Thrive

Last updated: April 22, 2024

The Resurrection and Life

“Let us begin with the meaning of my name,” says Shivraj Mahendra. “Shivraj means ‘good builder.’” He shares his name with a Hindu deity – Shiva. And Mahendra stands for “fisherman,” which reflects his background; Shivraj grew up in a Hindu fisherman family in Chhattisgarh in central India.

When the Lord Jesus appeared to Shivraj in a vision, he was a senior in high school. At that time, he was practicing witchcraft and leading the famous Ganesh festival, which was marked by idol worship and the celebration of the elephant-headed deity Ganesha.

In the midst of his Hindu practices, though, Shivraj was frustrated due to lack of peace. “I had tried everything. I was actually looking for the source of life, the promise for life. I was scared of death, and I wanted to meet someone who has actually defeated death and has come back to life.”

Shivraj had heard about Jesus in his childhood, and, because of his fear of death and finding no comfort in his religion, he wanted Jesus to appear to him. “I said, ‘Lord, if You’re real, and if You have come back to life, appear to me and talk to me. I’m going to fast and pray until you appear to me.’”

His third day of fasting happened to be Easter Sunday and, early that morning, Jesus did appear to Shivraj in what he describes as a very dramatic moment. In a vision, Shivraj found himself on the mountaintop of the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus was arrested. Jesus appeared to Shivraj in a light so bright that he couldn’t really look at it. A clear voice came out from the human-shaped light and said, “I am the resurrection and life. If you believe in me, you’ll never die. And even if you die, you will live again.”

Shivraj heard Jesus speak these words from John 11:25-26 in his own language, even though he did not have a Bible and had never heard them before. He would not discover these verses until about a year later, while taking a New Testament course.

This experience transformed Shivraj completely. His fear of death was gone, and he was filled with the joy of eternal life. He decided to follow Jesus.

Christianity at the Religious Roundtable

Anita Mahendra was born and raised in a Methodist Christian family. At age 14, she dedicated her life for God’s glory and received water baptism. Yet at age 17, she walked away from the Lord. “It took another four years for me to take a u-turn and come back to Christ,” she says. In those years away from the Lord, she got married, had a baby girl, then lost her husband. Feeling that disaster had fallen upon her, she repented and recommitted her life to the Lord. “God took me back in His fold, and then he led me amazingly,” she said.

A year after Shivraj’s vision of Jesus, the Lord showed him where to study – New Theological College (NTC, now a partner institution with Asbury Seminary) in Dehra Dun. Anita came to work as a secretary to the principal at the same school. Anita and Shivraj got married and became a family. “We really praise God that we are together serving the Lord in this country,” Anita says.

Shivraj worked toward his Bachelor of Theology at NTC with the sense that his primary calling was to teach God’s people. “And along with that, I got the burden to translate Christian theological books into Hindi to meet a great need in the north Indian mission,” he says. The first person to offer Shivraj translation work was the President of Asbury Seminary – Dr. Timothy C. Tennent, who has been associated with NTC since its beginning.

When Shivraj graduated, he began teaching, translating, and writing. His first translation from English to Hindi was Dr. Tennent’s book, “Christianity at the Religious Roundtable: Evangelicalism in Conversation with Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam.” It was 2002, and as Shivraj translated, taught and wrote, he and Anita were engaged in preaching and encouraging the pastors in the town and nearby villages. They also produced a Hindi gospel program for radio that was broadcast for two years on a famous platform called FEBA Radio.

To fulfill his call of becoming a seminary professor, Shivraj went on to study at Union Biblical Seminary (Pune) and the United Theological College (Bangalore) between his ministries. He initially began teaching at Doon Bible College and then became a faculty at NTC where he teaches to this day. In his over 25 years of ministry Shivraj has translated more than 20 books into Hindi and written 10 books in both English and Hindi. “Anita has always been my first reader and editor. And so it’s been like teamwork for us,” says Shivraj. They also engage in rural evangelism and visit churches to preach, make disciples, counsel and guide. “The Lord has been good to us, and we continue to enjoy His grace in all that we are doing.”

Family Housing at Kalas Village

In 2012, Asbury Seminary partnered with NTC. Shivraj and Anita prayed for an opportunity for Shivraj to obtain his PhD at Asbury Seminary in Kentucky after finishing his Master’s degree. The window of opportunity opened, and in 2013, Shivraj became a doctoral student on the Wilmore, KY, campus.

The Mahendras lived at the Seminary’s family housing called Kalas Village. “One of the most treasured, blessed times of our life was those seven years,” Shivraj says. “We had a wonderful family life, great learning atmosphere, and a lot of productivity. And the international community there is so beautiful.” Shivraj was one of the people involved in creating the community garden. He would work there in his spare hours, and Anita later joined and took charge. “Hospitality became our lifestyle, and people love Indian food, so we would have friends come in and eat and have fellowship,” says Shivraj.

One of Anita’s wonderful memories from Kalas Village was meeting with five to seven women every Wednesday to pray for the nations, which the Lord had laid on her heart to do. This group included women from Korea, Africa, China, Russia, India and Myanmar.

Since coming back to India, Shivraj continues teaching within the Master of Theology program at NTC, where he is Associate Professor of World Christianity and Dean of Online Studies. He primarily teaches missiology, the history of Christianity, and world religions. Anita, because she serves the Lord along with Shivraj, decided to pursue theological education. She is in the final year of her M.Div. at Union Biblical Seminary.

Prayer for the Nations

Shivraj reports that engaging in Christian activities that lead to conversion is illegal in India. “Our constitution says that we are free to follow any religion we want, but that’s not the practical reality.” As a result, some of the outreach programs he and Anita used to do are no longer operating. Yet they continue the work of the Lord and have seen many miracles in response to their prayers. One of these occurred when Shivraj and Anita were in his home village of Chhattisgarh for a visit at Christmas just before coming to Asbury. A couple of villagers (non-Christians) called on Shivraj to pray over an area of rocky ground. Several times, this ground had been unsuccessfully drilled for water.

As a minister representing Christ, Shivraj felt he could not decline, though it seemed the villagers were testing him and his God. “I said, ‘Lord, this is a very tricky situation.’” Feeling weak in faith, Shivraj prayed and asked the Lord to grant the villagers’ request for water and walked away. An hour later, the villagers told him that they successfully got water right where he’d prayed, and that it was “a good water.” Shivraj said, “Praise God. Hallelujah.” This story is included in Dr. Craig Keener’s book, “Miracles.”

Anita continues her intercession for the nations, and she and Shivraj are praying to increase their circle of impact. They really want the Lord to take them to another country as missionaries. “We have a very strong sense that it’s time for us to go to other parts of the world,” says Shivraj.

As for his first encounter with Christ, Shivraj never feels a doubt. “There is no greater philosophy, there is no greater ideology, that can match the promises of Scripture,” he says. “I preach that all the time.” Shivraj describes himself as “a big preacher of the cross.” He carries a little wooden cross with him. He boldly proclaims, “We have life on this side of the cross, and we have life on the other side of the cross. So we’ve got life on both sides if we’ve got the Lord Jesus Christ with us.” This truth constantly revives him and his listeners.

Shivraj and Anita are blessed with two daughters and two grandchildren. Their older daughter Roohi lives in Agra with her husband Andrew and children, Debby and Tim. Their younger daughter Smriti is a sophomore at Asbury University. In addition to his roles at NTC, Shivraj is also the General Secretary (CEO) of the Church History Association of India, Managing Editor at The E. Stanley Jones Foundation Publications, and an Ordained Elder of the Free Methodist Church, New South Conference, USA.

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