Dr. M.A. Thomas, Founder Hopegivers International.
I was born and brought up in a poor Christian family in South India, and was religious from the early days. I tried to be in heaven by being good. In my teen years, even though I tried my best, I knew due to my own sin I’d lost hope to be in heaven. While I was in college, due to the sudden death of a good friend of mine, death and hell became a terror for me. I cried to God for mercy and pardon. When I found the joy of forgiveness and salvation in Jesus Christ, I gave myself for sharing this good news to others, especially to the poor and needy. I felt I was a choice arrow drawn from my parents’ quiver, but I knew I needed to be sharpened for God’s service.
I went to Bible College from 1957 to 1960. After finishing my second year I wanted to take a trip home to see my family, an expense of 40 cents that I did not have at the time. So I decided to walk home 500 miles along with two other friends. On the 53rd day we arrived home. As a result of witnessing the Gospel to people during that walk, eleven churches were started that are still in existence today.
Even before entering Bible College, God gave me a heart for the poor. Though I used to walk 5 miles one-way to Engineering school with a half empty stomach, several times I gave my rice packet to the poor and hungry who came and asked me for it. During Bible College, what all I had was available for the poor. I used to take my evening food outside of the gate and I gave it to the poor and the hungry. On the grounds outside of our Bible College I gathered the poor street children and started a Sunday School. I had 66 children in my Sunday School under that tree! Every one of them cried when I left the Bible College to go to Kota. But I was now sharpened and ready to be launched as an arrow of hope from God’s hand into the heart of Northern India’s darkness.
When I graduated from Bible College in 1960, Dr. Bill bright was the commencement speaker and he had heard about my call to serve in North India. I didn’t have the money to travel with my pregnant wife to Kota after graduation and so God blessed me through Dr. Bright by supplying the $25 needed to make the trip by train. God launched us 1,500 miles to Kota in Northern India. We were met with much persecution, but the Lord blessed the work. All of our Gospel material and Bibles were burned, and I was put in prison for the Gospel, but the Lord saved even men in the prison and our first church was started.
In Kota, I gathered the street children and started Sunday school classes. In 1967 I started an elementary school with 8 children. It has now hundreds of branches all across India. Always my heart longed for the poor and the orphans. In 1977, I also started an orphanage with 8 orphans which now has hundreds of branches and thousands and thousands of children rescued.
As I traveled all over North India from city to city, village to village, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I saw millions and millions who had never heard the name of Jesus. I knew that it was impossible for one individual to reach all these people with the Gospel. One day, the Lord burdened my heart with Matthew 9:36-38. Seeing the great need, and following the Lord’s leading, I opened the first Emmanuel Bible Institute in 1972. My purpose in establishing the Bible Institute was to train young men and women to become Pioneer Missionaries.The Lord has blessed this small ministry and now we have Bible Institutes all over India and beyond, with tens of thousands of graduates, and over 40,000 churches [at that time].
In 1978 I went to a poor leper colony in Faridabad, Delhi. I had no money with me to show my friendship to these lepers. I shook hands with the lepers who even had pus on their hands. I have never seen another person shaking hands with the lepers. I fell in love with them and started collecting money through my school children. In 1978 I brought 26 children from the leper colony to my orphanage. The children of these lepers did not have leprosy. We now help hundreds of leper colonies like this.
In April 2001, the Dalits, the low castes, and the gypsy leaders (all untouchable castes) met me along with other Christian leaders and explained the condition of the poor Dalits and their needs. They said that in thousands of villages, tribal areas and gypsy villages there was not one person who could read and write. People are living in spiritual and physical bondage and poverty. These untouchables number over 800 million people. He asked us to come and help them. ‘You Christian brothers are welcome to come to any village, tribal colony or gypsy village. Only one thing we ask from you is this: please start an elementary school with one teacher and a clinic with a nurse. You can preach the Gospel and the love of Christ from the first day and start a church. India is open for you.’ I gave my promise along with a few other Christian leaders that we would do it! I challenged our leaders and the graduating students. Now we have a school and churches in thousands of such places (villages, tribal colonies and slum areas) with a dream of seeing schools and churches in every village and city in India there there is no Christian witness. These are the ways God is using us as His arrows of hope to pierce India’s darkness for Christ.
By God’s grace, through much persecution, the ministry of Hopegivers has been enabled to establish over 43,000 [at that time] churches in the nation of India and beyond. – Dr. M.A. Thomas
On December 4, 2010, Dr. M.A. Thomas, the man known by orphans, bible students, and missionaries all over the world simply as “Papa,” went home to be with the Lord. Praise God for this great man of faith.
“The work of Hopegivers has outlasted Dr. M.A. Thomas; it will outlast Dr. Samuel and all of us who passionately support this ministry.” — Luke J. (MS)