Bryan: On October 5, 2019, two of my American friends and I arrived at the Delhi International airport in India. I am president of the Asian Children’s Educational Fellowship and have been traveling to Nepal and India twice a year for the past 18 years. The purpose of the ministry is to help children escape poverty and to know who Jesus is.
Upon arrival at 1:40am in Delhi, I worked my way with my friends through the channels of Customs, Visa, and security checkpoints. My friends and I had $40,000 dollars between us for ministry projects in Nepal, our final destination. Money and purpose were declared to the security and customs officers in Delhi. I was then questioned about Christianity: being asked if I was a Christian, would meet with other Christians in India, and if any money would be given to Christians in India. The answer was “yes” to all three questions. My friends and I were cleared to fly to the final airport in Bagdogra.
However, on arrival at Bagdogra Airport, my friends and I were arrested and interrogated for 8 hours. The amount of money would later become the story that local and national news services would pick up. But the amount of money we had was legal, according to Indian Customs Laws. The issue was religion.
After hours of interrogation, the Customs office told me that if I would take responsibility for the $40,000, my friends would be released. The agreement was for me to be held in jail overnight, see a judge the next morning, and be fined $200, then be released to go on to Nepal. My friends were released and I went to jail. However, this was just the beginning of the many deceptions that would follow. The next morning, I went before the judge and was sent directly to prison. I was held in prison for 6 days until the American Center for Law & Justice arranged for my bail. The bail conditions were house arrest in Siliguri West Bengal until all trials were completed and my passport was taken away. Failure of the bail agreement would mean life in prison with no hope of release.
After being released on bail, I learned from the U.S. State Department that American Citizenship has no value in India. The U.S. government and India government have an agreement that if a American is arrested in India, the U.S. State Department cannot and will not help the American Citizen. Therefore, they did not help me for 3 months. During the first few weeks of being held, the Customs prosecutor told me that they had been ordered by the Delhi Centre Government to build a religious conversion case against me that would ultimately send me to jail for 5 years. For 3 months, they tried without success to build the case. On December 31, 2019, my case was completed and I was fined $4,250 and the $40,000 would be confiscated. I paid my fine on January 2nd of this year and went back to court to receive my passport, but the Customs department blocked the release of it.
On January 12th, I learned that the Customs department would be filing criminal charges against me as a money smuggler. This crime would send me to prison for 7 years. Even though I never broke a rule or law in India, the Customs Officials never stopped trying to destroy my life and family. Some of the Customs officers mentioned that they were ordered to make an example of me to stop other Christians from coming to India to help poor children and other Christians.
For 7 months, I fought for my life everyday. I was constantly in danger of being falsely accused of breaking bail and being sent to prison for life or being convicted by the courts for 5 to 7 years. It was a very dark time for my family knowing that everything being done was against Indian law and yet, nothing would help. The U.S. State Department got involved in my case back in January, knowing that I was not guilty of the charges against me.
I was able to talk with my family every day and the tears flowed searching for answers from God. Our faith was strong, but fear was always there to destroy us. During my time being held and persecuted for being a Christian, someone sent me the song “Take Heart.” Every night, after saying good night to my wife, Rhonda, I would play this song and pray for God to deliver me. And God answered thousands of prayers and brought me home! Today, this song is our wake up alarm at home. The words are deep in my mind, and I will sing it everyday. It was very instrumental in me keeping my sanity and faith in God. Every word was very personal and needed. Thank you so much for helping me through this God appointed mission and journey.