Indira was once shocked to hear that Jesus was the only way to the life and joy she wanted. But in the end, she could no longer resist her deep longing.
When I first met Indira Jonklaas in Dubai, I couldn’t believe that she was over 60 years old. Comparing her to other women of the same age, I realize that there is something different about her—an inner joy that radiates from her face. As I sit down to listen to her story, I wonder if she’s always been like this, and I look forward to hearing more from her.
Indira grew up in a Christian Catholic family in Sri Lanka; a normal childhood, hard working parents. But as a young girl, she noticed that she couldn’t relate the teachings of the Catholic Church to the daily life she experienced.
Time passed and as she entered her adolescent years, she developed her own interests. As Indira travelled a very intellectual and self-driven path, she met some ordinary people that had a big impact on her life. “I went to a convent with Irish nuns; they were so good to us.” Her longing for a true and pure life was awakened during this time. “I saw that I really had a desire to do the good, to be good, to serve; but I increasingly realized my inability to do this in my own strength.”
After a year in America as an exchange student, Indira returned to Sri Lanka, where she met David, who she sensed was a kindred spirit. It wasn’t long before they were married, and from that point, “reality”, as Indira describes it, began. “I think marriage was a big step of God’s work in me. David and I can say that we were two prima donnas. He wanted his way and I wanted mine. So, as you can imagine, we had many clashes.”
As time passed and Indira and David had children, she began again to sense a longing for something more. “I wanted to be a good mother. I knew it was important to create a loving family. I can’t say I felt the need for God, but I wanted something more for my children.”
Then she met some of her old friends, a couple that had returned after travelling for a few years. “My friends were really changed and I saw that something wonderful had happened. I wanted what they had, but I was very shocked when they said that it was because of Jesus. It seemed so narrow-minded to me, that Jesus was the only way to this life and joy they had.”
However, the change she saw in her friends attracted her, and she accompanied them to a few of the gatherings they attended. She sensed a longing for Jesus and wanted to give her life to Him, but she didn’t want to make a decision based only on her emotions.
In July 1983, Indira joined her husband in Dubai, where he had set up a business. David and Indira were befriended by an older couple who were committed Christians and their lives had a deep impact on them. God slowly and consistently wore down Indira’s resistance and hardness of heart and in October 1988, at the Bible study group which she had begun attending, Indira could no longer resist the inner desire in her heart. “I opened my mouth during a time of prayer and said, ‘Jesus, I need you in my life!’ Soon I was reading the Bible and praying, and the Word of God began to become living for me. I threw myself into the Word and became involved in everything in the church that I was going to.” It was wonderful to experience the forgiveness of God for all my many sins through Jesus and to begin a new life in Him.
As Indira read more of God´s Word, she began to question some of the things she was hearing. “They spoke a lot about healing and prosperity; how God wanted you to be rich in this world, and that those who were real disciples wouldn´t be sick.” It didn’t seem to line up with with the lives of Paul and the other apostles as described in the Bible, whom Indira reasoned should be blessed with worldly wealth and a trouble-free life more than all others, if this interpretation of God’s calling was true.
Indira started to search for a gospel that could satisfy the longing in her heart.
“It is not your doctrine that takes you to heaven; it is your life”
“In the midst of all of this, I started a new job,” Indira tells. “On my first day there, a smiling face turned up at my desk. He knew who I was from one of the Christian gatherings I had attended earlier and he had it on his heart to speak to me from God’s Word and from what God was working in his own heart.” Finally, Indira began to receive answers to her many questions. More than this, her colleague could help her, not because of his Bible knowledge, but because he was a person who lived the life that God’s Word spoke about.
“He invited me to the meetings that he went to and I was really, really gripped. I knew that the preaching was real.”
Finally, Indira found what she had been longing for—the Word of God lived by the people who spoke about it! When I ask her how she knew that it was the right place, she answers simply, “It was here that it became clear to me that my own nature, the sin that lives in me, is the reason for all my problems. When I am patient in a situation and endure, instead of holding onto my own will, then victory and joy follow. I have met many Christians and have been to many churches and I am convinced it is not your doctrine that takes you to heaven; it is your life.”
I have personally experienced Indira as a radiant person, always happy, always encouraging and with great care for the others. But this is definitely more than just having a good relationship with the people she knows and a ‘human care’. What she says next confirms that. “It is the sin that dwells in my nature, my own will, which makes me a difficult person. I have received help from God, and continue to receive help, not to act according to my sinful nature. The others shouldn’t have to change because of my personality; I am the one who has to change. By denying the sinful lusts that dwell in my nature, I am following Jesus, and little by little His nature becomes mine.” (2 Peter 1: 3-8)
When I ask her why she’s always so happy, she says, “I’ve been asked this many times. I’m happy because of the gospel and because it has become my life.”
I can testify that I have seen the gospel alive in Indira. She is so full of this life that she can`t help the virtues of Christ from streaming out of her heart and radiating from her face, affecting the others around her. This has to be true happiness!