The Rev. Mathew Samuel, a guiding figure for 30 years in the small community of Malayalam-speaking Christians from India on Long Island and in New York City, died Wednesday at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset. He was 82.
The cause was complications of kidney failure, said a son, Benny Samuel.
Some 33 million Malayalam speakers live in India, concentrated in the southern state of Kerala. A wave of immigration to the metropolitan area began in the late 1950s, with many newcomers seeking jobs in the burgeoning technical and medical fields. Today there are 31,000 speakers in the New York-New Jersey area with 8,000 on Long Island, mostly in Nassau County, according to the census.
About 3,000 of those identify as Pentecostal Christians, followers of a faith first spread in Kerala by American missionaries in the early 20th century, said Kunjumon Samuel, of Albertson, a community representative who shares a surname common among Malayalis but is not related to the minister.
From 1986 through 2013, the Rev. Samuel ministered to them from the pulpit of Elim Full Gospel Assembly, a church established in Elmont that later moved to Glen Cove. Elim is one of about 40 Indian Pentecostal churches in the metropolitan area.
“He was not only leader of his own church, he was a leader of the community,” Kunjumon Samuel said. “If anybody needed anything, even people who were not from his own church, they approached him.”
Samuel published 10 books on Christian thought in Malayalam. He did much of his preaching in that language but also spoke English, increasingly the language of choice for the children of that immigrant community.
Samuel was born Jan. 15, 1933, in the village of Elanthoor in Kerala, the first of three children of V.K. Mathai, a farmer, and Kunjamma Mathai, a homemaker.
His father taught Sunday school and the family hosted itinerant preachers in their home.
Samuel answered the call to ministry in 1953 and married Saramma Varghese on Jan. 15, 1959.
He was ordained in 1961. After years of pastoral work and teaching across India, the couple moved to the United States in 1985.
Samuel is survived by his wife, of Albertson; their daughters Feba Abraham of Albertson, Susan Mathew of New Hyde Park, and Grace Mathew of Dallas; and sons Mathew V. Samuel of Farmingville, George Samuel of Syosset, and Benny Samuel of Garden City. Also surviving him are his brother, the Rev. Thomas Mathai of Flower Hill, and a sister, Marykutty Abraham of Bellerose.
Wakes will be held Saturday at India Pentecostal Assembly in Hicksville from 5 to 9 p.m. and Sunday at New Testament Church in Amityville from 5 to 9 p.m.
A homegoing ceremony will be held Monday at New Testament at 9 a.m., followed by burial at Nassau Knolls Cemetery in Port Washington at 1 p.m.