Institutes Associated

Bethel Ashram, Thiruvalla
Bethel Ashram, Thiruvalla

Bethel Ashram, Thiruvalla

Ashrams are places where the realization of the presence of God is felt and the power of prayer and meditation is experienced. During the bishopric of Bishop Gill, the then Bishop of Travancore-Cochin Diocese of the Anglican Church, the lady missionaries began to be called back to England as a result of the Second World War. Both the Bishop and Mrs Gill felt that unless the women of the soil came forward to replace the foreign missionaries, the Women's work of the Diocese will not take root in Kerala. It was in 1922 that Bishop Gill and his wife felt a great burden over the pathetic condition of the people over the country. People had no good houses; there was nobody to teach them about hygiene and good health. The condition of the women folk and the children were very poor. The Bishop’s wife used to conduct regular prayer meetings at the Bishop’s House and the educated ladies regularly attended these meetings. Many teachers from the schools around attended. Mrs Gill was very particular in giving these teachers the missionary challenge to work among the poor and the needy. At last, they found two young lady teachers- Miss. Edith Neve, the daughter of a British Missionary of the CMS, teaching in Buchanan Institution Pallom, and Miss. Rachel Joseph Thevarthundiyil – the first graduate woman of the Diocese then teaching at Baker Memorial School, Kottayam, as the right persons to launch the work. After much prayer and reflection, they decided to shoulder the responsibility and gave their consent. The Women’s Board of the Diocese flagged off and a women’s Evangelistic Band was formed. Mrs Gill appointed them at Alapuzha where Rev. M. J. Chandy the vicar of the Alleppy pastorate welcomed the two pioneers to his parish and volunteered to support them initially for three months by giving them a stipend and accommodation. A Bible Woman and a cook joined them and on 12th January 1922, they landed at Alleppy. They began their work and their work was highly appreciated by Christians and non-Christians. They extended their work to other parishes by invitation. By and by children and young were drawn to this group for a safe haven and a permanent place was inevitable. In 1926 they could locate a suitable place in Warikad then a very backward area most congenial for work: and the same bought with generous contributions.

It was in the days of the Quit India movement and a large number of foreign missionaries were planning to go back to England. Some outstanding Indian leaders, like Dr Jesudasan Savasirayan were forming plans to have mission work in India in the most relevant way and they found the Ashram movement as the best suited. Some foreign missionaries like Earnest Paton and Father Lash also subscribed to this concept and they started Asharms in Thirupathoor and Poona. Edith Neve and Rachel Joseph drew inspiration from this movement and eventually they decided to function around an Ashram. Emy Carmichael was an added inspiration. Thus an Ashram came into being around 1926 at Warikadu.

In those days there were no medical facilities in the villages. Many women died at the time of confinement. Many infants were left without mothers. These two ladies started to admit many children in this Home. Also, there were many children being born to unwed mothers who neither had acceptance nor recognition in the family. These unwed mothers and children too were admitted to this Home. Thus the number of inmates began to increase. Then a Community School was started for these as well as for the children in the neighbourhood. An industrial unit was started for women. Weaving, tailoring, embroidery etc. were introduced. In the meanwhile, many women joined this ministry. Many educated ladies not only from CSI Church but also from other denominations came forward to give a helping hand to this ministry. Many parents sent their daughters to the Ashram for good training.

As these ladies settled at Thiruvalla they got encouragement from all walks of life. Not only the religious leaders, but the officials as well as the common folks encouraged them by extending their helping hands. Despite all this human help Edith Neve and Rachel Joseph lifted their heart and eyes to heaven for their daily guidance and provision. As they proceeded in the ministry they sought God's guidance at every step. As they prayed over the naming of the institution, they received God's guidance from Genesis 28: 10-22 the name BETHEL where Jacob had the heavenly vision of the Ladder reaching heaven and the angels climbing up and down. There are three meanings for the word Bethel found in this passage "House of God, House of Prayer and Gate of Heaven." They interpreted this dream as angels taking their needs to heaven and bringing down sufficient blessings. They chose the motto for the Ashram "As seeing Him who is invisible" (Heb. 11:27). Simplicity, Sincerity and Sacrifice were chosen as the lifestyle of the Ashram. In 1952 these two ladies had a great role to play in the formation of Sisterhood in the Church of South India.

The lifestyle of the administration consists of a cottage system. In the Mother House at Thiruvalla, there are 8 cottages for the inmates. There is a free Boarding Home in which nearly 100 children used to live but now due to the restrictions of government, the number is reduced to 50. These children are living in 2 cottages. All these children are either orphans or children from broken families or financially needy children. But at present only children from broken families and low backgrounds are accommodated here The school functions in Malayalam medium up to class 7. The teachers of the school were unmarried dedicated young ladies and they have to reside in the Ashram. But now both married and unmarried ladies are admitted and this old rule cannot be observed.

The Diocesan Bishop is the patron of the Ashram. The Community members are the ones who are dedicated to the ministry of the Ashram community. The Diocesan Bishop appoints a senior pastor as the Visitor. Major decisions are taken in the Working Committee which is presided over by the Visitor.

At present, there are 18 community members serving in the Ashram and the branches. The retired community members live in a separate cottage. We have a project for Community Development. There is an Old Age Home for paying members providing facilities for 10 inmates. There are more than 100 members living in various cottages of the Mother House. All the needs are met by voluntary contributions. The Ashram has 2 branches in Kerala; the one at Kallada near Kollam, where the Ashram had a primary school for children is now handed back to the Madhya Kerala Diocese. While the other branch at Trivandrum- Zenana Mission Ladies Hostel is still a part of the Mother House at Thiruvalla. Along with the Parkal Mission of the Diocese, four centres of the Ashram namely Bhoopalappally, Gandhinagar, Bhgeerathapetta and Katterapally used to function in the field of Education and Boarding Homes. But due to the shortage of staff, two centres closed down.

Designation : Assistant Mother

Warikkadu, Kuttapuzha, Thiruvalla - 689 103.

Website :

Sr. Annamma Mathew (Asst. Mother)

Sr. Annamma Mathew (Asst. Mother)

Bethel Ashram, Warikkadu, Kuttapuzha, Thiruvalla - 689 103.