I was born in the city of Madras, a rather large city in the South East of India. I had the extreme privilege of being born in a Christian home where the Word of God was revered and the Lord Jesus was loved and honored. I spent most of my later childhood and adolescence in the country of Bahrain, a small island country in the Persian Gulf. We moved there as a family when I was seven years of age. Although the island was predominantly Arab Muslim in population, there was a small gathering of believers and, after our move there, my parents joined that fellowship. While the Christians were not allowed to preach the gospel openly, the government was kind enough to allow gatherings of believers in designated locations. It was in such a setting that I was privileged enough to hear the gospel.
There are few events that occurred during the first thirteen years of my life that I can recall with any clear vividness. However, there are two relevant ones that come to mind clearly. The first is the death of a believer whose funeral I attended. (I was about seven or eight then). So deep was the impression it made on me that, even to this day, I recall the hymn that was sung at the funeral and the smell of the flowers on the wreath that were placed on the corpse. I remember the burial site and the lowering of the coffin into the ground. This was my first personal encounter with death, and I had never been so affected by it.
The next event that comes clearly to mind is Friday, January 21, 1983. Like any child brought up in a Christian home, I was taught the Word of God regularly and knew the well-known Bible stories. I attended Sunday school and assembly meetings regularly. But while I was attending the meetings, my primary thoughts were on who won the last soccer match or whether India would win their next cricket match. This Friday was different. We happened to have a visiting sister take the class for the older children. That dear sister spoke on the life of Joseph that day. She spoke of the cruelty of his brethren and the coat of many colors dipped in blood. With such tenderness, she brought in the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus on the cross for our sins. She said that God in heaven gave His Son for “YOUR sins.” While I had had fleeting thoughts about eternity, I had never been so troubled about my soul or my eternal destiny. I had attended the assembly meetings, had heard the Word of God, and had known that I was a sinner, but Satan had so blinded me that I had never seen the danger I was headed towards – until that day, that moment. I had never realized that the Lord Jesus was on the Cross for MY sins – it was always the sins of that mob that crucified him, not mine! At that moment, the stark realization that my sins put him there filled me with grief, and I was in a hurry to get salvation. In the very chair that I was sitting in, with tears, I trusted the Lord Jesus for salvation. While, on the one hand, I realized my true vileness, I also realized the love of the Lord Jesus for me. A couple of years after that, I was baptized and received into assembly fellowship.
The hymn sung at the aforementioned funeral portrays the death of the Lord Jesus on the cross and thanks God for opening up heaven for us; and that is what one who “sleeps in Jesus” has to look forward to. Even to this day, I often recall how the fear of death I felt that day left me because of the security I found in the Savior. That fear no longer exists because the Lord, “through death, delivered them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”
What a joy to know heaven as my home and such a loving God as my Savior! Thanks be to God for His unspeakable Gift!