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Brethren Who Finished the Race

By Nelson Thomas Mumbai

The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in India affected so many believers, and it’s very sad to notice that several of them could not survive. We as human beings find it very difficult to understand how some of the most useful servants of God succumbed to COVID.

Nevertheless, we believe that God who is sovereign has done the best for His people, and He does not make a mistake. “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.” (Psalm 116:15). Our Lord in His perfect will called His servants home to be with their Master and to rest from their labors. (cf. John 17:24; Reve. 14:13).

In this note, I would like to share briefly my sweet memories and appreciation of some of those servants of God with whom I had very personal acquaintance. (M/s RAVI SAVANTSARE; O. T. James; B. A. Tadke; M. J. Babu; Barnabas Isaac Sunderarajan; Shalu T. Ninan) (Pictures )

1. Brother RAVI SAVANTSARE, ULHASNAGAR, Thane, Mumbai (28 February1954 - 16 May, 2021)

Brother Ravi worked in the court and used his spare time enthusiastically for the Lord’s work. He was one of the elders of the Ulhasnagar Believer's Assembly. His simplicity and joy in the Lord attracted many. He had a special grace to encourage others. As a member of The Gideons International, he was zealous to distribute scriptures in various institutions, and even once got arrested for it.

He was suffering from various physical ailments for some time. It pleased the Lord to end his earthly journey on 16 May at 11PM. May the Lord raise up such servants of God to continue God's work in Maharashtra.

2. Brother O. T. James, Vijaywada, A.P.(3rd May 1939 - 15th May, 2021)

Brother O. T. James, retired from the AP electricity board as a Divisional Engineer. He had a passion for evangelism. He could conduct number of gospel outreach programs in different parts of AP, covering several tribal villages and hill stations.

He was instrumental in the formation of the Upper Room Christian Assembly at Vijayawada and continued as one of the elders. He had a special concern for Christian literature in Telugu, which prompted him to write and publish many useful books, especially a concordance in Telugu. For a long time, he served as one of the trustees of The Gospel Fellowship Trust of India, Chennai.

He loved the Lord, His word and His people. He was zealous to hold on to the New Testament assembly principles at any cost. He supported many servants of God silently.
He was affected with COVID-19 and the Lord took him home on 15 May, at 8:30 AM.

3. Brother M. J. Babu, New Delhi (18th March, 1958 – 5th May, 2021)

Brother M. J. Babu used to work with the Back to the Bible broadcast office in New Delhi, when the Lord called him for full time ministry in 1986. He served the Lord in Delhi. Later the Lord used him to establish a local assembly in Mayur Vihar Phase I, in association with the Janakpuri assembly, New Delhi.

He was a gifted communicator of the gospel who could preach in English and Hindi effectively. Apart from the city of Delhi, God’s people in different parts of North India, A.P., and Telangana were blessed by the ministry of dear brother Babu.

He was affected with COVID, and it pleased the Lord to call him home on 5th May 2021.

4. Brother B. A. Tadke, Pune. (31st October 1938 – 3rd May 2021)

Brother B. A. Tadke was one of the pioneer workers among the native evangelists in Mumbai. The Lord wonderfully saved him from a different background, and effectively used him for the gospel work in Mumbai and elsewhere among the Marathi-speaking people. His simple method of presentation of the gospel touched the heart and mind of the common man. Thus, many got saved, and the Lord used him to establish a number of local assemblies in Mumbai and its suburbs. Even, he was instrumental in the formation of a Marathi speaking congregation in Sharjah, UAE.

He had a special passion for literature work, which may be due to his work with the Gospel Literature Service, Mumbai. He wrote many articles and hymns in Marathi that edified and encouraged the new believers.

Few years ago, he moved to Pune and there also he could establish a local assembly as well as a home for the widows.
He too was affected with COVID, and on 3rd May it pleased the Lord to call His servant to be Him to rest from all his labors.

5. Brother Barnabas Isaac Sunderarajan, Pune (11th October 1956 – 1st May 2021)

Brother Barnabas was one of the elders of the Wanowrie Christian Assembly, Pune. Anyone who met him will never forget him; he had such zeal and energy in sharing the love of Christ. His joyful approach and encouraging words revived the heart of the listeners. He was an able Bible teacher and preacher of God’s word. Apart from his local church, he was greatly used among the assemblies in Andhra Pradesh and elsewhere.

It pleased the Lord to put an end to the physical sufferings of His servant on 1st May and took him to be with Him.

6. Brother Shalu T. Ninan, Bhilai, Chhattisgarh (14th August 1960 – 28th April 2021)

Brother. Shalu was one of the few Brethren evangelists of India who could influence thousands around the globe through his various ministries.
His godly parents and vibrant local church molded him with an evangelistic outlook from his childhood. Being convicted of the Lord for full time ministry, he left his undergraduate commerce studies to join a Theological seminary.

The Lord mightily used dear brother Shalu in his local assembly as well as the nearby places. He was specially gifted for music ministry. His melodious singing that came from his heart with a soothing voice touched the hearts of the listeners. He has also composed number of Christian songs in Hindi.

Our association grew stronger due to our yearly meeting at the North India Bible Institute, Alwar, where we were together as visiting faculty. Our interaction during these visits spanning a minimum of two weeks resulted in discussing lot of matters, sharing our thoughts and ideas. I must say that I have learned a lot from this dear brother, which I will never forget.

He was a people person. He loved meeting new contacts and also maintained all those relationships. I have noticed that he will always attend to a phone call even if he is having food. He would talk without any hurry and even conclude his talk with a prayer over phone.

Whether young or old, brother Shalu always addressed everyone with uttermost respect. No wonder that irrespective of age, class or creed, all loved him so much. Once I remember attending a cottage meeting of his local church at Bhilai. After the meeting while everyone was leaving the place I noticed, all the young ones saying bye to him with a holy kiss. I could notice their love and affection for him as a father figure.

There were occasions during our conversation when we could not agree on certain topics, but that never disturbed our fellowship. I understood that some of his close relatives hold a different doctrinal stand. Yet, I have noticed his connection with all of them, and even his appreciation for them was never diminished. This shows that his love for God’s people was not bound by a narrow-minded zeal for doctrine. He loved all from the depth of his heart without any bias.

Another distinguishing quality of brother Shalu was his humility and simplicity. In his words or attitude, he has never shown pride of his achievements. He had every reason to boast over the way the Lord used him in India and even abroad, but he never did that. I remember once he told me about an honorary doctorate that some institution conferred on him for his achievements in Christian ministry, but he had never used it along with his name.

Many years ago, when I started my website, I requested him to allow me to upload his songs, he gladly agreed. Later when I converted these songs for YouTube, he gave me few more songs and gave me suggestions for the next upload.

On the morning of 28th April 21, the brief message I read on WhatsApp literally shocked me. For a few days it was very difficult for me to accept that such a loving dear co-worker is no more. The pictures that I had taken with him at Bhilai and Alwar bring back all the memories of our fellowship and interactions together.

Loss vs. Gain

Yes, as our dear brother himself observed just two days prior to his departure, during the memorial service of another dear brother, ‘it is not important to know why he is taken away, but to know why God has left us here’. Even though the departure of our dear one is painful for us, for the Lord of heaven it is precious, and a joyful occasion. It may be loss to us, but it’s gain for him and heaven.

So let us rejoice in the Lord, whatever maybe the occasion, seriously and sincerely contemplating the reasons why God allows us still time on earth.

Yes, there are few more dear brothers and sisters who have gone to be with the Lord in these days, affected by COVID. Especially like Brother Johnson Baby of New Delhi who went to be with the Lord on 22 April 2021. (An elder at the Ebenezer Assembly, New Delhi, and Chairman of NIBI, Alwar). Also, brother C. K. Babykutty, Mumbai who was promoted to glory on 18 June 2020. (Evangelist at the Charkop assembly).

For us, all these happened as a surprise, but not with the Lord who does everything in His will at the right time. As the scripture reveals that they all are resting from their labors. It’s our responsibility to be active and fruitful as long as we are here on earth without wasting our precious time and resources. We too must be able to say with Apostle Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2Timothy 4:7.

Bro. Ravi Sawantsare   Bro. O. T. James   Bro. M. J. Babu   Bro. Tadke B. A   Bro.Barnabas Issac   Bro. Shalu T. Ninaan

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Prepared by Nelson Thomas . You can reproduce this writing in any medium,
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