‘When God stirs our heart’: Vidalia pastor describes dangerous India mission trip, building an orphanage

Published 2:13 pm Sunday, May 5, 2024

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VIDALIA, La. — The Rev. Troy Thomas, the pastor of Bethel Church in Vidalia knew a Christian preacher who was killed doing the same work that he decided to do in May 2023 and plans to do again next week.

A year after his first visit to India, Thomas is planning to return to see an orphanage he helped create through contributions made at home.

The Rev. Troy Thomas, the pastor of Bethel Church in Vidalia, helped build a children’s orphanage in India with community donations. The orphanage is dedicated to Thomas’s daughter Angelle Noel Thomas, who died in 2005 from health complications she’d suffered since birth. (Submitted)

India has the second largest population of any country in the world. Unfortunately, many of those people live on the streets, and those with certain beliefs are persecuted.

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“People were arrested for having church in their own house,” and church buildings and affiliated charities have been burned to the ground, Thomas said.

However, he considers it a privilege to go to India.

“My wife (Shirley) wasn’t too excited about me going,” he said. “She says, ‘You come back to me now.’ She didn’t go with me. However, she was instrumental in raising resources at home to support the orphanage.”

Rev. Troy Thomas of Bethel Church in Vidalia and his wife Shirley have spearheaded efforts to build an orphanage in India and ask for more contributions to sustain it. (Submitted)

The Stella Children’s Home opened in January in a discrete location in honor of Thomas’s deceased daughter Angelle Noel Thomas. She died in 2005 from health complications suffered since birth.

“Before my little girl was born on July 27, 1994, doctors advised us to abort her. She was not expected to live more than two or three days, but God gave her to us for 11 years,” Thomas said. “She was born with water on her brain, an open spine and paralyzed from her waist down.”

The loss could have ended his ministry, however, Thomas said he and his wife trusted God instead.

“That was the biggest test of my life,” he said. “But I learned that you can’t stop preaching the truth just because of what you experienced. You have to love God and trust him no matter what.”

Thomas has been the pastor of Bethel Church in Vidalia since June 1985 and is no stranger to missionary work.

“Even though I have been pastoring a long time, I am still learning,” he said. “I will continue to learn until I pass. I realize that without God’s help, I can do nothing of eternal value. I have traveled to nine different countries, feeding the hungry spiritually and physically.”

Thomas said he has been on other missions to the Philippines and South America.

“Many times, they’re so hungry and in poverty,” he said of the people he has encountered. “To feed them the word and some natural food is a blessing.”

Thomas said his church also sponsored an orphanage built in Haiti, and building an orphanage was not in the plans when he initially went to India.

Instead of just going there to preach, the church sent $2,500 with Thomas to help feed people during church services. Hundreds of people were fed, he said. He has authored five Christian books and had one of them translated into the Hindu language to hand out as well.

Within a day or two of starting his ministry there, Thomas said he learned that some of the children he’d met were living on the street.

“My heart was touched,” he said. “I wept as I thought of the need of those children. One meal would only help these children for a few hours. I felt that (we) should do more.”

After he returned home around October 2023, more than $11,000 was raised from community contributions to support the orphanage, which was constructed in the third story of an existing school building so the children could learn, eat, live and be ministered to in the same facility.

Presently, approximately 25 children are being housed, fed and educated in this orphanage

While that was the most money ever raised for any mission trip, Thomas said he has faith he will reach his goal of raising at least another $1,000 each month for a year to sustain it.

“I realize that I can’t meet every need in this world. However, (we) can do what we can when God stirs our heart,” he said.

Donations may be sent to this orphanage project through Cash App at $bethelchurch204;  Venmo at bethel-church-204; or the website: www.bethelchurchla.org. Checks may also be mailed to the church at 204 Airport Road, Vidalia, LA, 71373.

Donors should designate their gift for: ORPHANAGE INDIA.

“Of course, no amount is too small or too large,” Thomas said. “Gifts are tax deductible.”

For more information, call 318-421-1450 or 318-336-HOPE (4673).