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If My Parents Ever Found Out …

In a recent edition of CT magazine, Apilang Apum shares her conversion story and her fear of letting her Indian parents know of her new faith:

Growing up in India, I never imagined I would end up following Jesus Christ. I belong to the Adi tribe and members of my family practiced a traditional animistic religion. I considered myself an omnist—someone who believes in all religions. On some level, this even included Christianity. Before my conversion, I occasionally went to church services at the invitation of friends and I would celebrate holidays like Christmas. I also frequently read a Gideons New Testament Bible.

But all the while, I kept idols of all the deities, including the Hindu gods, Buddha, and Jesus Christ. And I visited a variety of places of worship: Hindu temples, a Buddhist monastery, and a gangging, where Adi people pray.

In 2008, a friend invited me to join an evangelistic youth camp. I remember asking one of the speakers whether a non-Christian can find a place in heaven. He replied that one can only enter the kingdom of heaven by accepting Jesus Christ as one’s personal Savior.

As someone who had read parts of the Bible before, I was familiar with stories of God throwing all who did not believe in him into hell on the final Day of Judgment. And I was scared of being tormented in a fiery place for all eternity. Driven by a desire to escape that punishment, I decided to accept Christ as my savior. In hindsight, I can see how God, in his grace, led me to the truth despite my shallow understanding of the Bible and Christianity in general.

In my region of India, many people perceive Christianity as a Western religion and therefore a threat to indigenous culture and identity. Christian conversion also involves giving up certain rituals that are tightly woven into the fabric of local society, which is viewed by some as an irrevocable loss for “tribal” cultures.

All of this made me quite uneasy about professing my faith openly and telling my parents that I had accepted Jesus. Knowing that this news would make them unhappy, I decided to keep my faith a secret. While away at college I attended church on a regular basis, but I stopped going whenever I came home, lacking the courage to practice my faith in their presence.

A turning point came in February 2013, when I underwent major heart surgery. As I lay in my sickbed, my parents and relatives got a firsthand look at the love and care offered by the Christian community. My church and my believing friends helped me financially. This got the attention of my parents, who began to appreciate the value of Christianity. Neither of my parents became Christians, but they no longer had any problem with my conversion.

During this period of illness, God helped me realize the importance of living a purposeful life. I saw that what matters most is how I live—not how long I live. Serving my community became the way to fulfill the Bible’s second Great Commandment: to love our neighbors as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31).

The more I studied the Bible, the more I learned that the primary reason for being a Christian is not merely going to heaven when you die but is participating in God’s work of establishing and growing his kingdom. I’m always astonished at God’s amazing work in my life. There have been obstacles to overcome, but riding along these bumpy roads has made me stronger, and God catches me every time I fall.

Editor’s Note: Apilang Apum is an assistant professor of economics at Jomin Tayeng Government Model Degree College in Roing, India

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