John the Baptizer and John Richard
“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.” Allow me to stretch that introduction of John the Baptizer in John 1:6 into a description of my father, John Richard. The latter entered his heavenly reward for his earthly labor 17 days short of his 95th birthday (February 20, 1923 – February 3, 2018). Unlike the Baptizer, my father lived a full and fruitful life. He did not suffer a horrific martyrdom. Nevertheless, certain characteristics of John the Baptizer easily and beautifully apply to my beloved dad.
A God-Sent Man
“There was a man sent from God…”
Being sent by God made John the Baptizer specific and strategic in his assignment.
My dad sensed this divine “sent-ness,” too. He represented the living God through his life and word, in his principles and practices of the light rather than darkness. Humility, love, wisdom, contentment and generosity characterized him. His immediate family experienced his godly practices firsthand.
He immersed himself in God’s Word. I remember finding him daily in the rickety easy chair on our verandah with pen in hand, underlining his Bible. I failed to find any unmarked pages when I would thumb through it. By the time he finished his earthly life, he had read the entire Bible 33 times!
Precise, focused prayer
The practice of precise, focused prayer was ingrained into his schedule as part of daily work. He declined long phone conversations with kids or grandkids because he had “to get back to work”—the work of prayer. And we all know prayer is work.
A God-Sent Mission
“He [John the Baptizer] came for a witness,
that he might bear witness of the light” (Jn 1:7).
John Richard was on a God-sent mission to bear witness to the light by means of a morally attractive life. He was fond of quoting—and meeting—Noble Laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s challenge to Christians: “On that day when we see Christ living out His life in you, then on that day we Hindus will flock to your Christ even as doves flock to their feeding ground.”
However, he didn’t think his life alone was enough to share the full content of his relationship with God. He also testified to the light with verbal witness. As his mission, he brought news of God’s salvation.
The week prior to my father’s death, I had the privilege of participating in the first National Missions Consultation of about 180 organizations from across India. Many specifically asked about my father’s welfare; one asked only about him without even greeting me. John Richard had given critical leadership to the founding of what would become the largest missions association in the world.
He traveled frequently to dozens of lands in various capacities as leader, teacher, facilitator and reconciler. Manorama, his faithful wife of 64 years, would tease him as “always planning on the next trip before he got back from this one!” And yet, once she became rather dependent on him, he changed his entire pattern of living to dedicate himself to the wife of his youth.
I remember him making the plea in Seoul for the establishment of a continent-wide body for evangelical Christians. While many nations in Asia were represented by their own deputations, a commission to represent evangelical convictions and causes across the continent was critical for the future. That representational organization was founded and continues its role today.
To God be the glory
Yet, he refused to travel to Bangkok in 2016 for a historic global congress on pastoral trainers because it could be “a distraction from the purpose.” He said, “Too many will pay attention to assisting me rather than to the program!” He wanted glory to go to His Christ alone.
“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29).
John of Zechariah and Elizabeth, the first-century model, and John of S. David Pillai and Nesammal, the twenty-first-century mimic, both knew that they could not but proclaim the life-saving message of Jesus the Messiah.
John Richard’s internationally-known pastor considered him an “older brother, confidante and mentor.” He said, “While everything on the outside was going well, I was facing some of the darkest days of my life. Brother John Richard was a shining light to me.” One of our Lord’s testimonies of John the Baptizer was similar: “He was the lamp that was burning and was shining and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light” (5:35).
My family all together rejoiced for a while in John Richard’s light. Now as long as we are in the world, by the charge of our Savior, we shall be lights in the world. Just like our father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, we want to be God-sent men, on a God-sent mission, with a God-sent message.
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