On International Women’s Day, I’m thankful for all the women I’ve met, and cried with, and lived with, during our years in Nepal and India… and then while gathering stories for ‘The Plum Tree in the Desert.’ I could tell you about all of them… but here’s Iris. She’s a Chennai raised Indian who has spent 40 years doing medical and gospel work in the jungle of Malkangiri. For the first 15 years, Iris and her husband Paul lived in the village, with limited water and electricity, and they spent all day treating patients and sharing their faith. It was hard. For the first 15 years, they made good friends and shared stories, but nobody from the local tribal people came to faith in Jesus or asked to be baptised. Iris and Paul felt like giving up. They had used up all their money and sold all of Iris’ jewellery. Then Paul became very sick. The family went south to Vellore Hospital. Paul had an operation and died in the middle of it. Iris was 42 and they had four children. The youngest was nine months old. Friends said to her, ‘Don’t go back to Malkangiri. Stay here in Chennai. Set up a medical practice’. But nine days later, Iris and the children got in a jeep and returned to the village and the people in Malkangiri. Iris went back to seeing patients from sunrise till sunset.

The local people noticed and said to each other, “You see, she loves us. She came back. The God she loves must be real.” Within six months, 36 people came to Iris and asked to be baptised. Now there are 5,000 believers in Malkangiri. Rates of vaccination and literacy and crop production have all increased. Violent crime and alcoholism has greatly reduced. And Iris said to me, “It doesn’t feel like 40 years. I wish I could do it again,”

Lord, today, in the place where you have us… teach us to love.