My call to the Ministry - Pastor Shadrach K. Joseph

Following my conversion from Hinduism to Christianity at the age of 17, I grew increasingly disillusioned with the system of organized religion, watching those I had considered until then to be heroes of the faith fall like Lucifer, like Dathan, like Saul. I had looked up to many pastors and teachers in the denominational circuit, and many proved in time to possess a penchant for fraud, hypocrisy, and deceit. They loved the god of this present world rather than the Lord of all worlds, and lived a life dedicated to filling their bellies rather than working for the kingdom of God. I learned of a minister who funded his ministry with false prophecy and public demands for financial help. Another minister I knew seemed at first genuine, but later threw off his sheep’s clothing and began raving of caste superiority. And for a young and immature Christian such as I was at that age, still taking my first steps and strides in my new found faith, these supposed examples of Christianity pulled down my enthusiasm a notch.

It was not just the fact that these ministers who took on the garb of angels of light were deceiving the laiety that riled me. It was the fact that in spite of knowing about their lives and their sins, the system of religion they belonged to stood meekly by without chiding, contradicting, or rebuking them, and rather condoning their deliberate offences as weaknesses, and covering their shame with the cloak of ignorance. How different from the Apostles who rebuked sin before all, that the church might grow in the fear of God, and that true faith might not be perverted. Could such a system that blinks at sin rather than reproves it, and then preaches the forgiveness of Christ as an excuse to mask the demons of vice lurking beneath, be right?

I began exploring the different facets of Christianity, the teachings of different denominations, and the Lord’s teachings regarding Christian living in the New Testament in depth. It was at this time that I had a dream.

In my dream I appeared to be in the Church I was attending at that time (which was the largest Pentecostal church in Coimbatore). Before the pulpit, I saw a cross descend from above. This cross was covered in gold and decked with numerous precious stones, and I stared at it in awe and wonder. 

Suddenly a friend of mine called me from the entrance of the church.

Arjun!” he cried, (Arjun was the name I was known by before my conversion to Christianity)

“Jesus Christ is here to see you, come quickly!”

At this I turned around in amazement and shouted,

“Well then tell him to come on in! This is His church after all, and look, this is His cross.”

My friend appeared to have a conversation at the door and then said,

“He says that He cannot come in but that you should come out and meet Him.”

I was a bit quizzical about this, but ran out just the same to meet Jesus. When I saw Him, I was touched by His simplicity. He had an ordinary face, so ordinary that you would not remember it much for beauty except for the kindness in His eyes. He wore a plain white tunic and robe and stood waiting for me. The Lord waiting for me?!!

As I drew near I said, 

“Lord why did you not come in to the church? There is place to sit in there. You don’t have to wait out here."

The Lord said, 

"It's alright, I'll stand out here."

I did not really understand why He said this and so asked,

"Lord, shall I get a chair for you to sit on?"

To which he replied,

"No it's OK. I'll just sit down here."

And to my surprise He sat down on the floor outside the church.

For a while I really didn't know just what to speak to Him, and we both looked at each other. Then I asked,

"Lord, did you come looking for me?"

At this the Lord simply said, 

"Yes son, I have come looking for you.”

On hearing these words it was as if a dam burst inside me and I collapsed at the feet of the Lord weeping and wailing like an infant, crying,

“My Lord, my Jesus, you came looking for me?!!”

And in my dream, the Lord Jesus embraced me and rocked me on His chest like a little child, comforting me as I sobbed and sobbed.

When I woke up, my pillows were drenched with my tears that had fallen without my knowledge. The dream stayed with me for a long time after that, and is till date as vivid as the day I saw it.

It was after this that I separated myself entirely for prayer. I went through frequent fasting and spent time on my knees in silent meditation before my Maker in a motor shed behind my house for a month asking Him to speak to me regarding the strange but remarkable dream I had had, and to answer the questions my searching mind had voiced regarding Christianity.

While in prayer I felt the Lord leading me through His Word to leave the denominations and set myself apart for Him.

During this time, a gardener who worked for us then, happened to come by one day, and on seeing me secluded in the motor shed in prayer, offered me an audio preaching tape. It was a message by someone known as William Marrion Branham. And the message was clear and simple: “Come out of her my people and be not partaker of her sins. Come out of denominations.” And in that simple gesture of a gardener in giving me a tape of someone I had never heard about preaching to me the things that the Spirit of God had been speaking within my own heart, I found the confirmation I had been looking for.

I asked the gardener who had given him the tape, and was told about a brother sharing the Word in our area. I contacted him to know more about what I had heard on the tape.

The following day, I had another dream in which a young man stood before me and said, "Be baptized in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ for the remission of sins."

The next morning I ran to the brother I had met the day before and asked him if there was anything like baptism in Jesus' Name in the Bible, at which he was surprised. He asked me how I knew, and I told him I had received a dream about it the day before. He then began expounding to me Acts 2:38 and relating scriptures, and the eyes of my understanding were opened. I was full of joy and ready to be baptized.

The next day I received another dream from the Lord. In this dream, it appeared as if I was writing an exam in an unknown language. People around me were saying the exam was very tough. As I was writing, a man who looked like a teacher, stood by me and said, 

"Son, this exam is really quite tough. In order to pass you need to put on the shirt called 'Holy Spirit'. Unless you do this you will fail."

These two dreams made me understand the value of water baptism and spirit baptism, and how I needed both in order to receive the anointing power of God and live a victorious Christian life.

The brother I was in touch with at the time arranged for a minister to baptize me within a week. I was baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in 1992 at the age of 18, and left my links with denominational Christianity behind.

I suffered a lot of shame and persecution at the hands of ‘Christians’ in my own family on account of my new found faith. To them separation from a denomination was heresy, and baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ was the spirit of anti-Christ working in the children of disobedience. (Suprisingly, the denomination they belong to, now offers a choice to its followers regarding whichever baptism they favour.)

The Lord taught me through many other experiences, to put no trust in man. Men who speak the truth today could even fall in error tomorrow, but the Word of God was steadfast, without one dot or tittle passing away unfulfilled. The Lord confirmed my decision to leave denominationalism. He began to work in my life in new ways. I began sharing my faith with others and testifying publicly of the grace of God in my life.

It was at the age of 19 that I felt the Lord calling me to the ministry. It was not through an earthquake or mighty wind, but through his still small voice that I knew this. I began preaching at small gatherings of people of like faith. I shared the Christian faith with everyone I met. I was encouraged by ministers in street preaching and out reaches.

At this time, on account of my father separating himself from our family, the burden of responsibility had fallen squarely on my shoulders. I had only passed out of Xth grade, but was discouraged from further education as I had to tend to my mother, grandmother, widowed aunt, and her two daughters who came to live with us. So I sacrificed my education for a start in a new business enterprise – timber supply.

It was not by chance that my foray into the timber business happened to be at the same time the Lord called me to the ministry. It was Satan at work bringing about a hindrance to delay the blessing of the Lord. On the one hand I was faced with my duty to my family, and on the other my duty to God. And so I ignored my heart’s insistent nudge to follow the Lord who had promised to make his disciples fishers of men, and threw myself wholly into building up my business.

The money began rolling in. I began handling lakhs at a time. I gave more to the Lord, in tithes, in offerings, in financial support to poor minsters, for worthy Christian causes, to help for those in need. And my family’s needs were also seen to. However, the more I earned, the more I gave, the more I displeased the Lord. I had disobeyed His will, and that gave me no peace in my heart as I continued to toil, and continued to give.

Over the course of the following years, the Lord spoke to me three times from the book of Haggai Chapter 1: 4-10

Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste? Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD. Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house. Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit.

I understood Him in time. My business went into loss. I had to invest all my savings to keep it afloat. It was as if the Lord was biding his time, waiting until he could lop off my support and leave me humble and vulnerable and ready to obey Him. It was like telling Jeremiah not to take a wife for his comfort, or telling Jonah to go preach repentance to the despicable Ninehvites. I would have to be rendered helpless if I was to obey.

In time, I was bankrupt. Creditors were knocking at my door and we began selling our property, our furniture, our valuables, just to pay back our debts and make ends meet. In my desperation to alter the course of events that followed, I worked odd jobs. I tried painting, a door carving franchise, masala (powdered spices) sales, courier service, MLM. At the end of it all I was so tired, I just threw up my hands in surrender and said, “Lord, you win! Take me! I’m all yours.”

I wanted to earn more so that I could live a life of comfort and provide for those I love, and at the same time offer the best to the Lord. But it was just not His plan for me. To understand that the Lord wanted me in complete subjection to Him, along with my family, my worldly goods, and my plans, ambitions, and dreams, took me some time. I learned the hard way, that you cannot fight against the Will of God for long. It has a way of catching up with you, sneaking up on you unawares, and then pulling the rug out from under you as you fall on your knees in absolute submission.

Most men of God tend to hide in the lower deck of a boat like Jonah, or make excuses about their age and inexperience like Jeremiah, or doubt their own worth like Gideon. Yet many of us overlook the fact that it is in our weakness that the Lord can prove His strength, it is by our helplessness and worthlessness, and our utter and complete dependence on Him that the Lord can be magnified as the giver of all good things, as the hope of the hopeless, as the ever present help in trouble.

A couple of brothers who were my prayer companions at the time, prayed for me and, being led by the Spirit encouraged me in the ministry. Apart from my immediate family, I began rallying believers from all walks of life, until we established a fellowship in Coimbatore. 

It was during this time, that I made the great mistake of falling prey to my insecurities, downplaying my worth, and putting my trust in men. Under the burden of debt and severe financial constraints, I succumbed to my physical weaknesses, and shifted my gaze from the work of the Lord, rather giving place to those I considered more worthy to do the Lord’s work forgetting that God sees not as man sees.

A co-worker in the ministry, and another preacher who I made the mistake of trusting and sad to say, even glorifying, both joined forces and led many of the flock astray. They brought in strange rules and regulations, and misquoted scripture, confusing the simple hearted. They preyed on the gullibility and compassion of the people and destroyed what I had laboured for for years, in a matter of months. When I challenged this brother’s leadership, I was scorned and ostracized, so much so that my own friends and family deserted me. It was at this time of great spiritual upheaval in my life, broken in body and spirit, that I cried out to the Lord as Samson had, “Just one more time Lord!”

Later on in life, I learned that if I had only hearkened to the will of the Lord earlier on, I would have spared myself and my family a lot of heartache. I was only delaying the blessing of the Lord and hindering His work. He wanted to accomplish something in me, and that could only work if I was 100% committed to His service, regardless of the sorrow, difficulty, and deprivation it would mean. It is not easy to be a fisher of men, if you are still busy concentrating on catching fish. You undoubtedly find your net empty most of the time until you realize that you have been ‘called’ for something else.

I had been in touch off and on with Bro. Valerian Serrao from Mumbai. I had written letters to him voicing my doubts regarding certain spiritual issues for clarification, and asking advice in my time of need. However, the co-worker who had deceived me had cleverly intercepted the response to those letters, so that I may never receive any word from this brother, and I ultimately assumed that he was no more interested in keeping up communication with me.

I was at a crossroads in my life at this period, questioning my initial call to the ministry, wondering where it had all gone wrong for me. Things had come to such a crux, that life in Coimbatore in the circle I had been occupying was nearly lost. The people who used to respect me before scorned me now. I was a byword, a third wheel, a bird who had lost its plumage in the storm.

With little to keep me in my hometown, no loved ones hanging around the corner, no church responsibilities to be discharged, my life’s work lying in ruins, I thought of the friendship I had once cherished with Bro. Vally and wondered if it had stood the test of time. And so it was with a heavy heart and a meagre amount of cash in my pocket that I set off for Mumbai, hoping for help in some way from the Lord.

When I tried calling Bro. Vally’s home the night before I Ieft Coimbatore with my mother, his line was out. So I called his pastor instead, and the church in Mumbai welcomed me. Bro. Vally’s family was a source of great comfort and encouragement to me in those times of despair. 

The brethren in Mumbai got together and arranged for a deposit on a small rental place on the outskirts of the city for me and my mother. They helped us with furniture, utensils, food, and even helped start a business to get my life back on track. My mother began powdering spices which we packed and sold in the city’s shops and marketplaces. A brother came forward and started a lunch house for me to manage. However grateful I was for these small mercies, the fact that escaped almost everyone’s notice, was that I was a 'Jonah' running away from the presence of the Lord and from the responsibilities of my calling. As a result the jobs that I laid my hands on did not prosper. Just as the waves overcame the ship Jonah had boarded and threatened to drown the crew until they cast Jonah out, the jobs I undertook threatened to collapse.

What I observed at that time was this: no matter how hard everyone tried to get me into something that would 'lift me up', so to speak, I kept wrestling with the one conflict in my mind – the burden for the souls in Coimbatore which did not leave me even for a minute. Often the burden was distracted by the good fellowship and company of the people in Mumbai, and detoured by the need to get back on my feet and get my broken life built up again. The burden was temporarily lulled into sleep with the pressure of other mounting cares that took preference – "What are you going to do with the rest of your life? Why isn’t anything working out for you? You’re not trying hard enough. Is this the Lord’s Will?"

Even while in Mumbai I tried to sell the Silver Oak logs, through agents. To my surprise, at that time I heard that the cutting order had been released and I joyfully came back to Coimbatore hoping to cut my losses. But when I stepped into the agent’s office and saw his face, I knew something was wrong. He told me the cutting order was stopped once again because of a public demonstration. And I can’t forget what he said, 

"For some reason, I think there’s something really wrong with you; that you’re the cause of all this. When you left Coimbatore, the order was released and the moment you came back it was stopped."  

At that time, the voices of the men in the ship with Jonah rang out clearly in my ears, 

"Come and let us cast lots that we may know, for whose cause this evil is upon us" (Jonah 1:7).

So somewhat mournfully, I returned to Mumbai. After a while I phoned the agent again, just out of curiosity, and he told me the cutting permit for the Silver Oak logs was once again released!  I did not need a knock on the head to confirm that this logging business was not the Will of God for my life.

The Lord had lead me to Mumbai for a time of rest and healing. He guided me once again through the rich pastures of His Word. He restored my soul. He instilled in me my lost confidence. He confirmed to me my calling, my witness, my purpose. I kept praying for the scattered sheep in Coimbatore and seeking His will regarding the ministry there.

One day, while walking in the marketplace, in the midst of the crowd, the shrieking vendors, the sound of traffic, and the noisy caterwauling of bargainers, I cried out to the Lord with tears rolling down my eyes in my desperation. Then, I distinctly heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Go back to Coimbatore. You need to do my work there. In the place that you were cast down, you shall be raised up again.” I can still hear those words today, echoing in my heart, inspiring my vision.

Bro. Richard L.S. Gan
It was nearly ten days later, while attending a convention at which Bro. Richard L.S. Gan from Singapore was the main speaker, that I felt the tug of the Lord on my heart again. Later, when I went to meet Bro. Gan in his hotel room, and related to him my troubles and experiences, he repeated the words that the Lord had spoken in my heart, “You need to go back to Coimbatore.”, he said, “God will raise you up in the same place you have borne shame.” 
Bro. Solomon Jacob

The Bible says, “By the mouth of two or three witnesses, shall every Word be established.” And so, a while later, Bro. Solomon Jacob (now settled in Israel), who had been praying for me, also told me. “The Lord wants you to go back to Coimbatore Bro. Shadrach. He will lead you there.” 

Once the Lord had confirmed His will for me, I could not wait to get back in the field knowing that my Lord had everything in control. So, placing all my burdens on him, I left my temporary abode in bustling Mumbai, and moved back to Coimbatore with what little the brethren had given me there.

Bro. Vally provided me some money to tide me and my mother over for a few weeks while we settled back into our Coimbatore life. Another brother from South India helped me out with the deposit for a rental house in a place called Kovaipudur. After purchasing most of what was required for our daily living including provisions; all that remained in my hands was Rs. 450 (about US$10).  It was with this, that I began the ministry in Coimbatore once again.

However, the Lord led a few brethren from Mumbai and Ahmednagar to alternatively support me with their tithes and offerings till I got back on my feet. I met up with some of the believers who had scattered when the ministry fell. We began meeting on Sundays in my rental home. At that time, we were about 20 believers including me and my mother.

One night, in the year 2003, while I was in prayer and fasting, seeking the will of the Lord for my ministry, I read about the Rhema of God. The Word Rhema means: the Word of God manifesting itself in power: the Word that would be ministered would bear fruit through the power of God working in it. And the name Rhema Life Ministry was born. (Read more about Rhema in 
Rhema Life Ministry - The Beginning)

Once I launched into a full-fledged ministry life, eating little or nothing, labouring hard for the Lord who had delivered me from sin and death, and proving Him daily, I saw His wonders. I witnessed healings, miracles, gifts of the spirit in manifestation. I gained back the confidence I had lost. I found respect in the eyes of all those who knew me, respect as a true and obedient minster of God, and this helped to replace the shame of my Father’s flight, and the loss of my worldly goods.

The Lord led us through many wonderful spiritual experiences thereafter. Among them two instances come readily to mind; One was how the Lord confirmed my ministry. My mother and I went on our knees in fasting for eight days for the Lord's leading on where I should go to minister. At the end of that period, I received a word from the Lord promising that I would be used in many places in my country, that I would preach in many different churches across India. On the heels of this promise came a letter in the post with an invitation to minister in Warangal, Andhra Pradhesh. (Read about the ministry work there in Andhra Pradesh 2005 - 2009)

We rejoiced at the end of our days at fasting on receiving this news, but we were weak from lack of food, and there was nothing in the house, and no money to buy food. My mother went out into the back garden to see if there were any herbs to grind into chutney, when she saw to her surprise a huge ripened jackfruit hanging from a tree there: a fruit out of season! That jackfruit was our meal that day.

“The Lord shall supply all your needs, according to His riches in glory.” (Philippians 4:19)

Bro. P.G. Bhalerao
Bro. Valerian A. Serrao

Another instance was when Bro. Vally from Mumbai and Bro. Balerao from Ahmednagar, came to Coimbatore to support me for a while. The grandmother of one of the brothers who had been coming to fellowship with us was ill with stomach cancer. In fact, there was a gaping hole in her side where the cancer had eaten into the stomach. The area stank, and she had to use a tube and bag for her waste as her digestive and excretory system had failed. As she was around 92, the doctors had given up hope. But the sisters of that family asked us to pray for her. We weren't able to make the trip to Chennai where she was ill, so Bro. Vally, Bro. Balerao, and I prayed over some oil and handed it over to those sisters asking them to apply it in faith over the affected areas and pray to the Lord to heal the old lady. 

Within a week, they reported with great joy, that the area that had been eaten up was now closed tight, just as if someone had sutured it up.

“And the prayer of faith shall save the sick.” (James 5:15)

These experiences gave me a mighty spiritual boost and kept my faith flying high in those initial days of ministry.

Bro. James Veremu
Bro. Gan, Bro. James Veremu from Zimbabwe, and Bro. Solomon Jacob visited me there alternately, and we ministered in and around Coimbatore. I was focusing on the Kovaipudur area then, and also ministering to a small flock in Conoor, The Niligiris. I resided and worked in Kovaipudur for around 7-8 months.

For a long time, there had been a gnawing voice in my heart urging me to go back to the old church that had been broken up – the area in which I had suffered so much shame. Remembering the word of the Lord that day in the marketplace in Mumbai, I obediently packed up my few belongings, handed in the keys to my rental home, and made the trudge up the hill with my mother into the shanty town of Sethamil Nagar, Sugunapuram, home to Coimbatore’s less fortunate.

The church building had been left sadly neglected. There were great gaps in the walls, the windows were mere strips of broken wood, the roof prone to leaks, and the floor – hard, cold stone. There were no bathroom amenities, no heat, no electricity. We cleaned up the area the best that we could and settled in.

The monsoons in the area were overwhelming and the gales on the hill blew fiercely through the cracks in the walls. The church building was a 30 X 15 structure and we cooked, lived, and worshipped within it. 

Our church slowly grew. A visiting minister and one of the then members in our church helped us build a bathroom and kitchen. Bro. Vally helped plaster the walls and get the rafters changed. The church brethren arranged for electricity and wiring, some purchased chairs and mats, some fixed up the windows and doors. The church in Senthamil Nagar was slowly coming into its own.

The Church pulpit

When I look back across those initial times of hardship and suffering, I marvel that I have come so far. I look at the ministry today and can’t help but smile when I remember the days we had huddled on the cold stone floor. The Lord has fulfilled His promise to me: to raise me up in the place I had suffered shame.

It was here that a sister who attended our church from time to time manifested an evil spirit. This happened during the prayer service, when I felt the leading of the Lord to pray strongly rebuking the powers of darkness. The woman writhed like a snake on the floor, her body convulsing and contorting at inhuman angles. She finally 'slithered' right up to the pulpit and collapsed on the floor in submission, before the spirit left her completely. The Lord then lead me to speak to her husband, and I asked them both to commit their lives to the Lord. They agreed and the next day, the sister came to the church with a fresh and renewed countenance and told us that she felt at peace for the first time in ages, and also, that she was 5 kgs lighter than the day before!

"And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils;...."

I was married in 2007 to Benita Serrao, the daughter of my beloved friend, Bro. Valerian Serrao from Faith Assembly, Mumbai. Our wedding was a miracle in itself seeing how the Lord supplied our needs at the time. She has been a great support and encouragement to me all these years, a worthy helpmate, carrying the cross with me, and bearing the world’s reproach for the sake of the Word of God. (Read her testimony: God in the Darkness)

Bro. Vally and his wife settled down with us in Coimbatore. Bro. Vally was ordained an elder in Rhema Life Church in 2009 and was a pillar for the ministry work here. He went to be with the Lord in August 2011. (Read his testimony and our tribute to him on In Memoriam) )

Over the years many believers have come and gone. Most left because of the attractions of the world, because the truth was too hard to bear. But those still standing for the truth, have grown stronger in the Word. Though it is just a small slate roof building in a hamlet in the hills, its walls hold a family of committed Christians. A church is not a building, but people who are yielding. And these people have helped contribute to carry Rhema Life Ministry’s message throughout India.

Today Rhema Life Ministry is more than just one church. We have services in Senthamil Nagar, (the hill), alternate week prophetic awareness meetings in Coimbatore city, We have a women’s prayer cell every Wednesday, a fasting prayer service every Friday, and monthly Communion services in Senthamil Nagar.

I am working on conducting prophetic awareness meetings in and around Coimbatore. In addition, we have a church in Poolankudi, Trichy.

In 2009, there was a prophecy in our church regarding future ministry endeavours. The Lord said, “Your feet shall tread on lands your eyes have not seen.”

Following this prophecy, in 2012, I received a call from the Lord to carry the end time message of prophetic awareness to churches all over India warning them of the close of the Laodecian Age, the signs of the coming of the Lord, and the reign of the anti-Christ. (Read My INDIA vision)

Besides Tamil Nadu, I have ministered in the Andaman Islands, Maharashtra, New Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and Andhra Pradesh. I trust the Lord to open new doors in 2014 to reach the masses in different states across India. I especially pray for the people of Tamil Nadu, that in this time of gross darkness, their eyes may be opened to see the difference in the message of the hour, to see through the false doctrines and flattering words of the prosperity mongers of today, and hold fast to the pure and unadulterated, Living Word of God.


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