Joy in the Furnace
How we are encouraging our persecuted family in India
It was the best of trips; it was the worst of trips. This year’s attempt to visit the main leprosy colony you’ve supported in Hyderabad, India, had ominous beginnings.
In fact, recent threats by extremist Hindus trying to intimidate local Christians with fear prevented me—for the first time—from entering the colony where Heaven’s Family’s Leprosy Ministry has served for seven years.
This sad state of affairs has been fomented by India’s aggressive Prime Minister, who campaigned in 2015 to eradicate Christians from India by 2020. These militant locals are also intent on purging their colony—which includes preventing Christians like me from visiting.
Not only do they want the Christian population to be chased out, they also have a greedier agenda: possession of the homes of the aging patients. Only a few months earlier, an angry mob of militants surrounded Sarah, my ministry partner, and her family, insisting they quit serving leprosy patients with their medical skills—so that their infections in their ulcerated feet and hands will result in their premature deaths! By eliminating the ailing patients from their midst, they think, the community can divest itself of the stigma of being a “leprosy colony,” despite the fact that this was exactly what the government purposed this land for many years ago.
In addition to targeting the homes of the leprosy patients, the property owned by the local church is one of their most coveted objectives. Pastor Das is fighting a heartrending legal battle to prove their deed is legitimate; the Hindu’s claim it had been intended for a temple.
The 30 families in the congregation are grieved and suffering. Their children are frightened by the local witch doctor who parades daily in front of the church, casting spells and curses.
Pastor Das’ family has become quite dear to me over the past 7 years. When I first started coming in 2012, he and his wife had been unable to conceive, and her mother beseeched me to pray. This I did, along with many others over the years, and God answered this prayer with little Arpan Paul, now 3 years old. Das, having been called to the ministry at age 12, has faithfully served the leprosy community, continually reaching out to others in love and service.
Several new families, recent converts from Hinduism, have joined the fellowship—necessitating expansion of their facility. Construction efforts were temporarily halted due to the theft of all of their tools. Pastor Das and his congregation were discouraged, but not defeated: a church under siege, but very much alive.
These assaults against what I consider my family have become a personal issue for me, and I know it is for many of you who’ve faithfully supported this work over the years.
With the help of Heavens Family’s Persecuted Christian Ministry, we relocated Sarah and her family to a safe new home with 3-month’s rent paid. But Pastor Das, his wife Susheela, little Arpan, and his grandmother, Chendramma, remain, along with 90 other leprosy-affected Christian families. Pastor Das and his wife were born in that colony; he was called to the ministry in that place; and it’s where the couple met and married. So you see, they have a long heritage of endurance and dedication.
Please pray for Pastor Das and his extended family of God, that they may receive strength to persevere in the face of this adversity. The Lord is indeed encouraging them, as I witnessed on my farewell night with them, sharing a proverbial “last supper” in one accord.
While praying together with the staff and their families, Pastor Das began weeping over the attacks. But then his sorrow turned to laughter though tears of joy as all were lifted up by the Presence of Almighty God, who protects and strengthens in the midst of fiery trials.
Together with Him,
Director, Leprosy Ministry