Photo Friday: Benjamin Mirandi, Evangelist

Benjamin Mirandi, a Santal Indian convert to Christianity and a Brethren in Christ evangelist, preaches to a crowd of Santals. A note on the back of the photo explains the circumstances: "Benjamin giving the Christmas message . . . The long line of clothes is the complete Christmas story in flannelgraph." (Courtesy of the Brethren in Christ Historical Society and Library)

In the 1940s, Benjamin Mirandi was converted through Christian missionary activity in India’s Bihar Province. Soon after, he became an evangelist to his own people, the Santals, and a member of the Brethren in Christ Church in India.

The story of Mirandi’s conversion, and a report of his evangelistic efforts, after the jump.

Here’s an excerpt from Mirandi’s conversion story, published in the North American church newspaper, the Evangelical Visitor:

I was born in a pagan Santhal home south of the Ganges River. My father was a very zealous worshiper of spirits, demons, gods, and goddesses. In fact he was a priest. So, when I was but a child I began to learn various incantations, and eagerly gave myself to acquiring all the knowledge of my ancestral religion with its rites, ceremonies, dances, sacrifices, and practices. . . . It was natural that I presumed that I had a lot of deities supporting me, both Hindu and pagan. But God tested me with a severe plague.

Every morning my hands, feet, and chest would be covered with a sprinkling of blood. . . . For twelve years this was a daily occurrence. . . .

After the death of his daughter soon thereafter, and without relief from his “plague” of blood, Mirandi thought,

“I have spent so much money, time and energy in this religion and I have found nothing but trouble, sorrow, plague, and death. I am going to forsake it all.” . . . I started to attend Christian services. The Christians, who knew me well, thought I was coming to find out all about them and then ridicule them. They knew I was a religious leader among my people and they had not the slightest idea or hope that I would ever become a Christian. When they asked me why I was coming to church I broke down and wept. . . .

After attending the services for some time, Mirandi invited the missionary to his home:

The missionary came (the Christians had assembled there too), and just stepped inside my door. He knelt on one knee, and prayed these words, “This house is under a great test. Let there be peace from this day. Then he went quietly away. | From that day on the plague was stopped. The palpitation of my heart stopped. A great peace came to me, that was twenty years ago, and no blood spots have ever appeared on my body again.1

In later years, Mirandi’s work as a Brethren in Christ evangelist were often documented by North American missionaries. As an observer wrote of him in 1951:

[Mirandi] looked like a prophet as he stood with a blanket draped over his spotlessly white garments. His eyes flashed for he was proclaiming in power the Word of God to his people. And it pleased the Lord to save those who believed. First came Jatha, a young man who was baptized in the stream near Khanua village. Soon he brought four others to the Lord and they too were baptized. Then two young women came . . .

Thus a new church has taken birth among the Santals.2

Notes:
1. Evangelical Visitor, October 3, 1949, p. 328-329.
2. Handbook of Missions (Nappanee, Ind.: Evangel Press, 1951), p. 65. For more on Mirandi and the missionary activity of native converts in India, see Carlton O. Wittlinger, Quest for Piety and Obedience (Nappanee, Ind.: Evangel Press, 1978), p. 465.

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About Devin Manzullo-Thomas

Father to Lucas. Husband to Katie. Prof and administrator at Messiah College. PhD student at Temple University. Member of Grantham BIC.
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