Today in Church History

No Rest for a Weary Clara Swain

No Rest for a Weary Clara Swain

Travel today can be fatiguing. When Clara Swain left the United States in 1869, to become the world’s first qualified woman medical missionary, it was far more arduous than now. She wrote:

“The latter part of our voyage was very rough and I was too sick to write, and I had five sick ones to look after besides myself…I cannot bear to think of the sea, it treated me so badly.”

Circumstances did not brighten when she landed at Bombay, India. Her luggage was a week late. When she attempted to leave Bombay in a horse-drawn conveyance known as a dak garis, the horses lay down and refused to go, despite all coaxing. She slept in the dak garis, well aware that the fires winking in the distance were to keep tigers away from villages. Thanks to delays, she arrived at her next stop, Jubalpore, too late to catch the train to Cawnpore. She had to wait another day. At Cawnpore, she was still one hundred and eighty miles from her destination, Bareilly.

With no knowledge of the local language, she was hard pressed to obtain food. In the end, she found it necessary to fast most of that day and night as she traveled in another dak garis. She arrived in Bareilly at five in the morning, on this date January 20, 1870.

After so exhausting a journey, she might have been forgiven if she sought a day of rest before beginning medical work, especially since her luggage, with its precious cargo of medicines, would not arrive for another month. However, rest was not to be her lot.

“My medical work really began the day of my arrival. When I came out of my room in the morning I found a company of native Christian women and girls eagerly awaiting the appearance of the “Doctor Miss Sahiba,” and with the aid of a good missionary sister I was able to understand their words of welcome and find out what I could do to help them. As I had no medicines with me, I procured a few simple remedies for their ailments from Mrs. Thomas…”

By the end of the year she had treated 1,300 patients and trained seventeen medical students. Single-handed, she lectured on anatomy, physiology, materia medica, and diseases of women and children. By 1874, she had built the Women’s Hospital and Medical School, the first in all of Asia.

Its forty two acres was acquired miraculously from the Nawab of Rampore. This zealous Muslim had sworn he would never allow a Christian missionary in his city. After deep prayer, Clara and another missionary approached him about the land. He greeted her royally, feasted her, and exclaimed, “Take it, take it; I give it to you with much pleasure for that purpose.”

Clara’s work was essential, because male doctors were not allowed to attend women. Religious customs secluded high-caste females to Zenanas. Medical care was usually provided by ignorant barber girls. Clara used her skills as a doctor to gain an entrance for the good news that Christ had come to free India’s women of sin and raise their status.

When Clara’s health began to falter in the hot climate, she accepted an offer to become palace doctor to the Rajah of Rajputana and his Rani. She attempted to teach the love of Christ to women so spiritually ignorant that they even worshiped her sewing machine! Clara recounted these experiences in colorful letters home, published in 1909 under the title, A Glimpse of India. Her missionary adventures included a brush with death in a flood and a close call while riding an elephant in another of her arduous journeys.

Published by directorfsm

I retired from the Army in 1994 and lost my way in the world. I ended up in prison and it was truly the best thing that could have happened. There Christ rescued me from my depravity (John 3:19) and made me whole again. Since my release in 2006 I have worked in some form of ministry, either prison or construction/disaster relief and sometimes both. My lovely wife Naida and I serve as Missionaries from Pioneer Valley Baptist Church, Chicopee, MA. We are currently headquartered in Jackson, MS. We were sent to the mission field in 2012 to help Rebuild Lakeshore, a ministry of Lakeshore Baptist Church in Lakeshore, MS complete its post Katrina building projects. We had been serving there part time for many years before being called into full time service. While there my wife worked the Mercy House distribution center and I worked as project manager/volunteer coordinator also serving as Sr. Volunteer Chaplain at the local Hancock county jail. Since completing that project in late 2015 we relocated to Jackson MS to assist a church there that had come to help in Lakeshore many times. But due to many circumstances the focus for the ministry has changed some and expanded over the past 24 months. We still help churches in their building projects and do a lot of disaster relief work. For a full list of what we offer please see the SERVICES OFFERED page on our Faith Builders site. Back in 2006 I started Faithful Steward Ministries and FSM Women’s Outreach a Christian outreach ministry; to those with addictions, incarcerated and our veterans we continue to write and mentor these folks. Additionally I am a Chaplain for Mission M25 Network on Run For the Wall and for two military organizations. Between us my wife and I have two beautiful daughters 3 sons and 11 grandchildren and 1 great grandchild.

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