The Church of the American Ceylon Mission has been celebrating its 200-year old history of work with missionaries from the United States for two years. Five young men, students of Williams College in Massachusetts, decided to serve God in some area that did not yet know Christianity. They arrived in the northwestern part of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and began learning the language and translating the Bible into the Tamil language spoken by the people living in the area. Soon after they arrived, a man by the name of Dr. John Scudder arrived to live out his strong Christian faith by bringing his medical practice to the area.
His faith was as strong as his dedication to medicine, and soon the missionaries already there ordained him as an evangelist. He clearly was serving the needs of body and soul with his patients.
His dedication to God’s work showed itself best when he began to build schools for children and adults, as well as a hospital and clinic. His most important contribution to the Tamil people with whom he worked was education – especially a medical school and translations of his medical texts so that he could use them to teach and train Tamil people to do the work of treating injuries and illnesses that he was doing.
His gifts as a medical missionary did not die with him – his descendants carried on his work in India as well as in Ceylon. For missionaries all around the world, he was and is an inspiration and lesson in the real nature of God’s mission. Dr Scudder did not do medicine to, for or instead of the people with whom he worked – he did medicine with them, sharing the gifts God had given him so that others could share them also.
In celebration of all the missionaries that have served in Ceylon/Sri Lanka, the CACM had a wonderful Service of Celebration with CACM clergy and lay people gathering on October 18 in Pandaterrippu, at the church by Dr. Scudder’s home – now the church parsonage! The service was followed by the release of a Sri Lankan stamp in Dr. Scudder’s honor. Public officials, CACM clergy and laypeople spoke to the importance of Dr. Scudder’s influence, then and now. It is wonderful – inspiring! – to know that his work of 200 years ago in Ceylon is held in high esteem by the country and the people of today’s Sri Lanka!