A Stroke of GraceIt took a health crisis to turn Samuel’s life around, but then, with God everything is possible.
Stephen Samuel was born into a prominent Pentecostal minister's family in India. His father, Rev. P. M. Samuel (1903-198I), was one of the pioneers of the Pentecostal movement in India and served as the first president of the Indian Pentecostal Church of God (IPC), one of that country's largest Pentecostal denominations.
Stephen, his father, and other ministers in India.
Stephen's family experienced both challenges and blessings. Early in his ministry, his father lived in such poverty that one of his sons died in his arms due to the lack of food. Yet his father eventually oversaw hundreds of churches in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India, where there had been no Pentecostal churches until he brought the Pentecostal message to that area. He ministered throughout India and around the world and witnessed God's power at work.
At the age of 18, Stephen went to Germany to study. He enjoyed his time there and was involved in church ministry. While there, Stephen discovered a number of letters directed to some German pastors who supported his father's ministry. These letters were from a few jealous pastors associated with Stephen's father in India and contained gossip and lies about his father's ministry.
After two years in Germany, Stephen went back to India. At a large annual convention led by his father in Andhra Pradesh, Stephen came across one of those jealous pastors and confronted him. This pastor was upset with Stephen, but did not respond directly – not then at least.
One day during the weeklong convention, Stephen came across a group of leaders engaged in a heated discussion. Later he was confronted by a gang armed with bats, ready to beat him. There was a great uproar, and an accusation was levelled at Stephen that he had threatened a pastor with a gun. Although Stephen denied it, some leaders argued that unless he apologized for his threat they would disrupt the convention.
Stephen saw his father praying and crying. Witnessing his father's tears, he decided he would comply. So in order to appease some of the leaders and bring calm to the convention, he apologized in front of 3,000 people for something he never did.
Though calm did settle upon the convention, the experience left Stephen feeling bitter and angry toward Christians—and ultimately toward Christ. Reconciliation took place within months between his father and those pastors who caused the turmoil, but Stephen was unwilling to do the same.
That same year, 1963, Stephen met and married Molly. He was attracted to her beauty and musical talent. Little did he know that she was passionate about her relationship with Christ. They eventually had three children: Jenny, Jasmine and Josh.
Sadly, much of Stephen's anger toward Christians was directed at Molly. He not only burned his own Bible, but tore up his wife's Bible too. This mistreatment affected all aspects of their relationship. Stephen's children also experienced the effects of his bitterness since they, too, sought to follow Christ.
In April 2007, Stephen and Molly attended a friend’s funeral. While sitting in the car waiting to go to the cemetery, Stephen suffered a stroke and lost control of half his body. An ambulance was called. His wife, family and friends prayed for him as they waited. When the ambulance arrived, he regained his consciousness. He received treatment at the hospital, and everyone hoped for the best. One of the doctors, though, said that he would be permanently paralyzed.
After a number of days in the hospital, Stephen returned home. To his wife's amazement, he let her pray and read the Bible with him on a daily basis. Stephen began getting physically better as the days went by. One day Molly asked Stephen if he would pray too, but he said no. She continued to ask and one day he finally agreed to pray, but only to a generic "God." She continued to talk to him about God, the Bible, and his need to follow Christ. Finally, it happened— he prayed and made a decision to follow Jesus Christ! While Stephen's physical health has improved to the point where he is able to do all that he did before the stroke, his spiritual health has changed even more dramatically.
By now you may have realized that Stephen is my dad. From personal experience I can tell you: he has changed! So much so, we have had to learn how to relate to him afresh. Why? Because he is truly a new person! To everyone's amazement, we regularly hear his quiet yet passionate voice in our home as he prays to God. Our entire family can truly affirm what the Apostle Paul wrote: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV).
My dad admits he has lost many years, but he's doing all he can to reclaim them. He is studying God's Word and seeking God in prayer for his family, his friends, the world and himself. My dad has also had a change of heart about his past. Whereas he used to live with bitterness, now he has forgiven those who hurt him.
Don't give up on that person you are praying for. Our family has seen that, with God, all things are possible!
Josh Samuel is an ordained PAOC minister and a Ph. D. student in Theology at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, Ontario. He is involved in itinerant ministry and can bë reached at email@example.com.
Originally published in testimony, January 2009.
Used with permission. Copyright © 2009 Christianity.ca.