Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Bethesda Prayer Center

Following our failed attempt to visit the waterfall outside Coimbatore, Mowgli and I stopped at a Christian prayer center we'd passed on the way out.

The Bethesda Prayer Center is part of the legacy of Dr. D.G.S. Dhinakaran, who had a conversion experience in 1955. He was on his way to the railroad tracks, intending to kill hemself by jumping in front of a train, but was stopped by his uncle, who introduced him to Jesus. According to his bio, the doctor "experienced a sudden wave of divine peace and hope, flood his heart. His mind was transformed and he returned home enlightened."

Following his conversion, he built schools, held massive prayer meetings focused on healing the sick, started a magazine called "Jesus Calls," and served as a conduit for the word of the Lord. One of the messages he received was to open a prayer center:

"On August 12, 1983, the Holy Spirit guided Dr. D.G.S.Dhinakaran to do something for those who are in need for prayer at any time of the day. Therefore Dr. D.G.S. Dhinakaran erected a 24 Hour Prayer Tower. Today the Prayer Tower is a full-fledged Prayer Centre equipped with modern facilities. Specially chosen and trained Prayer Warriors endowed with the compassion of Christ, attend to such calls round-the-clock."

When I tell people about visiting this place, I am invariably met with astonishment; Christianity in India strikes most people as an impossibility. And yet, it is widely believed that the Apostle Thomas traveled to and died in India; today, India has upwards of 20 million practicing Christians.

I admit, though, that the experience of finding a fervently faithful group of Christians in the middle of an Indian agricultural area was jarring, not least because when I said I was from the U.S., I was greeted with an enthusiastic, "praise the Lord, sister, praise the Lord." Never in a million years did I think I'd be in Tamil Nadu the first time someone said that to me.

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