It was the mid-1990s, and we were on our way back to St. Louis from a family vacation at Gulf Shores, Alabama. Somewhere in rural Mississippi, as my wife was desperately trying to find a radio station, she flipped to one where a man was speaking in a startlingly clear voice and presenting a defense of the Christian faith.
It was our official introduction to Ravi Zacharias.
Zacharias is the founder and chairman of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. He is an author, speaker, Christian apologist, and radio broadcaster. He’s published numerous books, has outreach centers in Atlanta and Oxford University, and publishes a magazine.
In 2006, he published a book that is part memoir and part autobiography, Walking from East to West: God in the Shadows. It’s the story of where he came from (born in Madras, India, now called Chennai, and raised in Delhi), who his family was, how he found faith, and how he became one of the best-known Christian speakers in the world.
It’s a story that leave you shaking your head, amazed at what looks like all the world as a plan that was unfolded.
The book is full of surprises. He had a great-great grandmother who was a Christian and buried in a Christian cemetery in India. His father, a fairly high government official, and mother attended an Anglican church in Delhi. He had a difficult, often tense relationship with his father, and it was his mother who provided encouragement. And he became a Christian after a failed suicide attempt, when a director of Youth for Christ in India visited him in the hospital and left a Bible with a specific verse for him.
He explains how he came to be a preacher – almost by accident, when a good friend couldn’t participate in a preaching competition and Zacharias substituted for him at the last possible moment. (The competition involved being given a topic and 30 minutes to prepare before speaking.) He won, surprising even himself.
After he and his family moved to Canada, he found himself in increasing demand for speaking, including in Vietnam during the height of the Vietnam War and Cambodia. He’s known friends, good friends, martyred for their faith. He would go on to found his own international ministry. Yes, it sounds like there was a plan here.
Walking from East to West is a story that leaves one struck with wonder.
Related: A Movie and a Talk.
Top photograph: men weaving fishing nets at Chennai (Madras), India, by Sarathy Selvamani via Unsplash. Used with permission.