What 63 Years Teaches Us About "Calling"

Today marks 63 years since we arrived in Calcutta. We never dreamed what God would do.
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Six decades and three years. One city, one mission, one couple.

Today, we have the luxury of the present-day piece of this triumphant story: the fully functioning hospital, rural clinics, Bible colleges, vocational schools, nursing programs, the school for the blind, children’s homes, volunteer programs, and daily feeding lines that provide meals for 25,000 a day. Countless lives have been touched by what we now freely witness but it cost the Buntains so dearly – and as they paid the price, they never knew it would come.

Like many distinguished stories, this one began with a “yes.”

Unsure of what may lie ahead and uninformed of the details, Mark and Huldah Buntain set sail in 1954 with their baby girl, Bonnie, in acceptance of a “one year” service opportunity within a church in India. Over the next few decades, God would create a story of hope for the lost and light in the darkness.

They began on the bottom of a boat, but today we stand on top of their mountain, hoping their God-crafted story may liberate you from some infected thinking, impoverished expectation, and inferior understanding of what it means to serve a God who “knows the plans He has for you…” (Jeremiah 29:11)

 

Here are three things the Buntains teach us about “calling.” We hope they teach you, too.

1.     Our calling: it becomes clearer as we clear it:
Have you ever cleaned out a section of a yard before? What about paving a trail through the woods? You must first make up your mind that you will go through the woods, and then you must simply go, allowing God to clarify what He will in His own time and fueling your walk with trust, faith, and reliance. Do not sit on a burning desire because all of the intricacies are not yet specified for you. God is FOR your victory for His own namesake! He will not hide destiny from you as you walk in obedience. Your first step is always to know Him and love Him. The second, third, and fourth build off of this as you walk. The Buntains did not know everything that may lie ahead, they only knew an opportunity to pastor had knocked on their door, and they knew they must go. It was as they went that the needs of Calcutta’s poor would weigh their hearts with a holy fury and more would come. It was as they walked that God would unveil more of what He wanted for them to accomplish. They kept saying yes, and He kept clearing branches. You may not know it all, but you CAN say yes to what He’s shown you, knowing “He will make your paths straight….”

 

2.     Our calling: It doesn’t have to “just be” this OR that:
Can you imagine how very incarcerated Pastor Mark and Huldah would have felt if they had limited their mission to a specific trade, hobby, or skill set? Your gifts will make a way for you, but gifts are not where you begin and end! It would have made complete sense for a pastoring family to sail to another country, begin a church, build its attendance, raise up a successor, and end there – but passion for the Gospel and a desire to see the impoverished restored burned more deeply in their hearts than the spiritual equipment to preach alone. So they did both. They met physical needs and supplied a spiritual Word, and they have since done it to a legendary degree. There are times where you feel an ache for so many things, but it is a trap to think God corners you to "just pick one." Your job is always to pick Him, and He will use you to meet the needs of an earth He loves more deeply than you could ever imagine.
    The Buntains are heroes of “both/and”. You can start the business AND obtain the ministry degree, you can teach elementary school AND be deeply involved in your local church, you can get the law degree AND mother your family well, you can have a heart for another nation AND finish your undergraduate degree right now, and as 63 years of ministry has proved: you CAN feed, educate, AND medically assist an entire community for generations of time.

3. Our calling: You will grow, and the outcome of your calling will grow, so take heart:
It began with the preaching of the Word, and an infamous line shot through the Buntains’ heart that changed their ministry model in Calcutta indefinitely: “Preacher!” the beggar exclaimed, “feed our bellies and THEN tell us there is a God in heaven who loves us!” With this, a feeding program emerged. There were more needs, however, and while the soul of every citizen needed Christ above all else, illness and devastating poverty were unignorably infectious. The remedy is Christ, and He often moves in one step at a time, changing us little by little. While God changes us in salvation instantaneously, He works through us in process. The redemption of Calcutta is a reflection of this process: it doesn’t happen all at once, and the issues are so deep. Let the solutions grow. Have patience. Keep investing. Don't throw in the towel just because the impacts aren't immediate. First, the presentation of the Word, then a feeding program, children’s homes, then a hospital, clinics, a blind school, the list goes on. It did not happen overnight, and when the needs around you feel overwhelming, take heart in knowing that God will grow your capacity, your influence, and your reach. Never be discouraged by the magnitude of what breaks your heart – be drawn to God in it and watch Him live a plan through you! Fulfill your calling one step at a time.

 

It goes without saying that 63 years in Calcutta could teach us 63,000 things. Our hope today, however, is that these 3 foundational truths will go with you as you continue being faithful where you are. Stateside in the suburbs or in the trenches of Calcutta, your calling in God is sure and His ability to provide is inarguable. Have patience, live in faith, and watch God build a heritage of grace and the Gospel through your "yes." May the next 63 years of our lives testify to His ability to work wonders through such a powerful syllable. 

 

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On Hair and Diplomas

Did you know that the market for hair regrowth is a 7 billion dollar industry in America?

That's the daunting financial investment of U.S. citizens seeking to put a few luscious locks back on their head.
Male or female, young or old, we do not like such obvious, sudden, significant loss.  

The old adage really proves true:

                 "You don't know what you have until it's gone......." 


Ask any woman who has purchased a plethora of product in hopes of achieving that Julia Roberts-esque mane. Talk to any man who fondly remembers the days his bangs alone disqualified him from needing to apply sunscreen anywhere above the neck. It's quite an adjustment. 

We find some humor in the process our bodies go through. It's the cycle of life - and that's okay, but it is certainly fascinating to observe how human nature works:

when we have something, we don't always appreciate it. When it's gone, we understand its true worth to us individually.

Can you imagine if, one day, you woke up to the loss of something a little less aesthetic? 

Can you imagine your life without education?

 

While there are a few criticisms, comments, and complaints the general population could submit about academic circumstances in the States, education IS a national value, and the only reason we CAN criticize it is because it exists: we celebrate it, recognize it, and supply it.  As a nation, we are always evolving, changing, restructuring, and attempting to improve our public education processes.
Teachers.
Principals.
Guidance Counselors.
Department Directors.
Professors. 

They are our every day heroes, supplying the super power of knowledge and investing in the future health of our nation.
 

what would our lives be without the impact of education?
 

What if, one day, you went to run your fingers through it - and all traces of educational influence on your life, community, and society had disappeared?

would you live in the same house?
would you survive that surgery?
would your children be healthy?
Would your self esteem thrive?
would your daughter ever work?
would you be qualified for that job?
could you speak?

could you articulate?
could you write?
could you live?


From childhood to legal adulthood, we are guaranteed the access to education in America; beyond that mandate, you could literally stay in school for the rest of your life. Education is our privileged right. 

India, on the other hand, is home to the most illiterate population in the world. 
237 million adults never learned to read and never learned to write

This creates children who are disqualified from advancing into successful careers, almost guaranteeing a future life of poverty and struggle.
This creates families who are handicapped from ever rising past marginal poverty lines, prematurely employing their babies to sweatshops and other methods of harsh labor.
This creates communities that find themselves malnourished in basic principles of knowledge in regards to everything from hygiene and health to finances and gender equality. 

You are ensuring this changes. 
We don't wake up without education, and because of you, neither will they.

Education is the gateway to better living today and a better future tomorrow. 
Calcutta Mercy representatives have reported that nearly a quarter of all sexual exploitation involves children. Likewise, we've discovered that the most effective way to remove a child from prostitution is to make him a student.

"We've discovered the most effective way to remove a child from prostitution is to make him a student...."

- Calcutta Mercy Reps


 

90% of exploited children find their way out of this vicious, vulnerable cycle by enrolling in schools - many of these schools, you have helped us provide.
 
We remove the children of Calcutta from would-be tragedies, would-be poverty, and would-be generational struggle by placing them in classrooms. 

 

This month, maybe as you wake your own children up for school, celebrate report cards with your grandchildren, or review the deadlines for your university's new semester, remember the mission of Calcutta Mercy and the part you play in raising awareness, providing sustainability, and increasing effectiveness as together we feed, educate, and medically assist a precious corner of the world.

 




 

Three Steps to Free Indeed

With a day of celebrating under our belts in the states, many American citizens still have the residue of yesterday on their hearts and minds.

Gratitude. Dignity. Honor. Sacrifice. Freedom


We are thankful. For the men and women that have given their lives and comforts in modern history and, this month especially, for those who acted from the bravado of their soul, knowing that liberty was God’s ordination to mankind and justice was the birthright of their brethren.

 

The Fourth of July is a special time for us in the USA: we eat, we laugh, we appreciate, we celebrate. Fireworks and charcoal highlight our evenings and afternoons. The heart of America beats with strength.

 

And then the fifth comes. It always comes.

We roll out of our beds, back into our work attire, into our cars and commutes.
We’re back to the daily grind.
Lunches to make, ordinary Wednesdays to live out.
Practices to get to, presentations to give, proposals to draft.
It’s the 5th of July. Back to reality.
But on this side of the globe, even the most mundane reality packs a load of good news.
There’s ALWAYS good news: you’re as free as you were yesterday. There’s as much to celebrate on hump day as there is on America’s birthday.

As you move out of long weekends and patriotic enthusiasm, we want to encourage you to continue savoring your freedom, growing in your liberty, and expanding your independence.

First, spiritual liberty – we know that "it is for freedom Christ set us free". We echo the many Christian voices that have pronounced this sacred truth through the weekend.

Second, national liberty – we are THE most liberated patch of land across this world. While we at CM do not ignore the social strides left to make in our beautiful country, it’s no secret that we are the most equipped to pursue such progress.

And third, your personal liberty – the very definition of independence means self-rule and separation. Christ’s lordship over us DOES mean that He is our guide, our director, and our captain. We DO, however, invest our will, our time, and our thoughts into our daily habits, established routines, and time spent. Are you living in TRUE personal liberty or are there certain faculties bound up to less than ideal things?

 

This 5th of July, we’ve compiled a quick list of THREE things you can do TODAY to grow deeper into your personal, practical freedom. From negativity, lack of productivity, anxiety, and more.


The whole country is free. You may as well be, too!

 


Five Things To Make You Free Indeed:

 

1.       Stop Doing Drugs: The average American spends FIVE hours a day on their phone.  Did you know that app developers have figured out how many likes/notifications on social media will cause a dopamine release in your brain? That’s why online behavior is SO addicting – the scroll-then-zone-out cycle is like a literal high. It can easily consume your thoughts, time, and consequentially your productivity in all areas of life. Put down the screen drugs and find ways to retrain your mind to enjoy the best invention of all time: human beings. (Don’t believe us? Refer to 60 Minutes recent interview with app developers through their website)
 

 

2.  Stop This Train: Negativity and anxiety are just as addicting as the screen! Do you know someone who always has a reflex Debbie Downer remark: about situations, others, or themselves. Maybe you are Debbie. Have you ever caught yourself unraveling a minor situation into an absolute catastrophe when nothing THAT bad had even happened yet? It can be crippling, paralyzing, and quite plainly, just annoying. Great news: you aren’t a slave to that personality “trait”*. You have probably just trained your mind to go there over time. Long story short: your neurotransmitters follow the beaten path they find (think of them as running through the woods of your mind) and if you’ve taken the route of negative thinking long enough, it’s a pretty worn in trail for them to follow, right? If you’ve begun a cycle of negative self-perceptions or outlooks, or if you have made mountains out of molehills for an extended period of time, the only way to stop it is on purpose. Stop yourself from getting in the slump today, whatever that may be, by saying outloud “I do NOT have to go there. I am sending my neurotransmitters down a DIFFERENT path. This will be fine, I am confident, even if the worst thing happens, everything will work out in the end!” Some psychologists even suggest soothing anxiety by repeating the anxious thought out loud (or in your head if you’re in public) in a creepy mouse voice so that it sounds less daunting. It’s like making fun of your anxiety and negativity, and while it sounds absolutely silly, it works on a physiological level.

*We know anxiety is more than a mood for many individuals and, in fact, is a chemical imbalance. By no way do we intend to discredit or disregard the professional, medical advice/counsel you have received from any licensed physician. We refer here to the mild daily anxieties every person experiences on an interpersonal level.
 
3. Start Smiling: This is so simple you are probably frustrated, but we mean it! Sometimes, moods and thoughts can become overbearing and overpowering. We don’t want to “feel” something, but we feel it nonetheless. Forbes helped us out with this dilemma: SMILE and smile big! Decades of research boost the claim that for some reason, even if you are consciously faking it, the muscular activation that takes place in your face when you spread a smile across your demeanor improves mood, reduces stress, and even lowers heart rate levels in tense situations. They confirmed this with something called the “chopstick” study, but we’ll spare you the details here and point you this way if you don't buy it. (Really, though, who needs to be convinced to smile?)

 


There you have it.
Three steps to free indeed. We hope you enjoyed your Fourth. We hope you’re more free on your Fifth. And we pray the Sixth is the greatest you've ever had. From us to you, be free.


 

The Case for Golden Milk

Turmeric is to great Indian curry what Dale's is to your dad's best summer steak. If you're grilling out at all this summer, you can appreciate that analogy. It's staple, it's potent, it's basic, it's good....and at CM we are learning to appreciate just how broad those adjectives are. Not only is it great in chicken curry - it can fit right in with your milk, too. How many spices can say that about themselves?

 

Our stateside family may be strangers and skeptics to the magic of turmeric, so we've put together a rap sheet of goodness to hopefully sway you in our direction: 

1. It's an anti-inflammatory
2. It curbs heartburn
3. Interferes with development of cancerous cells
4. Aids arthritis/joint pain
5. A friend of those with IBS
6. Soothes cramps
7. Improves liver function for detoxification
8. Packs a dose of vitamin b6
9. Encourages healthy hormonal balances
10. Clears out amyloid plaque (or, plainly put, it helps cognitive efficiency) 
11. Encourages healthy skin / clear complexion
....and so...much....more....
 

With that being said,

Make some time this summer to incorporate this powerhouse into your daily routine! The recipe below for Golden Milk is the perfect way to do that. Think chai meets bedtime drink meets lightly spiced comfort. You'll be absorbing all the benefits of turmeric PLUS the goodness of coconut oil and if you know our team, you know we love some CO. 

So go for it. Sip on this early evening or before bedtime and let us know what you think! 


GOLDEN MILK // Makes 2 cups

1. One cup of your favorite milk beverage (your best bets are coconut milk or almond milk, go for something non-dairy & unsweetened)
2. One small cinnamon stick, 1 tsp dried turmeric, 1/2 inch piece of ginger
3. 1 tablespoon of honey
4. 1 tablespoon of coconut oil
5. 1/4 tsp whole black peppercorn or a dash of fresh cracked pepper
Ground cinnamon for serving

 

Make: Whisk coconut milk, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, honey, coconut oil, peppercorns, and 1 cup water in a small saucepan; bring to a low boil. Reduce heat and simmer until flavors have melded, about 10 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into mugs or a container to store and serve! You can make this ahead of time and keep for up to 5 days. Enjoy! 

 

 

Last Night and The Light

The Christian community recently celebrated Easter, where we intentionally recognize the transforming work of the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus. Last night, our friends of the Muslim faith began a 24 hour session, reaching for something similar, and it's all in the festival:
 

       'Shab E Barat' 2017

This day long "Festival of Forgiveness" kicked off on May 11, and commenced yesterday evening. 
So, all around the world, members of the Muslim faith will ask Allah to rewrite destinies, grant blessing, and distribute forgiveness for the past. 
 

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We asked a friend what it meant to him, and he said that he's only approached Allah to ask for specific things: "health, happiness, family, money." The good news? He got it! He says that before this request, there was no sense of greater purpose. But tonight, "though Allah sits on the highest layer of all 7 skies, in Shab E Barat he comes down to the lowest one, closest to mankind, willing to offer forgiveness to anyone repentant." This belief will lead many people to the graves of loved ones to, hopefully, experience a visit from spirits of their deceased. Others will fast voluntarily to honor the night and present requests to Allah. Either way, there is a common denominator for us all. 

No matter your belief system or respective views of life, one thing is for certain:
We are desperate for forgiveness - our souls know it. 
We need redemption. We need hope. We need restoration. 
Within every person, there is a longing to be reconciled to something greater than ourselves; the eternity in our hearts yearns for a deep and consistent filling, by something, and in our case, Someone. 

Where were you last night?
With boots on the ground in Calcutta, some of our teams were wrapping up the evening with a meal, debrief, and rest.
Other stateside friends were winding down, checking off agendas, and planning the next day's priorities.
Some of our precious partners may be with their children this week, making final graduation plans as their kids prepare to step into the next chapter of life.
Volunteer alumni were capping off their normal routines of work, play, and family, wherever they are in the world.
Several of our former (and present) interns were living out their context of finals, part-time work, and career building.
And all the while, our dear Muslim brothers and sisters were presenting a petition for forgiveness and standing in a 24 hour window of hope: salvation. 

Rather you realize it or not, what you did last night will have less to do with your schedule and more to do with your placement on this chart:

"Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness..." - Genesis 15:6

The definitive characteristic of a person's spiritual state is where they fall in this holy heritage.

Sons of Isaac (through physical birth or God's adoption) find redemption in Christ, where "today" is consistently "the day of Salvation" and the invitation to redemption exists as long as the earth is turning. The Gospel: God broke the barriers of heaven to not only come close to man, but to "dwell among us" (John 1). With His blood and our repentance, no matter the calendar, "He is faithful and just to forgive".

Sons of Ishmael ascribe to a different set of principles, a separate worldview, and a sundered pursuit of salvation. Different thoughts and various perspectives deserve honor, that is certain, but the differences are clear. Here, redemption comes on the shores of possibility, Divine provision is an aspiration, and Allah comes close in a limited window of time. 

One is new identity, the other is a scheduled idea. 
One is pre-arranged birthright, the other is a drafted request.
One is the gift of salvation, the other is hopeful solicitation.

The common denominator: a need for rescue. 
The dividing wedge: Christ crucified. 

"Jesus is permanence. He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him; He lives to speak up and intercede on our behalf." - Hebrews 7:25

For many in Calcutta (and all over the world), the idea of a God who is completely and utterly FOR them is revolutionary. A holy God reaching out to fallen men, saying: "I am on your side" is a baffling thought. The entire concept is a cultural luxury to many of us; this weekend, we pay no attention to Shab E Barat. The rest of our globe, however, is drowning: and Truth is not a concept, it's their lifeline. 

But how do you tell societies, nations, families, and individuals whose souls cling to a separate hope that there IS a Mediator, there IS a Better Covenant, there IS a Superior Way? How do you cradle minds convinced otherwise that God stepped into flesh to make peace between Himself and man? Where do you begin in fascinating incarcerated hearts with the splendor of a Loving God who, for generations, has been portrayed as distant?

At Calcutta Mercy, we think we've found an answer:  
You say less, you do more. 

And thanks to so many of you, we can continue to "do".
We no longer watch from the sidelines, but much like our Father:
We take the very flesh we are and dwell among the lost hearts on a fervent pursuit for restoration and redemption.
We wrap the Gospel in a met-need: we feed hungry bellies, we educate the marginalized, and we help heal the physically ill.
We rewrite disadvantaged circumstances to bring greater success: women's causes, empowered children, and fortified fathers. 
We lift Him up with our actions, and He draws hearts to Himself. 

 

The old line is true, "actions speak louder than words", and we think God knew that when He acted on our behalf. Now, we act on His. 

Thanks to you, a 24 hour window of forgiveness and reconciliation is opening a little further every day for the people of Calcutta. We ask that you pray for our SEU students this month as they continue to expand the hinges:


                                                     And may the Light come in. 

 

"In the beginning, was the Word, and the Word was God. All things were made for Him, by Him, through Him. In Him was LIFE, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it. There was a man named John who came to testify about the light, though he was not the light, but he told of it: the True Light, He gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. To all that believed in Him, He gives the right to be children of God.......and the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us....." 
- John 1 

 

 

 

We're In.

 

                  Welcome Home, CM!

 

April 3.

That’s when we hit the ground running toward this wide open room with a single mission: relocate the entire CM office in less than a month. Of course “we” is defined by our two staff superstars, Danielle and D’ann, as well as an assortment of other volunteers that formed the greatest motley crew of movers, designers, builders, and emotional supporters in Metro Atlanta.


Our subconscious philosophy seems to be “I bet my neighbors know how to do that” – which brings us to a hero of our story. Donnie Jones and his wife Jean have lived next to Danielle for six years, and by chance, Donnie is a brilliant custom home builder. There is nothing the man can’t do. So with the designs in hand, a little grit, and a lot of bravado, Mr. Donnie flipped the entire room into a strategic, astounding office space that represents our mission perfectly.

 

 

 

 


Our “Make it Matter” Room is the perfect conference space for meeting, vision casting, creative brainstorming, and if we are being honest, just standing. It’s beautiful, it’s inspiring, and it's Bebas Neu font. This is what dreams are made of.
 

 

 

 

Our "rope walls" separate the office spaces in a cost efficient manner and simultaneously salute India’s local economy. West Bengal is the world’s largest producer of jute, which comprises this material. Every work day is laced with the reminder that a difference is being made, lives are being changed, and India is finding revitalization on both spiritual and practical levels.

 

 



The hanging bookshelves came from some of our favorite minds at Veasey Creations, who designed the pieces for an event years ago. Why buy a new bookshelf when you can hang what you have midair? We agree, and with a touch of succulent, we’ve put local creatives to use in their gifts to contribute to our space.

 

 

 

The list could go on, but here comes our favorite part: several of the functional pieces are either recycled rejects from the old office or stunning details created from ordinary, inexpensive supplies. Our kitchen area prides things like plain jane scrap wood, revamped to aesthetically hold something as simple as a microwave. Our pipe work is painted PVC in lieu of far more expensive steel option. Donnie can make a unique coffee bar out of a worn down Ikea bookshelf and with a little TLC, a few pieces of plywood look like Lebanese oak. Everywhere you look, simple things are made extraordinary, working together to host world-changing work reaching from Griffin to India.

That's what master builders do. 

They take pieces of little to no value and, with a little time and intentional restructuring, give them an astounding role in the room. Of course, the whole space is not contingent upon any single piece, as the room reflects the one who laid out the original design, but everything is better because of each individual and unique element that has been in the hands of the builder.

You are a piece of us here at Calcutta Mercy, just as unique and important as every element you will find in this office. You are a piece of the Kingdom of God. Each of you chose to undergo and endure a process that requires you to respond to the tug of our Designer, our Builder, and our holy Craftsman. He takes your heart and speaks to it. He touches your soul and you respond. For many of you, this comes with sacrifice of time, finances, energy, and prayer. Others have given their lives and plans to join the Calcutta Mercy team and staff. Whatever your context, know that as we settle into the new office, we are thinking of you.

 

We are thinking of your process: where does He have you right now?
We are thinking of your future: what does He want to do with your life?
We are thinking of your past: what is he trying to revitalize for your good and His glory?

He takes what we consider hopeless and breathes purpose into it.
He takes what we wish we could throw away and redeems it.
He takes our wide open, bare spaces within and makes them strategic spaces for His work.

 

We trust and believe that as you have made a difference for us, He is making a difference in you. 

“....So, we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that all of the power, every incredible thing, belongs to God and not to us....”
— 2 Corinthians 4:7

              Calcutta Mercy, you're finally home.

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