People who sacrificed their lives to God

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Graham Stuart Staines

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Dr.Graham Stuart Staines was an Australian Christian missionary, born on 18th January 1941 at Palmwoods, Queensland, Australia as the second child of William and Elizabeth Staines. His mother Elizabeth was a godly person, she had a great influence on the life of little Graham. At the fifteen years old, a visiting missionary made a slide presentation about people who suffered from leprosy. That is when he saw the photograph of Josia Soren, a boy of approximately his age, suffering from severe leprosy. Filled with sorrow and compassion for those suffering from leprosy and because of his profound love for God, he decided to dedicate his life to serve God by serving leprosy patients. The specific call to serve the leprosy patients in India came two years later, as his devotional reading on Christ, coincided with a missions meeting where the speaker challenged the attendees to serve the people with leprosy in the villages of Mayurbhanj, a town in Orissa, India. Interestingly, his tryst with the village that he would later call his home began in the year 1956. After eight years, Graham decided to visit India.

Graham Staines and family
       On his 24th birthday, on 18th January 1965, he arrived in India. As Graham walked the streets of Baripada in Orissa, his heart melted at the hapless plight of the people suffering from leprosy. He showed a deep commitment to God and men and had a clear missionary vision. He felt deep in his hart that it was his divine call and commission to communicate the love of Christ to the untouchables of the community by serving them. He joined the Evangelical Missionary Society of Mayurbhanj in 1965 and started his work with leprosy patients. He learnt Oriya, Santhali and Ho, the languages spoken by the local villagers and tribal people. As a matter of fact, even the Government authorities banked on him for composing a song in the Santhali dialect, to popularize the polio immunization drive among the tribes.

Glady Staines
       During the month of June in 1981, while Graham was working with leprosy patients in Baripada, is a city in Mayurbhanj district in the state of Orissa, India, there was a tall beautiful and soft-spoken lady who involved in a youth mission was headed to India as part of a global youth mission, Gladis Weatherhead of Ipswich, Queensland, Australia as part of the mission, come to Baripada and circumstantially met him. Graham married Gladys in 1983, in Australia and returned to serve in India together and they worked together since then. Gladys, who was trained as a nurse, was an apt and suitable helper for Graham at the Mayurbhanj Leprosy Home. This sacrificial couple made their home in an old house within the mission compound in Baripada and chose a very simple lifestyle. They had three children, a daughter, Esther Joy and two sons, Philip Graham and Timothy Harold. His family-life also stands as a shining example.

       Graham played a role in the establishment of the Mayurbhajn Leprosy Home as a registered society in 1982. He took over the management of the Mission at Baripada in 1983. Graham was a multi-faceted, Christ-centered missionary. He was effectively involved in a wide range of ministries, including literacy, translation work, leprosy work, training disciples, church planting and social development work. His competence in bible translation work is testified by the Ho language of India translation of the New Testament published in 1997. He also helped inspire a church planting movement among the Ho tribe of Orissa. He was described as an excellent interesting and compelling preaching. 

       Graham was full of life and good to be with. He made the leprosy mission a self-sufficient haven where patients were imparted a sense of dignity. He educated those who have been healed with skills that would make them independent in the society. The leprosy home accommodated about 80 to 100 patients and included a treatment center and a vocational training center where, the patients learned to weave saris, mats, towels and dhoties. He was like a father to the inmates of the leprosy home and he found many of them a place at the home itself when they had nowhere to go even after they were cured. The people around him fondly referred to him “elder brother”.

       On the night of 22nd January 1999, Graham had attended a jungle camp in Manoharpur in Jharkhand, an annual gathering of Christians of the area for religious and social discourse. The village is situated on the border of the tribal-dominated Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar districts of Orissa. He was on his way to Keonjhar in Orissa with his two sons, who had come back on holiday from their school at Ooty, broke the journey for the camp and spend the night in Manoharpur village, Keonjhar district, Orissa in India, sleeping in the vehicle because of the severe cold. Glades had stayed back in Baripada in Mayurbhanj district of Orissa. According to reports, a mob of about 50 people, armed with axes and other implements, attacked the vehicle while Stains and the children were fast asleep and his station wagon where he was sleeping was set afire by the mob. Graham and his sons Philip and Timothy were burnt alive. Some villagers tried to rescue Stains and his sons, but were ended in vain. They tried to escape, but the mob allegedly prevented their attempt to escape.

       Dr.Graham Stuart Staines spent 34 years of his life serving the people with love, extending the grace of our Christ and had been working in Orissa among the tribal poor and especially with leprosy patients since 1965. After Graham’s alive, Gladys continued to live in India caring for leprosy patients until 2004 before going back to Australia. Shortly after the sentencing of the killers, Gladys issued a statement saying that she had forgiven the killers and had no bitterness towards them. In 2004, she decided to return to Australia to stay with her daughter and father. She however said that she would continue to look after the people she and her husband had been looking after so far. In 2005, she was awarded the Padma Sree, a civilian award from the Government of India, in recognition for her work with leprosy patients in Orissa, India.

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