It was my first mission trip to India, and the team from our church met Tom at the Chicago airport where he joined us as we flew to India.
Just 5 years before, Tom Curry's vision of a children's home in southern India had become a reality. Tom, from east-central Indiana, is the founder of Hope Children's Home in the southern India state of Tamil Nadu. Our church had come on board as one of the major financial supporters and many of us were sponsoring children in the home.
To say Tom Curry is a special man of God would be the understatement of the year. He is way beyond the ordinary, an extraordinary example of a man living his faith and seeking to spread the gospel to the masses in India.
Then, about 5 years ago, Tom and his wife Rhonda felt God calling them to be full-time missionaries in India. He left his church pastorate, sold his belongings, and moved to India to pursue his calling and train local pastors to take the gospel to their own cities and villages.
Tom and Rhonda love India and have such a passion for its people. Living full-time in India, they would come back home to Indiana occasionally to see their family and touch base with their supporters in the States. We had opportunities to see Tom and Rhonda when they would come to our church to share about their mission work in India.
For the past couple of years, I've (through our church office) been sending out their quarterly newsletters and last week I was just about to get the 250 newsletters in the mail when I received a stunning email from Tom.
He'd been deported from India and banned from entering that country for life!
I, as I'm sure many others including Tom and Rhonda are, am still reeling from the news. Tom and Rhonda left the US last Tuesday for the very long flight to India, and upon arrival there Tom was inexplicably taken into custody by immigration officials and told he was to be put on the next flight back to the US and that he was banned for life from entering India. While Rhonda was not included in the deportation/ban, she of course traveled home with Tom.
Having no criminal history of any sort in either country, Tom is at a loss as to exactly why this all happened. He can only surmise that he stepped on some politically-powerful toes that lodged a complaint with the immigration department. I doubt he will ever really know what happened.
So our friends Tom and Rhonda are back home in the US, trying now to discern God's will for their ministry and where they will go from here. I can't help but wonder what will happen with all the work Tom and Rhonda have begun in India, where they put their whole heart and soul into saving people they have come to love. I hope and pray that the work they began will blossom and multiply and grow beyond their wildest dreams!
It's impossible to imagine how many Indian lives have been touched and changed through the ministry of Tom and Rhonda, from orphaned children who would have died to young adults who were given a chance for education to young pastors fervently beginning new churches in their villages to everyday people that Tom and Rhonda shared their lives with. And it's almost impossible to realize that the Currys will never go back to that country they had adopted as their own.
I know God has great plans for this extraordinary Christian couple elsewhere in the world.
But one thing's for sure. Because of the Currys' obedience to God and passionate desire to save its lost...
...India will never be the same.