INDRAMANY SOMAPALA: THE POSSIBILITIES OF GRACE
Early last Sunday morning our friend Indramany Somapala called my wife Nelun before leaving for Church. She had forgotten Nelun’s birthday and wanted to give her belated wishes. A few minutes later she was in the presence of the God she dearly loved. She was knocked down by a bus a few yards from the Salvation Army home where she lived on her way to church. As her guardians, we were summoned to the Police station shortly afterwards to be told the sad news. She was 62 years old.
We got to know her through her brother John who came to Christ in our ministry and lived with us for several years. Indramany was prone to nervous breakdowns and would often live in our home when she was not doing well. She was so impacted by the change in her brother’s life that she too became a “Christian.” It was much later that she understood what grace was all about. But with that understanding she came to understand the key to her emotional health. Having a very timid nature, she would become scared when she confronted high pressure or when she was scolded by someone. And sometimes this got so bad that she would temporarily break down.
She learned, however, that she could trust God to care for her. After her death we found sheets of three songs in her room which she had laminated and kept for frequent singing. They all spoke of the loving friend she had found in Jesus: “What a Friend we have in Jesus,” “The Lord’s my Shepherd” and “Jesus is the Sweetest Name I Know.” The key to real greatness in God’s kingdom is childlike trust in God. Indramany’s timidity enabled her to trust God and cling to him as a child clings to her mother.
This timidity also made her depend a lot on prayer. And that made her a prayer warrior. I am convinced that praying is the most powerful thing we can do on earth (Jas. 5:16b). By that measure, Indramany was a very powerful person. Her weakness had become her strength (2 Cor. 12:10). Because I knew she was mighty in prayer I would often ask Nelun to send her a message about my needs so that she could pray. When she found out about someone’s need she would call many people and ask them to pray for it.
Grace also made Indramany a gracious person. She was a gracious person even before she came to Christ. But her experience of salvation added a divine element to her natural character. She cared for others and found great fulfilment in helping them. When our children were small and Nelun travelled with me, she was the one who would come home to be with our children. When our daughter Nirmali had to be taken for surgery to Anuradapura, a town about five hours from Colombo, and Nelun could not come because of a bad back, Indramany is the one who came with us. Just this year she came and spent about a month in our home in order to be with Nelun’s mother while we were abroad. She knew what we liked to eat and, though she was not wealthy, she often brought those things when she visited us. She visited often people in hospital. But her greatest sacrifice of love was in caring for the needs of her partly paralysed brother John and his wife Delrine.
The love of Christ in her also made her considerate towards others. She did not want to cause trouble to others. She knew that if she got ill again that would be a trouble to others. So she faithfully took her medicine and she never had a serious nervous problem for the last 15 or so years of her life. Many with similar problems would stop taking medication saying they are now well. Not Indramany. She had cultivated a group of friends to whom she could go when she was under pressure. This ensured that she would find God’s grace, mediated through friends, as a healing balm to her troubled soul.
She asked that when she dies her body would be taken directly to the cemetery from the hospital for burial. Of course, we would have none of it. And what a large crowd there was at her funeral! She was a single woman, without any wealth worth speaking about and hardly any family, except her brother. But her godly life had impacted so many that the funeral parlour was filled to overflowing. She often told us that she was praying that she would die without causing trouble to others and without too much pain. That prayer was answered because she died instantly.
Stories of people like Indramany are a boost to us preachers. Can God do something significant through people who in the world’s eyes seem to have little potential? When we get to heaven and see the reward that Indramany has received we will answer that question with a resounding YES. God can change people. God can turn people’s weaknesses into their strengths. Grace plus weakness can result in unique demonstrations of the possibilities of grace in those who trust in God. So let us look at people through the eyes of grace and see how God can use their weaknesses to make them great people.