Archbishop Dr. M.A. Thomas, son of Mrs. and Mr. M.K. Abraham, was born on October 14, 1936 in the village of Kuzhikala in the state of Kerala, South India. Born into a very poor family, he was the eldest of five children. His father was a country preacher. From the time Dr. Thomas was a young boy, he possessed a deep and abiding compassion for the poor and abandoned of society. This beautiful compassion was truly a gift given by God. From his youth, Dr. Thomas possessed a unique empathy for their pain, never noticing his own impoverished circumstances.
(Archbishop Dr. M.A. Thomas-Recipient of Padma Shri Award, Mahatma Gandhi Award, Mother Teresa Award, Good Samaritan Award, Faith Award)
Dr. M.A. Thomas married Ammini Cherian on June 18, 1959. God blessed them with three children- Elizabeth, Mary and Samuel. He graduated from H.B.I. Chennai in 1960. Mrs. Thomas was a steadfast helpmate until her death on June 20, 1995. She too was a woman of strong compassion who stood by her husband through the good and the difficult days of ministering the Gospel.
Since Dr. Thomas came from a poor family, he couldn't afford to buy even a bus ticket from Chennai to Kerala. So he and two of his friends decided to walk 500 miles to Kerala. It took them 53 days. During those 53 days, Dr. Thomas was profoundly touched by the hopelessness due to abject poverty he observed on that journey. He not only observed severe and hopeless poverty, but the tremendous spiritual cravings of the people in his nation. It was overwhelming for him. He put great emphasis on the physical needs of people even over the spiritual needs. He felt that one can't touch the spiritual needs of an individual until his/ her basic physical needs are satisfied. With this desire at the core of his ministry, he made a commitment to help all in physical need. He chose Kota Junction, Rajasthan in North India as the headquarters for his ministry. His persistence in accomplishing his mission eventually paid off.
Unfortunately, although Mr. and Mrs. Thomas- along with friends and their young families- all agreed to establish their ministry in Kota, Rajasthan, there was no financial support for their dream. Not to be discouraged though, they all agreed they would walk all the way from Chennai to Kota- 500 miles! When a fellow student asked, " What if someone dies on the way?" Dr. Thomas replied, 'We will bury that person and proceed on. If even one person reaches Kota and makes a difference in just one life, our mission will be successful." Dr. Thomas strongly believed that, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." Thank God for His faithfulness. These young, dedicated missionaries didn't have to walk those 500 miles. Due to a donor who heard of their commitment, they were able to travel by train to Kota on March 23, 1960.
In Kota they met with a much opposition, but perseverance prevailed! Dr. Thomas was determined to help the poor, the orphans, the widows, and the lepers with the love of Christ. By the grace of God, he outwitted all the obstacles thrown at him by the enemy. The ministry stood the test of time. As his love and compassion for the castaways and the ostracized grew, so did his work. His humanitarian zeal remained his focus and provided a platform for the poor and rejected of society so they can change their standard of living. Dr. Thomas was the Lord's faithful servant whose work made a huge impact, not only in India, but across the globe.
During his visit to an orphanage in 1978, Dr. Thomas learned that there were over 18 million orphans, abandoned and at risk children then, who were condemned to live a pathetic life on the streets of India. His heart broke over these unwanted, impoverished and abandoned children. It was at this point that he decided to serve the children of the Almighty. His vision was selfless and fuelled as always with his 'never give up' attitude. He knew that" God is the Father to the fatherless", therefore, to take care of God's children. Dr. Thomas championed the cause of the needy and provided places of refuge for orphans all across India. Till the end, Dr. Thomas loved all children- regardless of religion, caste or creed because he maintained that 'all children are made in the image of God.'
Save a Child and You Save a Nation!
Dr. Thomas started his first orphanage in 1978. God blessed him with over 60 orphanages that care for thousands of children, widows and the aged. Each child in the orphanage is provided with food, clothes, shelter and more importantly, the love and care they deserve because they are the children of God. These children receive medical care from the Emmanuel Mission Hospital established in 1997. Dr. Thomas organized many free medical camps in communities all around the country with many renowned doctors serving these children at no cost to the ministry. Frequently, mobile medical teams visit various villages to offer their services free to the children in the orphanages.
In 1979, Dr. Thomas visited a leper colony in Delhi. One of his friends, hearing of his visits asked him, "How can you touch them? How can you eat with them? Aren't you afraid? He replied, "I am not afraid. If I should contract leprosy, I will simply spend the rest of my life on this earth singing and praying to God with them- loving them and caring for them." The lepers felt his sincere love and compassion for them. India has 4.5 million lepers and although the ministry can't help all of them, Dr. Thomas had executed a vision to help many. He had worked in over 150 leper colonies, helping them to help themselves by providing the material for small scale industries such as weaving, candle making, soap manufacturing, and poultry farming. He also worked to prevent the spread of leprosy by providing a home for their children- away from leprosy- in the ministry's orphanages. Dr. Thomas longed to impact all 50, 000 leper colonies in India!
Quality education is a critical need in India. The Emmanuel School Society, established by Dr. Thomas, manages many schools all across the country.
With such humble beginning in 1960, there are now over 43000 churches planted, over 95 Emmanuel Bible Institutes, over 61 orphanages, a hospital, several medical clinics, anti-drug camps and a printing press that prints literature in 5 major languages of India.
Dr. Thomas received his doctorate of Divinity from H.B.I, Chennai in 1985, the Good Samaritan Award from the World Christian Association, Joshua 1:8 Award from B.P.M. U.S.A., and Patron of all India Lepers association. He was also a Bishop overseeing 10, 000 churches. It is true-"God needs ordinary people to perform the extraordinary feat".
None of these accomplishments came quickly to Dr. Thomas. It was not an easy journey. He poured himself body and soul- into God's work! Though his health had deteriorated over these many years, his desire to serve had not wanted. At the age 68, Dr. Thomas underwent bypass surgery, was a diabetic, survived cancer and had two strokes. By the grace of God, he continued to selflessly serve the needy and the forgotten. He told all, "Don't count your days, but make your days countable."
When Dr. Thomas heard that he had been named a recipient of the coveted "Padma Shri" Award, he wept. With a humble heart, he said that if the President and the Government of India deemed him worthy of his honor, he would accept it with God's grace. He had expressed his heartfelt gratitude for the citizens of Kota, Kerala, the whole of India and all his friends abroad. He was proud to be an Indian. His love for his country cut across the ideological divides and he respects all religions alike. The soldiers of this nation had always fascinated him and the martyrs had always inspired him. His life's mission was to love the unlovable, touch the untouchables AND REACH THE UNREACHABLE WITH THE LOVE OF Chris t. His desire was to care for one million orphans and establish a state of the art Emmanuel medical College. The Padma Shri Award conferred on him by the Hon'ble President, Government of India on January22, 2001 only served to re energize Dr. Thomas. He continued serving God's children for as long as he lived.
On 4th December,2010 Dr. M. A. Thomas was called by our Eternal Father Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to His heavenly abode to share in the eternal life promised by our Lord to all.
May his good deeds continue to prosper. May the testimony of his Godly life continue to inspire all the servants of the Lord.