by Rajaratnam Jones | 11 November 2022 |
I was born and brought up in a village in India where almost 100% of the population was Christian. Missionaries from England had come here about 250 years ago and evangelized this area. My grandfather’s parents had been Hindus. Seventh-day Adventist missionaries came to Mukuperi, a very small village near mine, in 1906. They were able to establish a school in November 1909 and baptized a few people in April of 1910. My family were among those who became Seventh-day Adventists.
Things have changed over the years. The Hindu population has increased. As a child I did not see a single Hindu temple in our village, but we have several now, and there are Hindu temples in the villages adjacent to mine, too.
In spite of our being a minority in a Hindu country, I’ve had some wonderful encounters with Hindu people, where I was able to sow the seeds of the gospel. The main thing we need to do evangelism—even where most people are of another religion, and some are even hostile to Christ and Christians—is to show kindness and love to those who are in need.
Several years ago a widow in her early sixties came to talk to me. Her husband had died from a heart attack, leaving behind his wife, his son, daughter-in-law, and four small children. Besides living in a distant city, her son was an alcoholic, and not of much use to the family. He sent some money to the family every month, but it wasn’t enough to feed six people. This family was impoverished—the old lady was begging in one of the towns nearby at homes and in marketplaces.
Our church helped to feed the family, and took care of some of their educational needs. Eventually the old lady along with her two grandchildren started attending our church faithfully and regularly, and the little ones attended the children’s Sabbath School.
As a church we took care of the family to the extent that we could. Many church members extended a helping hand to provide their basic needs. They were so attracted by our kindness—they seem to have received little of that from others. Eventually the elderly lady accepted Jesus as her personal savior and got baptized. One of the granddaughters attends our church regularly. With our help she has completed her bachelor’s degree in education.
Waiting for the plane
One day I was at Madurai airport waiting to board. At the time I was the editor for a Tamil language devotional book. Since I had ample time, I found a solitary place in the terminal where I could proofread the printouts that I had with me, and quietly began reading and correcting. I had my Bible open to refer to verses.
I thought I’d found a place to work where I’d be alone, but a couple came and sat not far from me. The dot on the woman’s forehead told me that they were Hindus. The husband asked what I was doing. I told them about my devotional book, and asked whether he or his wife were interested in reading such books. He smilingly asked me whether I was trying to convert him! I said no—that I was just asking their interests, not urging them to read my book or follow a particular religion.
The husband told me that he was a politician and not interested in such things—but his wife was. Though she had the appearance of a staunch Hindu, it turned out her husband had allowed her to read the Bible and Christian literature. (In fact, it isn’t unknown for Hindu women here to follow Christ secretly, fearing disapproval by the surrounding culture.)
They gave me their home address, and after I returned from my trip I sent some copies of my devotional books. I hope that our warm and friendly interaction will not be in vain. Books are silent messengers, and one of the avenues we can use to reach such people in a part of the world where Christians are such a minority.
A prayer in a crowd
One day I was traveling by train from Madurai to Trichy. A man with the marks of Hinduism on his forehead was sitting opposite to me. We began to converse and he inquired who I was. When he learned that I was a Christian pastor, he asked if I would pray for him.
At first I thought it was just a general request and I said of course I would! But he then made it clear that he wanted me to pray for him right there in the crowded train! I felt a bit awkward praying in front of our co-travelers—but he was not. When I said yes, I would pray for him, he immediately knelt down for prayer amongst all of our fellow travelers, and so I had to kneel too. He told me his concerns, and I offered a prayer for him.
When we finished the prayer and looked up, everyone was staring at us. But his face was bright. I felt that the Lord had filled his heart with the peace that passes understanding. He was so happy, and thanked me repeatedly for the prayer. I got his address and later sent him some literature.
People need prayer, and this is another avenue by which we can meet people in our Hindu world, and introduce them to the love of Christ.
Another mile on the scooter
One day I was returning to my home on a scooter after visiting some church members. On the way an unknown man flagged me down. When I stopped, he requested I give him a lift to a certain place. When I asked where he was going, he said the bus station, but he didn’t want to ask me to take him that far because he didn’t want to overburden me.
He climbed on for the ride. While traveling he asked where my house was. I said we had already passed my house. “Then where are you heading to?” he asked. I said, “To the bus station.” He insisted that I stop and let him off the scooter, because going that far was too much to ask. I told him I believe in Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, and He had given this precept: “Go the second mile.” He didn’t understand, so I explained to him Matthew 5:4, “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”
So I continued my ride and reached the bus station. When he left me he expressed his astonishment that there are such good principles in the Bible for creating a better society.
I had only a few minutes to introduce Jesus to him. I never met him again. But I’d had the opportunity to tell him something about the teachings of Jesus. I hope and pray that one day this simple act of kindness, learned from the teachings of Jesus, will come back to him.
Kindness is the key
The challenges of teaching about Jesus Christ to the people of other religions in our country differ from one region to another. You may have read news stories of Hindu nationalism and violence between different groups in this country, which does happen in some areas. Here in Tamil Nadu, where I live, people of differing religions mostly live in peace and harmony, tolerant of one another’s differing views. This is not the case in every region of India.
But it seems to me that the things I mentioned above work almost everywhere. Being kind is how Jesus worked. I think of this Bible verse when I contemplate the challenges of meeting people of other religions: “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these brethren you did it to me.” Matthew 25:40. We don’t need to argue with people, but just “Let your light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16.
Don’t forget this picture in Revelation:
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands” Revelation 7:9.(NIV)
I’m looking forward to that great day when I’ll see some of the people I talked to in this multitude.
Rajaratnam Jones is a retired pastor and teacher in Tamil Nadu, India. He attended Spicer College and served the church until his retirement in 2013. He now works as a volunteer helping needy children and families.