By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife reporting from Budapest with additional reports from India
NEW DELHI/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)-- Hundreds of mourners have braved heavy rain to attend the burial of controversial Indian evangelist Peramangalam Porinju Job, who became a global voice for persecuted Christians in Muslim and Communist nations, a Catholic news agency reported Wednesday, August 29.
Job died of a heart attack on August 19 in Hungary, where he had gone on a preaching mission, reported the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) citing family and friends.
The evangelist, who was compared to American preacher Billy Graham for speaking worldwide to crowds of up to 500,000 people, was laid to rest Tuesday, August 28, at York Cemetery in India's capital New Delhi.
He was 67.
His supporters saw him as a close friend of the "voiceless" and "helpless", though the evangelist's image was somewhat tarnished last year by a scandal over "fake orphans" who his organization allegedly used in an international fund-raising operation.
'FRIEND IN TOUGH TIMES'
Yet, "Job was like a friend in tough times, he had solution for all problems,” said his associate K.O. George in published remarks.
Third of a veterinary doctor’s four sons, Job managed to leave his native Indian state of Kerala to join the Union Biblical Seminary in Pune, viewed as the cultural and education capital of Maharashtra state, Christians said.
After securing doctorate degrees in philosophy and theology, he began working as an evangelist in 1963, especially among persecuted Christians in Communist and Muslim countries.
Job eventually became the president of International Christian Association, a family of mission groups, founded by Reverend Richard Wurmbrand, a Romanian evangelist who opposed Communism.
His preaching mission took him to 129 countries, according to Christians familiar with Job's traveling schedule.
WRITING BEST-SELLING BOOKS
He also authored best-selling books including 'With a dynamic Man of God', 'Fifth Gospel', and 'Why God Why', read by millions.
Job set up a printing press operation that publishes 3 million pieces of Christian literature annually in 37 languages, according to his organization.
The evangelist ran into trouble however with his scandals-plagued Michael Job Center, a Christian orphanage and school in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
Last year, Indian and international media said his charity falsely portrayed young Buddhist girls from Nepal as "orphans" of murdered Christians to raise money from
for instance British, American and Dutch churches.
Parents reportedly paid a child-trafficker to take their daughters to good schools in Nepal's capital, Kathmandu, but instead were taken over 1,200 miles (1,920 kilometers) to the city of Coimbatore in India's southern state of Tamil Nadu.
CHILDREN ABANDONED BY PARENTS?
Media said the Buddhists children were "converted" to Christianity and given a serial number and profiles.
The charity claimed on websites they had been either abandoned by their parents who did not want the financial burden of raising girls, or orphaned after their "Christian" parents were murdered by Nepal's Maoist insurgents.
At least 23 children, some of whom had not seen their parents for a decade, were eventually rescued by Indian authorities.
Job denied wrongdoing, blaming instead the alleged human trafficker, Dal Bahadur Phadera.
"Most of the children mentioned were brought by Himalayan Orphanage Development Center, Humla, run by Mr Dal Bahadur Phadera ... At the time of admission it was brought to [my] attention that the children are uncared [for] and that they are living within India," he wrote in a letter published by media.
"The children were neglected by the society and [were] in [the] orphanage. Till today we are taking care of children properly," he said.
EVANGELIST ADMIRED FOR COURAGE
Christians who knew him said that despite the controversy they admired his courage in the predominantly Hindu nation, where he was attacked by Hindu groups.
In June of 1999, following a failed attempt on Job’s life, suspected Hindu militants killed his 21 year old son, Michael, by running him down with a car near the medical school where he was studying to become a doctor.
At his son’s funeral, evangelist Job was heard saying: “[Losing my son] was like having my right arm cut off. But I will still serve God with my left arm.”
The very next year, in 2000, Job began the Michael Job Center to provide a sanctuary for what he called "the daughters of martyred persecuted and destitute Christians."
Though some have been dubbed "fake orphans" by media, organizers say some 500 impoverished girls are still at the center from all over India.
LAST SERMON ON TRIALS
Just hours before he passed away of a heart attack, Job spoke about his life's trials and triumphs in front of a church in eastern Hungary.
He said believers should not be "mere preachers of the Gospel, but demonstrators of it," according to a published text of the sermon.
Referring to Bible verses from Philippians, he stressed that trials and sufferings are "for the furthering of the Gospel."
When asked where he sees spiritual revivals in the world, he told the congregation that they are "places where there are prayer groups," adding that he knew of Christians meeting three times a week to pray and worship.
"If you want revival, then start praying," he reportedly said. It were one of his last publicly spoken words before he passed away of a heart attack at the pastor's home in the northeastern Hungarian village of Tiszanagyfalu.
WIFE URGING MORE PRAYERS
He is survived by his longtime wife, Mary, who stressed in a statement seen by BosNewsLife that her husband "entered his heavenly abode."
Mary Job said she was thankful for the "messages of condolences, prayerful support and personal visits...to pass through these days of bereavement following the unexpected demise" of her husband.
She requested Christians around the world for "continued prayers and support for furthering the ministry of 'Dr. P.P. Job'," the other name used by her husband, "and [support for] the institutions he had nurtured and developed."
(Journalist Allan Boyko in Budapest contributed to this story).