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Woman does God's work in India

January 06, 2009|By JANET HEIM

HAGERSTOWN -- The November attacks at two hotels in Mumbai were thousands of miles away, but for Linda Altizer of Hagerstown, the situation hit close to home.

Altizer, a registered nurse with a master's degree in nursing, spent two weeks on a mission trip in a remote area of India at the end of October.

She said she passed through Mumbai on her way to the airport for her flight home, only three weeks before the situation occurred.

Altizer, who learned of the program through her pastor at Ringgold Church of Christ, works with the Armed Forces Medical Examiner's Office. She also does contract work for the Child Advocacy Center of Washington County, conducting forensic investigations.

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Her training as a health professional and her faith as a Christian provided the necessary tools for her mission work, Altizer said.

She said most of the missionaries dressed in Indian garb to be more accepted by the people with whom they were working.

This was the second trip to India for Altizer, who lives on Cool Hollow Road. She also traveled to Ecuador twice with her husband of three years, John McElroy, and hopes to return to India this year.

Altizer said she taught two programs developed by the U.S. Surgeon General's Office -- Fit to a T, an osteoporosis-prevention program, and PBJ, geared to teenagers for the protection of their bones and joints.

India has a rate of osteoporosis. Ice cream is the only dairy product consumed there and it comes from other countries, Altizer said.

Altizer taught at the Central India Christian Mission, which houses India's top-ranked nursing school. The teaching hospital is unique because it is open to all people, regardless of religion or ability to pay.

Most hospitals in India are private and are open only to certain people, said Altizer, 60.

As great as their need for medical help and education in India, Altizer said she saw firsthand a "hunger" for Christianity. Practicing and preaching Christianity can come at a steep cost, though.

Islam and Hinduism are the accepted religions in India, and Christians are persecuted, at risk of death, Altizer said.

"We're so free in this country. I just think it's a good time for us to be thankful for what we have. If they see you with a Bible or hear you mention God or Jesus, they'll attack you," Altizer said of the extremists in India.

The teen program was taught at a conference of 3,000 teens. It was at the teen conference that Altizer said the Indian government got word that Christianity was being taught and sent a "stern-looking" representative to monitor the event.

Altizer said that by the end of the conference, she sensed a different attitude in the man -- that perhaps he, too, had been touched by their message.

"Since I got back, I've been praying the seeds that were planted will grow, whether in the teens or extremists. That was our goal," Altizer said.

She said her group of missionaries felt threatened at times, but no one was hurt. Her group was to consist of 12 missionaries, but five backed out before the trip.

Hindu and Muslim extremists had recently burned five churches. Despite the danger, Altizer said Christian churches are growing in numbers.

While Altizer's family, which includes three grown children, worried about her safety, she was not afraid.

"I told my family and friends that if I die doing God's work, that's the best way for me to go. That's the way I'd want to go," Altizer said.

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