Little could anyone have known she was destined for such trials and pain. God called Susy back to India in 1976 as a feminine subversive to the Hindus. In a land of one billion people, less than 3 percent are Christian, and women and children are still too often regarded as property to be sold or traded.

       For 27 years her faithfulness has resulted in countless converts and Bible trainees at her Reformed Bible Institute, not to mention a mercy outreach to more than 40 social orphans through Susy's children's home.

       Currently, the Indian government is threatening to repossess Susy's land, which would stifle the growth of her gospel ministry in the Indian State of Kerala. One of 15 Indian states, Kerala is the site tradition holds to be where St. Thomas first landed on his missionary journey from Jerusalem to India.

       "We trust that God will show us a way out of this situation," Varghese says with a calm smile. "At present we are raising support for the budget and for women students and children."

       "This is Susy's clear call," adds Anne Quay Beach of Lawrenceville, Georgia, who attended RTS Jackson with Susy and who now is helping organize her stateside support system. "This is her life's work. She chose not to get married because she wanted to do missions work. I don't think anything would deter her from feeling that this is her life's call."

       With future plans for a full Christian K-12 school, Susy recently returned to the United States for the first time since receiving her RTS Master of Christian Education degree. She is hopeful that old friends and new acquaintances will learn of this work and come to her ministry's aid.

       "We dream of having a day school to supplement the ministry of the children's home," Susy told REFORMED Quarterly during a visit to Jackson.

       Presently; the children in her ministry; as well as others in the area, attend a substandard school that offers no hope for advancement in India's society beyond the usual levels of grinding poverty and labor.


       "We want to feed and raise children in such a way as to equip them to rise above their current living standard. We also want to equip them to get a good job when they leave the home, and to become good citizens of the country, good children in their homes, and above all, to lead a better life that is pleasing to God. Without this, our ten- to twelve-year effort will be futile."

       In a land where nine out of every ten known unborn girls are aborted due to the cultural disdain for women, the Christian gospel is sorely needed.

       Susy was born to Christian parents - a rarity in India. .'Every Sunday I went to church and attended Sunday school. When I was sixteen, I professed my faith in Jesus publicly in church.

       While in high school, a missionary visited her church school and told of the need for missionaries in China. Susy felt a strong call to missions. She eventually finished college in India, and joined her sister and her sister's husband, Tom Cherian, who began a mission work in India with the backing of a missions organization in San Jose, California.

       Susy began to see the great need for Christian women to train other Indian women, who so often are not allowed to benefit from deep biblical education. "Since I didn't have a theological education, Tom suggested I enroll in a Bible school. He recommended Reformed Theological Seminary. God opened the way for my theological education at RTS and I graduated with my Master of Christian Education degree in 1975, and returned to India."


    Two Hindu vocational teachers became Christians. Many women attending the Bible institute were trained as evangelists to India's women.

Ten years later Tom changed the school's name from Women's Bible Institute to South India Reformed Theological Institute. He hoped to begin enrolling men as well.

      Over time, the mission became independent of Tom's original sponsor. Then, in 1990, Tom Cherian unexpectedly died. Tom's wife - Susy's sister- was not equipped to continue the work, and Tom had always maintained the ministry's financial contacts stateside. "The responsibility of running the mission fell on my shoulders," Susy recalls with quiet rectitude.

       With Tom gone, the Institute no longer was positioned to serve as a thorough, graduate level school. Susy changed the name to Reformed Bible Institute (RBI), its present name, and concentrated once again on training women, although some men continued to enroll.

       "Praise God, now several graduates from RBI are in the field ministry, working with different organizations from North to South India. Some are working in their own churches. We get not only Christian students, but Hindu and Muslim students who seek to advance their education."

       In 1998, Susy also began a home for destitute children. "They are semi-orphans from broken families," she says. "Since their parents cannot feed them, they send their children to our home. We shelter them, feed them, educate them, clothe them, and bring them up in Christian discipline.

       "Around forty are there now. Every year, the number increases. All these children are from Hindu homes except one Christian and one Muslim. They all live together and grow in the love of Christ. To win one child for Jesus is to win the full life of a man. We pray for the work of the Holy Spirit on each child, so that each child will commit his or her life to the Lord Jesus."

       Susy's ministry early on rented urban space from Hindu landlords who always put the Christian ministry at a disadvantage. God provided some funds for Susy to purchase an old rubber tree farm in a more rural area in the Indian state of Kerala. RBI moved to this location. Funds gleaned from the rubber trees helped put the women students through school at $30 a month per student.

       When RBI originally purchased the property, it did due diligence, researching past claims against the owner. No encumbrances were found, even after advertising in local papers. However, recently the Indian Government has cited a property dispute with the former owner; and the Supreme Court concluded that the property is forested, and thus belongs to the State.

       "We know this is no surprise to God," Susy responds, "but it is a challenging situation for the mission. Information comes slowly, and we still do not know what the mission's options are."

       Susy - who has been known to pawn jewelry or other possessions to keep her mission solvent - remains faithful.

       Each spring the monsoon comes and leaves disaster. A few years ago, the massive rains wiped out one of the original mud buildings on the Reformed Bible Institute property. It now sits, a ramshackle pile of brick and clay debris. Not far from it is a pristine, stucco two-story building. Surrounded by shade, the new children's home site is tidy and inviting.

       All the new buildings that Susy has helped to put in place and maintain are kept in stellar quality. The well-groomed grounds of the Reformed Bible Institute and Children's Home are in stark contrast to natives' dwellings nearby.

       When Susy and her team first arrived in this rural, heavily Hindu area of Southern India, they quickly became known. "They know me because they haven't ever seen this kind of educational ministry and because we are Christian."

       Both Hindu men and women, separately, originally asked questions regarding the institute and children's home's presence. "If you put up a Christian banner," recalls Susy; "they tear it down."

       With time, Susy's team of 15 staff, including two male Bible teachers associated with the Church of South India, earned the approval of locals.

       Now Susy is turning her heart and energy toward founding a day school for local children of various religious backgrounds. The desire is to see local children trained and equipped to overcome the still-rigid caste system that usually relegates them into the same lower income lifestyles of their parents.

 

      "Currently we are sending our children from our children's home out to a government school," Susy explains. "The standards in this rural area are very low. They are not getting a good education at this school. They will grow up in the same manner of their parents, getting about a fourth- to fifth-grade education.

       "We are hoping to give the children a better position in society; to raise them from their low level to a better level, so they can learn English and get a good job and be a better citizen."

       Anne Quay Beach noticed during her visits to the southwestern region of India that anyone who speaks English is regarded more highly The new school could do a great deal of good for locals, and put forth an excellent witness for Christ, she says. "It would be the equivalent of going to an elite prep school," Beach notes. "They already have the facility for this school, and the accommodations for teachers. It's not like they would have to start from the ground up."

       Susy hopes the adult Bible school will continue to expand until it serves about fifty students, and eventually offers college degrees. Eventually the adult Bible school may be moved back to a more populated city, where it would be easier for adults to receive night training and do part-time studies.

       Presently RBI hopes to resolve its dispute with the Indian government over its property; while increasing its funding for women and children who are students.

       Susy exudes quiet confidence. She believes God will supply her ministry's needs, perhaps through contacts made during her recent trip to the United States. Meanwhile, she hopes to remain faithful through any trials God allows in her life. "I just give all things to Him."

       "I'm not tired," she says with a smile.




Reformed Quarterly, Volume 19, Number 2/3
© 2001 Reformed Theological Seminary
Articles may not be reprinted without permission.

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Last updated 12-8-2001.