P.P. Job paid a high price for preaching the gospel when his two sons were martyred. But today his adopted daughters—504 in all—are a legacy of his faith in Christ.
“Girls are not wanted in India.” The Rev. P.P. Job says this as a matter of fact, without a hint of irony in his weathered brown face, and then rattles off a string of statistics to prove his point. Each year, he says, 5 million baby girls are aborted in government hospitals; last year 25,000 married women were burned alive; every day 1,200 girls go missing, likely unaccounted victims of domestic abuse.
United Nations reports support Job’s claims, as they reluctantly acknowledge the persistence of female infanticide and gender inequality in India even as the nation becomes an economic success story. “When a boy is born there is a dance,” says Job, a longtime evangelist and leader with the religious liberty advocacy organization Voice of the Martyrs (VOM). “A girl is born—it is like a death. Everyone will be weeping and crying.”
It is precisely because of such realities that Job’s face brightens up as he cites yet another figure: 504. That’s the number of abandoned girls he calls his daughters, children who were buried alive as newborns or left to die when their parents were martyred for their faith. Job’s center for girls, housed on 60 acres in Coimbatore, a city in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, includes a school and two colleges that educate hundreds of young women. Earlier this year, it inaugurated an electronic library.
Yet advocating for India’s daughters was once hardly on Job’s radar. He spent more than 30 years preaching around the world and assisting persecuted Christians. In India he spoke out against the government’s failure to protect religious minorities in the predominantly Hindu nation. But after his youngest son, Michael, was martyred in 1999, he says God gave him a burden to help India’s unwanted girls. The martyrdom of his other son, John, eight years later only deepened his resolve. He says God told him, “I will give you many daughters in place of your sons.”
Now through his Michael Job Center, the evangelist is raising up a generation of girls who may follow in his footsteps, going around the world with a college degree in one hand and a Bible in the other, sharing the gospel. “Like [the apostle] Paul, a tentmaker, they will make their own money by hard work, and they will preach the gospel,” he says. “I always think: If I educate one boy I educate only one man. But If I educate one girl, I educate one family and the next generation, and they will make another generation. So we will be preaching the gospel to the next generation because of girls.”
504 and Counting
Described as “the Billy Graham of India,” Job has ministered in 129 nations since 1963 and spent more than 33 years as an advocate with VOM. Job, who considers VOM founder Richard Wurmbrand his mentor, worked primarily in the former Soviet Union and the Muslim world before becoming president in 1997 of International Christian Association, a missions network that includes VOM, where he served until 2002.
In his native India, Job was also a strident advocate for religious freedom, often criticizing the Indian government for not protecting religious minorities. In December 1998, after he spoke at a rally in front of the Indian Parliament to protest the recent deaths of several Christians, militant Hindus sent him threatening calls and letters, telling him to stop preaching against persecution or his family would be wiped out.
It was a time of heightened persecution in India. The following month, in January 1999, Hindu radicals burned missionary Graham Staines and his young sons alive in their automobile in Orissa state. The following September, another Christian leader, Father Arul Doss, was shot to death with arrows as he fled his burning church in Orissa. Also that year, in the neighboring state of Andhra Pradesh, another prominent minister, the Rev. Botla Ratnam, was stabbed to death.
Job himself was struck in the head by shattering glass when Hindu militants stoned his car. But a worse blow was to come. While he was recovering from his wounds, he received a call that his youngest son, Michael, a 21-year-old medical student, had been critically injured in a hit-and-run accident. Michael Job died the following week.
“They tried to kill me,” Job says. “Finally they were successful to kill my son Michael.”
He believed continuing in ministry would be a testament to God’s grace in the midst of sorrow and tragedy, so Job determined to keep preaching. “Though my son’s killers wanted to stop me from preaching the Word of God, the opposite happened,” he writes in his book Turn Your Sorrow. “I began preaching the Word of God with renewed vigor because I had already faced the ultimate test of faith in my son’s death.”
But Job also began to feel he should do something to help others. “Then I found out girls are not wanted in India because of the dowry system,” he says.
Although India passed the Anti-Dowry Act in 1961, making it illegal for a groom or his family to demand dowry payments, thousands of women are killed each year by their husbands or in-laws because of inadequate dowry payments. In a practice known as “bride burning,” husbands douse their wives with kerosene and set them on fire if they don’t deliver on higher dowry payments.
The dowry system also has given rise to sex-selective abortion, though the practice is officially illegal. Among families who don’t have access to ultrasounds, newborn girls too often are left to die.
When Job founded the Michael Job Center just months after his son’s death, he took in 31 girls who had been orphaned or abandoned. “I took only 31, but it was very difficult,” he says, pointing to the financial and logistical difficulty he initially faced. “I had two boys. It was very difficult to bring them up. So my wife says, ‘How can you bring 31?’ But slowly, slowly it was increased.”
He launched a school for girls in 2003 and the following year founded two colleges that specialize in education and arts and sciences. Today some 700 young women attend the colleges, which are affiliated with the Tamil Nadu Teachers Education University and Bharathiar University, and the students have been noted for their academic achievement. Job’s wife, Dr. Mary Job, a gynecologist who once worked at a hospital run by Mother Teresa, also helps provide specialized maternity care for poor, uneducated women through a clinic at the center.