Recently Rajaratnam Abel, contacted our President Charles Scudder, whom he met last year on the Scudder Foundation’s bicentennial return to India. Abel was putting the finishing touches on his most recent book, Dr. John Scudder: World’s First Medical Missionary. He was excited about sharing his research and writing with members of the Foundation. He enclosed a fascinating explanation of how he came to write the book. The story of how Abel’s creative muses were awakened, is yet another tangible example of the Scudder spirit of service living on.
It is with pride and great enthusiasm that we share that story with you now.
How I was drawn into writing the book on Dr. John Scudder
By: Dr. Rajaratnam Abel
When our son was two years old, we were in the United States for one year, as I completed my Master in Public Health course at the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. My brother and sister put tremendous pressure on me to break the bond and remain in the United States. Just to make sure that I had no roots in the US, just before I left, I closed the bank account I had opened. My brother was furious.
Thirty-three years later a similar story was repeating. Here was our son, well placed in his career, posted in the US, decided to come back to India as a missionary. Little did I realize that my own pathway had its influence on him. For a moment I took the role of young Dr. John’s father 200 years earlier and tried my best to break this decision or at least delay the return to India. My son had read the life stories of many missionaries, and he wanted to follow their footsteps. Many left the United States with nothing, with no thought of their children, their education, or health, and some with no thought of ever returning to their country. If God had taken care of them, then He would take care of him too. That was his reasoning for which I really had no answer. Just to let me know that his decisions were final, he registered his US born son as an Indian citizen. He rejected all our suggestions. Shortly afterwards he requested a transfer back to India and on arrival in India he submitted his resignation from his company and entered the mission work. Reluctantly we accepted the reality of our son’s choice of mission work and gradually started supporting him and his family.
Two years down the line in India, one day, he shared something that I had never heard before. He had come to know about Dr. John Scudder and the tremendous sacrifice he made in coming to India/Sri Lanka/India. Knowing that I had started writing books during my retirement, he asked me if I would write a book on Dr. John Scudder, as he shared the little that he knew about him. So, here’s the book.
We thank God for giving us the desire to share the life and story of Dr John Scudder. Beyond celebrating the bicentenary without any pomp and show, there was also a desire to motivate the next generation to be prepared to serve as missionaries, whenever God called them.
It is my prayer that this book would motivate those who read it to be challenged by the missionary spirit that brought Dr. John Scudder to India two centuries ago. What an impact he and the succeeding generations of Scudders have contributed to the missions in India, especially Tamilnadu, and more particularly, in its northern part! What a challenge we have in carrying forward the legacy he left behind!
This book is not written as another biography of Dr. John Scudder. While it was definitely an attempt to celebrate the bicentenary of the first landing of Dr. John Scudder and his family in Calcutta in 1819, there was also a desire to motivate the next generation to be prepared to serve as missionaries, whenever God may call them. Therefore, in the closing chapter, I imagined what Dr. Scudder would say if he were here, to motivate and strengthen those moving in the direction of a calling as a missionary. May God speak to the hearts of those He has chosen to serve as missionaries for Him.
Former Scudder President, Rob Fish wrote the preface to the book, he concluded by saying…
“What is it that drives these crazy Scudders? Truly the spirit and zeal of the patriarch have been sustained. You will have the opportunity to learn more about the man and his wife, who took the first and most perilous journey. Able Rajaratnam studied at CMC, and as most do, returned to the mission hospital where he had served seven years. He also went on to serve at RUHSA (Rural Unit for Health and Social Affairs) for an additional 27 years until his retirement in 2005 as total program director. In addition to saving the non-believer from disease, RUHSA add another layer to that idea by helping to bring people out of their paralyzing poverty. There is a sign at RUHSA that reads like this: “People will believe not what you say but what you do.”
Robert H Fish, DMD
Rajaratnam Abel (1945-) was born in Prakasapuram a small village near Tuticorin, Tamilnadu, India. He grew up from age 4 to 14 in Srilanka. Since returning to India in 1959 he has lived primarily in India. He studied in India’s best medical college. He started his medical career in Nepal. He completed his Masters in Public Health in Johns Hopkins University with the world’s best public health school, which honored him with the Delta Omega award for his work in rural health and development in India. Subsequently he completed his PhD. God has endowed him with the skill of writing, drawing lessons from his experience living and working in a village for more than 25 years. He has widely travelled giving lectures and presentations in different countries. He has contributed significantly through a number of scientific journals.