Fourteen year old Sundar Singh blamed the Christian God for the death of his mother. He threw filth on his Christian teachers, mocked their Scriptures, and interrupted classes. Then he made an ultimate gesture of scorn. He built a fire and page by page tore up a Bible and burned it. "Although I believed that I had done a very good deed by burning the Bible, I felt unhappy," he said.
Within three days Sundar Singh could bear his misery no longer. Late at night, on this day December 19, 1903,* he rose and prayed that God reveal himself if he really existed. Otherwise he would throw himself in front of the train which passed by his house. For seven hours Sundar Singh prayed. "O God, if there is a God, reveal thyself to me tonight." The next train was due at five o'clock in the morning. The hours passed.
Suddenly the room filled with a glow. A man appeared before him. Sundar heard a voice say, "How long will you deny me? I died for you; I have given my life for you." He saw the man's hands, pierced by nails.
In that moment he recognized Christ. The boy who had burned the Bible became a man who would endure terrible sufferings for Jesus. He made twenty trips into Tibet, where he met severe persecution.
But first, Sundar had to face his own people. The Sikhs had endured serious opposition in their early history. As a consequence they were fiercely loyal to their faith. Conversion to Christianity was considered treachery. Every effort was made to woo or coerce Sundar Singh back to his ancestral faith.
His father pleaded. An uncle opened a cellar full of treasures. A prince appealed to the boy's patriotism. His own brother spread lies about him. His former gang hurled muck at him. The mission was attacked. Christians were denied service. A boy who followed Sundar Singh was poisoned to death.
Finally Sundar realized he must break with his people. He cut off the hair he had worn long like every Sikh. Then he was told, "We reject you forever... We shall forget you as if you had never been born. You will leave this house with nothing but the clothes you wear on your back. ..." When painful cramps wrenched his gut, he realized that his family had poisoned his last meal. He staggered to a mission hospital.
After his recovery, he donned the yellow robe of India's holy men. Unlike many gurus, he kept himself clean and did not torture his body. Dressed in his thin yellow robe, Sundar took to the road, preaching the gospel of Christ. Over the years, many were won to faith through him. Even his own father was converted. But in 1929, a sickly Sundar set out for Tibet. He never returned. Nothing was heard from him again.
*The most trustworthy biography gives this date. Others place this conversion as early as December 6th and as late as 1904.
- Andrews, C. F. Sadhu Sundar Singh; a personal memoir. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1934.
- Davey, Cyril J. The Story of Sadhu Sundar Singh; the yellow robe. Chicago: Moody Press, 1963, 1950.
- Parker, Rebecca Jane. Sadhu Sundar Singh, called of God. London: Student Christian Movement, 1927.
- "Sundar Singh, Sadhu." The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Edited by F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone. Oxford, 1997.