"Much of what we do is like planting trees under which we may never sit, but plant we must." ~~motto, Reaching the Unreached
Brother James Kimpton has been planting trees for a lifetime and
|Brother James Kimpton|
In his time in the East, Brother Kimpton has made no converts. That is not what he's here for. He sees religion not as the work he does, but in the work he does. "To me, every child I serve is Jesus," he says.
It is difficult to describe Brother Kimpton's work. It encompasses so much and so many. Among other things, he digs wells, builds homes, runs schools, dresses wounds, rescues orphans, rehabilitates the disabled, feeds the hungry, trains the unskilled, and shelters the abandoned. There are entire villages that exist and generations of children who are because of this man's heart.
James Kimpton belongs to the order of the De La Salle Christian Brothers. At 27, he was sent on an overseas mission to Sri Lanka. For 12 years, he taught in the slums of Colombo and Vatthala, working with deaf, mute, and blind children. In 1964 when the government ordered all foreigners to leave the country, he caught a ferry to India and traveled to the city of Madurai. "The minute I got there I knew I'd come home."
Brother Kimpton founded an orphanage in Madurai, a huge
|Kids At Anbu Illam|
There are many miracles at RTU that Brother Kimpton can but will not claim responsibility for. He is a man of many talents and much humility. An architect, artist, educator, economist, medical worker, water-diviner, and administrator rolled into one. Because of him:
A dedicated staff, most of them grown-ups who were once children under Brother Kimpton's care, assist in the effective management of RTU's numerous projects. With headquarters in G Kallupatti, a small village at the foothills of the Western Ghats, RTU now serves more than 60 villages within a radius of 25 kilometers.
The Children's Villages are the most beautiful testimony to the commitment and compassion of Brother James Kimpton. The first of these was Anbu Illam -- Home of Love. It is an entire village built for the care of orphans, and destitute children. Brother Kimpton built them a complex of little cottages, simple and cheerful. He put his own little room in the midst of it All. Each cottage is home to six children. Each home has an "amma" (mother) who takes care of the children. The ammas themselves are often young widows, abandoned wives, or old women with no families to support them. Brother Kimpton, with one of those deft strokes of intuitive genius that come so naturally to him, brought the children and these women together. He gave them families again.
RTU is supported by religious and secular organizations and individuals from around the world. The non-profit's highly efficient and economical operations keep maintenance costs at a minimum. Six-hundred rupees supports a child in Anbu Illam for one month. But the wide-ranging activities of RTU involve hefty expenses. While they have never quite run out of funds, they sometimes come pretty close. Brother Kimpton is unperturbed. "I've found that when you're doing the Lord's work, the money follows," he says peacefully.
In his last will addressed to his superiors, Brother Kimpton has requested to be buried at Anbu Illam. Speaking to the audience gathered to celebrate his 50th year of service in Asia, he said, "I am an Indian by choice, and a Tamilian by preference -- but above all -- I am a Kallupattikkaran (man of Kallupatti)." He is smiling, but there is something poignant in his words. Three times Brother Kimpton has applied for Indian citizenship -- his 'dearest wish.' Three times his application has been rejected. There is a lack of bitterness and quiet humility in Brother Kimpton that makes your heart blaze with the anger and indignation his does not.
A tug at my dress. I look down. There is Meena. All of six. We have just met. "Akka (sister), you must eat in our house tonight," she says. A sweet spontaneous invitation, and an offer I
|Portrait by Brother James|
We troop over to Anbu Illam. Meena and her sisters take swift charge. They disappear into the kitchen and emerge with enormous vessels (or perhaps they only seemed enormous because the bearers are so small). I am served with rice, vegetables, and curry -- and love. Such love. It's a love that will surprise you everywhere at RTU. In the medical clinic where an old woman, her fingers eaten to stubs by leprosy, bandages a scraped knee; in the home of an old woman who feeds a sightless child; and now, in the ring of bright, beautiful faces around you, urging you to "eat more." So I eat, and the kiddies delight in their faces humbles me to no end. There is so much to learn right here, in this little cottage, from these children who serve a stranger with such joy. Another little girl pops her head in the door. " Akka," she says when I have finished, "now you must come eat at our house."
I ask the children, "What does he do for you, this Thatha (Grandfather) Kimpton?" They answer all at once, and the room swells with the clamor of childish voices. "He gives us toys." "He plays games with us." "He takes care of us when we're sick." "He gives us sweets." "He loves us."
In a sudden second, you see where they all get it from. The love you've seen everywhere comes from the one man at the center. It radiates from him, and everything he touches ripples outward.
He has transformed these lives with his tremendous capacity for love, and in that gesture he calls forth an answering capacity in them. The sense of community that exists in the RTU villages sets them apart. It is this, separate from the good housing and water supply, educational facilities, medical services, and other programs, that truly makes the difference.
Moments before the start of the celebrations, Brother Kimpton walks restlessly across the playground. "A couple have just brought in another one, a deaf and mute child," he says. He looks tired. And you wonder at the endurance that for 50 years has allowed this man to take on the troubles of so many. "I haven't any idea where we're going to put her," he says with a sigh that ends in a smile, "but she's such a beautiful baby."
You know that she will be all right , this little girl. You know that she will find a place; because, like all the other children before her, she has already found a place in Brother Kimpton's heart.
About the author, Pavi Mehta: