When a young Dr. Giridhar Chintalapudi ended his years-long struggle with Christianity and gave up atheism for faith in God, a major concern still loomed: How would his family react?
Soon after entering Kurnool Medical College in India in 1979, Giri, as he was called by friends and family, embarked on an unexpected intellectual and spiritual journey to understand the ultimate meaning of life. His roommate, a believer whose father was both a doctor and pastor, debated with Giri, challenged him to read the Bible and got him to listen to Christian radio programs, among them Thru the Bible and Back to the Bible on TWR India.
It was years later, after he had moved to northern India to complete his residency, that Giri would finally overcome his disbelief and accept Christ as his Savior. The change of heart didn’t go over well with his family, which was nominally, socially Hindu but headed by a father who was a devout practitioner of that religion. There were emotional scenes involving crying, blackmail and threats as they couldn’t come to terms with the fact that their son not only had departed from the family’s belief system but also had turned to a “foreign god.”
A move in 1989 to practice medicine in England led to drastic changes. Before leaving for the U.K., Giri had shared the gospel with his wife, Mala, who also was Hindu but willing to examine these unfamiliar beliefs and try praying to “the god of my husband.”
“One day she called me [in England] and said, ‘Giri, something has happened,’” he said. “‘I believe this is what you call born again.’”
The road to faith can be very different for different people, observed Dr. Chin, the easier-to-pronounce name his North Carolina neurology patients use today. For him, the journey had involved a largely intellectual search of nearly eight years; his wife made the decision within six months.
Then Dr. Chin’s mother, Kumari, and father, Ranga Rao, came to England for an extended visit.
“In three months, there was time to really talk. They had questions – why I believed this, and how it was different from Hindu,” Dr. Chin said.
When the parents departed for home, nothing appeared to have changed. But two months later Dr. Chin received a letter from his brother, who asked, “What did you do to our parents while they were there?” Upon returning from England, they had stopped going to temples, had started reading the Bible, had started going to church.
“As far as I knew, they were not Christians when they left,” Dr. Chin said. “My father had a god for every day. He went walking every morning and went to the temple. Suddenly, he stopped showing up at the temple.”
The parents’ early steps in the faith were in many ways similar to those taken by the son years earlier. They, too, were changed by contact with other believers. They, too, searched the Bible to learn more. And they, too, experienced bit by bit the impact on their understanding as they listened to TWR and other Christian broadcasters.
In the patriarchal society they lived in, Dr. Chin’s father finished work by late evening and gathered the extended family around him “whether they liked it or not” and taught them something he had learned from the Bible. Eventually, all three of Giri’s brothers and his sister became Christians, too.
Eighteen years ago Dr. Chin emigrated to the United States, and today they live in central North Carolina, where he operates three neurology clinics and Mala homeschools their two daughters. When he traveled home five years ago for his mother’s funeral, it was “a very sweet thing to know” that she had become a believer. For most of the many local attendees, the service was an incredible departure from the despair and weeping usually associated with these ceremonies.
“My mother’s ceremony was a positive witness that there is different spirit,” he said. “My brother gave his testimony. And the servants who worked in their house shared about what it means to them and how God used my mother to reach out to them.”