FAITH & SIMPLICITY-RAJU NATH SAPERA
The life of a snake charmer is not as rewarding as it used to bearound 20 years ago, in fact, the trade is hardly profitable any more. Since ancient times, snake charmers primarily acted as magicians and healers. They were learned men who studied various types of snakes, the treatment of snake bites and indulged in religious practices towards the gods to which snakes were considered sacred. This trade also involved catching snakes and removing the reptile’s fangs or its venom glands. Entertainment is a major part of their reputation. Typically, a snake charmer could be recognized by his dress or appearance and would gather a crowd that was interested in watching a snake being charmed and hypnotized by the swaying of a musical instrument called a ‘Pungi’or ‘Been’. Depending on how mesmerized his spectators got, they would then pool in alms for the snake charmer, which is usually very meagre. These days, snake charmers live a more nomadic life style, limiting their performances to scanty and small villages as the trade is now illegal in India.
Sapera is a name given to the community of snake charmers of India. Raju Nath is a part of the Sapera clan. Initially, he wasinvolved in most of the practices of this community, but he forsook them after having a supernatural encounter with Jesus Christ back in 2013. Raju Nath was a chronic drunk and would even trade his own food and clothes for a drink of alcohol. His family were devout followers of Kali Devi-a so called Hindu goddess of death, time and doomsday. They regularly performed animal/blood sacrifices and practiced idolatry. The family even built a temple for their gods and goddesses.
Raju Nath’s brother and sister served at that very temple, but mysteriously fell ill and passed away, one after the other. Soon after their death, Raju’s younger sister also died, followed by the death of his nephew. What followed after that was pure misery for Raju and his family. Raju and his wife- Sharda, who already had 2 sons and 2 daughters, was with child and soon delivered a baby boy. Sadly, he did not survive. Their younger son also fell ill and died during this time. After that, she conceived twice, but both times, the infants did not live. During this difficult period, Raju’s alcoholism got worse. Even his distressed wife began to consume alcohol.
As time passed, Sharda frequently started falling ill. She was soon diagnosed with cancer. Raju found himself to be in an even bigger mess. Hardly earning any money from his trade, he realized that he could not pay for Sharda’s treatment. He then took a loan to meet the family’s needs but still struggled. After thorough examination, the doctors told Raju that Sharda would not benefit by being hospitalized as the cancer had spread and she was soon going to die. Raju was besides himself and began crying bitterly at the hospital.
A young man who was at the hospital saw Raju and inquired about his sorry state. Raju then shared the series of unfortunate events that had taken place in his life. Raju expressed the thought of giving up his life as he could no longer carry his burdens. The young man, moved with compassion, eagerly offered to pray for Sharda and encouraged Raju through scripture from the Holy Bible. The young Christian told him that Jesus could definitely help him if he put his faith in Him. Almost instantly, Raju and Sharda began to experience peace. That very day, they gave up alcohol. Their new found Christian friend introduced them to a Church and they regularly started attending every meeting.
Sharda has her own testimony to glorify God. She was miraculously and completely healed of cancer! But more than that, she rejoices about the drastic change that God brought in her husband’s life, “Food or no food, sickness or good health, my husband has surrendered and devoted his whole self to God!” They now live peacefully with their two daughters, son, daughter-in-law and grand-daughter.
Having such an incredible testimony of God’s faithfulness over their lives, Raju and Sharda never got anxious during the very challenging days of the lockdown due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Witnessing many of their fellow Christians in the neighboring localities being affected by the crisis, they decided to pray and ask God to intervene. God spoke to Raju from Jeremiah 33:3, ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’
God then audibly told Raju to call Shibu Thomas- the Founder of Persecution Relief, whom he had met at a Pastor’s conference earlier in 2020. God told him that if there was anyone who would help him it was Mr. Thomas and he would not turn him away. That was not all, God told Raju that He would feed all the hungry families in the vicinity through the Persecution Relieffamily. Raju fearlessly called Mr. Thomas; whom God had already prepared much in advance to extend help to Raju Nathand the Sapera community.
With God’s divine intervention, The Persecution Relief family had the privilege of reaching out to 340 families through the faith of a simple man named Raju. Watching the food supplies being distributed, even the shocked Tehsildar (Executive Magistrate) questioned Raju about the source of his help. ButRaju confidently told him that Jesus Christ has sent the help, to which the Tehsildar replied, “I don’t see any Jesus Christ!” Raju calmly smiled back and said, “He is the one who is the maker of heaven and earth. He is the Lord over everything. His name is Jesus Christ and he has made all the arrangements for us to be looked after.”
The Tehsildar was taken aback by what Raju had to say, and told him that he would share this with the higher officials. “You need to be felicitated for the good work that you are doing,” he told Raju. “I am a nobody” said Raju. “In fact, I am a small person, but the one who is my Lord, Jesus Christ- He is the Lord of this universe and He looks after everything.”
Raju Nath runs a church with more than 300 people in attendance on a usual Sunday morning. They have all experienced God’s supernatural provision, time and again in their midst. Seeing Raju’s integrity, even the local police have promised him and the church, protection and help whenever necessary. They have given him the permission to conduct prayer meetings whenever needed! – A noteworthy testimony, considering the escalating cases of persecution of Christians in India. People from around the vicinity are still asking Raju how a poor man like him could afford to feed over 300 families when he himself has to look after his own family. Raju admits togetting very excited when he is asked this question, but never fails to glorify God by testifying that It Is indeed the Miraculous Work of God in his life!
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