Bakht Singh Chabra (1903-2000) is considered one of the most exceptional preacher, bible teacher and evangelist from India. He is also one of the pioneers of Indigenous Church planting movement and contexualization of gospel of Jesus Christ to Indian culture. Born in 1903 to a religious Sikh parents in Punjab (now a part of Pakistan), Bakht Singh became follower of Jesus Christ during his visit to England and Canada for higher studies. This life testimony offers glimpse into life of Bakht singh (known as Brother Bakht Singh).
His Childhood years
Brother Bakht Singh was educated in a Christian missionary school. But since then he had resentment towards Christians. He lived in a boarding home for 5 years. On one side of this boarding home, the Hindu students lived and on the other side the Muslims lived. He talked to everyone except Christians. Deep from within, he was very bitter towards Christianity and Christian people. He was very orthodox in his own religion and spent many hours in the Sikh temples observing all the religious rites. Sikhs are very well known for their social service to the people in society. So he also took an active part in such work but he could not find real joy in observing such rites or doing such service. When he passed his school he was given a leather bound Bible, which he tore into pieces. He kept the leather cover as it was beautiful.
A Strange Dream
During his school days, he used to have a dream. The Dream was that he was climbing a high and steep hill. With great difficulty and struggle he would reach the top but as soon as he reached there, somebody would come along and hurl him down. As he fell, the sharp points of the rocks would dig into his ribs. Thus he would be in great pain, so much so that he would cry out in his dream. But in the end he would find himself lying on a bed.
Life in England:
After his college years he had an ambition to go to England to study. His father was a wealthy man and wanted him to join his business. He has six brothers but Bakth was the favorite of his mother. His mother said to him one day, “I will help you to go to England but promise me that you will not change your religion.” Bakth Singh was a proud Sikh man, and he promised his mother that he will never do that. His father too, agreed to send him with all the money he needed and he also promised to live economically. In September 1926, he reached England and joined Mechanical Engineering in the Engineering College of London.
Slowly he adapted into the Western world. He did not relish the food so much but he learnt to use the forks and spoons. He slowly also shaved his hair which a conservative Sikh would never do. He travelled all over Europe and England, visited museums, art galleries, worn expensive clothes; had eaten grand meals; had made friends with rich and poor, high and low; had taken part in social functions, indulged in amusements; had acquired as much education as he wanted; yet he was unhappy. He also tried smoking expensive cigars and alcohol just so that he could be just like his other English friends.
Then he thought perhaps it was not happy due to the fact that he was not fully civilized! So he asked his English friends, professor and fellow students. But none of them were really happy. He thought if India had the education and sanitation it would become like a heaven, but then he saw England which had all that but still there were greater evils in the society, he did not understand. He concluded the world is filled with “vanity of vanities”.
A trip to Canada:
In 1928, a group of students were going to Canada and so he too decided to join them. On the 10th of August, he saw a notice showing that a church service would be held in the first-class dining saloon, at noon. He thought he should also go along with his friends but he was afraid, as he had never been to a church before. He thought to himself he has been to so many places, so a Church will do no harm to him. And so he tagged along. At the end of the service he saw people kneeling down and praying. He thought “These people do not know anything about religion. They have exploited my country and I have seen them eating and drinking. What do they know? After all my religion is the best religion.”
But he found one man kneeling on the right and another on the left and he thought it would not be right to disturb them. He began to say, “I have been to mosques and Hindu temples. I have taken off my shoes and washed my feet to show respect for those places. I must honor this place too out of courtesy.” So breaking his national pride, he knelt down.
This was the first time Bakht Singh was attending a Christian service. He had never read the Bible before nor had anyone spoken to me about salvation. When he knelt down he felt a great change coming over him. His whole body was trembling. He could feel divine power entering into him and lifting him up. The first change that he noticed was, that a great joy was flooding his soul. Then he realized that he was repeating the name of Jesus Christ. He began to say, “Oh, Lord Jesus, blessed be Thy name, blessed be Thy name.” The name Jesus became very sweet to him.
After this experience in Canada, Bakth Singh started going to churches on week days when they were empty and sat there. He felt the calmness, joy and peace in his heart. One year passed by, but he never told anyone about his Christian experience, nor did he have the courage to do so, but the desire of smoking and drinking was all gone. In 1929, he came back to Canada to finish a course in Agricultural Engineering. There on 14th Dec. 1929, he asked a friend to give him a Bible. This friend was surprised but gave him a pocket New Testament (which Bakht singh kept with him for the rest of his life).
The next day when he was reading the Gospel of John, in chapter 3 the words “Verily Verily I say unto you” convicted him. He for the first time learned that he was the greatest sinner and his heart was filthy. He felt remorse for the blasphemous words he used for Jesus and Christians. Tears started to flow, As he was crying, the Voice said to him, “This is my body broken for you; this is my bloodshed for the remission of your sins.” He knew that the blood of Jesus only could wash away his sins But he did not know exactly how. There on that day, he accepted Jesus as his Savior and God, an unexplainable joy and peace came to his soul. He felt a real assurance that all his sins were washed away. He continued worship Jesus. In the next 2 days he received Bible (Old and New Testaments) as a Christmas gift. He engrossed himself reading this Book for hours, sometimes 14 hours in a stretch. He also read the New Testament many times.
On 4th February, 1932, Bakht Singh was baptized in Vancouver, Canada. After his baptism, he wrote a letter to his father about the conversion. It was a long letter with many Bible references. Just during that time his father had met a missionary who was talking to him about the Christ and the Bible. So the missionary gave an Urdu Bible to his father. He read the letter and the Bible references and was convinced that his son has a real conversion and that he too started believing in Jesus Christ.
Ministry in India
He returned back to Mumbai, India in 1933, where he was not well received by his family members. His parents would only accept him, if he could keep his ‘newly found faith’ a secret. Upon his denial, his family deserted him. Suddenly he bacame homeless, but the joy and love of Christ was too much to contain. He started preaching on the street of Mumbai. Soon, he started attracting thousands of people all around India. Large crowd gathered around wherever he went. His revival meetings were always followed with Signs, Wonders, Healings. He went on to plant many churches in all over India. Later on, his family also accepted him, many of whom also became followers of Jesus Christ.
Bakht Singh was a friend to Christian leaders such as Billy Graham, Francis Schaeffer, Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones, Jerry Falwell, and John Stott etc. His impact in India for Christ has been immense, more than any other Indian Christian leader. You can read more about his life and ministries here and here. Bakht singh died on September 16, 2000 at age of 97, but his life and legacy still lives on through changed lives…