09 Mar Trailblazing . . . From Tiruchirapalli to Haryana
I first met Priscilla at an EGF in my parent’s home in Vellore. She had come to visit Dr Margery Immanuel and Dr Sudhakar Immanuel (pioneer tentmakers of UESI Uttarpradesh). I had the privilege of attending Priscilla’s wedding in Jharkhand. These are excerpts from an interview with the newly married couple.
Jeslyne: How did you end up so far away from home?
Priscilla: I attended a women’s retreat in Trichy and was inspired by Margery aunty’s message. So I committed to go as a tentmaker to North India. I was studying in Bishop Heber College, a part of Trichy ICEU and am a native of Rajapalayam.
Jeslyne: Prisci, it’s amazing to hear your story. I wonder being a girl from a conservative Tamil Christian family you could manage to get permission to leave to a faraway place. How did it happen?
Priscilla: Initially I faced stiff opposition from my family. I left home in defiance of my Dad’s order. But later he understood that I would rather obey God’s call to labor in the vineyard than settle for a comfortable life back home.
Haryana is the Partnership state of Trichy district. I have often prayed for Haryana when I was a student. I never knew God would send me in answer to my own prayer. I am a rather ordinary girl; I don’t have great talents or abilities to boast of. I wanted to serve God in a needy place. So I left after finishing my studies.
Jeslyne: So how was life in Haryana? What did you do there?
Priscilla: I didn’t know Hindi at that time. I joined a B.Ed College and completed course. Later I joined an engineering College in Karnal and taught English. I took a rented house. We cooked our own food and travelled by public transport. My students liked me very much. Once, we had exams duty and I didn’t allow students to cheat and copy. The management called me to ask why I was creating trouble. But I told them copying was wrong and should not be done. I taught my students to be honest and work hard.
Whenever I visited Tamilnadu, I invited young people to work in North India. I used to ask people to visit us and encourage us in the state of Haryana. We have small group witnessing for Christ in that state.
Jeslyne: How did marriage crop up?
My family and friends tried to search a suitable groom for me. I did not want to leave North India. Some graduates were even annoyed with me for refusing “good” boys. But I never wavered and my mind was made up. I was open to any background groom regardless of mother tongue, caste and other factors. I wanted someone who would move to North India after marriage.
Jeslyne: Can you tell us a bit about yourself John?
John Tirkey: I am from Jamshedpur, Jharkhand and belong to a CNI Christian family. I worked as a Coordinator of Jharkhand EGF after completing my Bachelor Degree in Economics. Then I shifted to Kurukshetra in Haryana as national staff of UESI.
Prisci: Rampal & Daisy (Haryana Staff) considered John for marriage to me. I initially ignored since we were from entirely different backgrounds. Later, senior staff and graduates helped break ice on both sides by ironing out differences in culture and customs. Many voices that said it would be difficult. Yes it was a difficult decision, but we both loved God and wished to honor Him. We both prayed and agreed to marry. Our families met in Haryana for a small engagement ceremony on 23rd May 2016. The wedding was scheduled for September ‘16 in Jamshedpur.
Jeslyne: I and Phebe, a friend of Prisci from Trichy EU flew to Kolkata and took a train to Tatanagar to surprise her on her wedding day. Prisci’s sister and her husband live in Bhutan and came for the wedding with their two young sons Joel and Joe. The boys told us about school, languages and life in Bhutan. We listened to every word they spoke. There was much meeting and greeting as other family and friends arrived.
Jeslyne: What was unique about your wedding?
Prisci and John: There was no bride price or groom price paid for the wedding. In Jharkhand, it is customary for the boy to give dowry to the girl’s family. Men almost worked for a year to provide clothes, cash and kind to the girl’s relatives. In Tamilnadu, the bride’s family pay dowry to the boy. This evil custom has economically ruined families and destroyed precious lives for centuries. Many Christians follow it too. We shunned the practice and focused on building a Godly Christian home with the resources we had. We avoided needless practices.
Jeslyne: The wedding was held in John’s home church, CNI St Mark’s church in Jamshedpur. John looked happy and handsome in his suit and Priscilla beamed with smiles looking lovely in her white wedding gown. There was a pan Indian crowd as I saw people from Tamilnadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Orissa and of course, Jharkhand. There was a couple from Bhutan too, friends of her sister’s family.
Mr. Selwyn Samraj, a senior graduate from Jamshedpur and our host, gave a message based on the wedding at Cana. UESI staff and graduates were there. Girls and boys from Jamshedpur ICEU attended and sang in the choir. It was a Hindi service but I joined in singing the English version of the songs; “The voice that breathed o’er Eden” and “There shall be showers of Blessing”. We all sang “10,000 reasons” in English.
After the wedding, there was drumbeat and singing. Men beat drums and sang while the women locked arms moved in graceful steps to the beat. Priscilla’s older sister Priya and I joined them in the dance to enjoy the happiness of the moment. Bihar was once known as the ‘Graveyard of Missions’. We were privileged to attend this wedding service in a church in Bihar and witness the people joyfully celebrate in their traditional native custom. We thanked God for the missionaries who sowed the seeds of the Gospel in the land.
I was thrilled to see a young graduate friend from Dhanbad and Joanna Besra, a Ranchi graduate. She and I attended UESI Writer’s workshop at Highfield, Kotagiri way back in 2001.
John is no stranger to Tamilnadu and has visited Kotagiri and Trichy earlier after joining UESI. A reception was arranged for the couple Bishop Heber College at Trichy the week after their marriage.
We wished the couple a happy married life and they invited us to visit Haryana. We pray for God’s blessings and mercy as they continue their work as a couple among college students in Haryana.
I Cor 2: 9 ( NKJV)
But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
Jeslyne Isaac is a member of the Healthcare Christian Fellowship India Board (HCFI). She involves in medical outreaches and training healthcare professionals and students.