Clement Nehamaiyah sends us this story of fear, struggle, and faith from his native India.
This story begins with evangelism on the phone with my neighboring wealthy non-Christian girl of a conservative background. That girl was fully convinced of God’s truth, had strong faith in Him and had readiness to do anything for Him. She stopped worshiping false, gods but whenever it was unavoidable under the pressure of parents she pretended to pray to their gods but in truth prayed to Christ. Finally in 2012 when a priest came to us to receive us into Orthodoxy from heterodox Christianity we baptized that pagan girl secretly away from the city. After her secret baptism everything went smooth as most of the time before, but soon things started changing in 2013. It became much harder for her to freely worship the true God. Her family was upset with the fact that she is less and less attending their rituals and prayers at home and at temples. They started cursing and abusing her verbally whenever they were displeased, they also started beating her occasionally, stopped her education, and as a final solution started looking for a boy to marry her to (in our country marriages are arranged by parents). They brought many proposals from billionaire boys but she refused every time. Her parents were angry at this and violence both physical and mental became frequent. She didn’t refuse marriage proposals just because she didn’t want to marry those men but because marriage with anyone of them would have excluded any opportunity to freely worship the One True God. This is because in traditional conservative societies girls don’t just change their homes at marriage but they have to change everything, and have to completely adjust to the new family, of which religion is the most important part.
We knew all that was going on with her, so without losing time we made a good plan to rescue her. One day she told her family that she is going to see somebody and went out of her house. We were waiting for her at a decided location, and when she came we dressed her in an Islamic black Hijab and secretly sent her abroad the same day. It was done with the help of an Orthodox man from Nizny Novgorod and a cleric from Moscow. She lived couple of days abroad and then returned to India to live with an Orthodox family away from her home in another state. Once she was transported away from home, we were relaxed that we achieved our target. Her family and relatives were searching for her everywhere they could, but failed to find her. In our conservative society a girl is not a free as in liberal societies, but there is a matter of honour. If a girl does what is expected of her by her family then all are pleased and it is considered an honour for the family, but if she does something against their will it becomes a matter of shame and disgrace in the society, which often gives birth to honour killing. For this reason, that girl’s relatives were searching for her without rest. Two days later one of her cousins who was her best friend betrayed her and told the family that she was in contact with us all the time, so they searched for telephone call records and found my number there. Immediately they called me to their home at 10:00 at night and started interrogating me about where she is. At that place I was alone, surrounded by all her angry relatives. All that time I denied knowing anything about her. They threatened to call the police but I was immovable from my stance. At that time my sister-in law came to see if I was all right, and to support me, but those people were not in the mood to listen to anything. After three or four hours of interrogation they allowed me to go home. During those three or four hours I went through immense mental pressure as if I were locked in a small box with no breath.
At home my mother was worried and crying, thinking of what will happen to me next. That night we prayed together and went to sleep. On the next day, more problems were waiting. My mother shared our problem with one of the colleagues at her workplace; that person immediately recognized that our opponents were powerful people and had many thugs with them. So, he suggested us to meet a certain person so that he may help us. We met him and told him our problem, and he agreed to help us.
That day the police called me on phone and asked me to appear at the police station the next morning. We called that person whom we met the day before and were midway to the police station when one of our neighbors called me and informed me not to go to the police station because that girl’s family had appointed a contract killer to kill me on the road. That news didn’t really scare me because I knew God has plans through me and no one can kill me before they come to pass. My brother told this news to the man who was with us, as he heard it he straightway went to meet one of the relatives of that girl. When he told them that he is with us and will let no one try to harm me, immediately that contract killer was informed about it. That killer left off this job and ran to another city, because the person with us was his enemy and that killer was afraid of him. Then time we came to know that the person with us was not just an ordinary man but the biggest thug of our city. That day I almost met my end but God shut the mouth of death and saved me from its hunger.
So, for now at least, the contract killer problem was over. But the next day problems with the police began. I went to the police station with my brother and that (good) thug. When I appeared before the local chief officer, he ordered the other officers to seize me and take me to the interrogation room. They took me there; other officers were already interrogating someone there. They made me sit on a chair and about 5 officers sat surrounding me with one officer grabbing my neck as if I were a major criminal. They started their interrogation and threatened me repeatedly that if I don’t tell them where that girl is they will beat me severely. That was very tense time, a feeling of being stuck in a narrow passage with no air. Mental pressure was mounting on me. Still, I was firm on my position that I know nothing about her.
After my continual denial they decided to use violence to make me accept what they wanted me to. But as they were about to proceed, the police chief of the entire district came there for a routine visit, so the officers had to drop their plan and go have meeting with the chief. That day I was in the police station till the evening though not behind the bars. After that they discharged me to go home, think, and come again next morning. I saw in the police station how they beat people but God intervened and saved me from their hands. What happened was nothing less than a miracle.
The next day again I appeared in the police station with my brother and that man. Fortunately, the officer responsible for interrogation was not there, so they asked us to wait until he comes. We waited till evening but he didn’t come. Even though he didn’t come that day, psychological pressure and worries waging war in my head were making things difficult. This is how we spent five days, coming to the police station in the morning, and on an empty stomach waiting for the officer till the evening with the same pressure all the time. Each day was like a year. On the sixth day the officer was there but again we had to wait till evening; in the evening he met us and confiscated my international passport so that I could not leave the country. I was interrogated again with the same questions and answers. They called my friends to know if they knew anything about the matter but everybody denied, which was true in fact. The next day when I arrived in the police station, that girl’s relatives were already there. Again the same interrogation went forth with the same results. Throughout that whole week, food would be cooked at home but nobody would eat it. Our hunger had died because of the tensions and worries that we had. My heart was broken to see my mother crying all the time, worrying all the time for her family. It’s very easy to suffer all things yourself, but to see your loved ones suffering is an unbearable pain. For sure, each one of them suffered incomparably more than I did. My family—my mother and brother—were worried about my safety and I was for theirs. Meanwhile that girl, also risking her own security, several times came to our nearby city to talk to senior police officers and ask for our safety but that never helped us. Every day we read psalms, cried out to God and prayed together, put our trust in God and submitted our whole being into His hands. During all this I witnessed the faith of my sister-in-law, who was a pagan before her marriage to my brother. While we were hoping God to save us, and she believed it. While we were worried despite being born and brought up Christians, she trusted in God that we are safe. Each time she would strengthen us by saying, “why do you worry? Nothing bad is going to happen. Don’t we believe in the most awesome God? Trust! He is with us all the time.”
After living fifteen days with an Orthodox family in another state that girl came back to my city and went to the police hoping her testimony will relieve us from the torture, but she was seized and taken to home by her parents with the help of police who were bribed. She was kept under watch and was not allowed to go outside of her home. We thought we lost our battle but God had planned something else. After a month of silence we sought a chance. She was taken to her relative’s home, and there, taking advantage of five minutes, she escaped, I took her to Delhi where an organization helped us legally. During all this time they never succeeded in either registering any case against me, or putting me in jail, nor were they able to lay a hand on me. Who stopped them and made it impossible for them if not our God?
When our opponents saw that neither killer nor police could succeed, they turned to black magic. Some might laugh but let me tell you that black magic in India is not an optical illusion; it’s a very real thing before which Voodoo and Wicca pale. There is a firm dominion of demons and I have witnessed their activities. Our neighbors approached many black magicians but when they didn’t seem to work, they turned to the most powerful, most infamous black magic practitioner they could find. This sorcerer is infamous for killing people with painful deaths by his demonic powers, and he was employed to kill me. They started doing all the stuff of magic, hanging dolls near our home and putting spelled material around my house etc. When our other neighbors saw it they suggested we employ another magician to counter and reverse their attack, but my mother told them that, “we are forbidden to use magic and take revenge, and as far as protection is concerned, our God is more than sufficient to protect us from their attacks.” I must admit we did in fact attack our opponents when they were attacking us by praying together for them, for their forgiveness, reading psalms and praying to God and asking saints for their intercessions. I know it was not our prayers and supplications, but His Own love that made Him protect us. During all this time of tribulation, God’s presence was more real to us than each other’s presence; He was closer to us than our own souls, He was more visible in His invisible acts than we were to each other through our eyes, His comfort was inexpressible, His mercy was indescribable. Now I believe we are truly “comforted of God”, which is actually my surname. The girl who became God’s vessel for the manifestation of His glory became my wife later. We gave her the Orthodox name of the great martyr of Egypt, St. Catherine of Alexandria, for their similar struggle for Christ.
It’s not easy for me to express in words the psychological trauma that we suffered that year. But now I think in vain did we worry so much. All the time God was telling us, Be still, and know that I am God (Ps 46:10). When we read psalms we didn’t just read them, we literally lived them. It was as if psalms were written just for us, keeping in mind our very situation. God constantly talked to us through His word and encouraged and strengthened us. He reminded us that, The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name. (Ex 15:3) Our opponents were wealthy people, had political power, had clout with the police and thugs and also black magic, and we were the exact opposite of them. We neither had money to give anyone bribe, nor did we know anyone in politics, nor were we familiar with police or thugs. We were nowhere on the power scale in comparison with them but despite all that we had Holy one of Israel. Apostle John reminded us, Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world. (1 John 4:4) We believed, The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Ps 46:11) And He indeed fought for us like no one else, as Moses said, “The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.” (Ex. 14:14) We literally saw the faithfulness of God’s promises—He shall cover you with his feathers, and under his wings shall you trust: his truth shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flies by day; Nor for the pestilence that walks in darkness; nor for the destruction that wastes at noonday. A thousand shall fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you. Only with your eyes shall you behold and see the reward of the wicked. Because you have made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, your habitation; There shall no evil befall you, neither shall any plague come near your dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. They shall bear you up in their hands, lest you dash your foot against a stone. You shall tread on the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shall you trample under feet.” (Ps 91:4-13) When we saw the Lord fighting for us we were strengthened to say, Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies: you anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. (Ps 23:4-5) When our opponents turned to their gods and black magic, The LORD had also executed judgments on their gods. (Num 33:4) For all the gods of the heathen are demons. (Ps 96:5). And when the Lord executed His judgment on them they cried out as did Egyptians in the old, Let's get away from the Israelites! The LORD is fighting for them against Egypt. (Ex. 14:25) All that they did was something grand yet, Behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. (and the Lord was there).” (1 Kings 19:11-12) This is how the Lord, our God worked in silence and through silence He made them silent. Though traps of death were set for me, I found life in them. At this time of tribulation I saw the faithfulness of God, though I broke His covenant and betrayed Him countless times He still kept His promise. Despite all seen and unseen attacks I am still alive without harm and this is the proof of God’s faithfulness, His greatness and limitless mercy to the worst sinner ever stepped on this earth. I know our troubles are not ended but I firmly believe in the promise of Christ, In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (Jn.16:33) May God give us enough strength to boast as did Apostle Paul, (Christ) he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor 12:9-10).
In times of affliction, I cried to thee, O LORD; and unto the LORD I made supplication (Ps 30:8). Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me: LORD, be thou my helper (Ps 30:10). The LORD hath heard my supplication; the LORD will receive my prayer (Ps 6:9). Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee forever (Ps 30:11-12).