woman of courage, woman of compassion
TO OUR PARTNERS AROUND THE WORLD:
It is with great sadness we announce the death of Calcutta Mercy's founder, Dr. Huldah Buntain. She died in [city/state] at [time] on [date]. She was # years of age. Huldah will forever be honored for her great love for the disadvantaged poor of Calcutta, having dedicated over 65 years of compassionate service so they might have life more abundantly.
MESSAGE FROM BONNIE BUNTAIN LONG:
CALCUTTA MERCy Board Member &
DAUGHTER OF HULDAH BUNTAIN
Huldah Buntain was a beloved woman of God who blessed all of us through her 65 years of ministry in Calcutta. Her compassion, leadership and vision for India’s poor literally transformed the lives of millions, and will continue to change lives for decades to come.
Huldah believed God cared for all people, regardless of race, religion or status, and that this care was holistic and persevering in nature. She made it her life’s mission to serve the Lord in India where she created hundreds of medical clinics, schools and rehabilitation programs for men, women and children suffering from lack of healthcare, education, and nutrition. The legacy she left behind is a powerful example of what one person can accomplish when they have the faith to do it.
Huldah has left us to go to her eternal home, but she has left us stronger and well-equipped to embrace the good work before us. Though she is now absent in body, we take great comfort in knowing she is rich in heavenly treasures, living in a shining city that welcomes her warmly.
On Huldah's behalf, we express her sincere love for you as faithful friends and supporters.
memorial plans TO BE ANNOUNCED.
In lieu of flowers, we ask that you give to the Buntain Legacy Campaign, TO ensure the CALCUTTA ministries Dear to Huldah are continued.
“we can't change the whole world, ... but we can
change someone's world.”
– huldah buntain
Huldah Buntain: Her Story
Huldah Isobel Munroe was born on November 21, 1924 in Tokyo Japan. She is the daughter of Pastors, Reverend Alex and Gwendolyn Munroe, who initially made their maiden voyages to Japan in 1918 to pastor a congregation of Japanese converts. Huldah enjoyed her first six years in Japan until her family moved back to their home country of Canada.
Huldah’s father continued his work as a pastor at a church in Vancouver, During the week, when the church was empty, Huldah remembers amusing herself by crawling under the pews, hanging the piano keys on their hook, and “playing church” by preaching, leading songs, and taking up an offering. Huldah comments, “I can’t remember what I preached, but I remember mimicking Dad by waiving my arms in the air and walking around the pulpit to make a point. My parents encouraged my antics by contributing to my offering collection and shouting an encouraging ‘Amen’ every once in awhile.”
Huldah’s grandparents were a living legacy in Vancouver, having founded the Glad Tidings Rescue Mission during the bleak days of the Great Depression. Shortly following Huldah’s move from Japan, her grandfather experienced a steady decline in health. On the day before his death, the family gathered around his bedside to say their goodbyes. Huldah remembers her grandfather summoning her to his bedside, resting his hand on her head, and praying aloud, “Dear God. I know you love Huldah very much and have a great work for her to do. Help her, dear heavenly Father, to understand why you have chosen to take me home, and help her to carry on the tradition of ministry that you have given our family. Give her a special anointing.”
Several years passed and Huldah began attending Business College following the completion of her high school education. One notable weekend, her father invited Mark Buntain, the young evangelist son of reverend Dan Buntain, former General Superintendant of the Assemblies of God, to speak at their church. Meeting Mark for the first time, Huldah reflected that he was “thoughtful and courteous but that there certainly were not any romantic sparks that flew that evening.” Parallel to this meeting, Huldah was engaged in a personal, internal struggle, hoping God would retract any calling on her life to ministry. However, the longer she prayed, the more certain she became that He indeed had a special calling for her that she must follow.
Mark took a quick liking to Huldah and asked her on a date to a Chinese food restaurant. Huldah accepted and remembers being sure of Mark’s feelings for her when she received from him a box of name brand chocolates and a bottle of expensive perfume. Mark was winning her heart, and she went to bed that night reciting to herself, “Huldah Buntain, Huldah Buntain.” Their relationship progressed and after a wonderful 13-month courtship, Mark and Huldah married on November 22, 1944.
Money did not come easily during their first years of marriage. Mark’s father had advised Mark to be as grateful for ten dollars as he would be for ten thousand dollars, and this philosophy helped the Buntains overcome feelings of envy, inferiority, and faithlessness during this time. In 1953, Mark and Huldah welcomed their baby daughter, Bonnie Buntain, into the world, and Huldah grew increasingly convinced of her call to enter into the evangelistic field with Mark, trusting God to provide their needs.
In that same year, Mark and Huldah received news from the Field Director of the Assemblies of God, Maynard Ketchem, inviting them to serve in India for one year. Feeling called to missions, the Buntains excepted and on Bonnie’s first birthday, they boarded a ship sailing from New York. Two months later, they docked in Calcutta, India.
The Buntains’ held weekly tent meetings during their first year in Calcutta in the midst of debilitating monsoon rains and a heat scorched summer. When the year came to an end, Huldah and Mark made the life-changing decision to remain in the city, as they could not walk away from the real and extensive needs amongst its poor.
In 1959, the Buntains were presented with the rare opportunity to purchase a piece of land where they constructed the first church to have been built in Calcutta in 100 years. Since most churches in Calcutta offered a church-run school to the children of parents who joined their congregations, the Buntains desired to do the same, not only for church membership, but for all of the uneducated children in Calcutta. Raising the necessary funds, they opened their first school in 1964 with 16 staff members and 200 children enrolled.
One day, during a church service, a beggar walked in and shouted to Mark, “Preacher, feed our bellies and then tell us there is a God in heaven who loves us.” This inspired the Buntains to launch a number of additional compassionate programs, beginning with a feeding program to nourish the physical needs of the poor. While Mark was the visionary behind each project, Huldah was the tenacious administrator. Living as a Caucasian woman in a foreign country, Huldah had to act courageously in many difficult and threatening circumstances. Whether carrying on amidst city upheavals, removing a machete from a man attempting to rob her, or defending herself in court against false accusations from former employees, Huldah was ever-enduring and never bemoaned her commitment to Calcutta’s poor.
The next 20 years saw miraculous growth in both the size and scope of the Buntains’ programs. Perhaps their greatest accomplishment was the 1977 construction of a 120-bed general hospital that provided free, quality care to the city’s poor. Huldah was instrumental in the progress that followed, tirelessly raising funds from around the world to support a variety of new initiatives. By 1980, their programs had grown to include a 150-bed hospital with outpatient facilities, a School of Nursing, 12 primary and secondary schools with an enrolment of 2,200 children, an evangelistic radio program, a feeding program in five locations serving 1,500 people daily, a home for the aged and destitute, and multiple churches in and outside Calcutta.
Huldah recalls God’s abundant provision and care for her family during these initial 30 years, and above all, His profound love for Calcutta. She felt very blessed, being rich in God’s strength and dwelling in the light of His purposes. Her heart was filled to overflowing for Calcutta’s distressed people with its sick children and impoverished families. She wept for them because she loved them. They were her home and family.
In 1989, Huldah was in Bangkok in transit to America for a fundraising campaign when she receive the devastating news that Mark Buntain had passed away suddenly from a cranial haemorrhage. Unwilling to give up on the city that had become her passion, Huldah continued her family’s work in Calcutta, assuming the role of Senior Pastor and Chairman of the Assembly of God Church and mission in Calcutta. Her fellow workers and supporters around the world encouraged her determination, and Huldah took great comfort and confidence in knowing that God had everything under control. Mother Teresa, a good friend of the Buntains, affirmed Huldah in her decision, saying, “I will miss [Mark] very much. We worked well together. You must carry on the good work. We must continue loving the poor.”
In the decade that followed, Huldah was not slow to act on the vision she shared with her husband, continuing to secure funds and support so that she could bring holistic, life-giving care beyond Calcutta and into its neighboring towns and villages. By 2010, amazingly her work had grown to include over 700 churches, over 100 primary and secondary schools, Bible and vocational schools, a teachers training college, children’s homes, outreach clinics, a daily feeding program for over 10,000 people daily, and a 173-bed hospital serving 2.2 million patients and providing 40 percent with free care. Huldah’s daughter, Bonnie, and her husband, Dr. Jim Long, assumed key roles in the organization, serving on the hospital’s board and organizing Huldah’s programs under the current name, Calcutta Mercy . Together, with Huldah at the lead, they oversaw a new cleft palate repair program, recruited sponsors for children at the Calcutta Blind School, and funded free, ongoing medical care for boys and girls suffering from thalassemia and leukemia.
Huldah’s legacy continued for another<# years> before she passed away at <location> on <date>. She left behind two daughters, three grandsons, and one great granddaughter, as well as thousands of men, woman, and children in Calcutta who loved her as “Aunty Buntain.” Huldah’s refusal to retreat to the West after Mark’s death is evidence of her faith in God’s ability to help her multiply the work in Calcutta – a faith that God continues to honor. In recent years, Calcutta Mercy has celebrated the opening of the Hope House for children from disadvantaged contexts, a new College of Nursing facility, rural Mercy Clinics for outlying villages, community development and global health initiatives in impoverished villages, and job training and healthy employment opportunities for sex workers from Calcutta’s red light district. These programs were inspired by Huldah’s belief that God’s message of love addresses every aspect of life, meeting the needs of people suffering from starvation, lack of education, homelessness, poor health, and dissatisfaction with life.
Huldah never sought notoriety through her service but was most content working behind the scenes. She emulated the Bible verse, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven … For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-20, NIV).
Huldah’s family, worldwide supporters, and a staff of over 100 doctors, nurses, social workers, administrators, and visionary leaders proudly continue Huldah’s work, changing the welfare of Calcutta’s children and their families through holistic and sustainable nutrition, development, health, and education programs.