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We were saddened this week to hear about the death of Joseph Gnanaraj, the first and long-serving director of LPGM’s programs in India. If you traveled to India any time before 2015, you certainly would have met Joseph.

Details are scant, but we learned from Bishop Socrates that Joseph passed away on August 1 and that a funeral was planned for the following day at Thiruninravur, outside of Chennai. We have heard that he struggled with a degenerative disease that led to some paralysis, but haven’t been able to confirm details.

Naomi Staruch hired Joseph on her (and LPGM’s) inaugural trip to India in 1996, and he worked for LPGM until 2015. I want to share a few lines that Naomi wrote to Joseph in a photo book she sent with Gordy as a gift for Joseph at his retirement from LPGM in 2015.

Joseph Gnanaraj shown here talking to a young boy in India in 2004.

Joseph Gnanaraj shown here talking to a young boy in India in 2004. Photo courtesy of John Noltner

You have been with Lutheran Partners in Global Ministry since 1996 when you were selected as director of LPGM in India. Our history in South India has been your history.

…When we ask returning visitors their impressions of their trip, most of them talk about Joseph — your friendliness, your passion for the children, your very capable way of leading us through the complexities of India. Your gift of interpretation and translation helped us through many challenging moments when we were separated by language.

…God has used you to influence many children and adults. Your commitment to LPGM over the past 19 years has been exemplary and you will long be remembered by all of your friends in America. May God bless you and keep you and your family in God’s love and grace.

Please join me in giving thanks for the life and work of Joseph, and in prayers for his family and all those who grieve his death.

Rest eternal grant him, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon him.

Author Dan Ruth

Dan Ruth is the executive director of LPGM and an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

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