By Ashley Sullivan
Of all the words Rahul might have used to describe Jai on that very first night, “pastor” probably wouldn’t have been one of them.
“He was on the verge of suicide,” Rahul says, recalling the evening the two men chanced upon one another. “He really needed help.”
Rahul and Jai easily could have remained strangers, never crossing paths. Neither man was seeking the other that night. It was an unexpected meeting between Rahul and one of Jai’s friends that ultimately brought them face-to-face.
“It all started when I was on a walk with my wife,” Rahul begins. “I knew a man was following us, but I wasn’t sure what for. I finally stopped and asked this gentleman, ‘what is it you want?’ He asked me if I was a pastor.”
That got Rahul’s attention, and he listened as the man told him about his friend, Jai. Once he understood that Jai was in a bad state, Rahul agreed to pay the young man a visit.
In the bustling Indian city Rahul calls home, a single follower on the street - one in a churning sea of millions - could be easy to miss. But, noticing is Rahul’s job.
Rahul is the leader of Sports Friends India, a church-centered ministry that trains and equips Christian believers to use the platform of sport to share God’s love with youth, their families, and their communities. Most of the youth Sports Friends-trained coaches serve in India come from lower castes – the unnoticeable members of society, the forgotten.
As the sports ministry leader, Rahul is responsible not only for seeking out marginalized youth, but capable adults to coach and mentor those young people as well. In a country where less than 3% of the population identifies as Christian, Christian leaders can be hard to find.
Jai had become a follower of Jesus years ago, but troubles in his life and the lack of a guide had caused him to lose hope. Rahul says he felt God pressing him to mentor the troubled young man. So, in the same way Sports Friends coaches invest in the youth of their communities, Rahul began investing in Jai.
“I mentored Jai for six months,” says Rahul. “And as he matured, he became more and more of an assistant to me.”
Jai began accompanying Rahul to weekly sports practices with children in the community, helping out and building relationships. Neither of the men knew it at the time, but the months of encouragement and wisdom Rahul was pouring into his apprentice were preparing Jai for something important.
“One afternoon Jai and I were at the field with the kids, and one boy came up to us to talk. He told us that his uncle was in the hospital, suffering bitterly from some sort of stroke,” Rahul recalls. “We knew we must go to the hospital to pray for this man.”
Upon arrival at the hospital, Rahul and Jai learned that the man’s stroke was caused by a mysterious growth in his brain. Paralyzed on one side of his body, the man was unconscious and in critical condition. Doctors had given him little chance for survival.
Although none in the man’s family were Christian believers, they welcomed Rahul and Jai because of the special relationship the two had with the young boy. When Rahul asked if they could pray, the desperate family said, "yes!".
Less than two weeks later, the critically ill man was released from the hospital. Against all odds, he began walking again. The doctors and family were shocked.
Rahul and Jai visited the family several times per week following the man’s release, sharing the Bible with them and telling them more about the God who heals. As weeks passed, the crowd of listeners began to swell. The miraculous story was spreading.
“The family called their neighbors and friends to come,” Rahul recalls. “People started trusting Christ.”
Rahul knew this was no longer a small discipleship group, but the beginnings of a new church. He also knew just the person to pastor this multiplying crowd: Jai.
What began as a small house church has since grown to over fifty people. The group continues to expand and has graduated from meeting in a living room to a rented space.
Today the word “pastor” fully describes Jai. Just as Rahul was a guide to him, providing wisdom and support when he needed it most, now Jai is doing the same for the members of his young church. With Jai’s leadership and encouragement, it's anyone's guess what they might become.
Join Sports Friends in praying for Pastor Jai and his young church. In a place where so many believe that caste has the final word on worth, the acceptance and unconditional love offered by the Church truly is Good News. Also join us in prayer for Rahul and the hundreds of youth who are exposed to the love of Christ through the mentorship of their Sports Friends-trained coaches. Pray for more "divine appointments" for Rahul and Jai, and that many would come to faith for God’s glory!