Updated: Feb 19, 2022
Missionary to America: Ramdat Saran, Guyana
Ramdat Saran was not supposed to live, and if he lived, he was not supposed to be a Christian. Ramdat was born in Guyana, a country on the northern mainland of South America.
His fourteen year old mother had made the decision to abort her baby, but Ramdat’s grandmother convinced her young daughter to keep the child. Ramdat’s mother and grandmother were Hindus. The name “Ramdat” is a Hindu word meaning “Servant of Ram,” a Hindu god. But the Lord had other plans.
When Ramdat was six years old Ramdat’s aunt began taking the little boy to church. The Christian pastor was a proper Anglo and Ramdat went dutifully if not fully willingly, until he was sixteen years old. Ramdat had continued to attend the Hindu temple , until he heard a Guyanese street preacher preach the message of salvation in his language, in his culture, in his heart. The Guyanese Christians worshipped the Lord with joyous singing and clapping hands and moving their bodies to a Caribbean beat.
Ramdat, now a servant of Christ, grew in love and dedication to Jesus; he married a Christian woman. His mother and the Hindu side of Ramdat’s family refused to attend the wedding. They shunned Ramdat and his bride. Ramdat had made his decision. The Spirit of Christ was stronger than the pull of a unified family. But a greater test came to the couple.
A son was born but the attending physician said he would not live and they should prepare to bury the baby. The Christians would not accept this – they prayed; they prayed all night. When morning came the astonished church saw the child was breathing. It was like he had been raised to life. The Spirit used this to raise Ramdat, raise him up as an evangelist.
The Spirit brought the young father from village to village to proclaim the good news that the Christian God is a god of the living, that he gives life to all who believe and are baptized. He was led, like the evangelist Philip (Acts 8:26 ff). Ultimately he entered training in Guyana to become an evangelist. A desire beat in his heart to bring God’s message to the ends of the earth. He found that in New York.
Ramdat came to New York as an immigrant and began to reach passersby on the streets.
In 1998 he met Rev. David Born, then the Mission Executive of the Atlantic District. Ramdat was drawn to a vision the Lutheran Church had of starting new churches among new ethnic groups. His specific calling was to be God’s instrument to call older, dying churches to reach the new people God was sending into their communities. St. Paul preached in Acts 17:26, “God created every ethnic group and he determined the exact times and places where they should live. God did this so that some might reach out and find him.” Immigrants are not in America only to escape brutality or persecution or to find a better life. They are being sent here so the Lord can reach them and so they can share their faith with us.
One church in Schenectady was a step away from closing, down to fifteen members. The older pastor asked Ramdat to come and work in his community as a missionary. Ramat focused on children of immigrants; his children invited others. Soon they had fifty young people from Caribbean countries worshipping God with drums and guitars (which had to be removed from the sanctuary as soon as their worship was ended). After the fourth baptism the older pastor proclaimed God is at work here! Ramdat was commissioned as a missionary working under the pastor’s supervision. In 2007 he was colloquized into the LCMS as a missionary-pastor.
Ramdat, like the New Testament evangelists, moved when the Spirit opened a door. He found support in old churches dying to live, and willing to open their doors so that a new ethnic group might know salvation by grace through faith. One church was revitalized when over three hundred Nepalese immigrants were worshipping and eighty five percent of their school was Nepalese children.
There was not always a salary or health benefits or a pension for the immigrant missionary. Sometimes he received part time support for full time work. Ramdat, Servant of Christ, had seen what God could do for a son prematurely pronounced dead. This evangelist knew God would supply what he needed.
"To reach a new ethnic group” he responded, “I cannot be a German! If the church is going to thrive among a new culture you cannot put an unprepared Anglo pastor in a different cultural setting. I am a Caribbean man; I have to move to the music and clap my hands. I cannot stand straight and stiff with my hands wrapped around a book.”
The conversation about how to reach across cultures to make the love of Christ real will continue. But Ramdat Saran might still be a Hindu if not for that Guyanese street preacher and the Caribbean music that moved him to clap his hands. Just as it says in Scripture. Psalm 47:1, “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.”
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