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"If we give them a book to read, and the means to read it, God will bless His Word"

This quote by Mary Kinnaird, was the reason two women felt compelled to travel from England to India in 1852. There they established a teacher teaching school in Kolkata which would train Indian Christian women. These women were then to go to secluded Zenanas and teach them to read and write, by doing so sharing the gospel with them as well. Zenanas were quarters for widowed women, it was a place where they were forgotten and closed off from the world. 

So many names

Interserve has been through many name changes in its long history. It was originally known as the Calcutta Normal School until 1864, then the Indian Female Normal School and Instruction Society until 1880, then the Zenana Bible and Medical Mission until 1957, then the Bible and Medical Missionary Fellowship until 1987. The name was then changed to Interserve to reflect both its international nature and its emphasis on service.

The work spreads

The work gradually spread to neighbouring countries, such as Pakistan (following the Partition of British India) and Nepal, which was completely closed to Christianity until the 1950s (the Nepali Church now consists of over 400,000 people). In 1952, men were accepted as workers for the first time – until then, only women were allowed to join. The work has spread to all the countries of Asia and the Arab World, and Interserve workers are sent from many countries, including Canada, Holland, the US, Malaysia, Germany, India, Pakistan, Hong Kong, Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland, South Africa, Brazil, and England and Wales.

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