Joseph Raju of the Semmedu branch joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in 1971 and became one of the first native Indian, full-time missionaries to serve in India. Joseph has had many trials but received countless blessings and miracles throughout his life. He says blessings come when you choose the right.
Joseph made one such choice as a young man. After he graduated from college, the district president interviewed him and encouraged him to serve a full-time mission for the Church. Young Joseph struggled with the idea because he couldn't speak English well and felt obligated to support his family. For the next two years Joseph couldn’t find a job, even though he had a college degree. He was sick so often that he became a burden to his parents.
'One day, I was sitting alone and thinking about what was happening in my life and why I couldn’t get a job,' he said. Suddenly, a thought of inspiration came to his mind that he had made a mistake by not accepting a mission call from the Lord. He knelt down and prayed to Heavenly Father and asked for forgiveness. Joseph decided not to delay any more and made the correct choice to go on a mission.
Joseph’s parents gave him permission to go on a mission on one condition; that his older sister be married before he went. Joseph told his parents that he had faith it would happen. Within about two months his sister was proposed to, and was married and Joseph was able to serve his mission. He served from 1985 -1987. Knowing the restored gospel of Jesus Christ has truly solidified his commitment to serving others and build the kingdom of God on earth for the rest of his life. After getting married, he and his wife were blessed with two boys.
1997 was a year of hardship and darkness for Joseph Raju, now President of the Semmedu branch. Financial hardship, family sickness and many difficulties with Church members weighed heavily on him. He began a more serious study of the scriptures and learned how fasting and prayer helped Jesus and others find strength in difficult times, such as when Jesus fasted 40 days as recorded in Matthew, chapter four. He understood how fasting brings you closer to God and gives increased power over evil. Ever since joining the church, Joseph had fasted monthly as he was taught. To demonstrate a renewed commitment to the Lord, Joseph began to fast each Sunday and couple it with sincere prayer.
After weekly fasting he noticed major changes happening in his life. He began to feel much closer to his Heavenly Father. He said it was like coming out of darkness into the light. He was greatly blessed both spiritually and financially. Members of the branch began to be nicer to one another and more receptive to gospel teachings. His family seemed to have better health. Joseph felt more honest with his tithes and offerings. Trials didn’t cease and miracles continued to happen.
In the year 2000 Joseph was riding his motor bike for work and was hit by a large truck. His legs were severely injured. His helmet was split in two and his head was badly injured. He lost a lot of blood but never lost consciousness. Miraculously he recovered and was able to return to work after six months.
In 2001 President Raju was working on an electrical fixture in the church. While attaching some bare wires someone turned on the power giving him a bad shock. He felt blessed that he wasn’t badly injured.
In 2002, Joseph walked down to the river near his home to take a bath. As he reached the bank, a large wild elephant with tusks appeared on the other side only 3 meters away. The elephant had come down from the mountains to drink some fresh water. As Joseph attempted to get away, the elephant charged, lifting him up with his tusks and tossing him to the ground. Fearing the elephant would finish the job by stomping on him, he closed his eyes and prayed, “Heavenly Father, please bless and take care of my family.” He could hear and feel the elephant breathing near him. Several seconds later he opened his eyes and the elephant was gone. He believed God told the elephant something to stop the attack.
Joseph Raju walked the half kilometre back to his home. When his wife saw his head covered in blood, she screamed in tears and ran to stop the bleeding. She took him to the hospital where he received 54 stiches. The doctor operated on his broken arm using bone from his hip and adding a special metal plate. He lost a lot of blood but never lost consciousness. He attributed this to his keeping the Word of Wisdom. He was able to return to work after two months. Joseph said he continues to love all elephants and knows they are one of God’s wonderful creations.
Even though finances were still tight, in 2004 he and his family saved enough to take a trip to the temple in Hong Kong. Joseph, his wife and two sons were sealed together for time and eternity. Joseph said this was one of his greatest blessings.
Many members of the Semedu branch were blessed spiritually and testimonies were strengthened. From 1997 to about 2010 approximately 20 brothers and sisters were called on full-time missions from the branch. During the decade before 1997, the branch only sent one full-time missionary, Joseph’s brother.
After being released as branch president, brother Raju said his righteous prayers continued to be answered. He always prayed that his sons would serve full time missions for the Lord and they did. He prayed that both of his sons would marry returned missionaries and be sealed in the temple. They did. Joseph Raju and his family continue to work on building the kingdom of God on earth.