On January 12th, our dear brother in Christ Philemon Raj passed away. It was as sudden as this sentence. He succumbed to a cardiac arrest, which left him physically lifeless in the early hours of Friday morning. He was 42 and left behind his wife and two daughters. We were shocked beyond words, as we had met him looking very well, the previous Sunday at a leader's meeting.
While considering what to do next and how to help the family through this unexpected tragedy, we were constantly reminded of the way our brother lived: a missionary's life, to the end.
Philemon had been a disciple for past 25 years, baptized as a teen. His fervor for the Lord and his mission was evident since then, all through his life. His zeal to proclaim the good news by going into the mission field resulted in him being chosen to be part of the Hyderabad mission planting in 1994. He was just 19 years old then. He was fruitful multiple times there and found the love of his life and was married.
Philemon hails from a very poor family with eight siblings. He was the eldest of five boys, so his father was banking on him to work and support the family. When he chose to go on the mission team to Hyderabad, his father was very angry and stopped talking to him. Philemon tried reaching out to him, yet his father was unwilling to speak to him. At the funeral, when his father saw the huge turnout of people from Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai and heard them sharing about him, he came forward to share about his son. His father said, "I am amazed at how God has used my son all these years, to see so many lives touched by him."
Philemon had to change jobs often to sustain himself and his family, mostly having just enough to go by. But his zeal for the mission never waned. His return to Bangalore saw him take some time to recharge himself and continue the mission work here with the same zeal.
The extent of Philemon's missionary zeal in the world was evident to the church after his passing away. Many of his colleagues, past and present, when they came to know about the tragedy expressed their grief and came forward to help his family. One of them went to the extent of raising funds to support his daughters' education for the next few years and created a fundraising page online. The goal was to raise a certain amount in 30 days. The goal was overshot by an additional 17% with several weeks to go, at the time of writing this article. What's more inspiring is what those who knew him at work had to say about him.
In the comment section one gentleman wrote:
"Philemon Raj was an awesome man and even greater Christian. Even though I was 2000 miles away from my family when I was working in Bangalore, he always made me feel at home with his big smile and gentle demeanor. I wish I would have taken him up on his offer to join him at church when he asked. You will forever be missed!"
Philemon had moved out of Sodexo, a few months back, yet many of colleagues came to the funeral and were in tears. Now the management is considering offering a job to the daughter once she completes her B.Com next year.
The sight at the funeral was one every faithful Christian would dream of. People shared how he ran the good race till the end. Many are still trying to find words to express those conflicting emotions. But an inspiring verse from the Bible in Psalm 116:15 encourages us: "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants."
While the future is uncertain for all, it is more so for the family left behind. We request those who are reading this to say a prayer for Philemon Raj's family in Bangalore, India.
Indeed Philemon will be missed, but he will remain forever in our hearts.