An Encounter in India

[Letter from my father to the President of the Singapore Mission]

25 Jun 93

P.O. Box ____ Andersen Air Force Base
Yigo, Guam 96929

Singapore Mission
Singapore 1025

Attn: President __________

Dear President __________,

My name is Brother __________ and I’m currently stationed here at Andersen Air Force, Guam. I’m writing to you with a request for help or information as I try to locate an individual or agency in New Delhi, India, that I can work with to help a small beggar boy I met while I was there.

I was in New Delhi earlier this month as the president of an Air Force Mishap Investigation Board investigating an aircraft taxi accident at New Delhi International Airport. While the investigation team and I were in India we traveled to the city of Agra (about two hours by train from Delhi). While at the train station in Agra I met a 10 year old beggar boy who was in desperate need of medical attention. He was only about three feet tall and extremely thin, but his feet were swollen as large as footballs. It was obviously very uncomfortable for him and he was only able to get around with great difficulty. Still, despite the great discomfort he was quite cheerful as I tried to talk to him and find out something about him.

Since I was in India on official Air Force business my schedule was necessarily extremely tight. I helped the boy as much as I could, got him something to drink and gave him some money, then spent the short time I had before the train departed trying to track down his parents or other responsible individual to see if there wasn’t some way to get him the medical attention he required. I was unsuccessful and ultimately had to depart feeling a high degree of frustration, as I’m sure you can imagine. The counsel of King Benjamin to never turn away a beggar took on an urgent reality and I wished more than once that I had the faith of Peter and could have healed him on the spot as he did the lame man. The train station was pressed thick with people but I did manage to hold his thin little arm and give him a silent priesthood blessing, then promised myself I’d do what I could as soon as I was back home.

I realize that the world is full of our brothers and sisters who, like this boy, are suffering, and there are thousands in India alone. Some acquaintances have already insisted that I can’t hope to touch them all, the notion being, I suppose, that since there are so many, helping just one would be more or less pointless. While it is true I can’t help them all, I can help one, (and more than one if I can track down an individual or agency I can work through) and I’m determined to try. I wonder if those that doubt this effort is worthwhile would feel it was a waste of time had they talked to the young boy or looked into his eyes as I did.

When our investigative work was done in India I had to travel to Okinawa, Japan to compile and organize the actual mishap investigation report. Then, as soon as I returned to Guam I went straight to the Branch chapel and checked the Church directory, hoping there might be a small branch of the Church in New Delhi. I couldn’t find one but I did notice that India appears to fall within your mission boundaries. I am therefore writing to you with the hope that perhaps you are aware of a Church contact or other individual I could trust to help me locate this boy and see that he gets the medical and other help he needs.

When I returned to Guam I immediately went to see the Flight Surgeon to ask for his best opinion on the required treatment based on my description of the young boy’s symptoms. When I first met the boy I assumed his condition was the result of a parasitic infestation, but after describing the symptoms to the Flight Surgeon he is almost certain the swelling in the feet is the consequence of long term dietary protein deficiency. He indicated that it is probably reversible, but that a long term (at least a year) protein sufficient diet would be required. Too much protein, he warned, would result in serious, even life threatening kidney complications for the boy.

I know it wouldn’t be too difficult for a contact in India to locate the boy since he spends each day begging at the Agra train station, or at a local tourist spot (called Red Fort, I believe).

I have a son in the __________ Mission and I know that your missionary and supervisory duties are demanding President, but I would appreciate any help or leads you could offer, and would appreciate even a negative reply, since I would then know to try a different avenue to solve this problem. I’m sending a similar letter to President __________ who was listed in the Church Directory as the Asia Area President. Hopefully between these two leads I can make some progress. Funds will not hold me back if I can find a reliable contact. I have sufficient funds of my own, and if additional funding is required I can work through our Branch Elders Quorum or friends, and even the Base Chaplain if I must.

Thank you for any assistance you can offer.

Sincerely, your brother in the gospel,


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