by Harry K. Zeiders
Sunday we will be singing the familiar evangelistic song, “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”. This week I happen to come across the fascinating tale of the originator of these lyrics; his name was Nokseng: He was a headhunting tribesman from northeast India in the 1800s who converted to Christ through the evangelistic ministry of cross-cultural missionaries. While he and his family were being tortured and murdered by their tribe, Nokseng sang these words. Following their martyrdom, the tribe was convicted by the Holy Spirit and converted to Christ.
We don’t have a photo of Nokseng, but we do have a photo of the translator who put the lyrics to a tune from northwest India and introduced the song to a Western audience; his name was Sundar Singh. Sundar was raised in a Sikh family. He persecuted Christians and burnt a Bible once. But then at age 14 he had a vision of Jesus with a shining light, and Sundar became an evangelist for Jesus. At age 20 in 1909 he enrolled in an Anglican seminary near his home, but quickly became disillusioned by the western forms of Christianity which were foreign and difficult for his fellow Indians to embrace. He committed the rest of his short life to evangelizing India and Tibet in incarnational ways that reflected local culture. He is believed to have died on a mission to Tibet in 1929.