Our Centenarian is Gone

Kuthi Muthu was with the church at Lock Street for as long as I can remember. In her younger years, she was married to leper and bore him eight children, yet she never contracted leprosy.   I can’t remember her ever being ill enough to have to go to the hospital.  She was a winner.  Unfortunately she and her husband did not rear their children in the Lord because they did not know about the church until the children had grown up.

Age 80
Age 80

As she aged and became a widow, she sometimes spoke of being cold during the rain season.  That complaint was easy to understand, because I too felt the cool dampness even in my house during the monsoons.  I gave her a sweater and hoped it would warm her.  Then one day she came saying her stomach hurt and she needed help to feel better.  We took her to the local hospital where she was admitted for a few days for observation.  The doctors there claimed she had cancer and sent her home to die.  Not willing to give up so soon, we took her to another hospital in the area where we were told the same thing, except that these claimed she was too old to treat.

After trying four more hospitals, we finally took her to an elderly lady doctor in the village who had sympathy enough to try to find out what Kuthu Muthu’s trouble might be.  The diagnosis was related to her feet and legs and she she was treated for tropical Filariasis (sometimes called elephantitis). It obviously affected her stomach too.

A younger teacher at CTTS volunteered to carry her breakfast every morning along with the prescribed tablets for treatment.  The medicine was harsh and she seemed to grow weaker and sicker quickly.  The young man continued to monitor her and give what the doctor prescribed.  One day she fainted and sustained a rather nasty bruise and cut to her head.

In all this, Kuthi Muthu never wanted to miss an assembly of the saints.  Even when she was so sick she could not walk, she asked for someone to carry her to the meetings.  Likely because she thought her time was near, she came bringing a cloth bag filled with wadded up rupees (Indian money) and requested to be able to donate that to the church one day.  Some covetous soul who heard about her gift berated her and said, “You should  have given that money to your children!”

Her children…ah, yes, those eight she bore to the leper…those eight who were not members of the Lord’s body because they had been reared in paganism…those eight who couldn’t wait to occupy her house…

Not one of them wanted to take care of her in her old age!  Mind you a son and his family had moved into her house–supposedly for that purpose, but they would not even give her a cup of tea in the mornings, nor would they feed her anything but waste food.  Students and teachers from CTTS took it upon themselves to be sure she ate three meals a day and had the medicine she needed.  We could not assume her family would allow her access to good food or medicine even if we sent it there, so this had to be part of our personal daily ministry.  It was literally a trip to find her three times a day and give her what she needed–our chance to be used by the Lord to visit the widow in her affliction…(James 1:27).Kuthi Muthu at 84

Finding Kuthi Muthu was not always easy.  She learned early to avoid the brutality at home, so she walked, and walked, and walked from morning until late at night. There were times we found her on the roof top of her four story apartment building.  She lived on the third floor, so going up one more floor by the stair was nothing to her.  Later, when someone blocked the stairs, she used the metal ladder bars outside the apartments to climb all the way up the apartment walls.  She said sitting in the summer tropical sun was better than listening to the fighting in her home (Prov. 21:19).  One day she complained about never having a chance to rest in her own house and cried about the treatment she was getting.  Someone asked her if that gave her a chance to return good for evil, and she agreed it did (Matt. 7:12; Luke 6:31).  She was willing to be defrauded (1 Cor. 6:7).

There were so many trials during those last years, but Kuthi Muthu seemed to conquor her temptations and remain strong.  We too had trials along with her and were often tempted to give up, but the journey was a blessing for all of us.  She passed from this life last month and many will miss her sweet, yet strong will to do what was right.

Reading old letters and remembering…

This letter was written April 2005.

How often have you read the scripture about widows in the Lord’s church?  How many women do you know who fit that description?

Honour widows that are widows indeed.  But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.  Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day.  But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.  And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless.  But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.  Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man, Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work (1 Tim 5:3-10).

According to the Lord’s commands, we should be careful to take care of such Christian women until the day they go to be with Him.  They have proven themselves beyond a doubt and deserve to be like Anna in the Temple, who “served God with fastings and prayers night and day” (Luke 2:37).

Sometimes there are dedicated women who do not fit every description.  They may be the only ones in their families who are dedicated to the service of the church.  One such lady in India is R. Ammani.  Her whole family was on the Roman Catholic register in Kerala, but Ammani was converted in the early 1980’s.  She attended the Chennai Teacher Training School classes and became a faithful member of the Lock St. church.  When we needed a teacher for the children’s class which met on a veranda of the original Anchorage building, she was the first to volunteer.  She had nearly 100 little children which gathered there each Sunday for many years.

Later Ammani went to teach young girls in a Bible school established by another missionary brother south of here.  She was able to do that work for some time before one of the preacher’s wives took her place.  When she came back to Chennai, she often talked fondly of the young girls she met and learned to love there.  Several of those young girls used to make special trips to Chennai to pay her a visit and tell of their marriages or of their new babies.  There was a genuine rapport that could be observed by anyone.

Later, when we needed a helper in the kitchen at CTTS, sister Ammani was willing to work for us for pay.  Previously, we had paid her nothing for all the work she had done.  I am not sure how many years she has been engaged in the kitchen work, but she has been with the school a long time.  She also graded Bible correspondence courses sent out in the Malayam language.  She offered to help us in our secular school classes teaching illiterate village women skills to help them find jobs.  She taught basket weaving, embroidery and crochet.  Even while she was busy cooking the meals every day for our students, there would be a half dozen ladies gathered at her elbow to watch her cook and ask her questions about their craft work.  At one point she crocheted a border around the communion cloth for our Lord’s Supper Table, and did not ask any pay.  She often sent cooked food to our daughter when she was pregnant; trying to be sure she got good nutrition while she was carrying her children.

About 6 years ago, Ammani was diagnosed with stage 3 cervical cancer.  She did not have surgery because the cancer had progressed too far, but she had chemo and radiation therapy and supposedly was cured.  She recovered and was able to work again in her normal duties.  Each year, she has gone for check-ups and had a good report, but last week she was told that she is terminal.  She has had fluids drawn off her stomach and the test results show that the cancer has gone beyond treatment.  I feel a deep sense of sadness at this news, as you might well imagine.  Ammani has been a truly faithful friend and Christian worker at CTTS for many years.  Her word was always her bond.  Never once can I remember her telling me anything that I did not find to be true.  She never spoke of anything unless she were absolutely sure she had her facts straight, and that was most comforting to me in a land of Cretians (Titus 1:12).

Ammani is nearing 76 years of age.  Why has she worked so many years doing so many different things?  One would expect that her children would support her after all these years, but they were not Christians.  Two sons, whose wives left them, were living with her and had no jobs.  They did not help with the housework nor pay bills.  Sister Ammani had all the bills to pay and all the work to do at home besides.  She endured much from an ungodly family who leached off her good nature.  Often she cried about not being able to see her beautiful grandchildren because the mothers moved far away from the lazy husbands.  Ammani’s home life was never pleasant, but she always had a smile on her face and she genuinely loved the Lord’s people.

Scripturally, sister Ammani deserved to be enrolled as a widow, but she never allowed herself to take something for nothing. She did what she could.

BCC Graders
Ammani is in the front–right side.

Correspondence Course Graders:
Front Row—left to right Shirley Mani (English); R. Amani (Malayalam)
Back Row—left to right K. K. Rao Mark (Telugu); G. S. Gnanaraj (Tamil)