John Scudder and Sophia Weld Scudder, (missionary couple working with Arcot Mission, Tamil Nadu, 1861-1900) were stunned for a moment during that particular afternoon to hear those words from their youngest daughter telling that she wanted to become a medical missionary and serve rural people of India. Prior to that Ida Sophia Scudder had been talking about marrying a millionaire and settling down in USA. Moreover, she was a happy-go-lucky kind of person during her youthful days at college in the United States. Seldom did anyone predict that she would decide to come back to India where she had witnessed so much famine, sickness and poverty among the masses during her childhood days as a missionary kid. A particular event changed her life once for all! One night Ida witnessed a tragic scene. She witnessed the death of three women for want of medical attention during childbirth. Their husbands were reluctant to get help from a male doctor and let them die. Their death could have been avoided. (During those days women doctors were unheard of India). That shook Ida’s heart and she strongly believed that it was a call and challenge from God to start a ministry to provide health needs of women and children in India. Ida thus dedicated her life to be a medical missionary in India.
After graduating from Cornell Medical College, New York in 1899, Ida immediately retuned to India to fulfill her mission. She started a one-bed clinic at Vellore in 1900. She upgraded it to a 40-bed hospital in 1902 by raising funds from Mr. Schell, president of a New York Bank. That became the foundation for her 50 years of selfless service to Indian people. There was only one doctor for every 10,000 during Ida’s era and therefore she had to work round the clock treating nearly 700 patients in a day most of whom could not pay even a penny. When she realized that many patients of interior villages could not afford the transportation to her clinic, Ida began village outreach medical programs. She had a tender and compassionate heart like her Saviour.
Ida’s determination to do God’s will was incredible. Her motto was – ‘creating opportunities and using every opportunity in life to serve the underprivileged people’. She always aimed higher and her moves were based on absolute faith in God. She expanded her work gradually by starting India’s first college of nursing in 1907 and a medical school in 1918 to produce more trained women to support her mission. She remarked, “First Ponder, then dare, know your facts. Count the cost. Money is not the important thing. What you are building is not a medical school. It is the Kingdom of God. Don’t err on the side of being too small.” No wonder Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore stands to this day as a towering testimony of her faith and commitment! She also opened a children home for unwanted babies and orphans, a specialty clinic for lepers, many rehabilitation centers and rural health centers. Through all these institutions her goal was to magnify her Lord Jesus Christ and walk in his footsteps
Dr. Ida did not distinguish evangelism and medical service as two separate aspects of Christian Mission. Her words, “Healing in the name of the Great Physician” sums up her idea of mission. She did not miss any opportunity that would bring souls to the Kingdom of God. She appointed a catechist and a bible woman to preach to people during the time when they waited to meet the doctor. In the hospital, she implemented the system of daily ward prayer for the recovery of the patients. Also she appointed full-time hospital chaplains to counsel needy patients. Majority of non-Christian patients appreciated and welcomed the prayer services conducted before surgeries. Through her medical and evangelistic work, nearly 3 villages were brought to the light of the Gospel during her life time.
Ida remained unmarried. She considered her medical students, many of whom were orphans from rural background, as her God given children and she invested her life in imparting Christian Character to them. She died at the age of 90 in 1960. One Life well Lived!