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.