Robert Cunville’s parents had mapped out impressive career paths for their sons. Robert’s older brother, Laurie, had been sent from the Cunvilles’ hometown of Shillong, in northeast India, to pursue medical studies in England. Robert was to follow a year later and pursue a course in law.
One night, Robert went to hear a barefoot evangelist who was preaching from the porch of a house as people sat or stood nearby. Robert could not escape the powerful conviction of sin. When the evangelist gave the invitation, Robert repented and committed his life to Jesus Christ.
Immediately, Robert sensed a call to full-time ministry–which threw a wrench into those well-laid career plans. Robert’s parents were surprised, but they knew Robert must follow God’s plan. They encouraged him to take time to think about it, but when the final decision was made, they rejoiced that God had chosen one of their children for full-time ministry.
So instead of law school in London, it was theological studies at Serampore College, near Kolkata, India. Robert lectured in theology and became the first member of the Khasi Tribe to earn a Th.M degree. He had been praying for a wife who was willing to serve God, and in 1965 he married Carol, a woman from Shillong, who had also been praying for a Christian spouse.
Over the years, Robert has served in positions of great influence as well as in places few would venture to reach. While serving as youth secretary of India’s National Council of Churches, he also pastored Union Chapel, a congregation of about 70 in the teeming city of Kolkata.
“I thank God for those years at Union Chapel,” Robert says. “Most of the people came from the lower caste; many were quite poor. Visiting some of their homes, I began to realize the sacrifice they make to support the church.”
In 1972, Robert was serving as secretary of the North East India Christian Council when Billy Graham held a Crusade in Kohima, Nagaland. Robert was the Crusade coordinator, and he and Mr. Graham became close friends. They remained in frequent contact with each other, and in 1977, Mr. Graham asked Robert to join his team. For some 35 years now, Robert has served as a BGEA associate evangelist. He has also assisted Franklin Graham in his India Festivals and has helped to encourage and mentor Will Graham in his ministry as an evangelist.
Christians and non-Christians alike are touched by Robert’s humility and courage as he takes the message of Christ wherever God leads. He has traveled by four-wheel drive and by foot. Slept under the stars. Preached in rice paddies, in wind and in rain. Preached in areas of armed conflict with military protection. Been opposed by pagan priests, threatened by terrorists. Given up his own bed and coat so someone else would be more comfortable–all for the sake of the Gospel.
Robert deflects all the praise: “We go to villages and towns and cities where not many well-known evangelists would go. Churches invite me because I am a member of Mr. Graham’s Team.”