|Date||July 1, 2008|
‘Lord, first let me go and bury my mother.’
Bishu is a first generation Christian from a tribe in Tripura, a state in the north east of India. His family and his tribe were practicing Hindus. It was through his Physical Education teacher at school that he was first introduced to Jesus and came to believe that Jesus is the truth. His young faith was confirmed to him through a dream he had of Jesus sitting under a banyan tree talking with him.
Bishu is one of four sons. In the tribe that he is from his parents are considered to be particularly blessed because when his mother dies her four sons will be able to carry her coffin on their shoulders. Bishu anticipated that if he told his Mum that he had become a Christian this privilege would be denied him; he would not be able to participate in the ceremony, and he would be replaced by a son-in-law. This would be very hurtful to his mother and so rather than disappointing her and being excluded from such an occasion he decided to wait until his mother died before he became an open follower of Jesus.
However, with the passage of time he began to question why he was waiting for his mother to die when he could be showing her the way to eternal life. He came to realize that he should not be waiting for his mother’s life to come to an end, but that he had a God given responsibility to explain to her how she could be saved. He knew he should tell her about Jesus before it was too late.
Bishu decided to become less secretive about his faith in Jesus. He decided to be baptized and take on his new identity as a Christian rather than a Hindu. One Sunday he was baptized by the pastor of the local church in a private ceremony without his family’s knowledge. That evening when they came together to eat, Bishu’s father noticed that Bishu quietly prayed before he ate his food. His father asked him immediately if he had become a Christian to which Bishu, feeling a little fearful of his father’s response, replied, ‘Yes’. His father continued, ‘I want to talk with you after we have eaten our meal tonight.’
To Bishu’s surprise and amazement, rather than his father being angry about Bishu’s decision to become a Christian he was really interested to know more. His father was the Hindu priest in the village, but it was evident that his heart and the hearts of his family had been prepared in advance to receive Jesus. The following Sunday Bishu’s mother and father were baptized and within a year his whole family came to know Jesus!
Bishu is studying for a Bachelor’s of Divinity at the Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India.
Venkat’s brother’s story
This is a story about a family from South India in which there are two sons, Srinivasa and Venkat. When these two boys were growing up in their family home in Andhra Pradesh his parents went through some financial difficulties. They went from being reasonably wealthy to struggling to make ends meet.
To help the family through this crisis, Venkat was sent to live with one uncle and his older brother, Srinivasa, to live with another. Life was made quite unpleasant for Srinivasa by his uncle’s family. He missed his parents a lot and was very unhappy. One day he went off to school and did not return when expected. Days, weeks, months and years went by with no trace of him. His family wondered if they would ever see him again.
However, Srinivasa was living the life of a street child. He spent a lot of time on the railway station platform, living off scraps of food which he found here and there. He became mentally disturbed and humanly speaking there seemed no hope for him. However, a tailor noticed him and had compassion on him. This tailor was a Christian and demonstrated to him the love of Jesus in both his words and actions. He taught him tailoring skills. He took him to church. He was prayed for and healed of his mental illness. He came to know and love Jesus for himself.
Eventually, after seven long years, the tailor traced Srinivasa’s family and contacted his parents. They came to meet their older son. You can imagine the joy that there must have been at the family reunion. However, the Srinivasa was from a Hindu family, an orthodox Brahmin family, and the fact that he had become a Christian created a lot of tension in the family. His father in particular, found it unacceptable. Nevertheless, with the passage of time, the whole family came to know Jesus.
(Venkat is studying for an MTh in Missiology at the Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India. He is married to Rita and they have two small daughters.)
Sumitra is from a high caste Hindu family living in the state of Maharashtra in central India. It was through reading a book that she was staggered to realize that Jesus is able to forgive sins. Her response was: ‘If there is a God who can forgive sins then why have I not asked for forgiveness?’ Around this time, she met a Christian woman in her apartment block who took her to church. Sumitra recalls that it took her a year to understand Christ, but once drawn to him she found his love compelling.
Anticipating that her father would be very angry with her decision to become a Christian, Sumitra announced to her family that not only had she become a Christian, but that she was willing to leave home for Christ. Her whole family was very emotionally disturbed by the choice she had made. She was not permitted to meet her Christian friend or attend church for five years – though she did without them knowing.
Sumitra is 31 and single. She continues to live with her family. Her relationship with her father continues to be strained. She senses he has rejected her and her faith. However, over the years her mother has softened and has said ‘I see more sense in your faith than mine’.
Sumitra is now baptized. Some years ago when she was attending a Bible study on the passage about Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40) she was challenged by the eunuch’s immediate obedience and felt convicted to do the same. By then her father had resigned himself to her Christian identity. She feels the church could do more to help people like her who come from a Hindu background including making an effort to ‘befriend the family because the family is hurt.’
Sumitra has a PhD in genetics, but her passion is teaching preschool children. She has established a preschool, ‘Bud ‘N’ Bloom’, and seeks to instill Christian values not only in the children that attend the school, but also the teachers and other staff who come from a variety of faith backgrounds.