Homeless to Hero: One Pastor Making History in India

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NEW DELHI, India - Christians comprise a little more than two percent of India's population but that has not stopped one pastor from making history.

Pastor R. Abraham's latest accomplishment brought together some 17,000 pastors to a daytime leadership conference and nearly 1 million people to four-day evening prayer meeting.

And that's just part of the story of a man who's gone from homeless to hero.

Abraham spoke with CBN News in a park outside the country's capital New Delhi, just days before turning 60. He recalled hearing God's voice calling him to the ministry. He was 21 and enjoying his new career as a chemist.

From Security to Homeless

"I could even have a car," Abraham said. "To have a car in 1974 is a big deal. It was a pretty high paying job in those days. So you felt like your life is secure."

"And God spoke to me, almost like an audible voice," he continued. "God said to me, 'Son, I have called you for a very specific purpose. I want you to resign your job, get out of your home, and go and preach the gospel to your people.' I was, like, whoa."

Though he had no idea how to preach, Pastor Abraham obeyed the call. But just months into his ministry, Abraham was broke, homeless, and hungry.

"Having something to eat was the biggest miracle in my life in those days," he said. "And in the night I had no place to go, so I used to wait for the shops to pull down the shutters so that I could sleep in front of the corridors of the shops. And I started to wonder, why did He call me? Why?"

Reaching India's Desperate

After two years of prayer and patience, Pastor Abraham joined forces with another minister to start New India Church of God. The organization now reaches across India through more than 3,000 churches.

"I have always responded to the leading of God, and I have always responded to the needs," Pastor Abraham said, looking back on his accomplishment. "There is a need that made me do whatever you see was done because of the need that was before my eyes."

The Bethesda Children's Homes is one of those needs. It's a network of 14 orphanages around his country, all founded by Pastor Abraham.

He opened the first after visiting an area of his country where parents were selling their children for pennies. Many would end up working in sweat shops or on the streets.

Two of girls at one of the orphanages shared their horrific stories with CBN News. One remembered her dad pouring kerosene on her mom and burning her death. Another recalled her mom being drunk and throwing her out of the house.

"That just tore my heart apart. I just stood there and cried," Abraham recalled. "And the Lord was telling me, 'well, who is going to take care of them?'"

"And for the first time ever in my life, I opened my mouth and said I will take care of them," he continued. "I went back to their parents and I said, 'Don't sell them. Give them to me.' "

Caring for Pastors

In addition to its 14 orphanages, Pastor Abraham's ministry operates 16 Bible colleges. There are also six Christian mission schools.

"I am totally committed to helping children," Abraham said. "I really have a heart for the children. I want to do the best."

Pastor Abraham has a heart for Indian people, young and old. His latest project is building a retirement home for aging pastors.

"The pastors here in India, they don't have any pension. They don't have any life insurance. They don't have any social security," he explained. "The only thing is they are either looked after by their children or they're out on the streets."

Partners for Help

Pastor Abraham has lived on the streets and doesn't want to see anyone there. At 60, he said he's got at least another 40 years to reach them with the Gospel and a heavenly home.

And his ministry is seeing some help. CBN's Orphan's Promise has partnered with him at one of his 14 orphanages, and students at Regent University have also started a campus ministry called Christ for India to help raise awareness and support for Abraham's work.

*Original broadcast Jan. 10, 2013.

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Efrem Graham

Efrem Graham

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Efrem Graham is an award-winning journalist, who comes to CBN News from the ABC owned and operated station in Toledo, Ohio.  He received his master's degree from the Columbia University Journalism School. He also holds a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.  Follow Efrem on Twitter @EfremGraham and "like" him at Facebook.com/EfremGrahamCBN.