On the afternoon of July 2, AG world missionary Huldah Buntain, who co-founded Calcutta Mercy in India with her husband, Mark, passed away in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Born on Nov. 21, 1924, she was 96 years old.
In a posting on the Calcutta Mercy website, it stated in part, “Huldah will forever be honored for her great love for the disadvantaged poor of Calcutta, having dedicated over 65 years of compassionate service so they might live life more abundantly.”
In Treasures in Heaven, Huldah records her initial impressions of the Kolkata (previously Calcutta) region and its people. The pleas of those she encountered were answered by the dedication of her life and ministry in Kolkata and the surrounding areas.
As we shouldered our way through the crowd, children clamored at our ankles and begged for a coin or scrap of food. So many of them were skinny, puny and deformed. I longed to gather them in my arms. Their eyes loomed like those lofty owls, looking at me as if I were a majestic goddess here to deliver them from the cruelties of their world. Tears surfaced in my eyes, thinking to myself that some of the children who had touched me would soon be a bag of lifeless bones.
On the way to the mission house, Dan described some of the sights we were passing in his jeep, but I wasn’t especially tuned in. The cries of the children we had left back at the dock were still ringing in my ears. I felt like a tyrannical empress who had elevated her nose in response to the pervading pleas.
On that day, Buntain noted that she felt like “a tyrannical empress,” but due to her ensuing commitment, ministry, and compassionate response, thousands now call her Aunty Huldah.
The life of Huldah has laid the foundation for both present and future generations.
Huldah’s early years were spent in Japan, where her parents were among the first Assemblies of God missionaries to the nation. Thereafter, her father led their family back to Vancouver, British Columbia, where he began to pastor a church. There Huldah met Daniel Mark Buntain, and they were married 18 months later.
Until Mark’s death in 1989, the Buntains pastored a large church that planted more than 70 other churches and preaching points in Kolkata and its surrounding areas. Together they produced radio broadcasts, oversaw a printing plant, ministered to thousands through daily feeding programs, and established a home for the destitute and aged.
Education was a significant point of focus for the Buntains, resulting in the construction of Christian day schools, a vocational school, a teacher training college, and a 167-bed hospital with a school of nursing. In addition to this, the Buntains were also instrumental in beginning Kolkata Teen Challenge, a distance Christian education program, and several Bible schools.
Although Huldah passed into glory, her legacy of compassion lives on, having left a discernible imprint on multiple continents — both in and outside of the Assemblies of God.
Following Mark’s death, Huldah became senior pastor of the church and chairman of the ministry. Her vision was to fulfill Mark’s dreams for Kolkata and the projects in the region. Under her oversight, the ministry grew to over 700 churches, hundreds of schools, children’s homes, and nutritional programs. The hospital has served more than 2.2 million patients, providing 40% of them with charitable care.
“We can’t change the whole world, . . . but we can change someone’s world,” reads a powerful quote attributed to Huldah on the Calcutta Mercy site.
Huldah Buntain, whose longing was simply to gather the children in her arms, now finds herself in the arms of Jesus. In her honor and to the glory of God, the eulogy of Mark Buntain can be repeated; “The triumphs and trials of the past are only preludes to a greater and more glorious future. The love of Jesus which Rev. (Dr.) Buntain proclaimed, practiced, and demonstrated remains unchanged and will continue in the years to come.”
Huldah is survived by her two daughters and their husbands, three grandsons and their wives, and four great-grandchildren, all of whom actively contribute to the legacy that she has left.
The family requests friends of Huldah to visit buntainfoundation.org for more information on how to honor the life of a woman who has touched so many. Over the upcoming week, communications regarding her funeral service, memorial services, and other important announcements will be posted there.
Excerpted from Buntain, Huldah. 1989. Treasures in Heaven. New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House. Page 105. Used by Permission. All right reserved.