“God called me to this place & to these people”…
The Peace of Standing Firm in the Chaos
In late August of 2008, angry mobs swarmed the forests and villages of Bundacutta, destroying homes, burning churches, and hunting Christians. Sameer, his wife, and his two little children had moved to a tiny village in Bundacutta from another part of Cuddalore several years earlier to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. When the riots broke out, Sameer, his family, and a group of brothers and sisters gathered in their tiny church building to pray. The four walls were not protection for them. Enraged rioters burst into the church and immediately set it on fire. Terrified and disoriented, the families inside pressed to the doorways and fled into the surrounding forest.
They would not learn until later that thousands of homes belonging to Christians in the region had been burned, close to one hundred churches were destroyed, and scores of brothers and sisters were brutally tortured and murdered. There were thousands of people in the vast forested area of the Bundacutta Region, hiding, trying to survive.
Sameer, his wife and two children were among the families who had run to the forest for shelter, but in the chaos, they became separated from one another. Sameer lived in the forest for four months, with no change of clothes, surviving on roots and leaves. He had no idea where his family was. His wife was alone in the forest, desperately searching for her husband and children, who had vanished into the trees.
Four months went by, and eventually, Sameer got word that it was safe to come out. He heard that many survivors had gathered near the edge of the forest. Unbelievably, there Sameer was reunited with his wife and children. They were together, bereft and traumatized, but safe.
Once reunited, they spared no time in returning to the little village of Pukakka where they’d been living. Sameer and his wife felt that God was calling them to re-gather the congregation that had been together in Pukakka. They rebuilt their tiny church building. But the militants returned and burned it down again.
At this time, India Gospel League was in the Bundacutta area, looking for ways to support and aid the thousands of refugees and homeless believers who were slowly returning from the forests. I met Sameer and his family, and he told me about his passion to continue to preach the gospel in this hostile place. We spread the word to our allies in the West, and several American churches began to gather funds to build a Life Center in Pukakka. Indigenous churches in Tamil Nadu came together and raised 150,000 rupees to contribute to the Pukakka church and Life Center.
Several years ago, I was talking to Sameer, and he told me the most remarkable thing. “God called me to this place and to these people,” he said. “Considering how God is blessing us today—a church of 145 believers, a nice church building where we can worship God together—all of that suffering seems insignificant, and I would do it again.”
—An excerpt from the newest book by Samuel Stephens, due out in Spring 2020.
(Note: Names & Places were changed to protect those involved in this testimony.)
Wherever you are serving God, be encouraged to PRESS ON.