An Early Commitment to Teach through Art
David Zersen

Born in 1921 as Pulidindi Solomon Raj in Neggipudi, a village in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, Raj is a third-generation Lutheran, the son of Lazarus, a Lutheran mission schoolteacher, and Naome, a Bible teacher for women. He first studied to become a teacher and then a pastor. He taught Christian education at Luthergiri in Rajahmundry, developed a media ministry for the Christian Association for Radio and Audio Visual Service in Jabalpur, served as a chaplain at Andhra Christian College, and taught intercultural communication at Selly Oak College in Birmingham. He earned five academic degrees, culminating in a Ph.D. from the University of Birmingham. Throughout his life, he maintained a passion for drawing, and from 1986 to 1988 he served as artist-in-residence at Bethany College (KS), Luther College (IA), and Lenoir-Rhyne University (NC).


Raj married Mary Saronjini, a Lutheran schoolteacher, in 1946, and they had six children. The couple traveled to many countries, including Germany and Japan, where Raj studied woodblock printing; Indonesia, where he studied batik making; and the Philippines, where he studied music. In 1994, he founded St. Luke Ashram in Vijayawada, where he taught music, dance, drama, and art to children and adults. He has written ten books in English, eight in Telugu (his native language) and more than fifty articles in several languages on topics like the relationship of art and culture, poetry and hymn traditions, missiology, storytelling, dance, and inculturation (the adaptation of the way Church teachings are presented to non-Christian cultures) versus enculturation (the process by which people learn the dynamics of their surrounding culture and acquire values and norms).

As Raj grew older and it became difficult for him to do the physical work involved in carving wood blocks or dipping batiks in colored baths, he found other creative outlets. In 2014, he published in Telugu his own poetic translations of hymns by the seventeenth-century theologian and hymnodist Paul Gerhardt, as well as forty Greek hymns accompanied by a chronological history of hymnody.

Raj and his work have been the subject of numerous dissertations and articles. His work has been exhibited in nearly fifty shows worldwide.

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