God Visits an Indian Jail


Ramesh Vasabathula spent much of his youth fending for himself on the streets of India. He ran away from home at age 11 to escape an abusive father, only to end up in a Christian orphanage where he was periodically beaten by the pastor in charge. At age 14, he left the orphanage and stayed on the streets for good, determined to support himself by doing odd jobs and learning to work as a mechanic and electrician.

As a young man, Ramesh decided that he wanted nothing to do with God. He had been abused by both Hindus and Christians, so he figured that choosing between good and evil was simply up to him.

“I was an atheist, and I hated the thought of God,” he admits. “But I was also a violent person.”

Ramesh’s violent tendencies eventually led to his arrest in 2009, after he was involved in a street fight. His friends escaped police, but he was captured and charged with assault. Even this outcome didn’t seem too bad to Ramesh, though, as he figured at least the jail would give him a secure place to stay for a while.

At the same time that I was sitting in my jail cell reading the book of John, this judge was driving 200 kilometers to come and set me free...

The turning point for Ramesh came on his 23rd birthday. Many times, throughout his life, he had been alone on the streets. But as he sat in his jail cell on his birthday, for the first time he felt truly lonely.

“I realized that nobody would even come to claim my body if I died there,” he recalls.

The warden noticed Ramesh’s somber mood that night and asked what was troubling him. When Ramesh explained it was his birthday, the warden handed him a New Testament. Ramesh was furious. He put it in the corner of his cell, determined not to touch it.

That night, Ramesh couldn’t sleep. All he could think about was the Bible.

“There was this voice inside me saying, ‘Open the Bible,’ and I couldn’t resist it,” he recalls with a wide smile. “So I eventually got up and opened it.”

Ramesh turned to John 14:18, where Jesus says, “I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you.” Ramesh felt like someone was speaking those words directly to him. For most of his life, he had considered himself an orphan with no one to care for him. Two hours later, he had read through the entire book of John, amazed at the words of Jesus.

“I made a commitment right there to follow Jesus. I was a believer,” he says.

The next morning, Ramesh experienced the first of many examples of God’s providential care for him. The warden came to his cell and told him that he was free to go. Confused, Ramesh asked how this could be possible. He was told that a judge from another Indian district had arrived at the jail that very morning and asked specifically for his release.

When Ramesh was introduced to this judge, he discovered that she was a Christian. She told him that she had been praying during the previous night and felt God was telling her to drive to the jail because there was someone there who needed her help. When she got to the jail and read Ramesh’s name on the list of inmates, she knew he was the man God wanted her to free.

“At the same time that I was sitting in my jail cell reading the book of John, this judge was driving 200 kilometers to come and set me free,” Ramesh remarks with amazement.

From that day forward, Ramesh decided he would dedicate his whole life in service to God. He set out for Grace Bible College in Northern India, even though he had no money or transportation. He made the long walk from Delhi for days, nearly passing out at one point due to extreme dehydration and fatigue.

“I didn’t want to turn back,” he says. “I decided that the day I turned back should be the day of my death.”

Ramesh eventually arrived at the college, exhausted, but eager to enroll. Despite having no plan for paying his tuition, he graduated in three years with a bachelor’s degree in theology. He paid his way thanks to a work scholarship, working 6-8 hours a day on campus as an electrician, gardener, food server, and driver—all skills that had helped him survive while living on the streets. He stayed for three more years and earned a Master of Divinity, graduating in 2015.

After school, Ramesh began teaching at a Bible school in Punjab. He also planted a church and began traveling on Sundays to preach at other churches throughout the region. During
that time, he also married his wife, Rajwinder. They now have a 5-year-old son.

As Ramesh visited more churches in India, he realized the need for theological education to be accessible to any believer in the church. He says that while many churches place a high value on the public gifts like prophecy, tongues, and healing, there was an unmet need for Christians to learn how to take the Bible and apply it to their lives.

If God begins it, He can finish it. I am not my own. I am confident God has led me every step. He is not going to give up on me.

“My calling is to be a Bible teacher,” he says. “Every person in the church has a right to know what the Bible says.”

Ramesh began looking into different seminaries in the U.S. where he could possibly become more grounded in the Scripture and take a deep dive into the biblical languages. He was also looking for a seminary that wasn’t tied to a denomination but was solidly rooted in the Scriptures.

“When reviewing seminaries, Western had the doctrinal position that I really agreed with.”

Ramesh's family

Once again, however, Ramesh had no way of paying his way. He shared his desire with his mentor from college, who reminded him of how God provided for six years of tuition at Bible college despite Ramesh having no support.

“I decided to throw myself into the hands of God and apply.”

Ramesh applied and was accepted into Western’s Graduate Studies Diploma Program, where he was given advance standing. His intention was to complete some additional prerequisites and then transfer into the Master of Theology program.

In August 2022, Ramesh flew to Portland, saying goodbye to his wife and son, who have moved in with her family while he is away. He admits that being away from his family has been the most difficult part of being in Portland.

“I have been alone all throughout my life, but since I’ve been married, my wife and I did not have one single day away from each other for seven years,” he admits. “This is the hardest thing.”

God has already provided for Ramesh’s seminary journey in numerous ways. Ramesh recently found a job that provides him free board at an elder care facility that is a 10-minute bus ride from campus. He also has a part-time job on the facilities team at Western. Whatever money he can spare, he sends back to India. He claims to be comfortable living on very little, even skipping breakfast most days so he can send money back to family friends who recently had a death in the family.

Ramesh entered the spring semester without any money for tuition. But rather than telling anyone, he simply prayed that God would provide. At just the right time, he found out that someone had made an anonymous gift of $4,300 into his account, which combined with his international scholarship was exactly what he needed to pay full tuition for the semester.

“If God begins it, He can finish it. I am not my own. I am confident God has led me every step. He is not going to give up on me.”

Ramesh reflects on his life with gratitude. He has sacrificed much to study at Western, but he finds comfort in a God who has always pursued him with goodness and mercy, regardless of his situation.

“God always comes to man where he is. Even in Genesis 3, He came to Adam in the garden. And He came to me in the jail.”

Ramesh is a student in Western’s Master of Theology program.