a family's journey
Introducing the Gnaniahs
Jawahar and Ranjini Gnaniah married in 1975 and started a church planting ministry in Madurai, India among unreached villages through India Church Growth Mission. God blessed them with two precious sons, Onesi (1976) and Danny (1982). After serving for twelve years planting twelve churches, God opened the door for them to go to the U.S. and study at Fuller Theological Seminary.
Danny's Early Diagnosis
Danny’s diagnosis with muscular dystrophy (MD) was confirmed in the United States when he was only six. Outwardly he seemed a perfectly healthy boy except for a slight limp in his walk. However, in 1988 it was confirmed that he had Duchene MD. The news broke the Gnaniahs' hearts as they heard that the disease could be fatal as no medical cure has been found.
Moreover, the disease could drastically cut short one’s life span and is known to gradually kill the patient. Danny’s disability quickly began to manifest and when he turned eight, he began to use a wheel chair. Nevertheless, to the family’s joy, Danny was able to go on to graduate from high school in 2000 overcoming several challenges along the way.
Growing Up Years
Being on the Fuller campus together was great for the family, and the two brothers had a very good time with each other. As a family, the Gnaniahs loved going to baseball and basketball games, and they have fond memories of going to places such as the Dodger’s stadium. Later, when Onesi left to study at Santa Barbara, Danny missed him greatly and so every time Onesi came home for his breaks or summer vacation, he was determined to spend as much time as possible together.
From boyhood days Danny started attending Sunday school in the U.S. He accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior and Lord in 1993 while lying flat on his back following leg surgery. While he was lying in bed, Ranjini read to him about sin and salvation and he heard about the need to have one’s name written in the Lamb’s book of Life to enter Heaven. At that point, he stopped his mother to make sure that his name was written down in the book. It was then that Ranjini had
the privilege of explaining the Gospel to him. Having heard his mother share, he gladly accepted Jesus into his heart! Soon after recovering from the surgical pain, he followed the Lord in immersion baptism and his father had the joy of baptizing him. From then on, Danny eagerly participated in Sunday school and youth class to the best of his ability. He never complained of his pains and struggles but had an amazingly peaceful spirit, gentle and always cheerful with enduring patience despite being in utter weakness. He was very quick witted and his sense of humor was greatly applauded by those around him.
From then on, Danny eagerly participated in Sunday school and youth class to the best of his ability. He never complained of his pains and struggles but had an amazingly peaceful spirit, gentle and always cheerful with enduring patience despite being in utter weakness. He was very quick witted and his sense of humor was greatly applauded by those around him. Many times, the family used to wonder how one could have so much wisdom as he spoke with great insight about the news, Christian life, and character values.
"Danny never complained of his pains and struggles but had an amazingly peaceful spirit, gentle and always cheerful with enduring patience despite being in utter weakness."
Danny & Friends
With the news of the onset of Danny’s terminal illness, the Gnaniah’s were totally devastated. They began seeking the comfort and strength from the Lord and His grace and mercy led them to wait on Him to receive wisdom that could direct their agonizing pain into a productive ministry. The pathetic and sad situation of the poor MD patients and their families that they saw and heard from India led them to do something to extend the love of our Lord Jesus in tangible ways.
Danny himself was deeply moved by the sad plight of the poverty stricken, helpless patients as he compared them to the life and luxury he could enjoy in the U.S that patients in India could only dream of.
God drew the Gnaniahs to Matthew 25:40 which says that whatever we have done unto “the least of these,” we have done unto Him. Despite being aware of their deficiencies and shortcomings, the Gnaniahs knew that God would not despise the humble beginnings of His children and would lead them on as “Jehovah Jireh”. Thus, as a family, they prayerfully accepted the challenge from God to start Danny and Friends (DAF) in September 1992 when the family visited India and Danny accepted to be the first honorary President of the organization.
Sudden Empty Nest
Shortly after his graduation, on October 26, 2000, God promoted Danny to His heavenly abode. After his death, life became incredibly different for the father and mother. All the sweet family memories with their two sons together were tainted with the pain of Danny’s death and Onesi’s absence after his marriage. The sweet, happy holidays they had known for so long were now replaced by an ache that would not subside.
The Christmas following Danny’s death was the loneliest one the Gnaniahs ever felt. They felt an expectation to run as before even in their wounded and broken condition. This unrealistic expectation wounded them all the more, and God seemed a silent spectator to their pain and grieving. However, His love did not let them go and sustained them through their deepest suffering.
"As proud as we are of our son's legacy, it is his presence in our lives that we miss the most. Many people may point to a movie star or ports figure as their hero, but they are not heroes in our eyes. To us, Danny is a hero, for from a position of weakness he displayed courage, peace, and character. In a world where we have a tendency to judge the value of a life based on physical capability—Danny’s story is a reminder that God can do anything and use anyone!"
- The Gnaniah Family -