By Chris Eversole
Rev. Samuel Thomas made a stop in Mustang last weekend as part of his seven-state trip from India to garner support for Hopegivers International, a Christian organization that raises orphaned, abandoned and at-risk children and trains them to be missionaries.
Thomas was the guest of Mustang residents Rex and Sara Austin. They have supported Hopegivers since the 1970s, and they have made multiple trips to help with its work. Rex is vice president of the Hopegivers board.
On Saturday, Thomas regaled a gathering of members of several churches at the Austin home. He described how his father, Rev. M.A. Thomas, founded Hopegivers in 1960.
M.A. Thomas was a native of southern India, where Christianity has a significant presence. He took his family name from Thomas, one of Christ’s disciples, who is reputed to have founded Christianity there.
After completing ministerial training, M.A. Thomas traveled to northern India and soon launched Hopegivers.
The organization serves children who are outcasts, Samuel Thomas said. The Indian government prohibits people from other countries preaching Christianity, which led to Hopegivers’ strategy of training children as missionaries.
“In searching for where to find leaders of Christianity, my father decided to find them in the streets,” Samuel Thomas said. “They are arrows for Christ.”
Thomas said his faith has sustained him, despite legal battles with the Indian government and the killing of some followers of Hopegivers. “The Great Commission directs us to tell others the Good Word,” he said. “I feel that more strongly than others do.”
Being committed to Christ is not enough, he warned. “You must surrender to Christ,” he said.
Thomas spoke four times on Sunday at Chisholm Heights Baptist Church in Mustang.
He described the work of Hopegivers, which includes establishing 190 schools throughout India and operating 47 Hope Homes that house 6,000 children. The organization also runs a hospital, a nursing school and Bible colleges.
The Austins’ son, Kenny, accompanied his parents to India on one trip. While there, he met Nina, a young woman who Hopegivers had helped and who was a nurse at the organization’s hospital. After a year and a half of email and text correspondence, the two married.
They now live in Mustang with their three children. “The God between us is what brought us together,” Nina said. “My life would have been horrible if it weren’t for Hopegivers. I’m grateful for getting an education and for getting to know Christ.”
Rex Austin rejoices in the impact his volunteerism has had on his family. “The Lord has blessed me with a daughter-in-law,” he said.