The Beginning of Christian Life
Jesus said, "Your joy no man taketh away"
My son-in-law didn't invite us to his home. He was deeply wounded and highly incensed at the thought of what we had done. He wrote a bitter letter telling us to stay away. Even then we did go to them in periods of vacation. Next year when we had to go to them, due to social pressure they could not receive us in their house in the village, so we had to live in a cattle-shed. Later he repented for this with bitter tears. Though his people had prejudices against us we used to live very quiet1y and tried to show our Christian life. The result was that they began to be friendly with us. One day Mr. Ganguli our son-in-law's uncle, said to me1 "Atul babu, we don't mind your becoming a Christian. But because of social pressure we cannot do for you anything freely. If you could only put on your sacred thread it would be much easier for us to entertain you. If you had not openly received Baptism thus ending your relationship with Hinduis, we would have accepted you freely".
In September following our first vacation-stay with the Gangulis, their second child, a son was born. At the time of our next vacation he was ten months old. They had planned a special ceremony of the event connected with his first being given solid food, Anna Prashan Sanskar. They gave me an important part in this. Seating me in a sort of a palanquin they had us carried all about the village. From then on we became much more socially acceptable, and we came nearer to my son-in-law and his family.
When I finished my course at Jabalpur I was asked to stay and teach Greek which I had specially liked and in which I regularly received honors. But this was not to be my life-work. I had dedicated myself to Christ in 1926 (see page 84) for the work in Vrindaban. A prominent church-leader did his best to persuade me to accept rich emoluments and to give even as much as ten years for translating the New Testament from the original Greek into modern Bengali. Another outstanding preacher asked me to do evangelistic work with him in Bombay. I replied that not I but Jesus Christ made all decisions for me. So there is no question of a big salary and worldly pleasure. I must go to Vrindaban, the place of my new birth and preach Christ openly. When they received my answer they were very sad. We decided that Vrindaban was to be our home. As there was no established work, we had to begin it. There was no welcome, no Bengali food, and the climate was against us. Also we did not know the language. In spite of all this we went because we wanted to establish a Christian Ashram there. I had faith and a sure conviction that Jesus would open the way.
My Ganduli had made unfortunate money-investments and lost so much that he was bitter in soul Then it happened that their little son, Phoni, who had frown exceedingly attached to me took sick and was becoming weaker day by day. As soon as I heard about this, I sent money to them and urged them to fo to Dacca to a food doctor and to spare no pains and expense in getting the child treated. Here was proof of Christian love that they were not returning. The child was gradually restored to health. One day in 1031, I received a letter from my son-in-law which he asked me whether I could help him to find God. He had tried many gurus but had failed. He was completely disillusioned about Gurus. He had wanted to become rich but he had failed in that also. So at last he asked for guidance.
I sent him money to clear off his debts and invited him to Vrindaban. He was given the work of entering the names of patients who came to the hospital. After about a year and a half he came to me one day and said, that he wanted to become a Christian. I was not sure about him; so I said, “Why become a Christian if you can be satisfied as a Hindu? No need to change just because we are Christian.” First I told him in order to test himself to fo to the heads of all the temples in Vrindaban and ask them if they had found something which would give satisfaction and peace to the heart of a man like him. He kept up this process for nearly sic months. Also he had been reading his New Testament and often he brought questions to me. I then sent him to spend a few days with a missionary-family in a neighboring station. The loving and sincerely friendly way in which he was received and entertained made a very deep impression on him. He was lying awake on his bed that first night out on the veranda alone that God spoke to him and he made the full commitment of himself to Jesus Christ, took off his sacred thread and joyously gave it to his host. The following morning coming back to Vrindaban, he told me of his decision and we set about making plans for his baptism. When the great day came a goodly crowd of people gathered in the hospital-compound to see the ceremony. There were some officials, some temple-assistants and some prominent Hindus and Christians. All were so deeply impressed by the interesting story that both Dr. Ganguli and I told the crowd of how Jesus Christ found us and made us His disciples. Dr. Ganguli, his wife, all the children were baptized by Dr. Scholberg.
A house was rented in Vrindaban and we moved in. A prominent Brahmin living inVrindaban, began coming to our house and showed real interest in the Good News. Within a month he was baptized. Again within a short time a temple-leader and another Hindu were baptized. When this news got abroad there was a wave of consternation that went over the town. A committee of leading Brahmins and heads of temples was formed and it was decided that unless I was driven out of Vrindaban, they could not check people becoming Christian and that Hinduism was in danger. Very shortly they sent a threatening note to my landlord telling him either to get rid of me or they would cut his nose off. So we had to move. The only thing we could find was a hovel not good enough for horses, but we had to take it and get on as best as we could. All along I was trying to get possession of a piece of land on which we might build the Ashram-buildings and have a place from which no one could drive us. Even far out of the town, it seemed as though every piece of land one might want belonged to some temple and it was the universal rule that no land could be so1d to a Christian. Repeated efforts on my part during five or more years were fruitless At last a piece of land, belonging not to a temple but the head of a temple as his private property, came into view. A friendly Brahmin undertook to approach the owner on my behalf. After some correspondence a time was arranged for the two of us to go to a big city in Western India to visit the owner of this land. He received us very cordially and showed us every courtesy, even to giving us our noonday food served in solid silver dishes. After eating we went to his rest-room where he had prepared for us all three to have our noon-nap. While we sat talking, he began to tell me of a certain Chakraverti who had lived in Vrindaban back in 1930 and 31, a very reprehensible character, who within a short time had baptized four or five high-class Hindus. He himself had given Rs. 25/- to start a fund with which to drive that Chakraverti out or else to have him killed, When I told him I was that very Chakraverti, he would not believe me. "No," he said, "Your face is not that of a rogue, how can you possibly be that Chakraverti ?" We soon became very friendly and he was all for letting me have the land. Unfortunately there was a co-owner, a widow with two minor sons. She absolutely refused to sell to a Christian. So the bubble burst and I returned a very discouraged man,
Shortly after, a neighboring Goswami, the joint head of another temple having come to know that I was really in earnest about buying a piece of land in Vrindaban, came to tell me that be had a piece for sale. We went a mile out of the city along a hot and sandy road to a spot where three great mango-trees stood brave and isolated on an otherwise dry and forbidding piece of land of about five acres in extent. A deep open well of generous proportions but now long since clogged with debris occupied one corner of the land. At first sight we were completely discouraged and decided against it. But later, when we were again pressed by this man, we thought it the part of wisdom to buy it. And so, after some negotiation, we actually bought it for Rs, 1,400/-. This man and his family were for a long time ostracized in Vrindaban for the heinous crime of selling a piece of land to a Christian. Hindus had come to his house and tried in every way to dissuade him from actually carrying through the deal. They had offered three times what I was to pay. They had declared their intention of committing Satyagraha in front of his house, lying down close together so that he could not get out in order to have the deed registered. He had sworn at them and told them that he would walk right over them if they tried that. He had given his word to sell to me and he would stand by it. So God worked in strange and wondrous ways finally to give us a place we might call our own.
Rather than being the end of opposition, this new move really started opposition in earnest. The very plot which we are occupying is the traditional spot where Krishna sported with 1600 maidens on moonlight nights. No human being had dared to live on such a holy place. We Christians had desecrated it. Rumors came that plots were being made against our lives. We put up some thatched roofs on poles and began to live there. Soon we had a small pile of bricks hauled in to a build a wall, Very early one morning I was standing by these bricks when three sadhus came from the main road to make inquiries about Chakraverti. Since I was dressed just in a dhoti and a pair of wooden sandals they took me for a workman. They would not believe I was serious when I told them I was the man they were looking for. They could not believe that a Christian padre could be dressed in other than full suit with necktie and live without a bungalow. Then they asked me why I had come to such a dreary spot only to die. I told them I had not come that God had sent me here to spread this kingdom and to heal the sick. They were pleased and one of them said, "We live right across there. If anyone troubles you just call us and if there is any difficulty even now tell us, We shall be glad to help you." Our well was not yet cleaned and we were not allowed to draw water from other wells. When I told him this he at once engaged a man to draw and bring water for us and continued this until our well was ready. He also told me that when they first got the news of our coming they had plotted to burn us all alive inside our thatched houses. But now this group, at least, became friendly with us.
We found ourselves living on land across which runs a unique and sacred path. It ;s called Parikrama- the path that goes around. Every pilgrim who comes to have a bath in the Jamna must go around this path. Instead of our going to the crowds for Evangelistic work, the crowds were sent to our very door, When we began our preaching even our sadhu friends became uneasy. They saw that if pilgrims were to believe in Christ, temples would stand empty and they would be deprived of their livelihood. I had a large picture of Christ on the cross, Jesus Christ offering His own life for sinners and the lost was very effectively painted in this picture which was profitably used in our evangelistic work. One evening as I was returning from the city a mile away, I looked up and saw flames rising high above the Ashram. My faithful dog came running down the road to meet me as though to tell me what the enemy had done. Before I could reach home, my library was burnt to ashes, and many valuable books had gone in smoke. Three times within the next two weeks they must have thrown either three live cigarette stubs or live coals on the grass roofs of our huts. Even though our shelters were burned down we showed no intention to leave the place. A friendly herb doctor informed me that they were plotting to kill me. A police inspector came and asked me why I had made no report of these fires. I told him that I had made my report to God and that I had to live in Vrindaban and if I made enemies I could not live there. He called together a group of the leaders and asked in their presence if I had any suspicions or complaints to make. I said, "No all I wish is friendship.." The atmosphere of the place changed after that. Instead of flaunting my books and preaching in their faces I was led by God to see that I must follow the footsteps of my Master who went about going good and in this way I could prepare hearts like good Soil into which seeds might be sown. The result was that in the whole of Vrindaban people began to love us, trust us, and invite us to their homes and they began coming to our house. I was invited to a meeting of temple leaders in the Hindu temple to answer questions like, "What have you discovered that you knowing all our Hindu sacred scriptures as you do, have become a Christian?"
We as ambassadors of Jesus should remember that until confidence and respect are created in human hearts it is not possible to get across the Saving Message into the hearts of those who need it. We cannot open their hearts, but through our loving service God can open those hearts. Though outwardly they took alike, they find that there is
something in us that they do not have. A Brahmin usually lives his fellow Brahmins and so people wonder how it is possible for me to look on everyone equally as my brothers and sisters. They wonder as to how I was completely changed as far as my natural human inclinations and desires are concerned.
Be of good cheer, all of you who are afraid to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior openly, and to consider Him as the ideal of their lives, because of the possible temporal loss and separation from loved ones and persecution from friends. For the last 25 years I have had an experience of the real power of the Lord Jesus in everyday life. From this experience I can assure you that the promises of Jesus in the New Testament are true even today. On that happy Christmas day in 1926, I accepted Jesus Christ openly and the result was that I was forlorn, hated and cursed, lost the affection of my only daughter and her husband. But Jesus Christ kept on assuring me and giving me strength (Mark 10,29,30). Today my whole family has accepted Christ. I am no longer forlorn or an outcaste By the grace of God, the path is now without difficulties. We do not repent for our choice because we have found peace and joy in Jesus Christ. Nobody can take this spiritual contentment from us.