Broadened Perspectives

Catherine Cook

“The work you do doesn’t just affect one person, it affects entire family trees.”

I broke down crying. That’s my family I realized.

A couple of years ago, my husband and I went through a course called Perspectives, an academic class designed to teach about what God is doing around the world and how the message of Jesus is being shared. What we experienced in Perspectives completely changed the way we view everything about our faith.

I saw clearly how God’s faithfulness was like a thread woven through my Indian family’s tree because of individuals who were faithful to him.

The Power of One

The history of my family’s encounter with Jesus begins a long time ago, when my great-grandfather was a young man in British Colonial India. Initially named Babu Lal, my great-grandfather was a food contractor for the British military. Providentially, while working with the military, a British minister told him about Jesus, and my great-grandfather chose to move from Sikhism to Christianity.

He changed his name to Bernard Isaacs, and although he gained a new identity as an adopted son of God, he lost his Sikh family, who shunned him for his new faith. He and his wife, who also became a Christian, eventually started their own family and God set in motion a beautiful story. They had one son, my grandfather Arthur. My great-grandfather Bernard died not long after his son’s birth.

Thanks to the faith of that one British minister who shared Jesus, the legacy of my entire family was forever changed.

As a widow, my great-grandmother continued to raise my Grandpa Arthur. A midwife, she was a highly educated woman with a lot of respect in their village. My grandfather grew up believing in Jesus and he met a woman whose own family had a similar story.

In 1938, almost 10 years before India’s independence sparked the separation of India and Pakistan, my grandfather Arthur married my grandmother, a young Indian woman named Violet. My grandmother Violet's family had come to know Jesus and left behind Hinduism because of the generosity and love of a Christian woman who had come to India from New Zealand. When Violet met Arthur, each of them had a legacy of one individual introducing their family to Jesus and a story of life change that affected their entire family tree, all the way down to me.

Although both of my grandparents’ families were shunned for following Jesus, my grandparents were born into Christian homes in a country largely unreached by the Gospel.

A New Home

Young Arthur and Violet already had four children when God had a surprise for them: my father! The youngest of five, my father was born after the partition that separated India from Pakistan. By that time, where my father’s family had settled in the city of Sukkur was now a part of Pakistan and the area was in the midst of war. My grandparents, who were successful people, also suffered loss when the nearby Indus River flooded causing massive devastation. When my father was three they were finally able to immigrate to Montreal, Canada.

When my father’s family finally did arrive in Montreal everything had been left behind in Pakistan: their position, professions and prosperity. Although they found themselves in a brand new place with very little left of their previous lives, they were comforted by their ability to all move together as a family, and not be scared for their lives anymore like they were in war-torn Pakistan. And so, my father grew up more Canadian than Indian, with fond memories of British tea time and his mother’s fabulous cakes.

A Changed Family Tree

As an adult with a family of my own now, I am blown away by God’s miraculous way of bringing a Hindu and a Sikh Indian family to know him through the faithfulness of his people. God brought those two families together, kept them safe, and eventually brought their descendants to America, where my family’s story picks up.

When my husband and I took Perspectives a few years ago we realized that our family was here because of that miracle. We also learned that leaving the place you call home to tell people about Jesus is not just for those who hear “some calling”, it’s for everyone who calls themselves a follower of Jesus.

Whether we’re going or sending, we can all be mobilizers.

We are so excited for whatever God may have for us and we are open to whatever that may be. When Sandals Church launched Bharat100 several months ago, I was truly moved. The launch weekend featured an opportunity to sponsor children in India through Compassion International and when I saw the hundreds of Indian children’s photos on display for sponsorship, I wept. Compassion is a non-profit organization that finds children in poverty and need, provides them with food, medical services, education and parental support so they can know that God loves them and has a plan for them.

We picked a 15 year old girl to sponsor because we know the struggles and adversities that girls especially experience in India. We know what they are up against and that they need someone alongside them to help them overcome.

The faithful actions of one British minister and one New Zealand woman living and sharing Jesus in India almost 100 years ago lives on today in the lives of my family members and me.

And now, in a way, it reaches all the way back to India through our sponsored Compassion daughter. If by sharing my family’s story we can inspire others to go out and touch lives for Jesus, then what a world of family trees can be changed for eternity!