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A 10,000-Mile Journey

“I came 10,000 miles to find a better life. Instead, I found eternal life.” Danesh Manik’s faith walk from Hinduism to becoming an AG pastor.

Danesh P. Manik’s passage to America’s Midwest covered 10,000 miles. But his faith journey took even longer, a bridge to eternity that spanned the cultural and spiritual chasm between his Indian Hindu upbringing and the gospel of Christ.

Born into a Brahman family — the highest caste in Hinduism — Manik was expected to follow his grandfather and father in priestly duties for the ancient, polytheistic religion of an estimated 1 billion people. The Mumbai resident went to school to study with a Hindu guru.

But improbably, yet miraculously, the 53-year-old Manik today pastors Bellevue Christian Church, an Assemblies of God congregation in Michigan.

As he grew into young adulthood, Manik knew he didn’t want to be a Hindu priest. Instead, he studied to become a computer engineer. He did well, being recruited and hired by a company supplying employees to the then rapidly growing technology industry in the U.S.

In 1989, an excited Manik arrived in Lansing, Michigan. Though a state capital, Lansing’s population of 118,000 pales in comparison to Mumbai, a metropolis of 12.5 million.

“It was quite a culture shock,” he recalls. Yet Manik settled into his new job, making friends. One day, a co-worker invited him to an Easter passion play.

“I didn’t know much about the Christian faith at all,” Manik says. “When they put Jesus up on the Cross, I was about to leave; that was the end, I thought. Then, there was Jesus walking out of the tomb and angels singing.”

An incredulous Manik thought the Resurrection had to be made up, poetic license to make the tragic ending easier to swallow. The lady who invited him explained that Christians base their whole faith on the fact that Jesus rose from the dead.

Unconvinced but intrigued, he attended Mount Hope Assemblies of God for the next year. In February 1991, he responded to an altar invitation.

“I didn’t want to miss the moment,” Manik says. “I knew something about Jesus was real.”

Manik awoke the next morning consumed with the desire to share his new faith with others, including relatives in India. In a phone conversation, his brother Kamal in India passed out when he heard the news of Manik’s conversion.

However, Manik persisted, traveling back to India, where family members warned him to be quiet about his new faith; his mother, Jyoti, even tried to arrange a Hindu marriage for him. Manik felt compelled to try talking with his mother once more.

Manik thanked Jyoti for being a good mother, told her he loved her, and then described how Jesus loved her even more. That afternoon, Jyoti accepted Jesus as her Savior.

Soon, Manik’s mother had packed up the household idols and thrown them in the nearby Arabian Sea. Eventually, Kamal, initially skeptical, also believed in Christ.

Meanwhile, Manik returned to the U.S., graduated from Mount Hope Bible Training Institute in Lansing, met, and in 1999, married his wife, Michigan native Michele. The couple have two daughters, Rachel, 18, and Amanda, 16. Michele directs children and preteen ministry at the church.

In 2008, Manik became pastor of the small AG church in Bellevue, a rural village of 1,300 — more than 96 percent of them white — in south central Michigan. Gradually, the newcomer and the congregation built trust in the community by volunteering and leading community outreach projects.

Earlier this year, Manik traveled to Suriname, a South American nation with a population that is one-fourth Indian Hindu. He joined Saginaw, Michigan-based Assemblies of God world missionary Steven Puffpaff Sr. during June meetings with local pastors and parishioners, including several recent Hindu converts.

“He fit into ministry to Hindus like he had been doing it all along,” Puffpaff says. “He shared his testimony at the main Assemblies of God church in Paramaribo, and people came to the Lord.”

Manik always will remember the revelation of the Easter play he attended.

“I came 10,000 miles to find a better life,” Manik says. “Instead, I found eternal life.”

Robert E. Mims

Robert Mims has been a journalist for more than 40 years, including stints as a news wire service and newspaper writer and editor. He also had done numerous book and magazine assignments as a freelance writer and editor.