The Lazarus Factor: How Resurrections Trigger Conversions
By J. Lee Grady
This week I interviewed two people who were raised from the
dead during an evangelistic meeting in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.
During my 26 years as a journalist I've interviewed some interesting
people and heard some amazing stories. But this week set a new standard when I met two people in southern India who experienced
Six-year-old Jyothi Pothabathula looks like a typical girl
from Andhra Pradesh, a state in southern India. She has wide brown eyes, mocha-colored skin, slick dark hair and a shy smile.
When I asked her who brought her back to life when she was 2 years old, she demurely answered, "Jesus," in her native Telugu
"In May 2004 we were coming to the evangelistic crusade on
a bus when she collapsed," Jyothi's father, Suribabu, told me on Monday during a chat in my hotel room. The little girl had
no history of illness, but she suddenly stopped breathing during the bumpy ride. The girl's mother, Nagamani, said she began
desperately praying for God to save her baby.
Suribabu and his wife were traveling to the town of Kakinada
to attend an outreach festival sponsored by Harry Gomes, an evangelist based in the southern Indian city of Coimbatore. When
the couple arrived at the event with Jyothi's lifeless body in her father's arms, someone urged them to push through the crowd
to reach the stage where Gomes was praying for the sick.
They quickly carried the girl to the preacher. Immediately
after he prayed for her, they said, Jyothi sat up and then began walking. The crowd erupted in applause.
"I know Jesus is a great God because he raised my daughter
to life," Suribabu said, wiping away tears. He was already a new Christian when the miracle occurred. His brother and two
more of his Hindu family members converted to Jesus after they heard the story and saw the revived girl.
On Dec. 4 of last year, Mesheck Manepally, a 45-year-old shop
owner, was attending one of Gomes' meetings in Prathipadu, another city in Andhra Pradesh. His son, Varaprasad, said his father
collapsed in the back of the crowd and began foaming at the mouth. Varaprasad was hysterical, but he managed to flag down
an emergency vehicle so he could take his dad to a hospital.
When crusade organizers learned of the emergency and alerted
Gomes, he interrupted his preaching, left the stage and walked to the side of the crowd—which had swelled to 100,000.
By that time, Gomes said, Mesheck had no pulse and showed other signs of death including a dark pallor and stiffness of the
Gomes laid his hands on the man and prayed for his life to
return. Within a few minutes, Mesheck sat up in the back of the vehicle with a dazed look on his face. "People started telling
me, 'You were dead and now you are alive!'" Mesheck said. "I was confused and I started crying. I was so thankful."
Mesheck's wife, Laxmi, said Hindus from her village came to
visit her husband for 10 days after the incident. "They came to view him as a Lazarus," she said. "The people were saying,
'Their God is the true God.'"
Since medical documentation is not easily available in isolated
rural areas of India, skeptics will argue that these miracles can't be confirmed. Death certificates weren't issued in either
case, and no doctors were on hand to verify the facts. But Jyothi's parents and Mesheck's family say that doesn't negate what
they know is true. Neither the girl nor the man has had medical complications since they collapsed, their relatives said.
Gomes believes God is displaying His power in India today in
dramatic ways in order to draw Hindus to Jesus Christ. He has witnessed five incidents of resurrection in his meetings since
he began doing evangelistic crusades 14 years ago.
"Every time it happens it boosts the people's faith," Gomes
said. "In the Bible we are told that the crowds came not just to see Jesus but to see Lazarus. As the word about these miracles
spreads, everyone's faith is elevated."