As 31-year-old MC Thomas drove to work in morning traffic, he says he saw words in the air in front of his car’s windshield. It looked like a TV breaking news announcement with this message:
“Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.”
Then Thomas saw it again. And again.
Signs didn’t normally appear and disappear for Thomas, a native of Kerala, India, working as a foreman for a signage company in Jubail, Saudi Arabia. He says he observed the message written in his native language, Malayalam.
He had no idea what it meant, but days later he felt a sudden desire to find a Bible.
This posed a difficulty in 1988, when the visions occurred. At the time in Saudi Arabia, the government banned practicing any religion other than Sunni Islam. For foreigners like Thomas, Christian gatherings — church services, prayer meetings — were punishable by deportation. Possession of a Bible could be grounds for beheading.
Likewise, consumption of alcohol in Saudi Arabia carried severe penalties. Yet as a chain smoker and heavy drinker, Thomas knew where to find liquor and how to stash a bottle or two.
Undeterred by the danger should he get caught, Thomas asked his expatriate friends from India whether they had a Bible. At last, he found someone with a Bible written in Malayalam. Its daunting size alarmed him, especially given dire consequences should Saudi authorities find him with it. Thomas had never read the Word of God.
“It seemed rather lengthy,” Thomas recalls. “Who could read the whole Book? It would take too much time.”
That’s why he decided to cut to the chase. The last book of the Bible, he reasoned, would summarize its message and reveal the theme.
Thomas didn’t know much about God, though he’d had an encounter with Him in Saudi Arabia the year before. It happened shortly after he married Leelamma, a nurse from Kerala who worked in Riyadh, the Saudi capital. Their jobs in separate cities forced them to live apart until Leelamma could take her year-end vacation in Jubail.
But Thomas had no time off. On his way to work New Year’s Eve 1987, a Saudi policeman stopped him, discovered he had no driver’s license, and arrested him. The officer locked Thomas in a jail cell and left him unattended for the weekend holiday with no way to contact his wife. However, a few hours later, a police captain stopped to the station on an unrelated matter and released him.
When Thomas returned home, he found Leelamma kneeling in prayer, sobbing.
“Weren’t you in the jail?” she asked. “And didn’t you drive without a driver’s license?”
The questions shocked Thomas, who hadn’t been allowed to contact anyone about his arrest. Nor had he told his wife that he didn’t have a license.
His wife explained that God had revealed the information to her. The incident taught Thomas an important lesson.
“I understood that there is a living God who can reveal all hidden things and can answer prayers,” Thomas says. “This was my first encounter with God.”
Nevertheless, when Thomas read the Book of Revelation, he says he didn’t understand anything. However, two chapters from the end, he came across 20:15 — the exact words he saw while driving. The passage frightened him.
Questions filled his mind: Where is the Book of Life? Who is writing the name? What are the qualifications needed?
But living in Saudi Arabia wasn’t conducive to resolving his angst. How could he get more information? Anxiety consumed him for days until a voice in his mind that he now recognizes as the Holy Spirit told him he didn’t need to ask anyone: All the answers are there in the Bible.
Thomas says God revealed his state of sinfulness. When he reached Romans 10:9-10, Thomas prayed to receive Christ.
With that, he says his fears melted and peace filled his heart.
In 1989, Thomas moved to live with Leelamma in Riyadh. The couple connected with a secret underground prayer center in downtown Riyadh, where they studied the Bible, which he read multiple times cover to cover. He soundproofed a room in the middle of their home with plywood and bedding as an underground church and Wednesday prayer group for fellow Malayalam-speakers. He says various attendees received salvation, healing, and deliverance.
While on a vacation in India, the couple were water baptized and baptized in the Holy Spirit at an Assemblies of God church.
In 2003, through three separate prophetic words from others, Thomas says the Lord told the couple to move to the United States. Thomas, 64, is now an AG hospital and hospice chaplain. He’s also assistant pastor at Rock of Ages, an Assemblies of God congregation in Pharr, Texas. He and Leelamma host worship gatherings in their home as well.
Eighteen months ago, Thomas drove Rock of Ages senior pastor Israel Soto, 62, to Houston for a liver transplant. Amid his own need, Soto — a musician and former transplant nurse who also served seven years in chaplaincy — recognized Thomas’s gifting in a deeper way.
“He’s a great listener,” Soto says of Thomas. “Normally patients ramble on about the same thing over and over because it hurts. A chaplain has to know how to listen.”
In the hospital context, a patient often has no conversations with anyone except a nurse, Soto notes. He believes Thomas is well suited for hospital and hospice chaplaincy work.
“He can give patients hope for what they’re going through and pray for them,” Soto says.
Thomas, who also is an ordained AG minister, received Chaplaincy endorsement in November.