WILLS POINT, TX – K P Yohannan, founder of Gospel for Asia (GFA World), which inspired numerous charities like Gospel for Asia Canada, and Metropolitan of Believers Eastern Church — reflects on Doubting Thomas, God’s providence through his missionary zeal and sacrifice leading to the birth of GFA World and the salvation of untold millions.
As believers, it’s not something we want to dwell on.
But we’ve all been there. Myself included.
It slipped by largely unnoticed, but July 3 was St. Thomas’s Day — commemorating Thomas the Apostle, the disciple who famously doubted that Jesus had risen from the dead.
For centuries, he’s been known as “Doubting Thomas.” But Thomas was actually the first disciple to declare to the risen Christ: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28, NIV).
Here’s where the story of St. Thomas gives me goosebumps. In AD 52, about 20 years after Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, Thomas journeyed 3,000 miles to India, where he planted seven churches in the South. One of those churches was in the village of Niranam — one of the millions of villages throughout India today. Those first churches were among the earliest expressions of pure, untainted Christianity anywhere in the world. In Niranam, there’s a stone with ancient Ethiopian script memorializing the spot where St. Thomas established the first church in India.
Why does that give me goosebumps?
Niranam is the village where I was born, 71 years ago.
Of all the villages in India, St. Thomas came to mine! If St. Thomas had not come, had not brought the gospel, and had not established a church in my home village — 3,000 miles from Jerusalem — would I have come to faith in Christ? Would God have planted in my heart the seed that gave birth to GFA World (www.gfa.org), now one of the largest evangelical missions agencies on earth? And would untold millions not have had the opportunity to experience the love of Christ as a result?
St. Thomas’s Day — July 3 — also happens to be the anniversary date of the founding of GFA World. Because St. Thomas was obedient to travel all the way to India, the gospel came to the subcontinent, and — nearly 2,000 years later — GFA World was launched on St. Thomas’s Day in 1979.
Coincidence? I highly doubt it!
I don’t know for sure if God arranged that on purpose. But I believe he did!
We owe much to the courage and faith of St. Thomas, who — according to tradition — was martyred in India after bringing the gospel to my home village. I’m amazed the Holy Trinity — looking down through the centuries — allowed the missionary story of Doubting Thomas to intersect with my own.
Over the years, God has trained me to depend on his often-unseen hand in my life. Like all of us, I’ve had my share of doubts and discouragement. Like Doubting Thomas, I’ve wanted to see “the proof” before I’ve taken the next step of faith. But, looking back on my life, God has always been patient with me — and, even in my own frailty of faith, he’s never let me down.
In my most despairing moments — which I write about in my newest book, Never Give Up — the victory of the cross of Christ swept away the fear and discouragement as I focused on the One who gave up everything for me — me, K.P. Yohannan, a skinny boy from one of India’s obscure villages.
When he arrived in my home village, I wonder if St. Thomas felt the same as me — unworthy, inadequate for the task God called him to? Perhaps you feel that way sometimes, too?
As I reflect this month on the missionary zeal and sacrifice of Doubting Thomas — and the incredible way God interwove his destiny with mine — I’m called back to the pure, untainted, mission-driven faith of those earliest churches the Apostle planted in India nearly two millennia ago.
Centuries later, GFA World’s field workers share the same holy, apostolic ministry — sacrificing their personal comfort to spread Christ’s love among the untold millions, the poor, the forgotten, the outcasts, the widows, and those disfigured by leprosy.
My biggest regret is that I wish I’d risked more for Jesus in my life. If I could do it over again, I’d take more risks for the gospel. I’d give more. I’d sacrifice more. I’d strive to be more like St. Thomas.
Perhaps God is placing something radical on your heart that he wants you to do for him. Maybe it seems “too risky.” Perhaps there’s that niggling doubt in your mind: “What if I take the plunge — and fail?”
Could I humbly offer you some advice?
Follow the example of St. Thomas. Cast aside your doubt. Believe that God keeps his promises. Take a risk for the gospel. Live 100 percent for Jesus!
KP Yohannan, is the founder of GFA World (www.gfa.org), a Texas-based missions agency that serves millions worldwide, showing them the love of God. He’s also the author of numerous books, including his latest, Never Give Up. He and his wife, Gisela, have two grown children, Daniel and Sarah, who both serve the Lord with their families.
GFA World (Gospel for Asia) is a Christian-based charity serving the “least of these” in Asia since its beginning in 1979, often in places where no one else is serving. GFA World workers serve as the hands and feet of Christ by ministering to people’s needs so they can understand the love of God for them for the first time. GFA World is engaged in dozens of projects, such as caring for poor children, slum dwellers and widows and orphans; providing clean water by funding wells; supporting medical missions; and meeting the needs of those in leprosy colonies. Through GFA World’s Bridge of Hope Program, tens of thousands of children are being rescued from the generational curses of poverty and hopelessness.