Forty-five years ago, LaNelma and Ray Johnson accepted the Bahá’í faith, and its tenet to serve humanity and the oneness of mankind. That desire took them to India in 1971, where they taught children ages five to 18 at a small, rural school in Panchgani.
“Some of the children were there because they were orphans, and some were there because they came from war-torn countries,” LaNelma Johnson says. “We really felt like we could do a service there with these children.”
Johnson told the story of her family’s 12 years in India in her memoir Okie in a Saree. The couple set out to consciously recruit female students from all over India, since they weren’t afforded the same educational opportunities as boys. India’s caste system had already been illegal for decades, but reforms were slow to trickle down to rural villages.