The Godly Influence of My Maternal Grandparents
Dr. Valson Abraham
As the oldest grandchild, I received much care and love by my grandparents and extended family. My maternal grandfather, Pastor P.T. Chacko, took me to nursery school and to my earliest grades in elementary school. I would sit on the front of his cycle and later, his motorcycle. Every day when he took me to school, he made me memorize scriptures. He would pray with me in the morning, evening and the daily routine in taking me to and from school.
With my grandfather, I experienced a daily Bible class on wheels as well as at home. I was blessed from my childhood to be nurtured in the Word of God, which served as a hedge of protection while I grew up. The word was deposited in my heart and kept me from succumbing to many temptations. The emphasis he put on the Word, prayer, witnessing and cleanliness and managing resources were instilled at a young age.
I knew if assigned tasks were not done or mistakes committed before the day was over, I would have to confess my failure at family prayer time and then do them. Until these things were done, prayer was not offered, and often, nobody ate.
At prayer time, Grandfather made us read the Bible systematically, always including a Psalm or a Proverb. He isolated portions and explained things we children did not understand. He made sure we understood what we heard.
Often in the evening, he had us read a biography of a notable spiritual person. He made sure we read the whole autobiography of my paternal grandfather, Pastor K E Abraham, which gave us a good understanding of our family and history of IPC. That helped us to appreciate church history, the sacrificial lives of my grandparents and other missionaries, and what it took to live and work for the Lord.
When my maternal grandmother, Annamma Chacko, passed away in 1964, I was in the 9th grade. I was in the middle of an exam, and I was called home from school to be with her just before she died. All the family, along with my Grandfather, surrounded her, singing her favorite hymns in three languages, Malayalam, Telugu and English. Between hymns, Grandfather had us read different portions of scripture. Different people offered words of prayer and comfort. While she was still conscious, she called each of us to speak to us, offering a word of encouragement and a prayer for each of us. The rest of the day was spent like that. I was 12 years old. The impact of that time stayed with me. My training to minister to someone about to meet the Lord was imprinted upon me at that age.
While I grew up, I locked the gates at night. Evangelists-in-training and other people lived with us all the time, and locked gates gave us protection since we lived on a very busy road. I usually did this between 11pm and midnight. One night, Grandfather lay on his bed, groaning in the Spirit. At 10 pm, before I locked the gates, he got ready to go out on the streets. That day, he had not witnessed to anyone, and he did not want the day to pass until he did. His motto was NSWE an acronym he made for “No Supper Without Evangelism.” He did not return until after midnight. I waited until after midnight for his return. He had been beaten and pushed around by people at the bus-station where he had just witnessed. Even when he was not feeling well, he made an effort to go out and witness to people of all backgrounds, whatever the cost to himself.
My maternal grandmother was very practical and punctual. Both she and my grandfather served as schoolteachers and were highly disciplined and methodical in their approach with me and with others. Both of them taught and mentored more people than I can count, leading many into the faith and discipling them afterwards.
Right after my parents got married, Grandfather took them to a Hindu locality where one family had come to know the Lord. The head of the household was a bus driver for the public city transport. My father preached, and my mother translated his message into Telugu. Suddenly, some radical Hindu broke into the meeting and started beating my father and grandfather. My father was blue with bruises for several weeks, many of them on his face and especially on his eyes. In spite of this experience, God worked in that bus driver’s family. Later, the bus driver became a full-time evangelist along with his wife, and five of their children are full-time workers for the gospel. By the way, all of this took place during my parents’ honeymoon.
Such was the training and passion he had for evangelism and reaching the unreached. Early in the morning or late at night, I frequently heard him groan in the Spirit for souls still without Christ, when he sat in his chair or lay in his bed.
Many times, when grandfather could have taken a bus or a taxi, he would go out with a rickshaw puller, hire him and the vehicle just to spend more time with him and share the gospel. One of the rickshaw pullers came to the Lord, but he did not know how to read and write. My grandfather taught him to read and write as well as to study the Bible. Grandfather took time to mentor him, and he went on to become a powerful evangelist. Grandfather baptized him and gave him a Bible name, “Samuel.” His ministry flourished, and hundreds came to the Lord. His ministry all began because my grandfather chose to spend time with him when he was a rickshaw puller whom no one else noticed.
Even into his late 80s, he sat in a comfortable chair by the roadside and passed out tracts to pedestrians. His passion for witnessing remained throughout his life and has challenged succeeding generations to become effective witnesses for Christ.
He was a very strict in his personal discipline, especially in his personal devotions. He had his own devotions alone every day as well as with his family. Every day, without fail, he got up at 5 am to read the Bible and pray alone. Later, he went through the Bible many times with us as a family. He not only read the Bible but asked us questions to make sure we understood what he had just read to us.
He was a voracious reader. He had a very good library because he was constantly reading. He would pass on to us things he had read.
Throughout his life, he was a great conversationalist who talked on many topics. Whatever the topic of conversation, he would somehow turn the conversation to witness about Christ. He knew how to do it in a natural way, and he knew how to do this with complete strangers. He kept up with current events in the newspapers and brought this into the conversation, relating the gospel to everyday life.
He played soccer as a young man. His big toe was at an angle because he played soccer so much. He encouraged young people to play at sports. He advocated people to learn swimming. He was a good swimmer.
“Simple living and high thinking” was his motto. He felt at home both with the rich and the poor. Nobody impressed him with riches or with poverty. Whatever their rank in society, if someone was sick, he stayed up with them and prayed. He was a servant through and through.
He never went anywhere without tracts. If he ran out of tracts on a train, he made a drawing on his ticket or a piece of paper, wrote something to raise one’s curiosity and gave it to the person next to him.
He would teach the local language and grammar to new graduates, making sure they spoke it properly. He would carefully listen to them and correct them. This is another example in which he became a personal mentor.
He became so consumed by the things of God, he thought of nothing else. Though he was very strict about personal hygiene, he did not know how to manage things around the house without the help of his wife and others. He had singleness of purpose-the kingdom of God. In this singleness of purpose, God took care of the family, giving him the right wife and children to help him.
He possessed the gift of knowledge regarding people in his prayers, with an ability to speak right to the need of the person. People’s hearts were melted. They recognized it as the Spirit of God working through him. Nobody could know this special knowledge apart from a revelation of the Holy Spirit. Even in old age he showed this gift. He showed the truth of scripture, “They shall bear fruit even in their old age.” Even after he became physically weak, he remained spiritually strong.
Though he lived with one purpose in mind, he still lived a carefree life, filled with good humor, lighthearted and full of joy. He knew how to groan in the Spirit, but in the next moment, he became as carefree as a child.
All of the spiritual heritage I received from my grandfather, he received from his own parents and grandfather and passed it on to me. He came from a strong Christian family. His own grandfather, my great-great grandfather, received training from a noted Bible teacher and committed his life to Christ when he was still young. He started to preach when he was sixteen years old. Frequently, he would stand in public and read portions of the Bible, or “speak the Book,” as people described it. When he came to Bible portions that spoke of Jesus’ sufferings, people would weep and confess their sins.
With such upbringing, my grandfather committed his life to Christ when he was six years old. While he was still very young, his mother gave him a plan for reading the Bible, which he followed for a long time. He said that through this plan, he did 35 complete readings of the Bible while he was still a young man.
His parents sent him to Christian schools-an English-speaking school that had daily readings from the Bible, songs, prayers and Bible study, along with the curriculum. In high school, he went to Syrian Christian Seminary which gave him an opportunity to hear well-known preachers such as Sadhu Sundar Singh and Rev. E. Stanley Jones who strongly influenced him towards a preaching and evangelistic ministry and served as good models for him.
While he attended Syrian Christian Seminary, he experienced weekly prayer meetings, Bible classes, Sunday schools in the outstations, personal evangelism, tract distribution and open-air meetings-things which influenced his later ministry as well as my own ministry and that of our training centers. At Syrian Christian Seminary, he received the strong burden to pray for lost souls that followed him throughout his life and ministry.
For 44 years, Grandfather published the Gospel Herald, an English magazine that was quite influential in India for a number of years.
My grandfather, Pastor P.T. Chacko, came from a family that strongly believed they must pass on to their children and grandchildren those fundamental truths that cause them to have confidence in God. I am thankful that he learned his lessons well and passed them on to me. I thank God He has placed me where I can continue to pass on these truths to succeeding generations. God grant that they also continue to teach future generations in the ways of the Lord until He returns.