By Bill Bray, Campus and Missions Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (September 14, 2017) – Devan Junapudi is the international children’s ambassador for Restoration Ministries in Andra Pradesh, India.
But this resilient, innovative and stubborn Good Samaritan refuses to be stopped by storms — either real hurricanes or the social storms of radical groups.
He has just left on one of the first flights out of Naples, Florida where he has been trapped for a week by Hurricane Irma — leaving his American speaking tour interrupted “dead in his tracks” by the largest storm in American history.
But yesterday, within hours of landing here in Charlottesville, he was speaking at a men’s breakfast to plead for the lives of homeless children in India. Later in the morning, at the weekly chapel services of Christian Aid Mission he spoke again, resuming his original speaking tour a week later than originally planned.
Christian Aid and Overseas Students Mission (OSM), located here near the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, are both American partners of Restoration Children’s Ministries in India. Devan is a support-raising, faith-missionary serving with OSM and is spending a month to visit potential supporters in the USA.
Ironically, he chooses this time of the year for his annual visit because it is “the rainy season” in India — a time when Christian outreach ministries like his must reduce street ministry.
However, Devan ended up spending Sunday night in an emergency storm shelter, set up in the basketball court of First Baptist Church in Naples. Like the others, he cowered in the corners as the building shook with the horrific impact of Hurricane Irma.
“The hurricane was so strong, many people thought we were going to die,” says Devan. “People were crying and praying, shifting from one side of the building to the other as the winds changed—everyone thought it would collapse any minute. We were prepared to die.
“But then,” he added, “the wind suddenly stopped. At 5:30 a.m. Monday morning, scores of first-responders from local emergency services descended on the shelter. Fire engines, jeeps, ambulances and the police were everywhere.
“I learned a lot about America and American people through this whole experience,” said the 39-year-old missions’ executive. “Americans care about people more than anyone on earth. I never saw such a well-organized relief effort. They were checking everybody’s pulses and handing out food—whether you needed it or not. It was an amazing outpouring of love and concern.
“In India, we pass dying people on the street every day without a glance. The sick and starving are abandoned alongside the road—and nobody cares. It’s so different here. So many people care for each other.”
Restoration Ministries, headquartered in Guntur, is part of a 180-church network in the southern Indian state most frequently known mostly as “AP” to the public. His group is introducing foster care programs to Christian families who are adopting abandoned street children into their families with the help of American sponsors.
The indigenous mission also operates innovative outreaches to the homeless, lepers, widows and supports a team of native staff workers. Despite increasing persecution of Christian churches and government opposition to Christian institutions and missions, Devan is creating grass-roots “efforts of love” to reach the needy and carry on evangelism.
Resilient, innovative and stubborn, Devan is determined to carry on his Good Samaritan style ministry. Despite sometimes violent opposition from Hindu Nationalists and social services, Devan refuses to stop reaching out in love to the homeless, especially India’s hungry children.
Friday night, Devan will present a report to donors and prayer partners in the Charlottesville-area and from here fly onto Atlanta for a similar rally next week. He also had a rally in Seattle, Washington and would have had a meeting in Florida if it weren’t for Hurricane Irma.
Devan has a fascinating testimony. An abandoned street child, he was rescued and raised by Mother Theresa in her old-fashioned orphanage — the kind now being shut down by Indian government social services. There, he accepted Christ at 8 years of age. After school, he joined YWAM and Gospel for Asia as a career native missionary.
Then 20 years ago, he returned home to the Dalit community in Guntar, determined to start Reformation Ministries as a street outreach to the poor. With over 1000 Facebook friends, and the help of OSM to collect his support in the USA, he raises most of the funding for his programs in India but still looks to Americans for seed capital to expand.
Despite opposition from the radical Hindus in the BJP party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Devan believes the current opposition to Christian child care ministries to India’s poor and needy is temporary.
“Modi is changing,” he says confidently with the faith that drives his vision for the suffering, “the economy and support for our ministry will improve.”
Photo captions: 1) Devan Junapudi inside the hurricane shelter. 2) He is seen here talking to an elderly lady in the shelter. 3) Devan with some of his kids back in India. 4) Bill Bray.
About the writer: Bill Bray is a Christian journalist who specializes in missions and student ministries. He frequently reports on campus controversy and has followed the situation in Charlottesville for ASSIST News since the racial violence began August 11-12. He is the author of, Called to All: How I discovered the power of a yielded life. He welcomes interaction with our readers and can be contacted at email@example.com
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