An Interview with Pastor Ratnam
Pastor P. Ratnam and his wife, Suneetha, are the founders of the Mission for the Rural People - India. Below, Pastor Ratnam has given us an insight into the inspiration behind the Mission for the Rural People, the Good Samaritan Orphanage, and Richard’s Home for the Elderly, as well as his plans for the future.
Where did the idea of the Mission for the Rural People come from?
I grew up in a very poor village. We hardly ever had enough to eat and life was very hard for my family. My mother worked in the fields usually returning to the house after 8 o’clock. I had to sell our produce in the market at Bhattiprolu and would have to walk 16 kilometres there and back for very little return. During my trips to the market, I used to observe the treatment of the street children. They begged for their survival and they were often beaten by the market traders. Their terrible plight deeply affected me, I was heart broken and I resolved, even as a child, to do something about this.
What were things like in the early days of the Orphanage?
In the early days of the Orphanage, there were only three children and we struggled to survive. Five of us had only 250 grams of upma (rice flakes) to sustain ourselves and there were many difficult days. We often wondered how we would survive and we prayed for the Lord's help.
One day, a woman came to us who, for many years, had been suffering from terrible pains in her knees that the doctors could do nothing about. We prayed together and the woman returned the next day and told us that her pain had completely disappeared. This woman began to donate Rs 600 per month to the orphanage and has done so ever since. Our prayers were answered and we were able to continue and grow our Mission. This was our first great miracle.
How does the Orphanage manage to support 200 children now?
In 2002, Suneetha made contact with Liz Dew in England. Liz had been Suneetha’s sponsor as a child but she never knew her address so, when she contacted Liz, she wrote Liz Dew, the Lake District, England on the envelope and never expected to hear anything further. Incredibly, Liz got the message but unfortunately got the return e-mail address wrong so she sent a reply to "Ratman"! This message actually made it to Ratnam and Suneetha and a chain of events took place that meant Liz and her friends in the churches of the Lake District began to donate and sponsor our children. Today, Liz and her fellow church-goers sponsor 30 children at the Orphanage, which largely sustains our work. Without Liz Dew and her UK friends, none of our work would have been possible. We owe her an enormous debt of gratitude. This was our second great miracle.
What is your main motivation Pastor Ratnam?
The faith of Christ controls all things and the mind of Christ is the love of Christ. He has provided everything and our belief in his love sustains us in our work.
What have been the most recent developments at the Mission?
Last year, we had a visit from Chris Evans (not the DJ!) from Global Green Trotters. He brought with him a team of volunteers and they helped bring about huge improvements in our work. They helped us build a number of new wells, construct a girls dormitory, run a number of medical camps, and begin work on our first care home for the elderly. These have been my long-term dreams and we are so excited that we will be able to extend our work to so many more people as a result of Chris Evans, Richard Beatty, and the team. More recently, we ran more medical camps with the aid of Andrew Fernandes, a volunteer from London. We were able to provide doctor consultation and much needed medicines for over 500 poor and needy people. That all these volunteers should have come from so far away and provide so much has been our third great miracle.
What are your plans for the Mission for the Rural People India?
Over the next couple of years, we need to do more work on our existing buildings, there is not enough room for all the children to sleep inside which is a big problem when the monsoon season starts. On a bigger scale, we still have so much work to do in Andhra Pradesh. This is one of the poorest areas of India and we have huge social problems, including large numbers of destitute elderly, homeless children, poor sanitation, poor access to drinking water and, not least, the spread of AIDS which is having a devastating effect on the rural poor. We believe that our work has only just begun and so we plan to provide more safe places for orphaned children, more care for the elderly, and more clean drinking water for the rural people.