Hi, my name is Jitendra Kumar Verma. I am from Bhilai in Chattisgarh, India. I was born in 1987.
Chattisgarh is known for two things; it is the rice bowl of India and it has the Bhilai Steel Plant, one of Asia’s largest steel plants. My father hails from Allahabad in North India; he was employed in the Bhilai Steel Plant.
I was diagnosed as dyslexic during my fourth standard (grade). I was a passionate and enthusiastic boy and was eager to learn. But I failed in my fourth standard. This angered my father and he beat me for three days. My mother enrolled me for extra tuition and I managed to pass every year of school from then on, although I was still poor in studies.
When I was in my 8th standard, three of my classmates and I joined a boxing club. Boxing and running were my favorite sports. During my boxing trials the Sports Authority of India (SAI), Bhopal selected three others and me. I went on to win a gold medal and the best boxer award in the sub-junior category of the national level competition. I also participated in four National Camps; I played in many departmental tournaments organized by the SAI and I was doing well.
However, the area I lived in wasn’t good. Fights, drunkenness and extortion were common. My friends in sports were also in to these things. Due to peer pressure, I joined them in consuming tobacco, weed, wine, bhang, goli (Indian country drugs), etc. I also drank alcohol and smoked. I got addicted to all these things. I used to worship Hanuman, a Hindu patron god of sportsmen. I fasted every week as part of my devotion to him. However, Hanuman had no effect on my character. Not only was I helpless to overcome my addiction to alcohol and drugs, I would use religion to hurt others. During the Dussehra festival, I would extort money from every shop in my locality. I would beat up couples in the name of moral policing. I developed a macho, aggressive demeanor and would get into fights easily. My boxing friends and I would hang out every evening in the town square. In one of these meetings, the mother of Raju, one of my friends, confronted us.
“Sons, do you know Jesus Christ?” she asked
“Oh yes!” we replied
“You don’t know the real Jesus,” she said, “He is the Son of God; he came from heaven to earth and died for you on the cross of Calvary”
I gave her a blank look, like a child trying to block out reprimands from his parents. The next day the same thing happened. The third day onwards, we met at different places, trying to hide ourselves among the buildings of our neighborhood, but one day she caught us. Not only that, but one of my friends, also a Hanuman devotee, started listening intently to her.
“Dude, Jesus Christ really came from heaven and died for us”, he told me one day.
“You don’t really believe that, do you?” I replied, “People like this Aunty are just trying to make us Christians. Don’t get carried away”
However, something made me ponder these things: “Did Jesus really shed his blood for us? How could he?” I thought to myself.
Presently, my friend and I started visiting Raju’s house. There I met an evangelist (a full time Bible preacher). He started teaching us the basics from Genesis, the first book of the Bible
: how God created the world, how we sinned against Him
, and how God had sent His only begotten Son to the world to die for us
. After developing a basic knowledge of God’s word, I confessed my sin before God and received Jesus Christ as my lord and savior. My life changed drastically. I gave up my bad habits and got free from all my addictions. I began going to the meetings of the local church
on every Sunday. I haven't punched anyone since I became a disciple of Jesus Christ!
Shortly after this, I won a state championship in boxing. Because of my performance, I was also awarded a job in the Indian army. However, shortly after this, my right hand got dislocated during boxing. I was shocked. I didn’t sleep for three days. My friends started taunting me that this mishap occurred because I had left my religion and become a Christian. When my parents came to know that I had become a follower of Jesus Christ, they too became hostile towards me. Several times my father threw my Bible out of the window.
So far I had focused on boxing but now I couldn’t box. I hadn’t completed my education either. My parents also began taunting me that I was a failure. They insisted that I begin work right away. Everyone rejected me, but the Lord Jesus accepted me. I began doing odd jobs, first in an STD telephone booth, then in a courier service, then in a micro-finance company. For some time I was a newspaper delivery boy, later a marketing sales representative. Amid all these struggles I never missed the meetings of my church.
Although I was living with my family, their step-motherly treatment of me made me feel lonely; sometimes I used to cry but I read so many things from the Bible and I was encouraged by the life of Christ that is recorded in it. Once I asked my mother for money to complete my studies.
“If you want money for your education you need to do one thing” she declared.
“What?” I asked
“Get away from Christianity”
My mother thought that she could bribe me out of Christianity but I knew very well that Jesus Christ is truly God. I was following him because He was the Son of God, the savior who died for me, not for any earthly favors that I got for being a Christian. It is foolish to forsake the true God in whom our breath is for the sake of education, money, or even the approval of one's family. Jesus himself said:
"If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" – Matthew 16:24-26
So I did not take my mother’s bait. After some time my parents threw me out of home. I survived for four months in a rented room. One day I needed money so I sold my motorbike and bought a bicycle instead. Some people derided me for having to make do with just a bicycle; after all, motorbikes are considered cool. I didn’t care because I wanted to do something different from the rest of the crowd. I used the money I got from the motorbike sale to get admission into a Bachelors of Business Administration course. The ridicule continued:
“A BBA in English? He comes from a Hindi medium school. He will never be able to do it”
There was only one person (who was from my church) who encouraged me. My mind was fixed on Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.
At this time of struggle, a friend who used to live near home terminated our friendship because of my Christian faith. Rejection does not feel good, but I thought to myself, “If the world rejected Jesus Christ, then whom am I to expect acceptance?” I went on to complete my BBA, and then my MBA.
Today I am working and supporting my family financially - the same family who refused to fund my education and threw me out of home because of my faith in Jesus; God enables me to forgive those who have hurt me and return evil with good. It has only been God’s grace that has enabled me to finish my studies and get myself a job. My prayer is that my family will also come to saving faith in Jesus Christ. As of 2014, nine years have passed since I have accepted Jesus Christ in my life. In my early life, I never thought that I would do this, but by God’s grace I did it.
I left boxing but life itself is like a boxing match. There are so many challenges and problems but I live with hope, fearing God reverentially and as Paul says in the Bible, “forgetting those things which are behind and stretching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”