Visions of Jesus inspire Indian boy to create prayer centre
A ten year old boy from a tribal region of India who credits prayer with curing severe pain in his legs and body has launched a prayer centre in his village attracting hundreds of people after receiving what he believes to be visions of Jesus.
UCA News reports that an abandoned hut on the outskirts of the central Indian town of Ambikapur, Chattisgarh, has become a prayer centre at the instruction of a sixth-grade boy, Rohit Rajan Toppo, who claims to have visions of Jesus.
Known as Nani Ashram, the centre now attracts hundreds of people including Hindus. "People come to pray here every day," says Fr Suman Xaxa, who heads the team that runs the five-room centre.
Its transformation began in November 2005 after young Toppo told a neighbourhood prayer gathering that they needed to clean up the house and turn it into a prayer centre, recalls Sr Elizabeth Ekka. The nun, a team member, has been associated with the centre since its inception.
The St Anne nun told UCA News that elders showed the boy other nearby houses in better condition, but he would not be swayed. "The Lord wants this house," he said. So villagers repaired and cleaned the abandoned hut.
Toppo, who has lived in one of the rooms with his parents and two younger brothers since 20 February, 2006, told UCA News that when he prays, he sometimes gets a feeling like an electric current passing through his body, and then Jesus appears to him in the form of the Divine Mercy image and gives him messages.
The prayer centre is "going to become a big centre," said Toppo, who studies in a Hindi-medium school run by Ambikapur diocese.
His mother Sushma told UCA News that her son used to have short periods of severe pain in his legs and body, which started on 22 December 2004.
The best hospitals in the region could not diagnose his ailment. "He got completely healed only by prayer," Sushma recalled.
Toppo's father, Gyan Prakash, said the boy had his first vision of Jesus on 3 March 2005. In that vision Jesus promised he would bless Toppo's family and also asked the boy to tell his grandfather to stop making thawich, a Hindu medallion, recalled Prakash, who keeps a record of happenings related to and messages given to his son.
When Toppo's parents, both government schoolteachers, were transferred to Ambikapur in November 2005, they started to conduct prayer services. During a prayer session that same month, the boy called out the names of five people and said Jesus wanted them to become permanent members to lead a prayer centre. On another day, the boy identified Nani Ashram as the place to hold prayers on a permanent basis.
Sr Ekka observed that the boy called out names accurately although he was new to the area and unfamiliar with the local people. She said those at the prayer sessions took the boy's visions seriously.
More than that, "we felt God has given him some grace," said Nirmal Kerketta, another team member. "So we have come to stay here," he said. Other team members stay close to the prayer centre.
Fr Xaxa became a team member after the boy specifically called on him to offer Mass after a prayer session on 1 December 2005. The boy told the priest, who was working as administrator of the bishop's house, that he saw a white dove on the priest's shoulder and that Jesus wanted him for this prayer ministry. "This is a call within a call," Fr Xaxa commented.
Chainsahi Kispotta, a policeman and team member, told UCA News that Toppo's explanation of Bible passages reminds him of the biblical passage, "I will reveal things through the mouths of the children."
Bishop Patras Minj of Ambikapur feels that what is happening at Nani Ashram is "genuine," he told UCA News. "Many are coming in groups. It has reawakened people's faith." The Jesuit prelate added that even people of other religions come for healing.
Toppo continues to attend school, wearing a crucifix over his shirt. He said he knows that people speak about him, but no one ridicules him. "Some boys ask me to pray for them," he said.
Schoolboy initiates Village Prayer Center after claiming visions of Jesus (Indian Catholic, 14/12/06)
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Ambikapur, Chattisgarh, India
15 Dec 2006