A rich heritage

The missions’ heritage of CMC is rich and wide. The Mission Office seeks to recollect and bring to light the details and the events in the life of the missionaries who were involved with CMC in several different ways. We start our series with the life of Rev. Dr. John Scudder, the grandfather of Dr. Ida Sophia Scudder. 
Rev Dr John Scudder - a man of remarkable spiritual qualities 

Dr. John Scudder was born in Freehold, New Jersey, in September 3rd 1793, and he was the second of the twelve children that Joseph and Maria Scudder had. He graduated in 1811 from Princeton and then went on to study medicine. He completed his medical degree in 1815 from the College of Physicians in New York. Due to his skill and his kindliness and his peculiar knack of gaining the confidence of his patients, he quickly established a good practice in New York and was earning over $2000/- per year, which was a considerable sum at that point of time. As a member of the Reformed Church on Franklin Street, he stood out, even in those austere days, as one of remarkable spiritual qualities. 

"Why doesn't someone do something?" 

One night as he was visiting a patient in New York, John Scudder's attention was caught by the title of a pamphlet lying on the table. "The conversion of the world or the claims of 600,000,000 and the Ability and Duty of the Churches Respecting Them". He read it through. 

Then, "Why doesn't someone do something about this?" He asked himself, and immediately the reply flashed into his consciousness; "Why shouldn't I?" This at that moment, to him was the voice of God. He bowed his head and asked; "What will Thou have me do?" Again came that flash: "Go heal the sick and preach the Gospel to those who have never heard of Christ". He was 25 years old then. 

"Whither thou goest, I will go" 

He consulted his wife, Mrs. Harriet Scudder regarding his “Call”. They had one daughter, Maria, who was 2 years old. After weeks of prayer, she told him, “Whither thou goest, I will go”. Dr. John then went on to offer himself to the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions. He said, “I have made it a subject of serious and earnest prayer for some time, that God would direct me in the path of duty and that if it were my duty, he would open an effectual door for this purpose….. if God should by his Holy Spirit, influence the board to accept me, I will go forth in his strength and proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ”. The opportunity he asked was to serve as both physician and minister in a land where there were none of the former and few of the latter. It was a unique undertaking.  

Mad project of a 'wayward' son 

But his father, Joseph Scudder, a reputed lawyer categorically forbade John’s going as a missionary to a disease-ridden land, which lacked not only the amenities of civilization but the very necessities of life. He threatened to disinherit his son if he carried out his “mad” project and he went on to carry out his threat.

First American medical missionary 

On June 8th, 1819, 26 years old Dr. John Scudder boarded the ship ‘Indus’ along with his wife Mrs. Harriet Scudder, daughter Maria and their maid Amy from Boston’s Fulton’s St. Dock and embarked on a journey that would significantly alter the eternal destiny of many lives in this part of the world. Like the patriarch Abraham, they went forth to a land they had not yet seen with no thought of return. The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Mission was sending forth the first American Medical Missionary on a missionary endeavour. 

A trail blazer and a huge inspiration 

Dr. John Scudder was definitely a trailblazer for hundreds of his profession who have gone out to the four corners of the earth. More than that, over 40 of his descendants then went on to contribute over a thousand years (1074 years) in serving Christ in the mission field. Even those who supported the ventures admired the conviction that led these men and women to sacrifice homes, security, family-even life itself-and accept permanent exile with such evident joy.

Why gamble it all for an uncertain future?

What was this conviction that inspired these people? The Gospel of the grace of God, by which the individual is saved from his sins, was held to be the supreme gift bestowed on man by the Redeemer who died on the cross. No community made aware of this privilege had a right to keep such a blessing to itself. “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature-” this was an imperative command to be disobeyed at peril. What India, like the rest of the world, needed, was a fuller knowledge and acceptance of the love of God. To declare the love of God in Christ- that was what Scudder meant by evangelism. Science and religion were not meant to be in hostile camps but combined to make the whole man. This was the unique message of the medical missionary, Dr. John Scudder, over two centuries ago. 

Mentored by the Father of Modern missions - William Carey 

The journey from Boston to Calcutta took four months and Dr. John Scudder witnessed to many sailors during the journey and many were converted. After their arrival in Calcutta, they proceeded to Serampore to meet the man who is considered as the Father of Modern missions- Dr. William Carey. From this pioneer, Dr. Scudder and his associates learned much about the start of missionary enterprises, especially what pitfalls to avoid.
A resolve unweakened by great tragedies 

While at Calcutta, little Maria was stricken with dysentery and died within 3 days. They set out to Ceylon, to reach Jaffna where Dr. John Scudder established his first dispensary. However, in Ceylon, their 2nd daughter who was born died soon after birth. The words of Dr. John Scudder at this point of time display considerable faith. "This is a severe trial, but we do not repine. We, however, must have the feeling of nature. We must say that our trials have been heartrending ………… Perhaps our dear parents may be ready to say that we are sorry and repent of our coming. No, we rejoice and thank the great Head of the church for putting it into our hearts to leave America and come and live among this people. I would not exchange situations for a world. Blessed be God, I hope to be the unworthy instrument of bringing souls to the dear Redeemer".  

Death of third child 

Nor did Dr. John Scudder falter in his faith, when, in 1822, a little son died soon after he was born. Again the father could say, "Thy will be done", and could look on sorrows as opening the door to deeper spiritual life and could hope that the loss of his own children would mean a compensating increase in the size of his spiritual family- the conversion of the multitudes unto the Kingdom of Christ. 

All seven children choose a life of service 

(Dr. John and Harriet had thirteen children; 3 died as babies, one died by drowning while in Theological Seminary - Mr. Samuel Scudder. The rest - seven sons and two daughters - came back to India in response to the call of Christ. All of the sons were ordained ministers and five of them were physicians as well). 
A father who could not forgive or forget 

One might think that when this news reached Joseph Scudder he would relent. However the letters from India were thrown into the waste basket unopened. The mother rescued them and read them loud to her other children, clearly and distinctly. Her husband, in an adjoining room, kept his door open and heard every word John had written. Yet despite the sorrows that befell him, the older man kept up the stubborn pretense of having cast off his son. Even later when Dr. John Scudder's children, Henry and William came to America for their studies, they were accommodated by Mrs. Scudder's mother as the father had not yet reconciled with Dr. John Scudder. 

Time on his knees before the start of everyday 

Dr. John Scudder was ordained on May 15, 1821 in a Wesleyan Chapel with Congregational, Baptist and Methodist ministers performing the rite. He had started to preach in Tamil by then and his usual medical work was started daily following an exposition of the scriptures. He had also spent much time in the surrounding countryside and on the neighbouring islands, preaching, teaching and distributing tracts which due to the lack of a printing press, had to be written by hand on olai. The Palmyra leaf was torn into strips for this purpose and on this the Bible story chosen was laboriously written in Tamil script. His day began at six O' clock or earlier. After an hour and half spent in prayer, meditation and reading of his Bible, he used to start his clinic- usually up to 60 patients in the morning itself. He also took up people under his tutelage for purpose of Christian medical training - a step which inspired his descendants for many generations. 

Physical injuries and death threats - for staying true to himself 

Often he had to face severe trials and persecutions including physical injuries and even the threat of death in his pursuit to proclaim the Gospel. He wrote "It may be my lot to pass through many such wretched scenes and I desire to meet them whenever my Lord may call, but I must say with all my religious philosophy and with my belief that we should praise God as well in adversity as prosperity, such things are not and cannot be agreeable to flesh and blood. Assistance from on high is necessary to bear up under them with cheerfulness". 

Heart-wrenching goodbyes to the children 

Besides preaching and carrying on his medical work, he started many Christian schools, throughout the district as his private funds could finance. Mrs. Scudder meanwhile took care of the sixteen boys and three girls they had adopted. He was instrumental in starting 23 schools. In April 1832, Dr. Scudder took his two elder sons, Henry & William aged 10 and 8 ½ to Colombo and put them on a ship bound to Boston, under the care of the captain of the ship. For the parents it was the first of a long series of heart rending ordeals which lasted more than a decade as they sent their little ones, two by two, half way around the world with small hope of ever seeing them again!  

Return to India 

In May 1836, the Board sent word that as long as Ceylon had received so many new missionary recruits, Dr. Scudder and his associate, Mr. Winslow should go to the main land and start work in Madras. Thus in 1836 the Scudders returned to India and started their work at Madras. 

No limits to the vision of John Scudder 

There was no end to John Scudder's ambition. There were no limits to his vision. No sooner had he crossed to the mainland and established himself in his new post than he began planning for a Christian educational institution in Madras. He and Dr. Anderson of the Church of Scotland were the most ardent advocates of such a college. With this end in view, John made a trip through the jungle to the west coast to visit British officials and get their sanction and donations. 

Narrow escape from a horrible death 

On the trip back he was seized with jungle fever, probably a form of malaria. Word was sent to Mrs. Scudder that his life was despaired of. She did not hesitate, although she was expecting a new baby within the month. A friend provided her with a tent; bearers were engaged and provisions laid in. Accompanied by her youngest son, John (Dr. Ida Scudder's father) she set forth. There was a bare hope that she might find her husband alive, even on the road to recovery. In order not to lose time, relays of bearers had been engaged to carry her by night and day. When they were in the depth of the jungle the bearers became frightened as night fell, and hearing the roaring of the beasts, they fled precipitately leaving Harriet and her little son exposed to the possibility of a horrible death. 

Still safe by morning light 

What could she do? There was but one thing. Taking her little son by the hand, she spent that night on her knees in prayer. She heard the heavy tread of wild elephants, which could have trampled them to death. Then came the growl of tigers and other ravenous beasts, the sounds approaching and then receding. They seemed to be circling round the spot where she knelt. She had prayed to God and was sure that God held them back. When morning came, she and her child were still safe. The cowardly bearers returned and resumed their burden. She found her husband convalescent, the immediate danger of death past, but his health badly impaired. They returned to Madras where she gave birth to her 13th child, a daughter, whom they named Louisa. 

Not even jungle fever could stop Dr. John. As soon as he could stand he was off again to the hinterland, preaching in towns and villages and distributing tracts to those who could read them. (His colleague, Dr. Anderson, later founded the Madras Christian College) 

Restored to his father and his home 

He used to travel from Madras to the nearby regions - especially did a lot of work at Kanjeepuram and Wallaja. The frequent journeys, trials and hardship took its toll on his health. Though he did take a few breaks to go to the Nilighiris, finally he was persuaded to leave for America to restore his health that he might be able on his return to labour more effectively for the "Coming of the Masters Kingdom". Five of his children were already there. In March 1842 he and Mrs. Scudder set out with the other five. Nearly 23 years had elapsed since they sailed from Boston on the Indus: then neither of them expected ever to return. Going back home was to them a tremendous experience. One evidence of God's Providence marked their homecoming. Joseph Scudder, who had sworn to have nothing more to do with his son if he went to India, who had refused to write to him and had ignored the claims of his grandchildren, now met the exile on his return, opened his arms, and embracing him, restored him to the home he had surrendered. 

Strong in flesh as in spirit 

In America he preached to over hundred thousand children and youth in almost every city of Atlantic sea board during his furlough. He spent much time in sensitising the people to the mission needs of the world. They returned to India in 1860. John Scudder at this time was about 50 years old and relentless in his demands on himself as he was to others. Once a cancer developed in his foot. He said nothing to his wife. Shutting himself up in a room with only a servant to help, he cut it out, with no anaesthetic and only the crudest of instruments. He nearly fainted several times in the process but he finished the job which must have been a very thorough one for there is no record of it ever reappearing. 

Grievous loss of first grand child 

Among the many admirable qualities he passed on to his descendants were his consecration for Christ, his sense of guidance by revelation and the inspiration that enabled him to act. During this time, he had the grief of losing his first grand child - Rev. Dr. Henry Scudder's son had died due to cholera which struck Vellore. 

Fight against caste within the church 

Dr. John Scudder significantly contributed in the fight against caste systems in the Church. The Madras Missionary Conference at this time took a stand that resulted in the almost complete absence of caste in the Mission churches - a remarkable achievement for the missionaries when they had caste related problems surrounding them. 

Bold and ardent believer

Dr. John Scudder was bold in presenting the Gospel to the rich and the poor. He was invited by the Raja of Puddukottah and operated on some of the important people in the palace. Afterward he preached the Gospel to the Raja and the others. He had written many pamphlets and booklets to raise missions' awareness in America and England. His letter to the Prince of Wales shows the missionary zeal he had in these ventures. 
"Madras, June 28, 1851 
To His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales
May it please your Highness 

I take the liberty of sending to you a small volume relative to the condition of the people in India. The first thing which will present itself to your view on opening the book is a picture of the Hook Swinging, which I have repeatedly witnessed in this country. On reading the description of this ceremony, of the burning of widows with the corpses of their husbands which still prevails in some parts of the country not under British control, and of various other ceremonies, the feelings of your Highness will become painfully interested. And I shall not regret it, even should they become painfully interested, if the description should be the means of leading you to praise Your Heavenly Father for His distinguished mercies to the land over which Your illustrious Mother has been called, in the Providence of God, to reign. 
Praying that Your Royal Highness may in early life consecrate 
Yourself to the Savior who loved You and died for You,
I beg to subscribe myself
Your Royal Highness' Most Obedient Servant,
J. Scudder. 

Opposition from traditional healers 

Around this time his eldest son, Henry Scudder had finished his training from Madras Medical College and joined his father. Their skills drew considerably large number of patients. This caused lot of opposition from the traditional healers and they at times resorted to even witchcraft to harm the missionaries. 

In this year 1849, Mrs. Scudder was stricken with tropical fever. As she was dying, her youngest daughter, distracted with grief, cried, weeping, and "What shall I do? What shall I do? "Read the 29th Psalm and do accordingly" was the mothers reply. 

Sweet sleep with Jesus 

On the evening of November 18th, with her husband sitting by her head and some of her children by her bedside, she opened her eyes and said with peculiar energy, "Glorious heaven! Glorious salvation!" Those were her last words and as her husband wrote, "She sweetly fell asleep in Jesus". 

With his wife's death, something vital seemed to go from Dr. John Scudder. He continued to work harder than ever, preaching now thrice daily instead of twice as had been his practice. 

End of a lifetime of zealous service

By 1854, Dr. Scudder health failed markedly and the mission board booked a passage for him and his third son Joseph, on a ship going to South Africa. He had refused to return to America and the trip was planned to improve his health. While on the ship, his health improved. After reaching South Africa - Wynburgh, he immediately started preaching to the English speaking people. On January 13th 1855, he preached in the morning and came back to his lodging to lie down and rest before the evening service. Shortly before time for them to start, Joseph went in to awaken him and found him apparently asleep. But it was such a quiet sleep that the son realized it was his last and that his father would preach no more.  
There was an impressive service in the Dutch Reformed Church in Wynberg and then accordingly to his previously expressed wish, his body was taken to Madras and laid beside that of his wife. Then from Madras the mortal remains were later shifted to Ranipet. The Scudder's in India had assembled for a dedication, the interrment service was read and a prayer offered. Then Aunt Ida removed the American flag, uncovering the marble slab over the final resting place of Dr. and Mrs. John Scudder.  

"Vellore - an excellent place for missionary labour"

Did Rev. Dr. John Scudder ever dream about a mission venture in Vellore? It is interesting to note that during one of his trips to India from Ceylon (before he shifted to Madras) he did actually mention about a vision about Vellore. He wrote in his diary on September 25th 1824, "This morning I went out to view the size of Vellore. As it is situated at the base of a mountain, I thought I would ascend it. After a half an hour's hard labour I had nearly reached the top of it when I came to a fortification which surrounds the peak of the mountain. The view is most charming. Vellore is an excellent place for missionary labour. It needs a dozen of labourers".  
Torch handed down and the dream fulfilled 

Over a hundred years later his grand daughter stood (Dr. Ida Scudder) in the same spot, panting from her swift climb, sweat pouring down her face. It was still early in the morning, for she had started up the hill before sunrise. A dozen labourers? There were a dozen dozen! Wiping the sweat from her eyes, she focused them on the cluster of new buildings filling the large walled space close to the foot of the hill, gleaming white, block upon block of them, crowned by their majestic clock tower. "Bravo!" a voice seemed to say in her ears, "Worth waiting a hundred years to see!" So vivid was the impression that Dr. Ida could actually feel him beside her. Dr. Ida laughed aloud. Grand father John's dream fulfilled? Now at last, seeing the new hospital gathered suddenly into the young sun's embrace, she was convinced of its reality.  

Again like the patriarch Abraham, who though he did not see the land of Israel physically, but believed in the promise of God , Dr. John Scudder dreamed of a missionary venture in and around Vellore through his spiritual eyes . His descendants went on to fulfil his dream - their significant mission contributions include CMC Vellore, Scudder Memorial Hospital at Ranipet, clinic at Wallaja , Arcot Mission , Arcot Seminary, Arcot Academy ( later this became Voorhees College ), Industrial Institute at Arni , Tindivanam High School, formation of the Church of South India , publishing scriptural literature in the local languages , translation of scriptures, Ladies Seminary at Chittoor, an elaborate organization of schools etc. Above all they significantly contributed to the development and sustenance of the Arcot Church. 

God is not ashamed to be called their God 

Dr. John Scudder, the first American Medical Missionary and his wife Mrs. Harriet Scudder, who came to India in obedience to the call of God and had spent 36 years of active service to build the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ - What shall we say of them ? 

Hebrew 11:13-16 " All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things made it clear that they are seeking a country of their own and indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them. 
Reference -   A Thousand years in Thy Sight
  -   Ida S Scudder of Vellore – Dr. Pauline Jeffery.
  -   The Torch of Life – Ms. Dorothy Clarke Wilson.