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Paul Vankateswami Gupta (20th February 1920 to 13th November 1977) was an Influential Indian Evangelist and founder of the Hindustan Bible Institute and College (HBI) having its headquarters at Chennai, South India. HBI has trained and graduated over 12,500 students and has equipped over 150,000 Pastors and Leaders who are serving across the Globe and among the Diasporas.

Early life and Background

         Vankateswami Gupta was born on 20th February 1920 to orthodox Hindu, money-lending family. Right from his young age, he was brought up as a devout follower of the deities. His father persuaded him to be a lawyer and sent him for high school education. During his pursuit of education, he became a wayward youth and picked up evil habits like smoking, gambling etc. As soon as his father came to know about Vankateswamis unruly lifestyle, he was brought back to his house. Finally, at the age of 17, Vankateswami found himself doing the tedious work of book-keeping for the business.

Although his dream of becoming a lawyer would not be fulfilled, he enjoyed the money-lending business as farmers came from a radius of 30 miles to borrow and sell their properties both movable and immovable. Soon his evil habits overtook him and he stole money from his fathers treasury. When his father caught him, he scolded him and yelled If you keep this up, you are going straight to hell! Do you hear me? Straight to hell. This became a turning point in Vankateswamis life and he started searching for the way of salvation and ultimately found Jesus Christ.

Journey Towards Accepting Christ

         A tall Whiteman visited Vankateswamis village and sang hymns and spoke from the Bible. The following scripture portion drew his attention : This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; 1 Timothy 1:15.Upon hearing this Scripture portion and the sermon given by the Whiteman, Vankateswami started pondering over the message and the deeper truths therein. Later, he called a servant and sent him to the neighbouring Untouchables village to borrow a New Testament. He started reading the New Testament secretly. Though he couldn't comprehend the full text of the bible, he understood that the main message of the New Testament was salvation for sinners through Christs death and Resurrection. The more he read, the louder his conscience seemed to say, This is the salvation you have been seeking. Why dont you receive it? Who will save sinners like you if not this Jesus?. He wrestled with that question for weeks. Eventually, each morning when the office opened for the business he began reading the New Testament aloud, just as he had once read the Bhagavad-Gita. Vankateswami mulled over that for weeks, seeking desperately to escape the logic of it. He thought that it was bad enough to embrace the Untouchables God as it would cost him everything. But one day when he was reading Hebrew 8:12, For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more, he believed that God can forgive him because Jesus died for his sins, and he gave his heart to Jesus.

Vankateswami became an ardent follower of Christ and read the New Testament religiously. Scripture portion from Mark 16:16: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned, caught his attention. Inexpressible emotions surged and tumbled around in Vankateswami and he went in search of a priest who could baptize him. He finally met a Pastor and persuaded him to baptize him. Later, because of his unusual zeal, he was named Paul, after the famous Apostle, and he returned home extremely cheerful.

Pauls - New beginning

          Pauls walk with the Lord moved to the next level and he started sharing about his exciting journey with the Lord Jesus Christ to one and all. Paul's father and the household was disappointed with the new developments. His family plotted to kill him by poisoning the food that he was about to consume, but providentially his Uncle cautioned him about this scheming and he refused to eat the poisoned food that was served to him. Angered by this, his family chased him out of the house. Paul was only left with a pair of dress that he wore, Dhoti skirt and shirt and the borrowed New Testament.

For the next nine months, Paul made his home on the main street near the edge of town in the small but adequate room that Pastor Joseph rented for him the following day. That habit of reading his beloved New Testament developed in these formative months would build a faith that would eventually carry him around the world on an incredible mission. Paul would walk to the large open market nearby, holding his New Testament and hymnal, and begin to sing and preach. Often he preached from the same verse that had first arrested his attention.

This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. (1 Timothy 1:15). Paul wanted to tell everyone about this good news. Many rejected Christ, insisting upon going their own way but many believed, and Paul brought each one to Pastor Joseph for baptism. Several disappointments made Paul realize that many people wanted Christ to save them from illness and pain and, of course, from hell, but not from their sins. They didnt want him to interfere with their lives.

Test of Faith

         Then came an even more severe test of Pauls faith. He fell seriously ill; though he prayed earnestly, he only grew worse. Intense stomach pain, nausea, and violent vomiting made it impossible for him to leave his room. Every day he grew weaker. He thought that God has forgotten him. Then the Pastor hospitalized him for 10 days. Then he took him into his own home. Paul was treated by the entire family as though he was their own, moved with them. Then with the help of Agrippa, a man of God, he took an immersion baptism.

Early Days of Ministry

          Taken into the house of Mr Daniel in Madras, Paul soon learned that there was another remarkable man whom God had brought into his life with a purpose. Mr.Daniel worked with Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship for years, holding meetings at many Universities, he had founded the Laymens Evangelical Fellowship to train recent graduates in the Word of God and to help them in key positions in business and government. Living by faith, he was a man of prayer. Paul had already begun to learn the word of God and was strengthened and clarified under the training he received from this godly man. Paul lived nearly two years in his home, daily preaching in the streets in the Madras and handing out Gospels of John as he walked back and forth across that great city.

Learning that there were many villages where Christ has never been preached around Anantapur, a district headquarters in the centre of Southern India, Paul spent much time there beginning in 1940, travelling alone, sometimes with Agrippa, and a young Hindu convert named Probuddas. Paul often preached in churches, but best of all he loves to preach Christ to the Hindus in the streets. Having read in Scriptures that Jesus cast out demons, Paul began to do the same in His name.

Paul becomes a Telugu interpreter at Bakt Singhs meetings, Paul was deeply influenced by his life and learned much about preaching by repeating this powerful evangelists sermons after him. Paul met Dr.Raju, a former medical doctor turned evangelist, who was to have a unique influence upon his future life.

The one person who had the deepest spiritual influence upon Paul was Silas Fox, a Canadian missionary, who gave so many decades of his life to India, took a deep personal interest in Paul and spent many hours teaching him from the Scriptures.Paul sometimes travelled from village to village including his town Proddatur, as an apprentice evangelist with Silax Fox, and Agrippa now and then accompanied by Dr.Raju, his close friend. Paul went daily from door to door inviting people to the evening meetings and telling everyone about the victory he had found in Christ.

Paul's Life Partner

          At the appointed time, May 2, 1946, Paul was married to Devi, daughter of Dr.Raju from Narsapur, Andhra Pradesh. Devi was a deeply spiritual girl who was an excellent partner who shared the vision and burden of Paul. Paul and Devi began to enjoy the dependence upon God for everything and built their family on the Biblical foundation.

The Vision

          Paul and Devi prayed earnestly for the lost souls. One day, God spoke to Paul to start a Bible School where His people can be trained to win India for Christ. They both prayed together about it from that day, but the idea seemed too preposterous and impractical. It began to trouble him increasingly. It was obvious, however, that he must first attend a Bible college. Though he had a passion for theological studies, his investigation to find a sound Bible College in India failed. He then discussed his vision with his friends who began to belittle his decision. Paul and Devi prayed earnestly about the vision and understood Gods will and waited for his time.

Unexpectedly one day, he received an application form from the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (Biola) from Bill Wood, a former American serviceman. He encouraged him to apply there and eventually secured admission at BIOLA University. Miraculously, one day his friend gave enough money to Paul to bring his wife and son to join him in Los-Angeles. Paul begins to see the grace of God was with him, as he commenced his theological studies at Biola. Paul knew that God will provide for all their needs. Devi too enrolled in Biola for the next semester. Later, God blessed them with six children. He knew that this phase of academics is the preparation to open a Bible Institute in India. Paul was happy to be in the hands of God and completed his studies successfully.

Birth of the Hindustan Bible Institute

          On November 25, 1950, the name Hindustan Bible Institute had been suggested by Dr Feinberg. The first slogan the new board adopted was Send Missionaries and train missionaries. Hindustan Bible Institute started in the year 1952 with 5 full-time students at Kilpauk, Madras (Chennai), South India. Paul invited Christians in Madras to the Inauguration Ceremony. More than 200 people joined him and he explained the need for training Indians to evangelize their own country. Paul also spoke of the theme, explaining that the Hindustan Bible Institute, would not unlike a regular seminary, be so much interested in producing Pastors to take over established churches.

Paul successfully led the Ministries of Hindustan Bible Institute for 25 years and went to be with his Lord on 13th November 1977. He impacted many lives with his life of faith and raised and trained Leaders who went ahead and worked with the same fire and fervour. His disciples are spread across the nation and they birthed many more new institutions and movements.

His legacy continues to impact not only India but across the Globe. Today HBI is not only a premier Theological College but a Mission organization with a focus on training and Church planting. Over the last 67 years, HBI has trained 12,500 men and women and further impacted over 150,000 Pastors and Leaders.

When you trust in the God of Impossibilities and take a step of faith he will do exceedingly and abundantly more than what you can comprehend or Imagine !!!