Tuesday, September 29, 2009

“If I live, I live for Jesus. If I die, I die for Jesus”

On August 26, 2008, Puspanjali and her daughter, Mona Lisa, went out to again search nearby villages in Kandhamal district, Orissa state, India for Pastor Digal. The last contact Puspanjali had with her husband was on August 23, when he went to the house of a believer following a worship service. He didn’t risk venturing home because Hindu mobs were going from village to village, attacking Christians and destroying homes and churches. The assassination of a Hindu leader, Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, was the catalyst for the widespread attacks and, despite evidence to suggest otherwise, many Hindus blamed Christians for his death.

Pastor Digal had a heart for the Hindu people. He would spend time with them, assist them with medical or financial problems, and fast and pray for their needs. Through his witness, 20 Hindu families in a village he ministered to came to know the Lord. But his work also attracted the attention of Hindu militants, angered that he was telling people about Jesus.

On August 25, a mob of approximately 200 Hindus stormed the home where Pastor Digal was staying and stoned him. They then tied a rope around his neck and dragged his body to the river. Puspanjali and Mona Lisa discovered his dead body the next day. Suddenly, they found themselves without a husband and father.

Death threats forced Puspanjali and her daughter to flee Kandhamal. Puspanjali is currently living with her parents in another district in the state while Mona Lisa is residing in a Christian hostel. Puspanjali is from a Hindu family, and while her relationship with her parents is good, they pressure her to recant her Christian faith and return to Hinduism. She refuses to deny Jesus, but it is difficult for her to be without Christian community.

Puspanjali’s faith was shaken for some time following the loss of her husband, but her trust in God is strong once again and she is committed to be a light to her Hindu neighbours. The message of God’s saving grace cannot be silenced, even amid such brutal and deadly attacks on His followers.

Pastor Digal often used to say, “If I live, I live for Jesus. If I die, I die for Jesus.” In spite of all she has lost, this too is the cry of Puspanjali’s heart. And it is a cry that, by the grace of God, will continue to resound throughout India's Orissa's state, where the Christian community continues to face suffering and hardship for Christ’s sake.