1954, Huldah and her late husband, Rev. Dr. Mark Buntain, agreed to
travel to India and serve in Calcutta for one year. That year turned
into a lifetime of service to the people of Calcutta and its surrounding
communities. Together, they established a holistic inner-city outreach
consisting of more than 100 schools, over 700 churches, a daily feeding
program for 25,000, and a full general hospital that has treated 2.2
million people and provided free care to 880,000.
her husband passed on in 1989, the Calcutta mission appointed her Chairman
and Senior Pastor of the church. Since then, she has continued to faithfully
serve the people of India as she travels around the world raising funds.
In 2005, Huldah founded Calcutta Mercy Ministries to support the comprehensive
ministry her and her husband built over the past 53 years.
who ever prayed with Mark Buntain would never forget it; he was a weeping
prophet whose heart must have been continually hurt with the pain of
1953, Mark heard the Lord tell him he would go to India. Fifteen months
later we received a letter asking us to go to India for one year of
Mark and I both came from families of ministers. His father pastored
a large church in Winnipeg, Canada before moving to Toronto to become
the General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God in Canada. My great
grandfather was a Presbyterian minister in England and my grandfather
a minister in our church in Vancouver, Canada. My mother and father
lived for many years as missionaries in Japan before my father returned
to Vancouver to pastor the church after my grandfather’s death.
I made up my mind that I would never be a minister’s wife. But, God
had different plans for
my life. I met Mark after my grandfather invited him to speak at our
church in Vancouver. I still resolved never to marry a preacher, but
eventually he won me over.
In 1954, Mark, my mother, and I headed for India aboard a ship departing
from New York. Upon arrival a number of weeks later, we began services
every night in a large tent on an open piece of strategically placed
land. But, monsoons soon made it impossible to continue tent services.
We found a large hall to rent above a nightclub on the main street,
a miraculous discovery in such a congested city. Many joked that it
was “hell downstairs and heaven upstairs.”
The First Church
The congregation grew at our nightly services and we soon decided we
needed to construct a church. However, in a city of 14 million people
only 7 miles long and four miles wide, land was a premium. The only
property available was where we held the tent meetings, but a Muslim
family owned it and refused to sell. Mark continually visited their
family and built a strong relationship until one day the grandfather
informed Mark, “My family is not in favor, but I am going to sell you
the land.” Two years later, the first church to be constructed in Calcutta
in one hundred years was dedicated on Christmas Sunday, 1959, on that
One night during a tent service, a beggar walked in and screamed, “Preacher,
feed our belliesand then tell us there is a God in heaven who loves
us.” He spoke to our hearts and inspired us over the following years
to develop a series of compassionate ministries all across the city
loved the poor. It didn’t matter if they wore tattered clothes, were
alcoholics, drug addicts, or lived on the street. He loved them and
ardently believed that helping them fulfills Christ’s commission and
follows the example he set.
The First School
After 1959, the church had phenomenal growth, but we were concerned
about the poverty
stricken families and their children without education. Yet, we didn’t
have the money to obtain land or construct a school. One day, Mark received
a phone call from the hospital. His Muslim friend had become very ill
and wanted to see him. As Mark kneeled by his bedside, the elderly man
faintly whispered, “I have told my sons, if I die, to make sure you
have the first option to purchase the property behind the church to
build your school.” A few days later his sons called and offered us
the purchase of the land. However, we had no money and a limited amount
of time to make the decision.
called a prayer meeting. I stayed home to take care of Bonnie. That
night I received a
phone call from Mark’s sister. A good friend of Mark’s told her he sensed
something was notright in India and asked her if Mark was ill. I explained
the situation and informed her of Mark’s prayer meeting that evening.
When my sister relayed the information to him, Mark’s friend, a prosperous
businessman, immediately told us that he would donate the money to purchase
the property for the school. After the purchase of the land, the Reverend
Jim Long (Sr.) and family was sent to relieve us while we traveled in
the states to raise funds to build the school. God helped us meet our
goal and we returned to Calcutta to construct our first school, which
we dedicated in January 1964 with 200 children enrolled.
The Miracle Story
We wanted to extend our compassionate ministries for the poor of Calcutta,
but the questions remained “where” and “how?” Mark noticed a vacant
cemetery being used as a soccer field near the church and school buildings
on one of Calcutta’s main streets. After inquiring, he discovered it
was an old British cemetery that had not been used for over 100 years.
Miraculously, the city granted us a ninety-nine year renewable lease
for the nearly four square blocks of land.
we needed to construct a hospital. The moment digging started we hit
a huge problem – a lake of water. Calcutta is only 12 feet above sea
level. The contractors informed us we needed to place pilings before
beginning construction. Convinced it was an attack from the enemy, Mark
gathered the staff together around the pool of water and explained that
we did not have enough finances for pilings for this huge building.
As they held hands, Mark cried out loudly, “God, give us another miracle.
Push the water back and allow us to move forward with the construction
of this hospital.” He then pulled a small Bible out of his pocket, wrapped
a rope around it, andlowered it into the water. Mark prayed, “If we
ask anything in Your name, You will hear us. In the
name of Jesus, stop this seepage of water.”
the amazement of everyone gathered there, the water receded and the
seepage stopped. I will never forget the astonished faces of the contractors.
God honored Mark’s faith. They poured cement as the water dried up and
construction proceeded as scheduled. Today, the basement of our hospital
is the driest of any building in the area. During the heavy monsoon
rains when other basements are flooded, not a drop of water can be found
in the basement of the hospital. The construction of the hospital is
an amazing story that’s too long to enumerate, but suffice it to say
that God performed one miracle after another in answer to many prayers
until the building was finally completed. Donations came from numerous,
unexpected sources. It was overwhelming to see how God answered our
prayers. On March 17th, 1977 the 120 bed hospital opened its doors to
the city of Calcutta. Today, the hospital treats over 100,000 patients
a yearwith 40% receiving free treatment irrespective of caste, creed,
constructing the hospital, we built a large school complex and nine-story
office building on the property. Today, the school is the Assembly of
God Church School and the office building is known as AG Towers. The
office building houses a medical clinic, pharmacy, nursing school, church
offices, in addition to renting space to other companies to provide
income for the hospital, feeding programs, and other charitable ministries.
Mark Buntain Memorial Assembly of God Church
Mark died in June 1989 of a cerebral brain hemorrhage. The media reported
that over twenty thousand people attended the funeral service as well
as hundreds standing on roofs of surrounding buildings and the street
in front of the mission.
had just signed plans for our new church that Friday and passed away
on Sunday morning. This was the last building to be constructed on our
mission complex. Again, it would take pages to record all the miracles
that followed. In short, God helped me complete this mighty project.
While in Germany a few weeks before his death, Mark said God spoke to
him about evangelizing the unreached areas in the states surrounding
Calcutta. I wish he could have lived to see his prayers become a reality.
Today, Calcutta Mercy Ministries is responsible for ministries in eleven
states with a combined population of 230 million people.
When I look over the growth of our ministry over the last 52 years,
I am reminded of Ephesians 3:20, “God is able to do far more than our
thoughts, hopes, dreams, and ever our prayers.” Today my daughter, Bonnie
Buntain-Long, is the Executive Coordinator of Calcutta Mercy Hospital
and her husband, Jim, serves as President of the hospital board. I continue
as President of the Calcutta Ministries and Founder of Calcutta Mercy
Ministries. It is always gratifying to see pastors, doctors, nurses,
teachers and workers in all departments of our ministries, many of which
were poor children who attended our schools, with no hope of a future
life. However, with education, training, and hope in Christ, they have
become strong national leaders in our mission.
did we know what God planned for our lives when we arrived by ship in
October, 1954. I will never forget our first week in Calcutta. Many
people warned us it was a hopeless city, but we believed that nothing
was impossible for God. Over the years there was much discouragement
and the devil fought hard to hinder the progress of our ministries.
But through God’s help, the Calcutta Ministries have culminated into
one of the world’s most comprehensive Christian inner city outreaches.
am often asked how we were able to accomplish so much for the Kingdom
We took it one day at a time. We worked hard and we did our best to
listen to the voice of the Lord, knowing that He was the One who sent
us. He was the One who performed the miracles and He was the one who