Indian Evangelist Persecuted for His Ministry

Jonathan Bonk met Smita, Lamuel, and Angel, from Odisha, India, in May at OMSC.

Jonathan Bonk met Smita, Lamuel, and Angel, from Odisha, India, in May at OMSC.

More than fifty years ago in the quiet of her home’s windowless worship room, with an incensed candle flickering, a high-caste Hindu mother prayerfully dedicated her unborn child to the family’s god, much as the biblical Hannah did many years before when she vowed (as written in 1 Samuel 1:11) to dedicate her son “to the Lord all the days of his life.”

The “Lord protected me from that other god. Then and there the Lord called me to the ministry,” to become a Christian evangelist and pastor, says Lamuel Pattniak, 52, who is the second Jon and Jean Bonk International Fellowship Fund resident at OMSC, with his wife, Smita Nag, and daughter, Angel Grace.

As Lamuel tells the story, his mother later asked the Hindu deity for a healing, did not receive it and questioned the god’s power to heal. She converted to Christianity after Jesus Christ, “a foreign god,” appeared in the worship room and with assistance from two evangelists delivered the healing she had been seeking.

After his mother’s dedication of her son his parents’ discovery of their own Christian faith, Lamuel commited himself to Christ on November 3, 1973, when at age 12 he attended an evangelistic meeting. “The Lord touched my heart and, while prayer was going on, I committed myself and gave my heart to the Lord.”

To prepare for his lifelong calling, Lamuel studied at several colleges including Ebenezer Bible School in Madhya Pradesh, and at Asian Institute of Theology, Bangalore.

On April 15, Lamuel baptized a convert in a stream in Deogarh, India.

On April 15, Lamuel baptized a convert in a stream in Deogarh, India.

Raised in rural India, Lamuel and his family now live and minister in the city of Sambalpur, in the eastern state of Odisha (formerly called Orissa) the second largest city by population in western Odisha. For thirty years he has been the pastor of Dayasagar Prepsana Bsewan or “The Ocean of Mercy Prayer House.”

Persecution for Christianity has been a constant theme since Lamuel began actively ministering as an itinerant evangelist. He visited a family in April 1986 on Good Friday in the village of Deogarh. Rumors about his allegedly evil intent flew around the village.
As he was leaving the area some 300 Hindu fundamentalists surrounded Lamuel on the road and threatened his life. While a half dozen of the prime agitators pummeled him with rocks and  hit him with sticks, Lamuel was given a choice: “deny Jesus, and if you will not deny him, we will kill you.” Suddenly three policemen, responding to a report about a noisy crowd, arrived and pulled him from the violent circle.

Lamuel says he was “happy” about the attack because it reminded him of Christ’s suffering on the cross. He smiles and quotes Jesus (Matthew 5:11), who said, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.”

Angel, Lamuel, and Smita attended OMSC’s Community Ministries Forum on May 8.

Angel, Lamuel, and Smita attended OMSC’s Community Ministries Forum on May 8.

In January 2012, the children’s home that Lamuel and Smita oversee for twenty-five poor children was bulldozed by government decree because a rumor had spread around the region that they were “converting people in the name of an orphanage.”

He leans on his rock-solid faith for comfort. “I am joyful although I have been persecuted many times. Hindu fanatics are targeting me, but thank God that I am alive. I’ve had so many wounds that I have had to rest for many days.”

Lamuel’s wife, Smita Nag, is president of Transformation Trust, their organization that manages the “Birhor Ashram” orphanage. His daughter, Angel, 14, is preparing to become a medical doctor and has been learning to play guitar while at OMSC. The family arrived at OMSC on April 27 and will depart for home on June 5. —Dan Nicholas