The importance of family
Hailing from the small village of Chellamkonam, near Karungal in Kanyakumari district, Tamil Nadu, humble beginnings set me on my path towards spreading God’s glory. My father, Mr.S.Thangaiah, began farming after closing our small petty shop, which he was forced to close due to heavy losses. My mother, Mrs. Rossammal, while interested in working, was resigned to managing the household duties, as education for women was very limited at that place and time. Along with my 4 sisters and two brothers, we lived a simple life focused around family, church, and community.
Childhood set a strong foundation
Awakening the community with the toll of the church bell also served as an awakening for me, setting me on my path toward’s spreading God’s glory. As a child I helped Rev.Fr.Zacharias Kuzhiparambil, the Parish Priest of Catholic Church in our community any way I could. This included opening and closing of the church, keeping alter clean and decorated, growing crotons and plants, and serving as an altar boy. Wherever the priest would go, I proudly traveled alongside him. Like Little Samuel, I even stayed in the church most nights. During holidays, I would spend time with my family for a few hours and then quickly return to continue doing the Lord’s work.
During my middle school studies, Rev.Fr.Zacharias Kuzhiparambil was transferred to a different district, so I continued my work under Rev.Fr.George Ooman. By the grace of God, my work continued without any hinderance.
After completing 10th standard, I began my +1 studies at my eldest maternal uncle’s house at Nagercoil, returning to my native Chellamkonam for my education. Afterwards, I returned to the church to continue my work with Rev.Fr.George Ooman. During that time I was graciously granted food and shelter by the church, meeting my educational expenses with support from my dear mother.
Dear God, how will I stand alone?
1979 seems like just yesterday.
The memory of gazing into my father’s eyes as he lay still in his coffin as my mother cried out affected me forever. Reaching out to the Lord with outstretched arms she asked, ‘Answer me for these children! How will I stand alone and settle these children? My God, reply to me. What will I do?’ My mother’s cries remain etched into my memory to this day.
After my father passed due to jaundice, the 8 of us were left with minimal finances and no property. With the possibility of the 7 children going without food, my mother was forced to go out and look for work, despite never having worked outside of the home. With opportunities limited to farming and daily wage work, there was very little opportunity. This is when the importance of community was etched into my young mind.
Some of the village ladies took interest in our lives, telling my mother, ‘Rosammal, if you are grief stricken and stay at home how will you feed your children? If you do some work in our village market at least you can feed your children with half a meal.’ My mother agreed with their suggestion, borrowing money at a high interest rate enable her to begin working.
The strength of my mother in the face of tragedy was such a sight to behold! Selling vegetables at Karungal Market during weekdays. On weekends she would journey nearly 20 KM on foot to Kottar’s main market in Nagercoil. Returning with a heavy load of rice carried on her head, she would walk back to sell the rice in Karungal Market. The wear and tear forever etched into her hands and feet, she was able to feed the family with her meager profits. While money was scarce, love was aplenty.
My mother valued my education, so she managed to scrape together money for my college fees and bus fare. Returning in the evenings, many days I would find her weeping to herself — crying out in pain due to the ongoing sufferings. During college holidays I would labor carrying bricks to contribute what I could. During college, I took daily wage jobs such as sand sieving and carrying bricks to the highest floors of construction sites.
Because of the need to contribute financially, I gave up my B. Comm studies during 4th semester to work. Education is critical, but survival is mandatory. My elder brother also discontinued his studies and we struck out to Chennai in search of any opportunity we could find.
Two buns and a glass of milk
On Feb. 20th, 1982 I reached Chennai with 30 paise in my pocket and a challenging world in front of me. After buying a bun to eat, my pockets were empty. For three days I walked Chennai’s streets in search of work, but opportunity escaped me at every corner.
Without food for 3 days and faint with hunger, I collapsed on Marina Beach for the night. I was woken up with the poke of a policeman’s lathi. This is how I discovered that sleeping on Marina Beach lands the downtrodden in jail. Instead of making my situation worse, this was the beginning of a better life.
Falling at his feet in the police station, I cried out to the policeman, explaining my family situation. God filled his heart with charity as he took me out of Ice House Police Station to a nearby tea stall, treating me to 2 buns and a glass of milk. I can still feel the taste of hope on my lips as I enjoyed the milk in a single gulp.
After 3 days of hunger, that single glass of milk and 2 buns was the world to me. I still relish the satisfaction of that simple meal and continue to pray for that police man and his family to this day. I would love for him to reach out so I could give thanks, letting him know that the words he spoke and the food he gave was a turning point in my life.
The police man told me ‘Don’t die because of hunger; first find a way to save yourself by joining in a tea shop or hotel, from there you can try togged a better job.’ His advice changed my life…as the sun rose the very next day I found the Imperial Hotel in Egmore, Chennai. The owner, a kind man, bluntly told me, ‘Now there is no job for your qualification — only a cleaner’s job — cleaning tables and washing plates is available. If needed, you can join this job now, and in future when there is vacancy I will give you the supplier post.’ My stomach said ‘yes’ even before my mind could, and I began my life as a plate cleaner in Chennai.
The path towards prosperity
As the days wore on, I was promoted to the post of supplier. After several more days I rose to Bill Master. After a few more weeks I became Supervisor at the Chennai Choolai Murudees Hotel, and then finally a Cashier at Bharath Cafe. During my spare time, I attended driving school, learning how to drive and getting my permit. In 1985 I joined Vimal Travels in Mylapore as a driver. Due to God’s kindness I was elevated to the post of manager.
However, in 1987, tragedy struck yet again as my elder brother, who went to work in Bombay, passed away. I traveled to Bombay to take his lifeless body to our home town. The painful agony of my mother and sisters grieving remains fresh in my mind. Tears sprung from their eyes as they bitterly dashed their heads into the wall again and again. On that day, God gave me the strength I needed to comfort them. Many of the wise words from the Reverends of my youth flashed before my mind’s eye, enabling me to give the comfort to my mother and sisters that they required.
After the funeral, I returned to the travel company in Chennai. Many misunderstandings began to arise between myself and the company’s owner. Again, by the grace of the Lord, any time an issue came up, the owner’s wife, Mrs. Jayabai Joseph, would appear and resolve any issues. I will never forget that beloved sister who often called me to give me tasty dishes. One plate of her biryani would make me happy on even the most challenging of days.
In 1988, God empowered me to open my own small travels office under the name of ‘Steefen Cabs.’ Out of a 100 sq. foot office at R. K. Madam Salai in Chennai I began operating my own business. 1 Chronicles 11:9 tells us, ‘And David became more and more powerful, because the Lord Almighty was with him.” Like David, in the face of struggle, the Lord was with me
To and fro I prospered in my business. We began having the ability to build our wealth — both financial and spiritual. The bounty God provided us includes the marriages of my siblings, and the studies of my brother. My brother and his wife both work as doctors in Chennai to this very day.
By God’s abundant grace, on Sept. 30, 1992 my own marriage day arrived. My bride, Josephin, is a God fearing woman with limitless abilities. She applies her passion to the youth, teaching at a government school. The Lord blessed me with 3 children — 2 sons and a daughter. God has also blessed them with great talent and abilities.
In 1996, as I was running the travels business, God said to me, ‘Now you begin a cars show room. I will help you.’ Help he did. My 100 sq. foot office grew to a 5000 sq. foot showroom named ‘Stephen Cars’ at Adyar, Chennai. God lifts me up each day and I thank him for it.
The Calling To Serve Him
While the business was flourishing, so was my spiritual growth. The Lord was training me — filling me with ideas and inspiration on how to best spread his work. At this time, God sent Brother Benhur to me. I will never forget this important person as he led me into salvation, teaching me how to minister to my community. After learning from him I began preaching and increasing my involvement in ministries whenever and wherever the opportunity arose.
In February 2000, during the Thirupathur fasting prayer, God anointed me into HIS services, compelling me to become an Evangelist. In business, ministry, and family, God has seated me with kings and princes. As 1 Samuel 2:8, says, “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor.’
As per God’s guidance, I left the car business in 2010 to surrender myself entirely to perform God’s ministry work, however and wherever I am able to do so.
My mother, now 80 years of age, has overcome the tragedy and pain of years long past. She is peaceful and in good health. Even now, when my mother pleads with the Lord, He answers her call, giving blessings and anointing us in prayer. Thank God for blessing her with a long life and the chance to see her children settled.
The Lord who lifted me will lift each one of you who is reading this testimony. Trust in Jesus. Surrender yourself to HIM. Lead a holy life. You will taste and see that the Lord is good.
I leave you with 2 Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!