Hopegivers chief heads back to India, indebted to believers

By April 30, 2007

USA (MNN) — 14 months ago the President of Hopegivers International, Dr. Samuel Thomas, was arrested in India on anti-nationalism charges. Thomas says licenses for all of Hopegivers' ministries were revoked.

Thomas was released from prison in May, and last August licenses were temporarily restored, and bank accounts unfrozen  However, not until recently was Thomas allowed to return to the United States to visit his wife and children – just 21 days ago.

In an exclusive interview with Mission Network News, Thomas outlined step-by-step why he was arrested. "The reason this persecution started was because the largest graduation in the history of the Christian movement was to take place on February 26, 2006. We were to graduate 10,000 students from our seminary who would take a martyr's oath and go into full time ministry."

Immediately upon Thomas' arrival in South India, a warrant was issued for his arrest. Why did he run if he, too, took a martyr's oath? Thomas says it was at the request of his attorneys. They told him, "Just stay away from the police for a month so we can develop a strategy. Even if you go inside [the prison] and die, this orphanage will not be shut down and the children will not be thrown out on the street."

One month later, he was arrested. Thomas says he should have died that day. "When they arrested me, they had guns with them. I can still hear that trigger, but the gun didn't go off. He said it got locked. Guys started cussing because the gun didn't work. The purpose was to kill me in the encounter."

Thomas evaded lynching several times before his imprisonment. Once in prison he was kept awake for 14 days and nights, then forced to live in a 3 by 6 rat infested cell for 70 hours.

However, that abruptly ended when Mission Network News and other organizations put the word out to pray and to contact national representatives. Thomas says the jailer was frightened by the groundswell of world support. The jailer said, "We are afraid that they may even send the human rights people to the jail today or tomorrow. They may even send the intelligence bureau. We don't want them to see this cell with the rats."

That's when he was removed from a cell and placed into a cell with three other pastors from Hopegivers.

That's when the amazing happened. A mass murderer was allowed to travel with Thomas to court for a hearing. He was sent to kill Thomas on his way to court. But instead, he began asking questions about God and Hopegivers' work. "When I shared the stories of the children that had been rescued from the streets, here's a man who was trying to kill me with tears in his eyes."

Then he asked for a New Testament. Thomas says they were not just for him. "He said, 'No, no, no, no. I have 500 people in my cell. I need 500."

Thomas says people did come to Christ.

Thomas is back to India Saturday and covets your prayers. "May 1 is the final decision for getting all the licenses back. We have only got a stay from the Supreme Court, but the case is still going. On the 1st of May, the case should be final."

Pray for Thomas' safety and that the Supreme Court will work in Hopegivers favor.

You can hear the entire 44 minute interview with Dr. Samuel Thomas by clicking here.

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