Finding Faith in a Himalayan Village

Seeking Salvation: Tom Tells His Story

See also our video, From a Forest Temple.

Born and raised in the Himalayan mountains, “Tom” came from a very religious family. His grandfather, once the richest man in their village, sold almost everything he owned and used the money to build a huge temple in the forest. In search of salvation, he even moved into the temple where he lived in silence, vowing not to speak.

Not that he or his influence disappeared entirely. “[My grandfather] had a thirst for knowledge and used to take trips to meet with gurus (teachers),” explains Tom. “On one such trip, he happened to bring a Christian tract back with him. As a young child, I was always curious to read the materials stored in the temple. One day I came across this tract that talked about Jesus. I found it so revolutionizing and extremely powerful! I was filled with questions. But since there was no one in my village to answer me, they remained as a seed in my heart.”

His grandfather’s decision to give away so much of their inheritance had left the family struggling greatly. “We were on the verge of being enslaved by the rich people in the village and had to work in their fields to get our food, which we later had to pay for,” says Tom.

And then things got worse. Tom’s father died young, leaving behind a widow with five children. How were they going to get by?

“I was around ten when my grandfather died, and I began to search for the meaning of life,” says Tom. Others expected Tom to go into the priesthood, but he had questions. And some of them were sparked by the death of his father and the life of his grandfather. “I struggled to understand what happens to the soul when a person dies. If my grandfather, who was the holiest man I knew, was not assured of goodness in his next life, how was I to be confident of my destiny?”

A God Who Hears

God opened the door for Tom to take the next step. As a boy, he used to go to the nearest town to buy salt and kerosene, and he began to make friends there. One of them invited him to go to a church. “I did not understand what he meant,” Tom admits, “but I agreed to go along. The experience was amazing. I saw people worshipping God as if He was hearing their worship and prayer! It was incredible!”

Tom borrowed a Bible and took it back home. As he read, he saw that many things it taught were the opposite of what he had been taught his whole life. “I thought that my salvation came through all my good and religious works, but the Bible said that all those good works added nothing to my salvation! More than that, it said that salvation is a free gift from God to us in Christ.”

As Tom got to know the Bible, he recognized it as the inspired word of God. “There and then I gave my life to the Lord.”

Paying the Price

Following Christ came with a cost, as Tom soon learned. Friends ripped up his Bible. They would no longer allow him to sit with them at the same table because they considered him like a low-caste untouchable. This was because he was part of a church and associated with Christians, who were low caste people. And this disgraced his higher-caste family.

During this season of hardship and loss, a verse from the Bible began to speak to his heart:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27).

A Scheming Uncle and Sacred Cows

When Tom finished school, an uncle invited him to move to the city and live with his family while attending university. While he was there he began looking for Christian fellowship. “Sometimes my uncle’s kids also wanted to come with me [to church],” he says. “My uncle began to smell Christianity in my life, and he was ashamed of me.”

What happened next might only happen in a Hindu community. Tom explains. “It is a great tragedy in a Hindu family for someone to give himself to a cow-eating religion. In Hinduism, cows are sacred—the punishment for killing a cow is equal to murdering a person. Uncle devised a plan and began to spread a rumor to our friends and family that I ate [beef] every day. I began to get a lot of pressure from my relatives. My uncle thought that his plan was successful and I would quit going to church.”

Instead, Tom told his uncle he would no longer be living there: he was leaving. This was a big step for a  young man who had no money, but rather than leaving the church, he pulled away from the family. A big surprise to his uncle. “He was so unhappy that his plan had failed.”

Called to Share the Gospel

Working long hours, Tom was able to support himself and complete both a bachelor’s degree and an MBA. But also during this time, he felt the Lord was asking him to give much of his time to evangelism. “Once again, my family felt the weight of shame at my choice to serve God in this way, but praise and glory to His name! It is the greatest honor to obey the calling of Christ.”

Establishing the Church

Despite family opposition, Tom was able to lead three of his brothers and their families to Christ and see a church established in their village. “My relatives gave their lives to the Lord! My friends gave their lives to the Lord! We have a fellowship of Christ-followers in the village I grew up in and we want to reach the whole region with the gospel.”

Tom risked a lot in deciding to follow Jesus and even more in sharing his faith with others, but he is grateful for the new life he gained in return. “Indeed my Heavenly Father has given me many times more than what I could have asked for,” he says. “My life is dedicated to serving Him!”

Reaching More Men and Women Like Tom

Today, Tom lives in the United States. He leads a team that uses media to reach communities in his home country. They also connect with others from the same background now living in countries around the world. His team uses innovative digital strategies to find people interested in the gospel and follow up with anyone who wants to learn more. In this way, people who would otherwise have little access to the gospel can discuss their questions with people who can help.

“My country is closed to the gospel, but God has opened a door for me to use media to share His message of salvation.”

Internet usage is growing rapidly in Tom’s homeland. This has only accelerated since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Millions are regularly active on Facebook and other social media sites. Their frequent use of media combined with the tense spiritual climate in their country offers believers like Tom an incredible opportunity to share the hope they have in Jesus in places closed to the gospel.

You can help Tom and believers like him share the gospel in hard-to-reach places.

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This story was originally published in another form by Pioneers Canada.

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