India Missionaries Anil and Teresa Henry visit Pleasant Hill, TN
Doctors Anil and Teresa Henry, medical missionaries from Mungeli Christian Hospital discuss the growth of the hospital in India while visiting in Pleasant Hill.
Some of Pleasant Hill residents have served in the mission field in India. Joyce and Bill Baur worked in hospitals in Tilda and Bombay from 1966 until June 1974. Quessie Krell was born in Punjab Province, the daughter of Presbyterian missionaries. Dick & Joyce Riesz were missionaries in Madurai, a big city in the far south of India from 1963 to 1993. Dick was called to start up a new Graduate School of Physics in The American College, started 128 years ago. Robin & Fran Markham after many years serving missions in Africa, became volunteers in their retirement at American College in Madurai, where they helped in a program of teaching computer skills to handicapped young people that had been started by the Rieszs. In addition others have traveled extensively there. Dr. Alfred Rogers, visited four times as a guest of an Indian friend, who recently visited Pleasant Hill. The Pleasant Hill Community Church, UCC sponsors a child at the Family Village Farm, a mission-founded day and boarding school in northern India. However, none have as intimate a connection as Peg and Herb Muenstermann. Peg’s sister Nancy Lott Henry, sent out over 50 years ago as an American missionary nurse, married Dr. V.K. Henry, remaining in the country to raise a family. V. K. Henry’s family were fourth generation Christians in India. For two years the Baurs and the Henrys lived next door to each other. Today, Nancy Henry serves the Church of North India, teaching and preparing nurses for hospitals. Her son, Anil Henry, who is the nephew of the Muenstermanns, followed in his parents’ footsteps in the medical field. His wife Teresa is an anesthesiologist and together they serve the Synodical Board of Health Services of the Church of North India at the Christian Hospital in Mungeli, India. Anil is the Medical Director.
Anil graduated from the Christian Medical College in Vellore, India and held a comfortable position as a surgeon in a Nashville hospital. They were frequent visitors to Pleasant Hill to see their aunt and uncle. In spite of their valued medical positions in Nashville, they felt called to return to India with their twin sons and daughter to share their medical expertise in the mission field. Anil remembered the difference his parents had made in a rural hospital in India. The elder Henrys built a dying hospital into a huge, successful, 150-bed medical center. Returning to India in 2003, Anil’s father suggested that if they were looking for a challenge, they might investigate the hospital in Mungeli. The Mungeli Mission was established in 1868 by Christian missionaries from one of the precursors to the United Church of Christ – the Congregational Church. In 1885, missionaries from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) joined them. Those denominations joined four other churches in the unification of the Church of North India. From its heyday in 1903 when the Hospital treated 342 in-patients and 9,698 out-patients, it had fallen on hard times suffering from lack of resources and leadership.
It was a challenge all right. The Henrys found the buildings in shambles, encroached upon by vegetation and animals. Monkeys considered the roofs and buildings their playgrounds. It was monsoon season and their house had no roof. The campus was almost completely dark except for three bare light bulbs on the corners of one building. There were no screens. Snakes and mosquitoes were everywhere. There were no phone systems, no mattresses, no linens. The Rambo Memorial English Medium School was on the point of closure. Families who brought loved ones for treatment were camped in the open spaces, cooking and sleeping in very primitive conditions. “We had to go on faith,” Anil says. “We didn’t have a budget. We treated patients first and asked about their financial resources later. As we receive funds, we buy what we need next. But every month so far we have come out in the black.”
The transformations that have taken place in the Mungeli Mission are a tribute to the leadership of Anil and Teresa Henry. They would give credit to God and the pulling together of the community to share resources, talents, and muscle power. Today, the hospital has 120 beds, 200 staff, 5 doctors, and serves over 30,000 out-patients. Not only have the hospital facilities been modernized, the school revitalized, a building to house families with facilities for cooking added, but a school of nursing has had its first capping ceremony. This year a day care facility for working women has begun. For several years, US churches and medical facilities have sent their used equipment to Mungeli, but with the purchase of a brand-new CT scanner the hospital is quickly catching up with modern techniques. Global Ministries, a joint venture of the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church, requires missionaries to return to the U.S. every two years to report on their activities. Each time Anil and Teresa return, we in Pleasant Hill marvel at the growth of their children and the miraculous growth of the Mungeli Mission. Those of us living in the Pleasant Hill area can’t help but compare the medical mission of the Henrys with that of Dr. May Cravath Wharton who founded a hospital here in 1921.