John Jacob, the Scripture Union Director for India from 1966 till his retirement, died on February 2 in the Baptist Hospital in Bangalore from COVID-19. He was a few days short of his 98th birthday
Born to Armenian parents in Calcutta, India, after school at the elite St Paul’s Darjeeling, he took up teaching in India, then the UK and became Scripture Union staff worker in Scotland and directed their camp work. He took British citizenship. He was invited back to the land of his birth by the then SU director Rev Joe Mullins on the latter’s appointment as pastor of St John’s Church of South India Church Bangalore in 1964. Joe Mullins, now a centenarian, gave a recorded tribute.
At a thanksgiving service for him in Bangalore on February 26th,livestreamed internationally to Australia, the UK and the USA, Canon Dr Vinay Samuel who succeeded Joe Mullins at St John’s noted that he could not imagine anyone else having so many close friends among so many families among whom he was a family member himself. Known as ‘Uncle John’ to those families and hundreds of children, he himself never married.
‘Uncle John’ stood out as a children’s evangelist who led hundreds of children to Christ in that many people who first encountered him as children continued to maintain contact with them into their adult lives. Some spoke at the thanksgiving service. They recalled how he gave out ‘sweeties’ and much coveted Scripture Union badges for being able to recite a memory verse and how they valued his availability to listen to their troubles.
Dr Samuel attributed ‘Uncle John’s’ appeal to children to his own childlikeness which Jesus requires to be able to enter and understand the kingdom of God. To be childlike is to use ‘the purest of pure reason’, unsullied by sin, to trust Jesus at his word and so be able to make connections with Christ much more easily. And to be childlike is to explore God’s world with wonder at his gift to us.
Mrs Colleen Samuel recalled how her fellow students at Clarence High School tried to ‘matchmake’ him, a handsome man, with their kindergarten headmistress – to no avail. Later she and Dr Samuel welcomed him to a small lodging in their vicarage compound at St John’s church and for the last ten years of his life to their community at Diyya Shanthi Community Association.
On his death bed in hospital as he received his final communion, John Jacob opened his eyes, lifted his hand and said “Praise the Lord”. He passed on to be with his Maker the following day.
A scholarship fund has been established in his memory to provide two years college education for aspiring teachers. Donations may be made to ‘Divya Shanti Community Association Support’ ( A charity) care of 78 Cherwell Drive, Marston, Oxford.
Church of England Newspaper March 4 2022