People always surprise me. More often than not, pleasantly. More so when they work in communities and give their all to help — when they live true to the Gospel, and when they continue their work despite tough times. These times we live in — these months of lockdown during COVID, of furiously spreading infections — are indeed difficult. Perhaps the most challenging times we have ever seen here in the southern Indian state of Kerala.
So when I met Father Justin Kolamkanny, Director of the People’s Service Society Palakkad (P.S.S.P.) and his assistant, Father Sebin Urukuzhiyil in Palakkad, they were people whose lives were devoted to the way of Jesus. We were all going to Ramdampuzha, a little village in the hills, in the middle of a forest. Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) is part of a project to provide aid kits to the parishioners in this diocese so they don’t go without food. These kits include basic necessities such as rice, lentils, onions, oil, biscuits, flour, soap, sanitizer, and toothpaste. The two priests were setting out to distribute these to the needy.
Ramdampauzha is a stunningly beautiful place. Although in the middle of nowhere, it is green with tall teak trees surrounding the houses. There’s a river that runs through the village. Its water is clean and free-flowing. But to those who live here, it only causes floods and damage. One of residents, a young woman named Jomol V.K., who’s 19, was philosophical about living by the river. “What use is this beauty if all it causes is destruction?,” she asked as we marveled at the beauty around us.
We heard stories of resilience, mostly about women whose husbands have left them and the children behind. They haven’t heard from the men in years. They have a practical view of life: don’t waste time crying after the men when the priority is bringing up the children. These women work hard as daily wage laborers. They help out on the rubber plantations, tapping latex and carrying wood. It is hard work. The nearest hospital is about 10 miles away and if one person in the village falls sick, the whole community comes together to help. This camaraderie is stronger because of their faith and belief in Jesus. Father Justin and Father Sebin help strengthen the bond of the community. They visit every single house every week and the people know the church is always there for them.
COVID-19 has tested every single one of us in some way. Most people here have no work because of the lockdown. This is where the church plays an even more important role. Faith is tested when people are hungry. The one thing I learned from this community was the trust they had, the trust in Jesus to provide.
Indeed: again and again, help comes to them from one place that people know will not fail them, no matter what: the church.
Read more about The Palakkad Samaritans in the Autumn 2020 edition of ONE.