My wife and I, along with our awesome daughter currently live in the very beautiful country of New Zealand. I am Santosh, born to a Hindu family in Bangalore, a city in South India. My wife, Shanthini is from Bangalore too but was born to a Christian family. We met as God would have it and got married in 1991.
My wife was a believer (but not a passionate follower of our Lord Jesus Christ). She prayed every day. I used to see her do it but didn’t think much of it. Coming from a Hindu background, it just seemed another form of a religious ritual and I considered Christians to be people who worshiped another God just as Hindus worshiped their own gods.
As a Hindu, I was exposed to several hundreds of idols, ceremonies and rituals. It appeared like there existed a whole different realm of thousands of Gods whom you had to please depending on what you wanted to achieve. Sometimes it was health, at other times it was a provision for money and at other times it was a need of a miracle of some sort.
I always wondered if there was a God at all. I’ve been to several Hindu temples and participated in innumerable rituals. But this one thing I remember quite vividly. Every time, I stared at those idols; I questioned in my heart… are you for real?
I knew it was made of stone or wood. I even knew it was actually hand crafted by a human and sold at a marketplace. I also knew that someone had to pay money and buy the idol and place it in the temple before it became a god. Until that time, it was just an idol being sold at the marketplace and each idol competed with another for more sales. When I looked at these people making a living selling gods to people, I wondered…”can a real God be sold?”. If an idol from the marketplace had power, where did it get that power from?
I questioned if the idol heard me when I prayed. Who was I praying to? Just because the idol was physically relocated from the marketplace to a temple, did it now come alive and have supernatural powers?
I was confused.
Then at one stage I chose “not” to believe in God. But then fear set in. What if something bad happened? This fear accompanied with the superstitious beliefs of my immediately family and friends crippled me.
So, I had to hesitantly participate in some of these rituals just so I wouldn’t fear. Somehow, the religious rituals combined with myself pride gave me the confidence that I was safe from harm. I knew we would all die one day. I didn’t believe there was anything after death. I just didn’t want any trouble here for as long as I lived. I just wanted to be happy, rich and enjoy life.
I worked in sales for a well-known computer firm whilst my wife worked in a managerial capacity at Hertz Car Rentals. We did fairly well and were living quite a comfortable life. Of course, we wanted to make more, get more luxuries, etc. Just as anybody would aspire for.
Then came an opportunity for me to work overseas which I readily took up. My wife sacrificed all her ambitions and her desires so I could have mine. I was too proud and arrogant to even think on those lines then. So we left India in 1996 and lived in Singapore for a while and then moved on to Vietnam to manage an IT company. We lived in Vietnam for close to 10 years.
The Day I Got Saved
My job as an IT executive involved plenty of networking, which was a good excuse for late night parties, music, discos and drinking. Life was pretty much summarized in Eat, Drink and be Merry because we will all die one day. I am sure this sounds familiar to many of you reading this testimony. But then disaster struck.
My company decided to close down business. I would be without a job soon. We were in a non-English speaking country. Getting a job wasn’t going to be easy. We had sold all our assets in India to make the big move to Vietnam. We had nothing back home.
My wife had sacrificed her well-paying job for my sake. It had taken me seven years of my life to climb the corporate ladder to where I was. If I went back to India, I would have to start all over again.
I felt like a fool for having destroyed not only her dreams, but also mine. I cursed myself with all the bad words in my vocabulary and sunk into depression. I was truly frustrated and had nothing to say that would give hope or encouragement to me or my wife.
I just returned home quietly from office, sat down with a beer and was staring at the TV completely lost in thought. I had no answers. Then I noticed a bible on a stool beside the couch. I remembered; it was the bible my mother-in-law (a staunch believer in Christ) had gifted to me. I had never considered reading it seriously. I picked it up and started reading a few pages in the New Testament.
I never realized that what I was doing was going to change my life forever. I never realized that this was the day I would get saved. I never realized that the Lord would love someone with a background such as mine and reach out to save me.
Damascus Road Experience
I think I managed to read quite a few pages in the New Testament. I was getting tired and it was getting late. I needed some rest and went to sleep. As I lay in bed, I wondered if all that I read was really true. Was Jesus real? Did He really lay down His life for me? Did he really rise from the dead and ascend into a place called Heaven? So, is He alive now? Did He see me read the bible? Can He know my thoughts? Is there hell? Is He really coming back again? Will He be able to help me out of the mess I am in? …My brain went into overtime. The innumerable questions made me very tired, and I just drifted off to sleep.
When I woke up in the morning, the entire room was extra-ordinarily BRIGHT. I felt full of LIFE, ALIVE and full of JOY and PEACE. I didn’t know why I was so peaceful and joyful despite the fact that my company was closing down. I remember walking out of the room and noticing that the whole house was engulfed in a BRIGHT light. The flowers outside were unbelievably colorful, the grass was amazingly green and even our dog looked so much more doggier!! LOL. The world seemed so beautiful. All the Vietnamese people on the streets looked amazing to me.
I actually stopped to touch, feel and examine my skin, wondering what material this was made of, and if God really made me? After all of that experience which seemed to last for a really long time, I went to office. Still reeling under what had just happened, I whispered to myself, Lord, if this is really you, I want to know you and more importantly, I want help… like RIGHT NOW!!
Suffice to say, very soon a job came looking for me. I was DESPERATE to know Him. Really desperate. I visited several church “buildings” every Sunday. Most of them were speaking Vietnamese and I didn’t understand a word. Moreover, I was too naive to know a good church from a religious one or even to know the difference between denominations. I really didn’t care. All I wanted was to know Jesus personally and more intimately. I started reading the bible like my life depended on it. I could understand very little, but I didn’t give up.
It took me a few months to find a church to go to. It was pastored by an American pastor, who is still a very good friend of mine. Very soon, I was actively involved in ministry. Miraculously from day 2 of getting saved, I never touched a cigarette and very quickly gave up drinking. It was no effort on my part. I just didn’t have the desire anymore. I wanted Jesus…FULL STOP!! What an amazing experience and an amazing transformation it was for someone with my background!! It still is so vivid to me.
If you need to turn to Jesus, do it now friends. Don’t put it off. It’s the best decision you will ever make in your life. Believe me, I haven’t shared so much more of my life here because I don’t want to bore you. Suffice to say, if the Lord can love someone with my background and reach out to save me, I believe nobody is out of His reach.
The Second Experience
One other time I came back home from work. After a little rest and family time, I remember walking into my bedroom, shutting the door and kneeling to pray. Suddenly, I felt the presence of the God just as it was before. I could not open my eyes and yet I could sense His presence in the room.
Something like a movie screen popped up in front of me and I began to relive every sinful moment in my life. I saw myself lying, cheating, stealing, doing bad stuff and I couldn’t bear the guilt. Tears began to flow, and I began confessing every single one of those acts and asking The Lord to forgive me. Each time I confessed one and sought forgiveness, it disappeared and another sinful act I had committed came up… more like a slide show.
After what seemed like a long time of confessing and seeking forgiveness, the slide show ceased. And then, I felt a warm embrace. Oh Lord! that was so good. This is something I cannot fully express effectively but suffice to say… The Lord’s embrace and acceptance makes you forget the whole world.
But then… the warm embrace and His presence left, and I felt a deep darkness approach. It was horrible and brought guilt and condemnation with it. I cried out to the Lord in desperation and His presence cast out the darkness in a moment. I opened my eyes and found myself in the room on my knees. I felt very light, like something had lifted off of me.
This in no way means I never did anything wrong thereafter. No, no… not at all. I am far from perfect and am still a major work in progress. But I share those experiences only to emphasize the fact that Jesus is real. He is alive. He is Lord. He is the King of kings. He is coming back again. He loves you. He laid down His life for you. If you will call for Him, He will gladly come into your life too.
Ministry in Vietnam
Thereafter, it was not long before my wife began to attend church with me and then my whole family. I am sure my Mother in law’s prayers for all those years had a lot to do with this. She was a great woman of faith and my Hindu background and beliefs didn’t deter her one bit. She was confident her prayers were heard and would definitely be answered. Praise God! She was right!!
We eventually became a family on fire for God. We began leading a Bible Study Fellowship at our place. We worshiped, prayed together, studied the Bible together, shared meals and had an awesome time together. Most people who attended our Fellowship were expatriates from other countries.
My wife and I were invited to preach and teach on several occasions at various gatherings, which we very gladly did with the help of interpreters. God has done some amazing things in our lives since. We continue to do our very best to make committed disciples for Jesus Christ.
I currently work for Bible League International making disciples and planting churches in South Asia. I view my job as God’s calling and provision for us and I give it my 100%. However, we as a family continue to be witnesses unto His grace and love for us and share His love with those who do not know Him.
Friends, if you do not know God or even do not know HOW TO know God, then I pray the Lord will open your eyes and reveal the truth of the gospel message to you. Life without Jesus is not worth it. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or what background you have.
The fact is that Jesus is real, and He loves you. So much so that He laid down His life for you. Your past has nothing to do with it. His love is unconditional. You can’t do anything to make Him stop loving you and you can’t do anything to make Him love you more. His love is unchanging.
“What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and yet forfeit his own soul?”
I will not make this page too long. But I would like to give God the glory for His amazing miracles in our lives.
Perpetually walking in worldly uncertainty, yet full of peace knowing all will be well, that is the secret of walking with Jesus.