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Karun’s* journey with Jesus spans from an Indian Tamil Hindu temple in Apartheid South Africa to a Muslim mosque in Central Asia, and from a life of drugs and depression to sharing his story of freedom. Today, as an OM leader in Central Asia, he embraces his cultural value of community, regularly hosting leaders, co-workers, and local friends around his family’s kitchen table.
Raised in a religiously diverse environment, Karun initially aspired to follow in his father’s footsteps as a Hindu priest. However, around the age of 13, Karun felt unfulfilled spiritually, turning to drugs and gangs during his high school years. During that time, he lost two close friends. Realising he was headed for the same outcome, he sat on his bed one day and said: “God, if You can hear me, help me.”
The next day, a neighbour invited Karun to a Christian youth group. Despite intending to disrupt the gathering, he was captivated by the joy of the Jesus followers. A few weeks later, he joined the group for a camp, packing drugs and alcohol alongside his other overnight essentials.
At that camp, he heard a voice summon him to the main event hall, saying, “I want to meet with you.” When Karun followed that prompting, he found himself kneeling in the front of the room, tearfully responding: “Yes, Lord.”
At that moment, Karun committed to following Jesus and was immediately delivered from his drug addiction. Surprisingly, his father supported his decision, having embraced diverse influences himself. Even with early exposure to other religions, Karun said one of the main barriers to the gospel in his Hindu community is the same one that exists amongst Muslims in Central Asia, where he’s lived for over two decades: identity. “You feel like if you give up your religion, you’re giving up on your people,” he shared.
Still, the freedom Karun found in Christ was stronger than his fears about losing his culture. “I was trapped,” he explained. “And I prayed a lot. I did a lot of rituals, but it wasn’t setting me free. And then Jesus comes along, and He says, ‘I can do this for you.'”
Shortly after, Karun joined OM’s missions training program in South Africa, beginning his discipleship journey. “A lot of who I was in Christ came out, a lot of deliverance, the offloading of baggage, understanding who Father [God] is and His heart for me and His mission all happened during that period,” he said. “I see the value of coming into OM and being discipled in OM and then growing from there.”
Transitioning to Central Asia, he shared his transformative story with drug-addicted young men and engaged in conversations about faith with an aspiring Islamic teacher. One significant encounter resulted in a young man’s decision to follow Jesus. Karun also served among a marginalised people group, drawing on his experiences of segregation in South Africa.
Karun now serves as an OM leader in Central Asia. Reflecting on his life, he knows his experiences have not gone to waste. “The Father uses every part of your journey, not just one,” he emphasised. He hopes to impart that lesson to those around him — whether Hindus, Muslims or others who have not experienced the difference Jesus makes. “To journey well is to share everything: the highs, the lows…, and to show them that this is how Christ impacts us in all those different situations. Even though it’s difficult, I still have hope, and I have a Father I can run to,” he explained.