Though I am Unworthy,
The Lord has a Purpose for Me
by Thomas Rai, September, 1997
Who Am I
My name Thoma in the Rai caste dialect means a wounded person. But in Nepali, it also is the name of Thomas, the disciple of the Lord. So nowadays, I am using the name of Thomas instead. I am married with three children.
My caste is Rai. This caste, considered the middle class in Hinduism, is one of the tribal people of Nepal. We have our own language and culture, but we are unable to read and write well. We worshipped different ancient cultural gods and goddesses, as well as idols such as our own ancestors, lands, stones, rivers, big trees, mountains, etc.
Before I became a Christian, I practised Hindu teachings and superstitions, like calling on the names of Hindu gods and worshipping them for protection.
In 1972, a German Christian called K.P.Kugler came to live in our village for 3 years to learn our language. He first helped my brother (who was his language tutor) to become a Christian. Then there were six of us who believed. We started to gather together every evening to worship the Lord under the tree outside of the village. We were very active in the village, so many villagers believed in Jesus Christ and joined with us to pray. We preached the gospel from village to village and the number of Christians increased daily. During a 4-day Christian conference in 1973, I was baptised. I was 17 years old at that time.
These conversions to the Christian faith brought on persecution from the traditional healers (witch doctors). These healers had control over all the villagers because of their power to heal the sick. From the sick, they gained money and influence. But now the people who believed in Jesus started to come to their Christian leaders to pray for healing instead. This greatly angered the village leaders and healers. They started to tease us, throw stones at us, beat us, harass us, report us to the local police. They wanted to force the Christians back to Hinduism.
Then in April 1974, a traditional healer came to my house in the night. He stood outside my house and with his instruments started to chant Hindu Mantras to destroy us. When we heard this, all of us gathered together in the room to pray to God for protection, because he was a very dangerous person and everyone was afraid of him. He walked many times around my house and started to command spiritual powers to destroy us. He called on all his gods and goddesses one by one to attack and destroy the whole family. But he found that his Mantra was not working. Finally after some time he left, cursing his own gods and goddesses.
Arrested and Beaten
A few days later, the police came to our village to arrest Christian believers. I had just come back from working in the field. They came to my house and arrested me. This was the first time they arrested Christians in my village. They bound me up cruelly with ropes and began to beat me badly on the mouth and body in front of my crying parents and wife. I was then taken to the police station.
That night a drunk police officer came and called me to another room. There he began to swear at me and beat me up very badly. I was afraid when he said that he would beat me to death with the stick. As he was beating me, I suddenly became very thirsty and I cried loudly for water. Then a 13-year-old believer Simon Rai came in with a glass of water (he came to help me and was cooking rice for me nearby) but the officer did not allow me to drink. As he continued to beat me, my scream alerted another neighbour, a non-Christian boy whom I did not know. He came into the police station and tried to take away the stick. In the struggle, the officer broke that stick and he had to go out to get another one. The boy took my hand and dragged me outside and pushed me out to escape. But I did not want to escape. The officer returned with another stick and began to beat me again. That boy again struggled with the officer. The beating was so severe that I almost fainted. When the officer left because the second stick was again broken, I escaped into the dark night barefooted.
Fled to India
When I was very far from the police station, I stopped to consider what I was to do, where to go. I prayed to God in my heart, and I felt that God said: “Don’t go back to your village. Go to Duncan Hospital to meet the Christians.” Since that hospital was in Raxaul, India, I decided to walk. But the route was very narrow, hilly, forested and inhabited by many wild animals. It was very dangerous in the night and I fell down many times. That night I crossed many villages and hills.
Next morning I was very hungry. As I was wondering where to get food since I had no money, I recognised an edible plant on the ground. When I pulled it out, I was surprised to see that it was very large and long and it came out easily.
As I was walking and eating that root, I met two people on the way. They were surprised to see me eating such a big root. When I told them my story, they became very kind to me and wanted to help me. So they asked me to carry their small rice bag for them, and when we reached Heatauda city, they fed me a plate of rice with meat in the small restaurant and thanked me. But since I needed money to go on to the hospital in India, I asked them if they would buy the new shirt I was wearing (I had the other older shirt on as well). With the money, I was able to cross the border by bus, and walk the rest of the way.
With much difficulty, I finally reached Duncan Hospital. There I found Mr. Rishi Raj Acharya whom I had met before at a Bible training. He was very kind to me, and arranged a job for me as a bookseller in the Hospital Christian Bookshop. He also encouraged me to preach the gospel to Nepali patients staying in the hospital. They also provided me with quarters to stay.
Through their help, I was able to inform my grieving family on my whereabouts. I was also able to visit my grandmother who was living with some relatives in the neighbouring district. She was happy to see me because she heard that I was killed by police and my body was hidden somewhere.
Returned to Nepal
After four days my elder brother visited me at the hospital bookshop. He told me that everything was fine now and that I could return home. But now that I had a job, I did not want to go back. But my brother prevailed on me, that as the first Christian being persecuted, I had to be an example to other Christians and the Hindu villagers. So I decided to return with my brother, where for the following two years, I was able to preach the gospel and lead the village churches.
But as more and more villagers believed, the Hindus became angry with us, because their sons and daughters joined us and stopped their Hindu practices. Again they reported to the police, political leaders and District officers. Many times the police came to arrest me and other Christians. But they did not find me.
One day, the military came and arrested my elder brother. In the army camp, he was put into a well for two hours. The next day they handed him over to the Pardon Punch (Political elected leader), who drove all the Christians out of the Rai caste to a lower caste. They ordered all Hindus not to eat, drink, talk, or live together in the village with us and not to marry with us. As a result, even our relatives did not dare to talk to us or help us. During this time there were many Christians who defected to Hinduism.
We were chased away from the village, and we built bush huts near the forest. Yet the Hindus would come in the night to harass us and to steal our goods. Even my mother-in-law came to force my wife to desert me, but my wife refused to leave. She just gave her mother back everything she had brought from her mother’s place. On the other hand, my father who was Hindu followed us because of his love for his children. He was not happy, but he never scolded us.
In all these difficult times, God was with us. Even though we were not allowed to fish with the villagers, one day I saw in a small river many fish swimming. So I decided to make a bamboo trap and covered it with branches. The following morning, I was so surprised that the trap was full of these large fish. I had never caught so many large fish before. As we dried these fish on fire, the news spread to the villagers. The following night, some of our Hindu relatives came secretly to ask for some of the fish. Slowly, more and more villagers started to visit us, and later even helped us to build houses and ate openly with us. Some even believed in Jesus and moved in with us.
Called to Serve the Lord
There was a calm for about a year, and then persecution once again came upon us. Many Christians (including my family) were imprisoned and severely beaten. Some were forced back into Hinduism.
After enduring much suffering and difficulties, my parents asked me to leave for Kathmandu in 1976, either to study or work. There for three years I finished high school at night while working in a Mission office. Then I left for Terai to work as a school teacher. Every weekend, I would go back to my village, where my pastor uncle would ask me to preach (because he said I was more educated than he was). He encouraged me to consider getting training to serve the Lord in some Bible College, since there is such a great need for trained leaders in Nepal.
In order to prepare myself for Bible College, I left teaching and completed my four years of B.A. at night while working for the Mission during the day. Then someone suggested that I should attend a short-term Advanced Leadership Training in Singapore, where I met Sister Kathryn Lee of Disciples Church. From there the Lord eventually opened the way for me to be in Hong Kong now for the full-time training.
I Got more than I Expected
At first, none of the training material really spoke to me. But when we were covering the topics about regeneration, and whether we were living in the flesh or in the Spirit, God spoke strongly to my heart. I had to search my heart and asked myself: where am I? Am I in the Spirit or in the flesh? Have I, or have I not, been regenerated?
I could not be sure where I stand. When I examined my past life, I had a terrible fear of God and His punishment in my heart. My conscience was not clear. There was grief in my heart about my past sinful life. I struggled within myself and I could not sleep well. I was reluctant to seek help, because I was afraid of the shame and possible consequences. But finally I asked for counselling. As a result, I decided to ask for re-baptism. This time I repented, confessed, and asked the Lord to forgive all my sins and I committed my life to the Lord from my heart. I was re-baptized on 29th December 1995 in Hong Kong.
My life is a testimony of His abundant grace and love. I can see, however unworthy, that the Lord has a purpose for me. Even though I am a sinner, my Lord loves me and my family. He has protected us from the evil one. He has counted us worthy even to suffer for His name. He has also given me this opportunity to be trained in order to serve Him and His people.
May His name be glorified!
(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church