The true story behind the song ‘I have decided to follow Jesus’

The true story behind the song
‘I have decided to follow Jesus’

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 ‘I Have Decided to Follow Jesus’ is a Christian hymn originating from India. The lyrics are based on the last words of a man in Garo, Assam. 

About 150 years ago, there was a great revival in Wales. As a result of this, many missionaries came to north-east India to spread the Gospel. The region known as Assam was comprised of hundreds of tribes who were primitive and aggressive head-hunters

Into these hostile and aggressive communities, came a group of missionaries from the American Baptist Missions spreading the message of love, peace and hope in Jesus Christ. Naturally, they were not welcomed. One missionary succeeded in converting a man, his wife, and two children. This man’s faith proved contagious and many villagers began to accept Christianity. 

Angry, the village chief summoned all the villagers. He then called the family who had first converted to renounce their faith in public or face execution. Moved by the Holy Spirit, the man said:

“I have decided to follow Jesus.”

Enraged at the refusal of the man, the chief ordered his archers to arrow down the two children. As both boys lay twitching on the floor, the chief asked, “Will you deny your faith? You have lost both your children. You will lose your wife too.”

But the man replied:

“Though no one joins me, still I will follow.”

The chief was beside himself with fury and ordered his wife to be arrowed down. In a moment she joined her two children in death. Now he asked for the last time, “I will give you one more opportunity to deny your faith and live.”  In the face of death the man said the final memorable lines:

“The cross before me, the world behind me. No turning back.”

He was shot dead like the rest of his family. But with their deaths, a miracle took place. The chief who had ordered the killings was moved by the faith of the man. He wondered, “Why should this man, his wife and two children die for a Man who lived in a far-away land on another continent some 2,000 years ago? There must be some remarkable power behind the family’s faith, and I too want to taste that faith.”

In a spontaneous confession of faith, he declared, “I too belong to Jesus Christ!” When the crowd heard this from the mouth of their chief, the whole village accepted Christ as their Lord and Saviour.

The song is based on the last words of Nokseng, a man from Garo tribe of Assam (now Meghalaya and some in Assam), India. It is today the song of the Garo people.

Source: Dr. P.P. Job in ‘Why God Why’

Further research into this song.

The formation of these words into a hymn is attributed to the Indian missionary Sadhu Sundar Singh. The melody is also Indian and with the title “Assam” after the region where the text originated. An American hymn editor, William Jensen Reynolds, composed an arrangement that was included in the 1959 Assembly Songbook.

Sadhu Sundar Singh

An alternative tradition attributes the hymn to Simon Marak, from Jorhat, Assam.

The hymn comes from the last words of the Garo martyr Nokseng as his family and then he himself died.

I have decided to follow Jesus (x3)
No turning back, no turning back.

Though no one joins me, still I will follow (x3)
No turning back, no turning back.

The cross before me, the world behind me (x3)
No turning back, no turning back.

Video 1 – The Story behind the song


Video 2 – the song in English and Tamil

In this video the hymn “I have decided to follow Jesus” is sung in English and Tamil as a tribute to the many men and women, particularly in the Middle East, who did not flinch in the face of death but counted all things loss for Christ’s sake, who fought the good fight and kept the faith.

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Joel NewsJoel News International # 1061 | November 28, 2017

The true story behind the song ‘I have decided to follow Jesus’


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28 Replies to “The true story behind the song ‘I have decided to follow Jesus’”

  1. It was the American Baptist Missionaries. The song is based on the last words of Nokseng, a man from Garo tribe of Assam (now Meghalaya and some in Assam), India. It is today the song of the Garo people. “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” is a Garo song. [Blog updated]

  2. Last week I visited Meghalaya to know more about the origin of this song. There I saw a grave of Omed W. Momin in a cemetery. It says he is the first converted Christian among the Garos. Baptized on 18-02-1863 Died on 17-04-1902

    But here it is mentioned the name of Nokseng. I would like to know more about the Nokseng (Which tribe he belongs to whether it is Sangma, Marak, Momin)

    1. Thank you for your information. The original article was a Joel News report. It is likely these Christian pioneers are from different areas.

      1. I am so blessed with this amazing song and really it is so touchy. God has His ambassadors in all season who demonstrate the true love and faith of Christ!

    2. Was that when the man and his wife and children 2 boys were killed with arrows for believing in the lord then his killers were converted. 1902 I am reading about him how the song my fav came about.

  3. I’m so moved by this great story of the converted Christian family, I could see clearly the power of the Almighty GOD in Jesus Christ in this powerful story. Praise God Jesus.

  4. As a Christian, I am moved by this extraordinary faith. The Song speaks with profound effect in such a powerful confession of Jesus’s name at the cost of his earthly life and his loved ones (according to the story – reminding me of Joshua’s confession in Joshua 24:15) to win the eternal life with Jesus (see Matius 10:39 and Matius 16:25). May the name of Jesus Christ, the Saviour fourishes through the witnesses of true believers. Amen

    1. Such an awesome testimony to the love of Jesus and his sacrifice . That this man was willing to die and see his family die for the love of Jesus. Praise him forever

  5. I know this song since my childhood. I didn’t know the sacrifice made behind it. The blood of two children and parents were shed in order to save us. We came to know Christ the Lord through these people. They were also the disciples of Christ. Now I ask myself, if this situation comes in my life – in front of my family, will I do the same way as this family did? Moreover, these people who gave up their lives for Christ are some Tribal Community. Nowadays, there are Christians who do not treat all the people who follow Jesus as one community.

  6. Next time when I sing this song, I know better what am I singing. The true meaning of following Jesus, our Saviour and Lord.
    Holy Spirit help us.

    1. Thank you for your message Tammy. Previously that video was publicly available but has now been made private, so I have changed the links to another similar video. Blessings.

  7. A great testimony of faith. Bro Nokseng and his beloved family are among the cloud of witnesses surrounding me. I am encouraged again to hold on to my faith. Thank you for sharing, God’s richest blessings.

  8. I have song this song since I was a young girl. I never knew the story behind it until today. What a powerful testimony! I cannot wait to share it with others.

  9. Just heard the story behind this song on Jimmy Swaggart and was deeply touched. Decided to research. Can now sing this song with the understanding of the sacrifice made to follow Jesus. I am determined to follow Jesus and encourage others to do the same. Thank you Jesus for sacrificing your life for us and for those who refused to deny you at such great cost.

  10. I love this song even more now I know the history behind it I am reading more on it What year did his family die with him can anyone tell me Bless him forever mow. A true god pleaser.

  11. Just checking out this song and what a birth this song had. True to every birth; painful but what joy it has bought to all who know it and sing it. Thank you for its history. So challenging and encouraging.

  12. Every time I hear this story tears roll down my face and I thank God for such men,, my God reward their works of great of faith…

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