Praveen Rudra (16’) is a graduate of the counseling program at our Lancaster campus. But his journey to get here was far from typical. Praveen is a native of Andhra Pradesh, India. He grew up in an orthodox Hindu family – certainly not the origin story of most of our Bible college students. He also had a successful, thriving career as an engineer. But his heart wasn’t in it.
You see, the real reason that Praveen pursued a degree in engineering was because it was expected of him to have a good paying job. In Indian culture, honor and shame dictate nearly all aspects of society and social life. And his immediately family was deeply shamed. To make matters worse, as is typical of Indian families, Praveen, his sister and parents lived in a house with their extended family.
Vijay, Praveen’s father, was the eldest son of six children and worked a middle class account. Due to unforeseen circumstances, he was never able to earn a degree, and subsequently, he couldn’t advance in his career or earn more money. This caused the rest of the family to become deeply ashamed of him– a serious offense in their culture.
This shaming took place is very blatant ways. Praveen’s mother, Varalaxmi, was forced to clean and cook for the entire family, and Praveen’s paternal grandparents lavished his cousins with expensive gifts and love while snubbing Praveen and his sister, Sudha. “Due to all these situations, my mother and father would tell my sister and I, “Unless you have a good job, you will not be respected by anyone in the family,”” explained Praveen. So, although he didn’t find fulfillment in his job as an engineer, Praveen soldiered on to earn respect for his family.
But God had other plans for Praveen and his family. It was around this time that Varalaxmi learned that her father, Pandu Sirisilla, had secretly become a Christian. It was a closely guarded secret – so secret that he was only able to confess it to his daughter on his deathbed. If people found out that Pandu converted to Christianity, the family would be rejected from much of society and his daughter would have never been able to marry. Clinging to his belief in God nearly cost Praveen’s grandfather everything.
This stirred something deep inside Varalaxmi. “That event made a huge impact on my mother,” said Praveen. “She wanted to know what made her father to believe in Christ.” Her curiosity piqued, she started secretly attending church with a friend, and eventually became a believer. “After couple of weeks, she couldn’t resist sharing her joy and what she found in Christ,” Praveen explained. “She shared with me about Christ, but it didn’t make sense to me. I thought something was wrong with my mother!”
Praveen continued to puzzle over his mother’s conversion. “I opposed her belief in God and asked to forget about Him and to be silent on the matter,” shared Praveen. “But my mother’s zeal for Christ made me question my own faith and my purpose in life.” He started researching Christianity, questioning what set Christ apart from the gods of other religions. “During this process, I learned that Jesus is the only son of God who came to us live among us,” he elaborated. “And that it’s only through His blood that I could be saved. I went to my mother confessed about my foolishness and asked her to take me to church.”
Eventually, through the influence of his mother, Praveen and his father both became believers. But things didn’t get easier for them. Their extended family soon discovered their secret and confronted them. “Without any hesitation, my mother told them about Christ,” explained Praveen. “They gave us option to either choose Christ or our family, and we chose Christ.”
The extended family did not receive the news well. “They cut all ties with our family,” he said sadly. “We were not invited to any family gatherings or celebrations.” Praveen said initially that he regretted their decision. “But now,” he said, “I understand just how important that decision was.”
Through it all, Praveen still had a feeling that he wanted to do something significant with his life – and he wasn’t finding fulfillment in work as an engineer. “As I came to know the Lord, I also came to understand that my purpose for life went beyond accumulating wealth,” elaborated Praveen. Then, he heard about a seminar a biblical counseling from leaders in his church. He went, not expecting much. “I figured I’d give it a try and didn’t have high hopes,” said Praveen. “But at the end of the day, I was sure that this is what I wanted to do with my life.”
So Praveen set off to become a counselor. As seems to be the theme of his life, he was met with opposition – even from his parents and fellow church members. “Counseling is a relatively new concept in India,” he explained. “So people thought that I was crazy for leaving a steady job in engineering for a field they’d never heard of.” But he felt called by God, so he kept pursuing the idea. “I was discouraged and disappointed many times, but God never left me He kept on encouraging me day by day,” said Praveen.
Eventually, Praveen heard about LBC’s master’s degree in counseling from his trusted friend and mentor, Sanjay Dalavai, an Ephrata, Pennsylvania native. He applied and was accepted – and now, just a few years later, he’s a graduate of the college, an adjunct professor at LBC and says he’s ready to fulfill God’s call on his life.
“When I look back on this journey, I know that it would not have been possible without the help and support of the staff and faculty at LBC,” said Praveen. “They believed in me and they did not give up on me. Instead, they invested in my life and at every stage – during moments of disappointment, loneliness, transition struggles, and when I lost sight of the vision that God gave me. They stood by my side and encouraged me to get back on to my feet and keep going. They have not only invested in my professional life, but my spiritual life as well. I am so grateful that God has given me the opportunity to be a part of LBC.”