Like most East Indians, Ganesh speaks multiple languages. At one point he spoke five! As a young Hindu he learned to pray fervently in their family prayer room. He usually didn’t have time to pray in front of all the pictures, so he wondered if the ones he didn’t pray to were jealous. It made him afraid.
His dad sent him to college and he went wild. He told me he used to smoke 20 cigarettes a day. He went to all the parties and did most everything everybody else was doing. I don’t think he had much time for prayers.
But Ganesh loved music. Some fellow students sang in a choir and he asked them if he could join too. “Of course!” they answered. He didn’t know it was a Christian choir.
But he liked the peace and joy these followers of Jesus had. Talking to them felt exciting and a little rebellious. He asked so many questions about the Bible that the believers invited him to a Bible Camp. He decided to go. It was the last decision he would make as a Hindu. By the end of the week he had met Jesus in a life transforming way. He never smoked or drank or used drugs again. His life changed direction completely.
A few weeks after the camp Ganesh carefully wrote his parents a five page letter about his search for God and finding him through Jesus. He waited two weeks for the reply. It only had five lines. His father expressed his anger and disappointment and cut him off completely from the family. Ganesh was on his own.
His Christian friends noticed that Ganesh didn’t come to the dining room any more. They saw his name on a list of students who hadn’t paid their bills. When they found out what had happened, they began a monthly collection from which they paid Ganesh’s tuition, food and expenses. They even paid his way home after graduation. He had to stay in a hotel. His family didn’t let him in the house.
He began working with a church as an evangelist and got a job in community development. His pastor arranged marriage with an eligible young lady in the church but her mother asked him to think of a biblical name since Ganesh is the name of a Hindu idol. He asked his pastors to pray about that and one of them said he felt God wanted his name to be “Joshua.” He liked that too. Joshua was a brave commander and God had transformed him into a courageous soldier as well. When he got home his fiancé had received the same name for him as she prayed. Her name was Reena.
For the past two weeks I’ve had the great honor of traveling all over India with Joshua Ganesh. How his people love him! We were received with garlands and bouquets and singing. He is deeply respected for his humble servant’s hearts. We talked about the good news of Jesus to people all along the way. Sometimes he would translate for me but most of the time he knew the language the person spoke and would end up telling how he met Jesus as a Hindu.
One of his former students went through horrible persecution several years ago. Joshua called him while he and his family were hiding in the jungle. Their house was burned, their churches were destroyed and many pastors were slaughtered brutally in front of their families. Joshua gathered funds, he traveled hours by train to visit them repeatedly. Today there is a ministry involving over a hundred pastors and thousands of disciples. But though they treat him like a king, he says he was just the instrument God used at an extraordinary time of need.
But our favorite memory is visiting a brothel in Mumbai. Imagine the darkest, dirtiest little stairway you can imagine leading up from a narrow, broken alley way. At the top of the dark steps is a dark landing out of which two or three rooms open. Our guide, who visits the thousands of women involved in this hellish business five times a week, speaks to a woman sitting in the corner for a minute. She gets up and opens a door without smiling.
The room is only 3 meters by 5 meters but four women live there on four raised beds with curtains where they receive multiple “clients” every night for as little as $5.00USD apiece.
We asked them how long they had lived there. The oldest one said 35 years.
We learned later that they send their profits to their children and tell them they are working a normal job.
If I hadn’t seen it I wouldn’t believe it.
When Joshua greeted them they stared. They were all Nepalis and he was speaking their language. For the next hour we told them of the Savior whose best friends were former prostitutes, drunks and swindlers. We spoke about True Love and the transforming power of Jesus. Joshua sang several Nepali songs and told them the story of his transformation from Ganesh, a Hindu idol’s name, to Joshua the mighty warrior. We even sang “Jesus Loves Me This I Know” as an English duet and Joshua told them what it meant.
They asked about our families and we showed them pictures. They wanted prayer for their children so we prayed. They said write down their names and pray for them when you go home. I offered them a pen and paper. They said they didn’t know how to write, so our guide copied down the names in Hindi as they spoke them lovingly.
In the taxi on the way back to the YMCA, Joshua and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. We had all sensed the presence and light of the Holy Spirit in that horrible, dark hole.
But that’s what Jesus does isn’t it? He came to seek and save that which is lost. He came for the sin sick not the self-righteous. He saved Joshua and He will save all who hear and obey his Word; who know God and take action.
Thomas and Susanna Smoak served the Lord among the abandoned children of Brazil from 1995 to 2016. They have six children and live in Wheaton, Illinois.