I was a senior in high school when I organized my first toy drive. Over the course of several weeks, we advertised through flyers posted all over campus and daily announcements. As a result, there were two large bins overflowing with stuffed animals, toy cars and Legos galore. All through school, I had worked hard, studied into the early hours of the morning, taken on extracurricular activities and yet nothing gave me the satisfaction that the precariously placed pile of toys did. And so, began my journey.
The Mar Thoma church and mission are like peanut butter and jelly (or kappa and fish curry). The church was built to be the light and the presence of Christ. And while fellowship is integral to the sustainment of the church and its members, mission is the external expression of Christ’s love to those outside the community.
My first mission experience in college was volunteering at a community teen clinic. While I intended for this experience to improve my medical knowledge, it quickly evolved into a life changing event. I learned that every teenager that walked through the clinic doors came with their own burdens, fear and trauma. In the few moments I had with them, I tried to share in their troubles by showing them the love and concern that I receive from family, friends and my God. It was through His goodness that I was able to do good things.
I saw how the Mar Thoma church does good things through a mission trip in 2013. Traveling through South Travancore and Pollachi, I met so many inspirational Marthomites who served their community in spite of challenges. I listened to the testimonies of women who went door-to-door selling saris with secretly placed Bibles and preached to homemakers. I witnessed the baptisms of several people, who despite the ostracization from their community, chose to follow Christ. I heard how individuals and parishes contributed to the building and running of clinics and schools in rural areas. I appreciated the work that many people from such different backgrounds were doing for His glory. I saw that God is good.
The Mar Thoma Church of San Francisco Mission Board was created through the efforts of parishioners who wanted to share His blessing with those less fortunate. The goal was simple; God has been so good to our church family and blessed us hundred-fold and we wanted others to experience His goodness. And over the past few years, our church has begun an amazing journey in mission work, and I am privileged to serve on the Board.
Our church has participated and partnered with many local, national and international organizations through the Mission Board. Our church is a donor to the students at the Narasapuram mission field and the Light to Life mission. We have held family friendly activities in the social hall including the packaging of 10,000 meals that were sent to Vietnam through Rise Against Hunger. Over the past three years, we have donated to the firefighters and the families affected by the raging wildfires and to those affected by Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas. We have given to the local Open Heart Kitchen that provides meals to the Tri-Valley area and to Shepherd’s Gate that provides resources and support to women and children suffering from homelessness and domestic violence. We have supported food banks in the Central Valley through donations for food purchasing as well as to cover the expense of a walk-in freezer at Grace and Mercy Charitable Foundation in Lodi. We have donated to SOS Richmond that partners with unsheltered individuals by providing employment. We have joined with Friends of Sihora whose mission is to improve the facilities at the Sihora clinic that provides outpatient treatment for thousands of villagers. We held a drive to collect diapers and home items for low income immigrant families in Concord. Over the past three years, the Mar Thoma Church of San Francisco has partnered with fifteen organizations across multiple cities and for various purposes.
In this season of uncertainty, despair and darkness, there can be feelings of hopelessness. But we are blessed to be covered by the warmth of Christ’s love. We are safe in the certainty and faithfulness of our Refuge – and we are called to share that with our neighbors through mission work. As it says in 1 Peter 4:10, we are to use our gifts that we have received to serve others and in doing so, we rightfully earn the place as God’s faithful stewards. Through the contribution of our talents and our bounty, regardless of how much, we are called to continue our journey in mission work in such a time as this.