For Samuel Devraj, the fact that FCA India actually exists and is thriving is nothing less than a miracle. But it’s not really a surprise. After all, miracles have been a part of Devraj’s life from the very beginning.
In a country where 80 percent of the population is Hindu, Devraj was among the two percent to be born into a Christian family. It was likewise miraculous to see how he was used to impact impoverished Indians through his work in education and community development.
And then in 1987, the birth of his second son provided one of the greatest miracles of all.
“He was born with a hole in his heart and underwent open heart surgery when he was three years old,” Devraj explains. “Through that situation, our family was challenged to fast one meal each day and pray for God to show us His vision for us.”
Ten years later, Devraj received what he describes as a “great vision” leading millions of people through a tall door into a giant fortress and into the arms of Christ. Within a year, he quit his job and sought ways to evangelize his nation.
Four Facts About India
1. India is the second most populous country in the world and most populous democracy in the world with over 1.2 billion people.
2. About 80 percent of the population is Hindu while 12 percent is Muslim. Christianity makes up just over two percent of the population.
3. The Indian cinematic community produces the world’s most-watched movies. One of its offshoots is Bollywood, a popular Hindi-language film industry based in Bombay.
4. Some of the most popular sports in India include cricket, soccer and field hockey. Tennis has become increasingly popular due to the success of professionals athletes Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi.
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In 2002, another miracle took place. He met FCA staff member Barry Spofford, who was in India on a missions trip with members of his church congregation, which led to establishing International Cultural Bible Ministries. But because of Devraj’s experience as an elite athlete in multiple sports (track, soccer, basketball and field hockey), he knew he would have a much better chance reaching young people through sports ministry.
Spofford told Devraj about FCA, but at the time FCA International was not in place. So the two decided to take up the matter in prayer. In 2007, FCA extended its tents beyond the United States and looked to Devraj to head up its ministry in India.
“I was so happy and thankful that the Lord answered our prayers,” he says. “Dan Britton was an instrument in bringing FCA to our country. It took five years to bring understanding of the ministry to the athletes, but it’s exploded since.”
It certainly hasn’t been easy. Devraj has faced opposition from anti-Christian forces on one side and skeptical Christian church leaders on the other. FCA India has also dealt with local sports organizations and coaches who sometimes see the ministry as a threat.
“Sometimes it’s difficult to openly talk about the Bible on the field,” Devraj says. “And the Church is weak in India. Church leaders do not cooperate openly. Some churches still believe that playing sports is a sin. But due to continuous awareness, some churches are now opening their doors. In all situations, we have to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”
Spofford has seen first hand how FCA India has impacted the nation in a short period of time.
“India is a vast country that loves sports,” he says. “FCA India can do incredible things there. The only thing that is limiting growth is a lack of resources. Samuel and his staff do impressive sports ministry with minimal finances.”
Currently, FCA India has nine regional centers and six regional leaders. Volleyball, basketball, soccer, baseball, track, gymnastics and indigenous indoor games are among several high-yielding opportunities for ministry. Devraj has seen specific successes through community outreach and camps.
“We had 350 athletes in our camp over seven days,” he reports. “It featured a basketball clinic with 27 athletes from Chicago. Every one of the athletes accepted Christ on the last day during an altar call. The camp had the greatest impact we could have ever expected.”
As FCA India continues to grow, Devraj is praying for three more regional leaders, the creation of more camps, and the development of athletes who can compete in state, national and international events including the Olympics.
FCA International Executive Vice President Dan Britton agrees with Devraj in his assessment that the nation remains ripe for the harvest.
“There are so many opportunities to impact the masses in India with the vehicle of sport,” Dan Britton adds. “It has been incredible to see God move in South Asia and raise up godly leadership in India to spread the Gospel. We expect even greater things to happen in India over the coming months and years.”