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Harvesting the lost souls of Indiacomment (0)

January 4, 2001

By Sue Ann Miller

Evangelist's ministry and radiant faith during medical crisis touches Alabamians

It could be his radiant smile, his compassionate brown eyes or his genuineness that immediately attracts people to Edgar Sathuluri.

But whatever the reason, it only takes a short amount of time upon meeting him to realize that he epitomizes a modern-day disciple of Christ.

A native of Hyderabad, India, the 42-year-old evangelist was born into a Christian home, the youngest of five brothers. As a child of 7 he gave his life to Christ. This decision would turn out to be the first ripple in a tidal wave of service to God.

Edgar’s mother, who died when he was 16, had a premonition that her youngest son would be called into God’s ministry.

Edgar recalls as a young boy awakening during the night to the sound of his mother’s weeping as she knelt beside his bed praying. “Concerned that I had displeased her in some way I asked her what I had done. She assured me that nothing was wrong, explaining that she had asked God for two things. One, to save my soul; the other, to train me for His service,’” he said, reminiscing about the long-ago night.

To say that his mother’s prayer was answered would be an understatement. The paths of faith that Edgar has traveled during his years of ministry could serve as a road map of testimony for dedication and commitment.

Edgar’s journey of servitude didn’t occur as an overnight epiphany. In fact he admits that when he first felt the nudging of God’s calling he tried to bargain with Him. Having worked diligently and overcome numerous obstacles to achieve his master’s level of education, the ambitious executive was reluctant to give up the perks that he had sacrificed so much to acquire. He was also concerned about the very real threat of persecution and the realities of poverty that went hand-in-hand with being a Christian evangelist.

So he came up with what he thought would be a fair and equitable game plan for God. He offered God 40 percent of his marketing executive’s salary, rationalizing that his monetary contribution could support five village evangelists.

He soon found out that negotiating with God was not an option. “I had to come to terms that God didn’t want my money — He wanted me. He had to strip me of all my layers and make me understand that I had to be totally dependent on Him,” he said.

Edgar came to this realization during a three-month illness that could not be diagnosed. “Once I made my decision to commit my life full time to God’s service, all my symptoms immediately went away,” he said.

During the months that followed Edgar retreated into a self-imposed exile to immerse himself in the Word of God.

During this period he was bombarded with doubts and had many of his friends and advisors question his decision. “God was preparing me in His own time,” he explained.

At one crucial point Edgar received a vision during a dream of a field that needed harvesting. God’s new recruit finally understood what he was destined to do. “I was to harvest the lost souls of India,” he said. “I was so full of passion for the Lord that I would cry with joy.”

The passionate evangelist took his commission to heart and never looked back. He has become accustomed to having God perform miracles in his life and others’ lives and accepts them with the resolve of any biblical prophet.

One of the miracles that Edgar experienced in the early years of his ministry was the opening of a door that allowed him to lay a foundation for a faith-based ministry modeled after the biblical protocol of the apostle Paul.

Having served as an evangelist for the first four years of his calling, Edgar saw the need for a Christian structure in the remote villages of his country. “Seventy-six percent of India’s population live in the country’s 700,000 villages and 80 percent of the villages have no Chris­tian meeting places. There are over 400 million Indians who have yet to hear the gospel clearly communicated,” he said.

Edgar’s ministry, N.A.T.I.V.E., is an acronym that stands for Nationals Training Institute for Village Evangelism. 

The premise of N.A.T.I.V.E. is based on the apostle Paul’s tutelage of Timothy and Timothy’s training of disciples who went out and trained others for evangelism. Those recruits in turn went back to their villages and  trained ministers who trained church leaders and so forth.

N.A.T.I.V.E., which has been in operation since the 1980s, is run with the help of two of Edgar’s brothers.

“We are training 80 to 100 disciples a month and we have established 500 prayer huts and 2,000 trained disciples since we started 13 years ago,” he enthusiastically said.

In 1992 Edgar came to the United States to train at the Stephen Olford Center for Biblical Preaching in Memphis, Tenn.

Edgar became a protege of  Olford, the center’s founder, who introduced him to PRO-Missions, a ministry associated with the International Mission Board that offers financial support to ministries in third world countries where nationals plant churches and evangelize their own people.

During his internship at Olford, Edgar became friends with Roger Willmore, pastor of First Baptist Church, Weaver, as well as Bir­mingham physician Jim Gewin and his wife, Michelle.

A year ago God once again placed His hand on His energetic servant and pointed him in a different direction.

While on a trip to southern Asia to lay groundwork for evangelism efforts, Edgar began experiencing serious health problems related to his heart. Since coronary disease runs in his family, he underwent tests and had bypass surgery. Instead of improving, his conditioned worsened and he was advised to seek medical attention in the United States for complications that could be life threatening.

With the help of the Gewins, Edgar was brought to Birmingham where he underwent an angioplasty procedure and the implanting of two stents. Although the procedure was a success another medical crisis took its place.

During the procedure his blood pressure shot to a dangerously high level and then dropped drastically low while he was in recovery. As a result, a blood clot accumulated in his brain and triggered a severe stroke. This latest turn of events occurred Sept. 20, 2000. As soon as Edgar’s medical condition became known his American friends rallied around him offering prayer, help and support.

Following his hospitalization from brain surgery to remove the clot, Edgar was transferred to Bir­mingham’s Lakeshore Rehabilitation Hospital for six weeks of grueling  intensive physical, occupational and speech therapy to help relearn skills that had been destroyed by the paralyzing stroke.

In the three months since his stroke the patient has astonished his doctors and therapists with his remarkable recovery.

He has regained his speech which was at zero capacity immediately following the stroke and he can now walk with the aid of a cane. Unable at present to use his dominant right hand, he is learning to use his left one.

Perhaps the most amazing aspect of Edgar’s medical ordeal has been his positive, upbeat and accepting attitude of his physical condition which has touched a multitude of medical personnel who participated in his treatment.

“The impact that Edgar has had on others during this medical crisis has been phenomenal,” said Willmore. “His radiance never diminished. His faith was intact. I could see the physical results of the stroke but there was no change in his spiritual disposition,” said his longtime friend.

As always, Edgar’s outlook is positive and he waits patiently for God to reveal His plans to him. In addition to his physical challenges his ministry is suffering a financial crisis.

Ninety percent of N.A.T.I.V.E.’s financial backing comes from PRO-Missions, and due to financial setbacks the support has temporarily ended. “I learned a long time ago not to worry about how God will take care of me and my ministry. He brought me to the United States for a reason. I’ve met so many wonderful people who are interested and eager to help. I am a faith-based evangelist and I know that God will provide.”

When asked how he can remain so calm and optimistic during this trying time for him and his ministry, his reply is immediate. “It is a simple answer. I live by faith — that is all I need. That is all that any of us need,” he added with his radiant smile. 

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