March 25, 1953 was the day I was born. My Hindu parents were first generation South African born East Indians, and I was their third child. Two sisters before me had died early in infancy. My mother, a devout Hindu, was now very concerned about my future.
Hinduism demands that every child be dedicated or consecrated before a new-born's 4th birthday. This ceremony includes the shaving of the child's hair, sacrifices, and vows. My mother had dedicated my sisters, but they died. The "gods" had failed her. In anger and desperation, she refused to dedicate me to the Hindu 'gods'. She did not want to lose me too.
While she was still pregnant with me, my mother secretly frequented a Catholic church on her way to and from work. Here she would pray alone as Hannah of old. "God, (Jesus, the Christian God i.e.), I will give this child to you if you protect this child from sickness and death. My mother did not officially dedicate me but only prayed for me in that church during her pregnancy. She recently told me that this was her way of dedicating me to Jesus instead of to her gods.
To a Hindu, Jesus was just another god. But is he? My mother did not know that "when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey" (Rom. 6:16). She was anxious for the life of her son. So was God!
But I was not a good boy! Growing up in a Hindu home drew me into all kinds of bondage and demon worship. I spent much of my childhood in the Hindu temple.
During high school my desire for Hinduism, God-or any god for that matter-waned. Pretty soon rock music and marijuana became my lifestyle. My need for God ceased. He did not exist for me now. I developed about ten reasons why I believe there was no God. Whenever Christians would try to witness to me I would offer my ten "hallowed" reasons to rebuff them. No one dared talk to me because I was ready for them. But Someone else dared!
My one spiritual weakness was Christian tracts. They were a constant passion. I did not want Jesus, just the tracts. Somehow this literature helped fill a void in me. I always read them. If need be, I would stand in long lines to receive a new one. God was setting me up.
My friends were mostly from the fourth world - drug addicts, drunks, prostitutes, and so on. One day in early 1970 I met one such friend, a thief. He would steal almost any thing, anytime, any place. As usual I had some Christian literature in my shirt pocket.
Being a thief he quickly scanned my entire person and soon focused on my tracts, asking what I was doing with them. I said that I liked them and that they gave me peace. He casually mentioned that he'd "got" a Bible recently and asked if I wanted it.
I shrugged my shoulders said "Well, okay bring it." This was not the normal Christian confrontation I was accustomed to. Talk about power encounters! God was there all the time orchestrating this whole event.
This was the beginning of my salvation. My faith in Jesus grew as I read the word of God, the Bible! It was my daily food. In the months that followed I experienced many changes.
Most evenings, while still high on drugs, I would pray, "Lord, please take away this lust for drugs!" My problem was that I had tried on my own strength to kick it and failed. I believed God could, and he did. When I was open for change he was ready to act on my behalf. He set up road blocks to help break the back of drug addiction in my life.
Almost immediately after prayer for deliverance from drugs, I was in trouble with three different authorities: the police, my father, and my boss.
Soon after this prayer I heard that there was a new law passed that imposed a five year imprisonment on anyone caught with drugs. Well you can understand my panic; I bought drugs off the street. The pusher I normally dealt with also panicked. He said, "Buy the stuff and leave because the cops are everywhere!"
Then I remembered my prayer! Possibly God was trying to tell me something. So I quit using drugs on the street but instead took them home.
Most drug addicts I knew smoked pot in groups. But out of necessity I smoked alone at home in the yard. When I finished I hid the pot in our grape tree.
One day my father found the pot and placed it on his bedroom windowsill, where I would easily see it. He did not speak to me but his act did. It said, "Son, I found this pot, I know you do it, and I do not approve. Get rid of this habit.
But of course I did not listen. I hid the pot in another place in this tree. The next morning I found the pot again on my father's windowsill. This time I took the pot and broke it, vowing never to smoke again.
Free at last
I did not smoke on the street or at home anymore, but I smoked at work. My co-workers and I smoked as we worked almost all day. But one day several of us were caught. As we were marched to the boss's office, I prayed all the way, "Lord, I'm the breadwinner at home. Lord, spare my job. I will quit smoking here!"
My boss gave all of us a last warning. This was a good excuse for me to stop smoking at work, especially among my friends. God left no stone unturned to change me, putting those three God-ordained authorities in my path. I took the dealings of God seriously, and became free from drugs. I'm still free 33 years later.
Other temptations then became my immediate challenges. For example, I read in the Bible something about fornication I really did not know what this word meant. However, the word fornication kept flashing in my mind, until one day I looked up its meaning. I was shocked. I quit that too!
This period of my life was a real wilderness trail, with God calling the shots. Slowly but surely he drew me to himself. I soon found myself hating many things from my old life-drugs, rock music and immorality. These same things had brought great pleasure before. You may call this conversion, but I cannot point to a particular day when I was converted. My experience was gradual.
There were other power encounters during the nine months of my reading the Bible. I will mention just one more.
During the latter part of this period I began to feel the need to be in a church. Up until this point I did not and could not see the reason for the church. I was a heathen. Church people were the last people on earth I wanted to be associated with. As far as I was concerned I was enjoying life and they were not. Nevertheless, I prayed," Lord your word says if I believed in Jesus Christ I would go to heaven. But Lord, when I come there to be with you and your people, I will be very lonely. I don't have any friends here. Please, Lord, lead me to a church so that I could make some friends, and when we are all together with you in heaven, I will at least know someone."
This was a simple, child-like prayer. God heard me. Within a week or two I was in church, and getting to know new Christian friends.
There were big changes with my family too. My new Christian friends were in and out of the house. I prayed a lot!
Sometimes my father would catch me praying, and it made an impression on him. It was not long before my whole family was in church with me.
I met my future wife, Rani, at church, and we soon married. Five years later I became an assistant Pastor on full-time staff. After two years of ministry I went out and started the church I am currently pastoring for the past 25 years. We have also planted a second church.
Today, many of my family members are walking with Jesus. As former Hindus we lived in fear - fear of the dark, of certain days and times, of tormenting witchcraft spirits, or of children or other family members suffering and dying as a result of prayers, sacrifices, and vows to Hindu gods not being fulfilled.
However, as Christians living in an Indian and Hindu community, we live without being afraid of our God, who is loving, compassionate, and faithful. And God does not ask us to sacrifice any of our children. And to cap it all, He even sacrificed His own Son for us! What a different God he is from the other so-called gods of this world.
I sometimes reflect on my conversation and wonder about what happened to those demons that were in and around me. They did not stand a chance. Jesus broke their power in my life supernaturally, and I know much of it had to do with my mother's prayer in 1953.