No Ordinary Life--Meet Karen Elengikal
Interview by Lynda Schab
FWM: Karen, I am so happy to be conducting this interview with you. Reading over your FaithWriters profile, I was impressed and intrigued by so many things. So let’s get started!You met your husband, George, in an unconventional way. Tell us about how you met and fell in love.
KAREN: Lynda, I love your choice of the word, ‘unconventional.’ It certainly was unconventional for one Aussie missionary, and even more for an Indian evangelist and church planter.
I clearly remember the first moment I laid eyes upon George. It was love at first sight! But the location wasn’t at all conducive to romantic inclinations! It was on the platform of a dingy, dirty railway station at 4'oclock in the morning. Disheveled and tired, Pastor V.A. Thampy and I had just arrived in the city of Bangalore, after an overnight train journey from the extreme south of India.
Although it was dark, it was easy to see that the gentle man being introduced to me was very handsome. George Cherian wore a well-trimmed beard and moustache, looked to be about 35 years old, and had eyes that were full of the love of God. I was instantly captivated, but noting his apparent age, surmised that he was already married. The thought, ‘What a blessed woman she must be to have George as her husband,’ ran through my mind. Within a few minutes we had left the railway station and arrived at George’s house, where we were to rest during the day before traveling again later that evening.
Once comfortably settled, the chit chat began and soon George’s age was revealed. Nothing could hide my surprise. With hardly a line on his face, bags under his eyes or other obvious symptoms of age, he announced with his charming smile that he was 44 years old. Next was the marital status. I asked, "Where are your wife and kids?" Continuing with his engaging smile, he said that he was not married. Struck with incredibility, I asked him, ‘Why?"
"God has told me to wait," George answered with great conviction.
As George’s age increased, so had the concern of his family. Before our ‘divine appointment,’ George’s family, friends and fellow pastors had arranged a staggering 33 marriage proposals. As each ‘girl’ was presented to him, he knew in his heart that she was not the one God was preparing for him. Many times he felt the reality of loneliness and this pressed him closer to the Lord, who would encourage him by affirming that he would get married, in His time. Once the Lord told him, "She’s not ready yet," and on another occasion, "I’m preparing her." George asked the Lord to send the woman he was to marry to his home, just as with Isaac, Rebecca was brought to him.
Back to the Bangalore encounter... Later that evening Pastor Thampy, George and I boarded an overnight bus to reach the northern Karnataka city of Belgum for a week long crusade. It was an awesome time of ministry and an excellent opportunity to observe George. I was attracted to him, but in India, potential relationships are not approached in the western way, where our attraction is made known to each other. Happy to trust in the Lord, I left my thoughts and feelings to God and myself. I was 33 years old, and I knew beyond doubt that the Lord would have me married in His time and in His way. The week of ministry finished and we farewelled George in Bangalore.
A week later, Mariamma, Pastor Thampy’s wife came bounding into my room early in the morning. This was unusual, so I wondered what was going on. Smiling from ear to ear, she burst out, "Do you like George?" I felt my face turn several shades of red. I was astounded that someone ‘knew’ my heart and private thoughts about George. I certainly had not told anyone! As I sat there stunned, feeling exposed, she continued to explain that her husband had been told by the Lord that George and I were to be married. That was the reason he had taken me to the crusade.
The whole thing was just too incredible. A whole range of emotions surged through my heart: wonder, terror, elation, fear. After listening to what she said I decided to bring this whole farcical thing to an end, and said, "If this is God’s will, George will contact us. We will not initiate anything."
Whew! I celebrated inwardly on how I had cleverly escaped. I giggled to myself and dismissed the whole thing from my thoughts--until the next morning.
Once again my morning calm was interrupted with Mariamma bursting into my room. Quickly I was ushered into the sitting room where one of their regional pastors was waiting. He had received a letter from the brother of one of the families in his church. The message was so urgent that he had left his home town at four o’clock in the morning to deliver this very special letter. The letter causing so much excitement was from George’s eldest brother in Bangalore. It simply stated that George wanted to marry Karen. With my own words, the previous day I had said that if it was God’s will for us to marry, then George would contact me. Now it had happened!
Suddenly, I realized that the my clever words of escape had actually been God’s words. It was a Divine set-up! My mind was swirling and my heart swelled with wonder at the workings of God in my life. This was no mere co-incidence. This was God!
Within a few days, George and I met again. Breaking the age-old tradition of deciding one’s marital future in a 15 minute conversation over a cup of tea, we talked for over four hours. In wonder we told each other about the call to ministry we had received from the Lord and what we expected from our lives. It was identical! We decided then to get married and set the time leading up to our Wedding Day to earnest prayer.
I decided to pray and fast to truly ascertain the will of God. Not having to face a marriage in the western way, with emotions already in love, I was able to look at the situation logically and soberly. While I was deeply attracted to George, it was a decision to be based purely on God’s will for my life. The Lord then asked me to do a 12 day fast. Twelve days! Who ever does a twelve day fast? Fasts, which Indian Christians are addicted to, are normally 3 days or 14, 21 or 40. I’d never heard of a twelve day fast before. But, being sure it was the Lord I decided to do it.
On the second day of my fast I received my instructions from the Lord. Turning to Chapter 43:5 in the book of Isaiah, I discovered God’s clear will for me, "Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west." I was certainly from the West and if I were to bring my children from the East, this indicated to me that I was to marry a man from the EAST. Further to this I was not to be afraid for the Lord was with me.
The following day I asked my next question of the Lord. At that time George was involved in a business which funded his missionary journeys and other ministry involvements. But I wanted to marry someone in full time ministry. Again from Isaiah the Lord stilled my concern in Chapter 41:2, "Who has stirred up one from the east, calling him in righteousness to his service?" The Lord was asking me a question in reply to mine. Again it was a man from the EAST, who was called into God’s service. I was satisfied with what had presented itself to me to be very clearly God’s will.
Miraculous events continued to confirm that this was from the Lord. I was in awe of God’s very specific leading in my life, but on the other side of the world the majority of my family and friends had a different view. "Karen’s gone mad!" was one of the reports that I received. There were many phone calls to and from Australia in those first few weeks. The senior pastor of my home church asked me to wait longer in order to get to know George better before deciding to marry. It was an agonizing decision. I KNEW God’s will, but I had also been ordained and sent out by this church and I was under their covering. Finally, conceding to pressure, our Wedding was postponed from March to October, 1993, although getting to know each other better wasn’t an easy task, as the 500 kilometer distance meant our relationship could only be developed by phone calls.
Twelve years have passed since our wedding, and we are more in love than ever. God has blessed us with 7 gorgeous sons. George is a man of God, a loving husband and father, and I’m glad that I eventually ‘got ready and prepared’ enough for God to bring us together, east meeting west, in an ‘unconventional’ marriage, arranged by God.
FWM: Wow! I was captivated by your amazing story! There’s no question that it was indeed God that brought you together. You and George currently live in Sydney, Australia. Since George is from India, and the country obviously holds a special place in your heart, do you have plans to return, either to work as a missionary, or simply to visit?
KAREN: Returning to India as missionaries is on our present timetable. We are working towards being involved in the rescue and rehabilitation of Indian street children. Our vision is to provide a loving Christian home environment and to train the children in the ways of God. Street children literally number in the millions and are an untapped harvest field for the Lord. To love and nurture these children is a passionate desire within our hearts, and for me personally, the knowledge that I may be the first to ever offer a mother’s love to an abandoned child is something that I dearly long to do.
It has been quite a journey for me to come to the place of surrendering to God’s will in returning to India, as just over 5 years ago, we paid the ultimate sacrifice as missionaries in facing the sudden death of one of our children on the mission field. Arriving at an emotional place where I was willing to return to India with my small children is a tale of God’s miraculous love and healing power. The deep desire to walk in His ways and to perform God’s will in my life have overridden nagging fears and anxieties.
We are praying to return as soon as possible and set up base in India’s fifth largest city, Bangalore. While India will be our home base, we plan to visit Australia frequently and to minister in Africa and Israel.
FWM: Your front-page article, "Salvation at Midnight’s Stroke," is a true story of an event that happened while you and your family were serving as missionaries. As a writer, have you ever considered putting together a collection of your experiences?
KAREN: We do have hundreds of stories to share about what we have seen, heard and experienced, ranging from remarkable miracles of healing and supernatural, to side-splitting, hilarious experiences and tender moments with the Lord. They all could very easily fill a book. I have already started writing many of these stories down, some of which I’ve used in my Cross Times Missions Column, ‘No Ordinary Life.’
A book detailing our previous 5 years in India is in the initial stages, with a few chapters already written. For three out of these five years, we were without an income other than God’s miraculous provision on a daily basis. I’m very sure that the Lord wants these stories told to be a blessings and inspiration to others.
FWM: Have you always wanted to write or was that desire born later in life?
KAREN: The desire to write has been with me since my childhood days. I loved writing stories as a child and, to the dismay of fellow students, I always won the class awards for creative writing and art. Unfortunately, I didn’t pursue the inbuilt attraction to words and writing until more recent years, when the desire to write became a driving force. The FaithWriters’ Challenge has provided an enormous boost in my writing and is an important component in developing natural talent and honing writing skills.
FWM: Tell us a little about the books you have in the works right now.
KAREN: My first book, ‘Kidz Battle Zone’ will be released, God willing, by June this year. It’s being printed in Singapore by Christian publishers who specialize in books for and about raising anointed and godly children in these Last Days. It’s sure to be controversial, as the true source and objectives behind the majority of modern day children’s entertainment are exposed and discussed in detail. Biblical core values and the knowledge of God have almost been eroded in our generation. The insatiable lure and craving of entertainment has captured the minds and hearts of our young ones, to the detriment of Christian life and society as a whole. The book is eye-opening, while also inspiring parents to address the real issues that snuff out God’s life within the family unit. This book really is the deep cry of my heart and one that was written with great passion to do something before it’s too late! How it was accepted for publishing is a miracle story!
The same Singapore based publishers will be producing my series of 12 children’s stories into illustrated children’s books. The stories are based on the wild adventures of a young Giraffe named, Bobi, and are set in the Serengeti Plains of Africa. Bobi and his young friends encounter many obstacles and dangers while learning about the ‘Ancient One’ (God) and the ‘Ancient Scroll’ (The Bible) from the older grassland residents. In each episode, a different aspect of Godly character such as obedience, courage, pride and self esteem, is woven into the story. Having the stories published is a dream-come-true, as one of my most driving motivations is to raise children up in the ways of God by teaching them the Word of God. Bobi’s adventures are filled with concepts and precepts from the Bible, but written in such a way that even non-Christian children will be attracted to Bobi and learn from his life’s experiences, without even knowing they are imbibing and being affected by the Word of God. The stories have come b
y inspiration from the Lord, each only taking a few hours to write. It troubles me tremendously, that our kids are starved of great reading from Christian authors and have gravitated to books such as Harry Potter. My earnest prayer is that God would raise-up skilled and inspired Christian authors to pen books that will captivate the imagination and direct the lives of our kids, without steering them into dark places.
FWM: I am in awe of the fact that not only do you have seven children of your own, but that they’re all boys! I have to ask: what is it like living in a house full of that much testosterone?
KAREN: I laughed out loud when I saw this question. It was as if my thoughts had been exposed A number of times it has been on the tip of my tongue to yell out over the din of their boisterous activity, ‘This house is full of testosterone!’ But each time I have bitten my tongue and refrained, as in mentioning such an interesting word would certainly open up a lively discussion in areas I’m not quite ready to address, such as, "What’s that, Mum? What’s it for? Where does it come from? Is it a food? How can I get some?"
I certainly have a male dominated house and there is NEVER a dull moment. My oldest son, Isaiah is almost 12. He is followed by Isaac (10), Joshua (9), David (7), Daniel (who went to be with Jesus when he was 6 months old), Yowceph (4) and Moses, who is 16 months old. When inviting guests home, I always warn them that earmuffs are needed to mute the noise and not to look in the fridge, as it’s always empty from the children’s frequent raids!
There are inevitable sibling fights and squabbles, which always remind me of wildlife documentaries, where the stronger males fight tooth and nail to hold their territory. Some of my children have very strong personalities so there is the constant need to balance personality differences in fairness without squashing another child’s rights. There are some tricky moments, as are there many hilarious scenes and conversations. Here’s an example: Saturday morning--I have just labored in the kitchen for well over and hour. I make a well-earned ‘cuppa’ and head towards the lounge room for a few moments to recuperate before addressing my next job. Only a few moments pass before the first, ‘Mummy!’ can be heard. How do they know that I’m sitting down? I wonder with astonishment. I ignore my summons and concentrate on my relaxing. Soon a number of voices in various frequencies are calling in unnerving unison, "Mum! Mumm-ieeee. MUUMMM? MUUUMMMYYY!?"
Sighing, I pry myself off the lounge and head towards the loudest, "MUMMY!" It’s coming from the bathroom. I offer a hurried prayer for patience and I’m glad that I did because, Moses, a 2 feet-tall bundle of adventure, had discovered the bathroom door was open. He decided that playing in the toilet is the greatest fun and looks up at me with that look, "Oh wow, Mum, I’m having a ball. Glad you’ve joined me!" His brother, Yowceph, has carried his terrible two’s into his 4th year. An expert opportunist, he followed his youngest brother into the bathroom and is perched up on the bench, finding the best way to squirt toothpaste from the tube onto the mirror. He was calling me to ‘see’ what he’s done. Peeking into the toilet I’m grateful that the last visitor, although forgetting to close the door, had at least flushed the toilet. Yowceph is ushered out of the bathroom, minus the toothpaste tube, and instructed to find somewhere else to play. Moses has an unscheduled bath and cleaning the bathroom mirror is added
to my growing list of chores.
Ah! My tea? Suddenly I remember and head back to the lounge room. Along the way I decide to see what the other boys are doing. To my horror I discover one of the bedrooms has been demolished! Mattresses, sheets, pillows and clothes that were once neatly folded and in the cupboard, are strewn around the room. Mischievous children are giggling and hiding under the mess. I inwardly scream and write mentally, ‘add rearranging the bedroom to the list.’ With shoulders sagging and feet dragging I enter the lounge room to finish my tea. Yowceph has arrived ahead of me and is sitting with a sheepish grin next to a large wet patch on our recently cleaned carpet. In a moment I sum up the situation and head back to the kitchen to make a fresh cup of tea! Attempting to steel myself on this day, when my ‘estrogen’ levels are high and my short list of chores has been extended to an all day affair, I quietly rehearse my favorite verse, ‘Sons are a heritage from the Lord."
Six children can be very demanding and taxing on emotional and physical levels, but walking closely with the Lord throughout the day provides invaluable support and insights. A few days ago as I was praying briefly, the Lord told me that I needed to spend more time with one of my children. I approached that child privately and asked him if recently he had longed for George and me to spend more time with him. With shock and awe registering on his face, he nodded. The following day I took him out alone and spoiled him. He needed it and the Lord brought it to my attention before his emotions and mind would be adversely affected.
George and I are constantly praying for the peace and well being of our children. Every opportunity is harvested to introduce Biblical values in everyday living, especially in dealing with male aggression, selfishness and other inherent character traits that, left unharnessed, will carry into their adult years with repercussions. We know it’s not by chance that He has blessed us with sons, and we carry the responsibility seriously, to raise the boys up with Biblical core values so they will be able to stand as godly men in the days to come.
FWM: If you could describe yourself with three words, what would they be?
KAREN: This question was definitely the hardest to answer. After pondering for some time with no clue, I turned to my darling children, asking them to ‘describe’ mummy in three words. All of them said exactly the same thing, "Beautiful, loving and caring." While I was immensely blessed by what they said, I would feel extremely embarrassed to say I was, ‘beautiful, loving and caring! So after much consideration I venture, very tentatively, to describe myself as, ‘passionate, creative and fun-loving.’ My blushing cheeks signal my reluctance to elaborate any further.
FWM: Karen, it has been an absolute pleasure chatting with you. Congratulations on the books you have coming out. You are a master-storytellerno doubt about that! I want to wish you many blessings as you continue to seek God’s will and pursue the life He has planned for you.
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