By Shannon Baker, BCM/D National Correspondent
ELLICOTT CITY, Md.—When Paul Viswasam prayerwalked around a city in a East Asia province with a group from Maryland, he had the incredible feeling that he walking in his father’s footsteps.
Many years earlier, his father, S. Viswasam, part of the Indian regiment of British forces during World War II, walked the same ground protecting against enemies. Perhaps, even then, his father knew that his son would one day be in the same place.
Only this time, he would share the gospel that would protect the country from the real enemy.
This past summer, Paul traveled to East Asia with a team from Mid-Maryland Association. While there, he couldn’t help but think about his father, whose radical faith served as an incredible example to him.
During the war, the elder Viswasam was attacked by the enemy forces and suffered physical and emotional wounds in Myanmar (then called Burma). It was during his escape from death, that he “began to see the light.”
Viswasam recalled his father’s newfound revelation. “People shouldn’t be killing each other like that,” he had said.
The thought penetrated his father’s very soul. Rather than accepting a lucrative position with Shell Oil Company, the elder Viswasam decided to work with the downtrodden—the untouchables in a small village in India.
Ultimately, Viswasam’s father became a missionary teacher with Danish missionaries in a remote place of South India which is now called “Danishpet.” Both his parents’ dedication as they gave up other prospects in life to go as missionary teachers touched Paul, though it wasn’t until much later in life that the teaching took effect.
“That missionary zeal was instilled in me when I was very young,” Paul noted, remembering how his parents once rescued two babies, who had been thrown in the gutter because they were born out of wedlock.
Paul also remembered a little 8-year-old boy named Jay (who at the time was the same age he was) whose father was dying from cancer. The dying father begged Paul’s father to take the boy, and he did.
Jay, in adulthood, later became a missionary, a pastor, teacher and a professor at Manila Baptist College in the Philippines.
“My parents collected many untouchable kids, brought them home, bathed them, gave them clothes and taught them,” Paul recounted. “They cared for so many who were deprived of things that we had.”
But it wasn’t easy for Paul. Notwithstanding the pouring out of love all around him, he still felt the burden of the extreme criticism that his father faced from other family members. They mocked his “low family standards.”
Yet, the elder Viswasam maintained, “My God will never let them down.”
In fact, the younger Viswasam and his siblings got a good education. He went to Serampore University established by William Carey, the 19th century Baptist missionary. Though in school, his heart wasn’t yet receptive to being in ministry.
And then in 1981, God used his father’s death to really focus his life. His childhood friend Jay came to the funeral, as did many others who testified how God changed their lives through his father’s ministry.
Paul found himself melting into God’s love, feeling the call to ministry, and finally understanding God’s touch on his father’s life.
Since that time, the younger Viswasam has been in ministry for 28 years, and for the past three years, he has served as senior pastor of Bethel Church. He now leads his Ellicott City congregation to embrace missions, locally and abroad.
As he examined his own life, he saw the truth. “You can’t keep Christ away,” he said.
“My born again experience and baptism is much more meaningful now than ever before, because as I get older I begin to realize the faithfulness of the Lord in spite of human unfaithfulness,” Paul said.