The founder of a large ministry in India that rescues orphans and abandoned children died on Saturday, the ministry reported.
Dr. M.A. Thomas, founder of Hopegivers International, passed away at the age of 74. Thomas had suffered a stroke in December 2008 that left him paralyzed on his right side, which affected his right eye, arm, leg and ability to swallow and speak. He also suffered from several bouts of pneumonia since then.
"Papa's suffering has finally come to an end. Please join his family and friends as we thank God for a life that was so completely sold out to God; a life that daily breathed in God's grace and exhaled prayers for thanksgiving for an opportunity to serve the God of the universe," stated Hopegivers International in its announcement Saturday.
Thomas was warmly known as Papa to orphans, Bible students and pastors within the ministry.
Born into a very poor family located at the southern tip of India in Kuzhikala, Kerala, Thomas had a heart for poor children since an early age and devoted his life to ministering to abandoned and orphaned children. Hopegivers International has helped start more than 70 orphanages, over 100 Bible colleges and institutes, and 25,000 churches in India.
He graduated from St. Thomas College in India and earned doctorate of divinity from Hindustan Bible Institute in Chennai, India, as well as receiving an honorary doctorate of divinity from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.
Thomas began his ministry as a missionary in Rajasthan in 1960 and started his first church with only a $25 donation from Dr. Bill Bright, the co-founder of Campus Crusade for Christ.
He built "Hope Homes" – Christ-centered orphanages that provide physical, mental, emotional and spiritual support for children – across India. The ministry later also supported those suffering from leprosy and HIV/AIDS in the country.
During his lifetime, Thomas has received numerous awards and recognitions, including the Padma Shree Award from the president of India – the most prestigious award giving to civilians in India; the Mother Teresa Memorial International Award for Social Justice; the Good Samaritan Award from the World Christian Association; and the Mahatma Gandhi Award for his humanitarian work with people affected by leprosy, among others.
Thomas and his son Dr. Samuel Thomas, president of Hopegivers, had the vision of One Million Arrows before the elder Thomas died. The goal is to raise up one million orphans who will be sent out to begin their own faith-based humanitarian outreach in their native countries in partnership with the ministry by the year 2020.
"Although Dr. Thomas is finally home with the Lord and he is experiencing complete joy and perfect happiness as a child of God, many of us are struggling with this loss," stated Hopegivers in its announcement. "We ask that you keep Dr. Samuel, his sisters and their families in your prayers,"
In addition to its work in India, Hopegivers also has an orphanage in Haiti and three in Africa. It also provides medical care for children suffering from HIV/AIDS in those two countries.