Hopegivers International Founder Bishop M.A. Thomas returned to the United States on Tuesday, Jan. 30, after nearly a year of imposed travel and other restrictions.
Though the travel permission received from India’s High Court only allows for a short visit during a prescribed window of dates, Hopegivers supporters and other friends of the humanitarian outreach were ecstatic with his return.
It was about a year ago when Thomas traveled to Rajasthan during an outbreak of anti-Christian activity that forced both him and his son, Dr. Samuel Thomas, into hiding. The senior Thomas is only allowed to be away for 20 days, after which he will return to India. He is praying his son also will be allowed to travel.
“God is God, and we are completely on the victory side. I thank God for that,” said Thomas.
As of October 2006, Hopegivers’ indigenous partner, Emmanuel Ministries, was allowed to reopen in Rajasthan after licenses and bank accounts were seized, and its key leaders jailed. But even after the October reopening, Dr. Sam still faced anti-nationalism charges.
Throughout 2006, both Thomases were accused as outlaws and forced to work underground for a period of time. Dr. Sam spent 47 days in jail for allegedly “causing communal disharmony.” Various anti-Christian elements also waged an intense campaign of systematic slander, lawsuits and intimidation against Emmanuel Ministries, the chief recipient of Hopegivers support in India.
Bishop and Dr. Thomas left for India last February, and both men had their actions closely followed throughout 2006. That forced them to travel by car, because people were looking for them on trains, airplanes and at checkpoints throughout the country.
At that same time, all of the licenses for their Rajasthan schools, orphanages, hospital and Bible schools were temporarily revoked. They were later reinstated, but that, coupled with mounting legal bills for their defense, put the ministry in financial difficulty. They need between $3-$4 million to rebuild and revamp, according to Thomas, to stand and say, “God has done it.”
Dr. Sam, who has also been subject to stringent personal restrictions, is scheduled for his next travel permission hearing in mid-February.
“2006 was a year of great difficulty. But we serve a God who answers prayer, and this is a great start to 2007,” said Hopegivers Executive Director Michael Glenn.
Despite restrictions placed on the Thomases and other key staff in 2006, and the ensuing fallout that occurred, Hopegivers’ work in India has continued to move forward. All Hopegivers-supported Hope Homes, schools, churches, students and field workers are fully operational and continuing to faithfully minister to India’s poor and downtrodden with food, medicine, education, clothes, blankets and other aid.
“We praise God for all of the people who stood with us in prayer. We want to remind them to continue to pray as we continue our work,” Thomas said. “We also want to encourage their continual support. One court appearance can cost about $10,000, so it is very expensive.”
Hopegivers International (www.hopegivers.org), a faith-based, not-for-profit humanitarian agency based in Columbus, Ga., provides “help for today and hope for eternity” by rescuing homeless children, widows, the sick and needy regardless of caste or creed.