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Unexpected Love at the Crossroads

Rishi and Udaya’s story by Maritess V

Eight-year-old Mohiddin Khan perspired heavily in the sultry summer day as he rode his bike on his usual route home from school for lunch. However, that day was anything but usual in the Indian city of Ongole where sacred, white bulls roamed freely. He was pedaling toward a miracle that would change the course of this young boy’s life.

Ongole, India is a city near the central coast of Eastern India

“I came home and everyone was crying. I wandered around trying to find out what happened. I was finally told that my grandmother had just died.” Mohiddin’s recollection of her death is a blend of sights, sounds, and smells. She had been lying on her bed for hours, breathless and cold. “People were coming in and out,” He remembers vividly. “I cried for a bit and then sat down where I could see a Christian missionary, Christine, praying over Grandma. When she finished and said ‘Amen,’ I saw my grandmother open her eyes and get up!”

Overjoyed at the stunning miracle, Mohiddin blurted to his parents, “The Christian lady brought Grandma back to life!”

Even so, his family refused to believe. They had been Muslims for many years and they did not believe in Jesus Christ.” They rationalized the resurrection as nothing more than grandma awakening from a comatose state.

Finding Truth Outside a Church
Years later, Mohiddin was again on his way from school; he realized that he had passed a particular church a thousand times. Nothing about it had ever caught his attention until now—a message on the display gripped him. It was written in Telugu, one of the languages native to India: “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28-29)” Somehow, he realized God was speaking to him. He had often wondered about the true God of miracles since his grandmother’s resurrection. In that holy moment outside a Christian church, he resolved to seek Him with all his heart—the God who brought Grandma back to life.

Not long after completing his country's equivalent of high school, Mohiddin began attending college and became involved in a nearby Christian community church, where he learned more of Jesus and resolved to become a Christian despite his Muslim upbringing.

Udaya, the Light Before Sunrise
After his undergraduate studies, Mohiddin enrolled in an MBA program in Hyderabad, a cultural hub for techies and engineering majors. It’s where he met his future wife, Udaya, short for Udayarani. Her name means “dawn,” so he took to calling her his Light Before Sunrise.

She was an engineering major, born to a Christian family. The eldest of two siblings, she was known for being responsible, disciplined, and studious. One day in the library she asked Mohiddin for help on a project. As they worked together on it for about a month, she began falling in love. But Udaya had her career meticulously planned and love was not her priority. Before she left India to pursue another degree at Wayne State University in Michigan, Mohiddin confessed his love for her. She discouraged his advances, though. “I gently told him I would think about it,” and then she left, leaving love behind to focus on her plan.

Historic Buildings of Wayne State University

It seemed to be working until the loneliness of life in Michigan set in. Her only source of emotional support came from Mohiddin, who took the time to talk with her whenever she needed. Their friendship deepened. Eventually, Udaya fell deeply in love. But she worried about an enormous obstacle impeding marriage to Mohiddin—her Christian family and Mohiddin’s Muslim family would never approve.

Wanting and Waiting
Indian tradition gives parents the privilege of choosing the child’s spouse, so it was likely Udaya’s parents would expect to do so. They left no doubt how they felt about someone from a Muslim family marrying her. “Muslim? No!” They said. Udaya was heartbroken at their response, and yet she felt it was important to honor her parents. She told them, “If you don’t approve, I understand. I will just be single.”

Udaya’s parents couldn’t bear the thought of their daughter remaining unmarried for the rest of her life, so they agreed to meet Mohiddin. Their preconceived notions of Muslim culture melted away when they met the young gentleman standing in front of them. They saw a hard-working man who loved their daughter and wanted to take care of her.

Eventually, their hearts softened, and they even accepted a condition of the groom’s parents: that the ceremony be held according to the Muslim tradition. Though initially troubled by the request, Mohiddin and Udaya prayed about it and agreed to his parent’s condition out of love and respect for them. They were married in a traditional Muslim wedding and later repeated their vows in a Christian ceremony.

A New Name for A New Season
After their marriage, Mohiddin was able to join Udaya in Michigan. The couple’s stay there was happy, but brief. After she completed her studies, they decided to make their home in Oregon, where they soon found a spiritual home as well in a small Indian Christian fellowship. The minister, named Moses, took an interest in the young couple and helped them mature as followers of Jesus. Mohiddin was soon stirred to obey his Lord’s command, following Jesus into the waters of baptism.

Rising from these symbolic waters, Mohiddin was inspired to change his name—a common practice in eastern culture upon significant life changes.

He would now be known as Rishi Elijah. Rishi is an Indian name meaning, “Holy Seer,” and his new surname, Elijah, was inspired by the miracle-working prophet of the Old Testament in honor of his grandmother.

God Gives Grace to the Humble
Rishi and Udaya continued to grow spiritually. Before long, one of their friends told them about Beaverton Foursquare Church and invited them to visit. After listening to a sermon online, they decided to attend an Easter service and were soon convinced they'd found their church home. They began to connect more deeply with others at the church through the Mosaic fellowship, joining in the small group fellowship.

The following summer, they attended a special mid-week series about life in the Spirit entitled Dunamis. The timing was perfect, where their hunger for God was satisfied in an unexpected manner. They began to learn about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, specifically the speaking of heavenly tongues. They had seen people with this gift and Udaya told her husband that she also wanted it. Though he still had questions, Rishi prayed with Udaya for her to receive the gift. “Udaya’s enthusiasm about it was infectious,” Rishi remembers, “but I had no intention of pursuing this gift for myself. She insisted, so I said, ‘I will just pray for you that you will receive the Holy Spirit’s baptism. You are the one most eager to receive it.’”

It was very quiet in their tiny apartment the night they began to pray. They could barely hear the sound of the soft Oregon rain trickling against their living room window. At first, nothing happened, but the couple continued to pray over the course of the next two days. Then the unexpected occurred.

“I was praying for my wife, when suddenly something happened to me. An unknown language began to flow from my mouth. I had no idea what I was saying, but I knew it was the Holy Spirit speaking through me. I had so much peace from God! I felt like a river was flowing through me. I was not sure what happened to me, or whether or not it was real.” Later, Rishi went to talk to a pastor about what happened, where he realized this experience was, indeed, a gift of the Holy Spirit.

Why Not Me?
Udaya remembers watching her husband transform. “He was glowing and I could tell it was not him speaking. It was amazing! I was so happy for him and there was such peace for both of us.” But after a few days, Udaya was perplexed and worried about why she did not receive this gift. After all, she was the one who was most eager for it. “This must be because I didn’t pray hard enough,” she reasoned. Udaya wanted to give up, but with a persistent heart she thought, “No, why should I give up?”

Time passed without an answer to Udaya’s persistent prayers. Even so, the couple continued to grow in their faith, their love for God, and for one another. Their desire to start a family began to grow. Moved by the Holy Spirit, Rishi laid hands on Udaya’s belly one day and prophesied that she would have a baby.

The following year, Udaya gave birth to their first son and named him Enoch. Udaya and Rishi had been blessed, but still, she felt something was missing. She kindly reminded God that she still wanted the baptism of the Holy Spirit. “Through tears, I told God that I needed Him,” she expressed. “I reminded Him that His Word said simply to ask, and so I did. It doesn’t say you have to qualify, it doesn’t say you have to be educated.” She remembered His promises: Ask and it shall be given. If you are thirsty, come to me and out of you rivers of living water will flow. That day her faith became sight. The gift of heavenly tongue Udaya had been earnestly seeking flowed mightily through her as she pursued the Lord in fervent prayer.

Since then Rishi and Udaya have continued to grow spiritually as they’ve worshiped and served at Beaverton Foursquare. God has revealed himself in deep and powerful moments, meeting them in their circumstances and walking with them step-by-step. Through miracles and divine moments, within the faithful presence of their faith communities, and by the baptisms of water and of the Holy Spirit, their thirst for the presence of Jesus has only grown. As has their conviction that Jesus is the one who has met them and loved them at every turn and at every crossroad.

“On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus said, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. to the one who believes in me, it is just as the scripture has said: streams of living water will flow from within him.’ He was speaking about the spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.” (John 7:37-39)

To learn more about life in the Spirit, check out the Dunamis study here.

 

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