By BosNewsLife Asia Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife)– Hundreds of future missionaries have graduated at a Bible college in India’s northern state of Rajasthan and pledged to “die for Christ” if necessary amid expected persecution, a major mission group said.
In a statement published by BosNewsLife Friday, April 27, Hopegivers International (HI) said 605 students graduated at its Hopegivers’ Emmanuel Bible College on the outskirts of the city of Kota in India’s Rajasthan state.
After receiving their diplomas each graduate took the “Martyr’s Oath” promising to use their bodies to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ and “to love” and serve others, including their families, orphans, widows, lepers, the wealthy and the poor “the way Christ loved the Church.”
They pledged to “stand with the Apostle Paul in stating that ‘For me to live is Christ and to die is gain’,” according to the oath text seen by BosNewsLife.
It comes amid reports of attacks against churches and missionaries in several parts of India.
Additionally, “Many [graduates] have already experienced severe persecution from their families and friends because they have chosen to follow Christ,” the group said.
HI President and Chief Executive Officer Samuel Thomas, who has faced opposition from Hindu militants, said he “encouraged the graduating class and other believers who were present to take the lessons taught in [the Bible’s] Proverbs 30: 27-28 to heart.
These verses say in the Bible’s New Living Translation: “Locusts—they have no king, but they march in formation. Lizards—they are easy to catch, but they are found even in kings’ palaces.”
Thomas urged “all to live in complete surrender and dependence on our Sovereign King.”
That’s not without reason. “Each year Hopegivers sends out each graduate for their Pioneer Mission work with a new Study Bible, a one way train ticket, and a bicycle for transportation. However, this year we did not have the funds to buy each graduate a bicycle, or provide them support as they go forth with the Gospel,” the group said.
However, “each graduate goes out into their chosen field trusting in the Lord to be with them and provide.”
Hardship isn’t something new for the graduates, HI said. “Some of these graduates grew up in our Hope Homes” for orphans, while “others came to us from the tribal belt area of our nation.”
Additionally, “We have graduates who are the children of lepers; others were rescued from the streets. Most of our graduates are from non-Christian backgrounds. All of our graduates claim the Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior,” the group said.
HI claims to have established some 190 schools throughout India as well as 73 Hope Homes with nearly 6,000 “orphaned, abandoned and at risk children” while working in hundreds of leper colonies.
Additionally the group said it opened opened a hospital and a nursing school, and established 108 Bible Colleges, including in the main complex in Rajasthan.
Under Thomas’ supervision, the group has reportedly expanded its activities into other areas, including supporting needy women and helping relatives of Christians who died or are otherwise persecuted for their faith.
Amid its social work, the group said it had been able to help establish over 43,000 churches in India and other countries since its founder’s began his activities in the late 1950s.
On December 4, 2010, Hopegivers founder MA Thomas, the man known by orphans, bible students, and missionaries all over the world simply as “Papa,” passed away or in the group’s words “went home to be with the Lord,” leaving his son behind to continue as president and Chief Executive Officer.
His activities were not without risks. The late HI founder was often forced to go into hiding to avoid assassinations and arrests, his family said. His son was detained for 47 days in 2006 on charges related to alleged anti-Hindu activities and “forced conversions”.
His father had received an arrest warrant on similar accusations, including the publication of a perceived anti-Hindu book. Both men always denied any involvement in that publication.
HI remains hopeful about the future. “The spirit of trusting in the Lord and looking to Him is what the ministry of Hopegivers is all about…”