(PETER Dhandapani is a name most people who have had access to management trainings and workshops in the early ’90s may be familiar with. Dhandapani, as he is known in corporate circles, earned his spurs as a process trainer working with the Murugappa group, the Amalgamations group, ICSA, World Vision and a host of other corporate companies before he started working as a management trainer on his own. Since 2005, he has been working among the churches influencing Christian leaders and Christians in marketplace. He is the founder of Kingdom Marketplace Ministry, which helps people fulfill God’s purpose in life and at work. He can be contacted at 0-97907 34008 or kingdommarketplaceministry [at] gmail [dot] com Editor.)
By C PETER DHANDAPANI
I was born in Vasudevanallur, a small town in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu, to a wealthy landlord. My dad who was a wholesale cloth merchant was known for his philanthropic ways. He generously donated large sums of money to temple rituals and festivals in his time. However, misfortune struck him when he accumulated debts and his business started deteriorating. When things really got tough, he started selling his lands to stave off falling into penury. When poojas and homams failed to yield any result, he consulted astrologers. They told him that he was a victim of witchcraft. Ever since, he started questioning the existence of the gods that he had been serving and wondered if there was a God who is all-powerful and had the power to break the yoke of black magic. A few days before he died, he called me to his bedside and told me not to worship the idols that he had vainly worshiped and served all his life. I must have been 14 at that time.
After his death, we sold our belongings in our hometown and migrated to Madurai. However, misfortune continued to torment our family. In Madurai, I enrolled for BA English Literature at Thiagarajar College. Those were the swinging eighties and I was a hippie and a happy-go-lucky man with long hair, imposing sideburns and a thick moustache. I roamed the town with my friends in my bellbottom pants. My waywardness soon led me to take to smoking and drinking. I was watching up to three films a day. All this resulted in a slide in my studies and arrears piled up. Although I wanted to kick all my vices, I was unable to do it. I sensed two powers fighting within me. And almost always, the libertarian in me won over the voice of conscience. To get out of the rut, I started being religious like my dad. When my rituals and poojas failed to deliver me from bad habits, I fancied myself as an atheist. The level of disillusionment in me was so high that I even contemplated ending my life.
One day during a free time in my college, I asked friends around me ‘Who is the real God?’ Though this startled some of them, most of them dismissed it with laughter. However, one classmate approached me after class and told me he had the answer. To find out about it, I had to accompany him to the Medical College campus in Madurai. The youth who accosted me is Mr. Rajkumar. He is a professor at the English Department in the American College in Madurai. At the medical college, he introduced me to a group of medicos who shared their testimonies with me. There was an alcoholic, a drug addict and a womanizer among them who told me how each one of them was set free from the negative and oppressive influence of their bad habits. Eager to be set free from my vices, I asked them what must I do to be liberated like them. All of them in unison said: ‘Accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.’ Immediately, I knelt down on the ground with those young men, prayed with them and let Jesus Christ into my life. In the evening on the same day, the young men took me to a church nearby. There, I saw people (among whom were some of my new friends) talking and praying in a strange language. Although I couldn’t make sense of what they said, I knew one word – Sthothiram (Praise). I kept saying that word in all earnest and in about 10 minutes I felt light in my body. Tears flowed down my cheeks like torrents. A vision of all the sins in my life went before me as if a movie was being displayed on a giant screen. I sensed great peace descending on me. At the same time, I felt as if I was hit by a 5,000 watt power line from above. Immediately, I started speaking in a tongue I hadn’t known earlier.
The anointing of God on me was so powerful that for the next 3 days, wherever I went I was speaking in the tongue. It didn’t take much time thereafter for my lifestyle to change. The next day, I cut my hippie hair, retailored my bellbottom pants and kissed smoking and drinking goodbye. Although I continued as a closet believer, my mother noticed the change in me. One day she confronted me and wanted to know what I have been up to lately. Fearing repercussions, I ducked her question. However, when she persisted I told her Jesus had made me a new being. My mother’s question stunned me. She asked me: ‘Will Jesus heal me from asthma?’ I told her Jesus is God. Since He is all-powerful, He can heal her. She joined me for the evening prayers that day at the church. That day’s message was from Genesis 12: 1-3.
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
I don’t know what the message meant to my mother but I guess she was able to relate that verse to our own life’s experience in moving out of our hometown into a new city losing all the riches and the lands we had. At the time of intercessory prayer, my mother wept and prayed along with other people in the church. Miraculously, she was healed too. I still remember how she leaped up and down in joy after the church service. When we reached home later, my elder brother was waiting outside the house with a big club in his hand. He had come to know of our trip to the church and was ready to thrash us if we stepped inside. When I tried to explain things to him, he hit me with the club on my left arm. To this day, I have a mark from that wound on my arm. Soon, my mother and I were out on the streets. If anyone thought this would make us forsake Jesus, he was mistaken. Our faith in God grew manifold when the kind-hearted medicos accommodated us in their own hostel for a few days. Later, with the help of the local church we moved into a house.
God opened doors for me that I never knew existed. I took over as the Head Master of a school. In the evenings, I was also giving tuitions to a restaurateur’s children. Later, by God’s grace, I did a course in management studies at the Madurai School of Social Work. My first job was at Madura Coats. In 1992 I married Jayanthi, who is now the Head of a Department at the Madras School of Social Work. We have a daughter who is in her first year of college.
Read more Testimonies