Arun* was an idol worshiper; a Hindu, living in Tamil Nadu, India. In addition to being an alcoholic, he was also a heavy smoker and opium user. Almost all his money as an auto rickshaw driver went to these pastimes, as well as his gambling addiction. His wife and two young children suffered much from his lifestyle. Many people shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but Arun never listened.
His health began to decline and, at age 35, he contracted typhoid fever. Now, even more people told him about the Gospel and said that Jesus could heal him.
But he was suspicious of this foreign god. He also thought that Jesus was just another Catholic saint. But after six months of his illness, Arun finally decided to try church. When he stepped into the service, he saw how lively the worship was, and knew there was something different about this religion.
God gave him peace during the service, but even after going three days in a row, he did not accept Jesus. However, the day after the third service, he transported an elderly pastor in his auto rickshaw. When they stopped at the pastor’s church, Arun decided to follow him inside. There, the pastor was setting up a table filled with Bibles and Christian books. Even though his literacy was poor due to his third grade education, Arun asked the pastor if he could have one of the books.The pastor gave him a Bible.
Arun had never read the Bible, and assumed it would be like the Hindu stories he had read as a child. But as soon as he opened to Psalm 24, he knew he had been wrong. The first verse said “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness. The world and those who dwell in it”. Arun thought, “If everything in the earth is the Lord’s, then so am I!”
He decided to read the whole book, though, before committing to anything. Because of his poor literacy, business of work, illness, and bad habits, it took him a year to reach Exodus 20:3 – “You shall have no gods other than me”.
As soon as he read this, he knew God was speaking to him, and Arun accepted Jesus Christ that day. Immediately he felt the fever leave him, and knew he had freedom from his addictions!
That day God also told him to share the Gospel with others. Although he continued his auto rickshaw driving for another nine years, he also began ministry to the poorest of the poor-Tribals, Gypsies, and lepers. He has now been doing ministry for 25 years.
Over the years he has faced many kinds of persecution. He has been beaten with rods and fists, has been thrown out of villages and meeting places, and his gospel tracts have been torn up; he says that he never worries about these things.
Five years ago, after preaching at Harvest Bridge’s Indian coordinator, Pastor Jairaj’s* church, he asked if there were any ministry opportunities he could take part in. Pastor James told Arun about his daughter, Priya’s*, ministry, Gypsy and Tribal Empowerment (GATE).
After a couple months of prayer from both Arun and Priya, he became the pastor for one of the poorest Gypsy villages, a leprosy center with about 70 families on the outskirts of Chennai, the fourth largest city in India. Some of the first people he led to Christ were, Abraham, Anna, and their daughter Mary and her family.
For Arun, the most difficult part of ministry to the Tribal villagers is their constant expectation of material gifts. However, he says that “I accept the problems, and God gives me the Spirit of Peace”.
Arun asks prayer for the needs of the people in the villages he ministers to, and for his family, especially that all four of his children will have good marriages.
*Names changed for safety