our attention – if we serve them, it’s the same as serving Jesus. If Jesus were here in person, wouldn’t we rush to serve Him? This week let Jesus show you those who need to see His love through your service.
Personal notes: Snow still on the ground under heavy clouds and light rain in Springfield, MO, today. The winter storm has moved on and warmer weather is promised for this week. Yesterday was the first day in 2 weeks that our temps got above freezing. My helper fills the bird feeders often, and the birds keep emptying them. It’s something we are glad to do! My physical strength continues to decline; it takes me longer to do less! Please continue to pray for strength and opportunities to serve Jesus. Your comments and notes bless me. Thank you! Peace, jwb