RAMESH, an Indian Story

It is my joy to retell the story of my friend Ramesh Vasabathula. He first told my wife and I his story at our dining room table a few months ago. I was so moved by his experiences that I invited Ramesh to retell his story again this weekend, to a group of international friends in Portland, Oregon. Now, I get to share his amazing journey with you. Enjoy!

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Ramesh was born in India, into a good, high caste Hindu family in 1985. Because his father physically abused him severely, Ramesh ran away from home at age 11 and concluded – because of his negative experiences at home – that Hinduism was not for him. Living on the streets for a few months, he fed himself by working as a day laborer with an electrician and as a helper to an auto mechanic. His grandfather had taught Ramesh to work hard, so Ramesh knew to not steal or to beg, even though he was a child, caring for himself on the streets.

After a few months of being homeless, a Christian orphanage found Ramesh and brought him into their center with about 500 other homeless children. At home, as a boy, only Ramesh’s one Hindu father beat him. But there, at the Christian orphanage, any number of people in leadership – or their subordinates – could beat Ramesh with impunity. Life at the orphanage was horrible and seemingly worse that it had been in his home. The Christian orphanage preached to Ramesh that “God is love” but young Ramesh could only see hypocrisy and that these Christians were only using his fellow “orphans” to raise money for themselves. He observed that they abused their power over him. Consequently, Ramesh naturally concluded that Christianity was not for him either! 

Ramesh drifted into a kind of angry Atheism. He ran away from the orphanage at age 14 and went back to work as a helper and as an apprentice to the same electrician and mechanic he had worked for prior to his terrible orphanage experience. He still slept on the street, but he was making good money on the construction. Ramesh also learned to smoke, to drink heavily and to fight. He was full of rage inside and formed a small gang with the local teens that he also worked with in construction.

Fighting and violence were their lifestyle until 2009 when Ramesh was imprisoned for attempted murder, after taking revenge on an enemy of his gang. Ramesh reports that, at first, he was happy in jail. The jail provided him a place to sleep and met his basic needs in a way that was perhaps a bit better that what he had on the street. But Ramesh knew that he could easily die in an in-jail gang fight… He always worked in the jail and his gang/crew on the outside were doing enough constructions jobs that Ramesh had enough money to throw parties inside of the jail for the guards. As tough and successful as he was, Ramesh was sad and knew that he was now forever alone. His family knew nothing of his whereabouts and friends/gang members who promised to visit him in jail never did. Not even once. He truly felt isolated, physically, relationally and spiritually. On his birthday, Ramesh realized that if he died, alone, in jail, no one would even know, notice or care. His life seemed pointless, sad and empty… Perhaps no woman could ever love him, a convicted felon. Understandably, Ramesh became depressed. A guard who liked Ramesh, and who was a Jesus follower, gave his prisoner friend a copy of the Gospel of John. Ramesh wanted nothing to do with that scripture portion, but this guard had been so kind to Ramesh that he couldn’t refuse it. As a compromise, Ramesh hid the Gospel of John in his cell, even though even the sight of it made him mad.

There was a Christian chaplain who would visit the jail where Ramesh was incarcerated. Ramesh despised this man, hated his messages and threatened to kill the chaplain – and his Jesus too – if they ever came back the to the jail. The guards knew that Ramesh could and would kill the chaplain, so they isolated him whenever the chaplain would come and talk with other inmates. But one night, Ramesh could not sleep. He lay awake for hours and even though he despised even to touch the Bible, a voice inside of himself told him to read that Gospel of John that he had hidden in his jail cell. At about three o’clock in the morning, Ramesh began to read the Gospel of John. Something about the story of Jesus burned into his soul and when Ramesh read Jesus’ words “I will never leave you as an orphan. I will come to you…” (John 14:18) something changed deep inside the heart of our protagonist, and he began to understand that Jesus was speaking to him now, through the words of Jesus written in the Bible. He heard that verse as a promise that Jesus would love Ramesh and never leave him. In short, on that sleepless night, God saved Ramesh’s soul. Ramesh began to ardently believe in Jesus and became a forever follower of the Savior. Ramesh says that he told Jesus that since He would not leave him, that he would never leave Jesus. Ramesh committed his entire life to Jesus.

By 5:30 AM that sleepless night, Ramesh had finished reading the Gospel of John. He had started reading it as an atheist and had finished reading it as one deeply in love with Jesus. Spiritually and physically exhausted, Ramesh fell asleep. But his sleep was interrupted only an hour later when a guard woke him up, telling him that he had a visitor. A visitor?! Who in the world could this visitor be? Ramesh had no visitors. This visitor, a female, was an officer/authority of the Indian court that had charge over Ramesh’s case, file and trial. She was also a follower of Jesus. She lived about 150 miles form the jail and had read his file, at God’s prompting, at midnight the previous night. God’s Spirit told her to get up, not to sleep, but to drive all night and go sigh Ramesh out of jail. She had the legal power to do so, and she did.

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Do you see the miracle in these circumstances? Ramesh was an atheist, in jail for attempted murder. During the exact same hours that God was entering the soul of my friend as he read the Gospel of John in jail, God was also preparing and sending him a human/legal deliverer whom He also instructed to intervene on Ramesh’s behalf. So, God kept Ramesh awake and persuaded him to read the Bible. At the exact same time as Ramesh was reading, God also spoke to this woman. She obeyed the voice of God, drove 150 miles through the darkness and arrived at Ramesh’s jail cell, unannounced, before dawn. During the same hours that God was making Ramesh His own son, God was also sending Ramesh a legal liberator. You can’t make this stuff up. It is not possible to explain this any way other than to say that God arranged all of this. God miraculously touched Ramesh’s heart and God simultaneously directed this Christian woman to intervene on his behalf. After this female officer of the Indian court entered Ramesh’s jail cell, after she explained what God had instructed her to do and after Ramesh told her what God had done in his heart, she signed some legal documents and they walked out of the jail, together. For a few weeks Ramesh lived in the home of this this woman and her family. During this time Ramesh decided to learn as much about Jesus as he could. So, Ramesh enrolled in a large Bible college and seminary in Deli, where, eventually, Ramesh eared two theological degrees and became a leading maintenance supervisor of the school’s 60-acre campus. After he graduated, Ramesh became a Bible college instructor.

In hindsight, Ramesh tells us that he had to be locked up, in jail, to slow down and to be humbled enough to hear the voice of God in the Bible.

Then, after six long and arduous years of study in the seminary, and multiple serious health problems, Ramesh was married, teaching in the college where he had graduated and then he was sent out as a church planter in Northern India, in the Punjab, near the Pakistan border. His marriage to his wife was, as per normal in India, arranged for them. His wife is from a Siek family and background. She is now also in love with Jesus and following Him with Ramesh. Together with others, they have started seven churches in northern India. Now Ramesh is in the US for a year, completing an additional academic qualification. His plan, after graduation, is to return home and to help start a Christian university in India. God is providing for Ramesh and his family, even in their trials, every step of the way.

Now, at age 35, Ramesh reflects, “For me, Jesus and His Bible is God’s way of coming DOWN to humanity. Jesus says, ‘I come down to you!’ In Hinduism man wants to be God. In all other world religions, men seek to go UP to God. Only in Jesus does God come down to us, even when we are locked-up in jail of our sins. God became a man in Jesus. Jesus knows and serves me. Now, I want to know and to serve Him.” 

I find Ramesh’s story to be captivating and I hope that you do too. If you are a Christian, please pray for Ramesh, his family and the continued growth of God’s Church on the Indian subcontinent. If you are not yet a born-again Jesus follower, please humble yourself before God and seek His Fatherly authority in your life. Like Ramesh, you can turn from your self-effort and respond to His reaching down to you through Jesus, who died for your sins, was buried and was brought back to life by the power of God. The Jesus who rescued Ramesh can rescue you. Jesus is revealed to us in the four Gospel accounts of the New Testament. Please read the Gospel of John today!