How Our Partners are Faring Through COVID -19
By brother K

What have you been hearing about COVID-19 and the impact of this pandemic? Canadian media has been focused on how schools are going to reopen, how case numbers are doing (primarily in Canada and the USA), how many vaccines are in various phases of trials, how people are adhering to or ignoring social distancing guidelines, and what reopening the economy here looks like. Mainstream media reports very little about how people in Asia are faring during this time.

Here is a summary of the challenges we are hearing from our partners: incidents of persecution are up, people are starving, and lockdown measures are continuing. The situation faced by millions – and according to our VP Strategic Partnerships in India it's actually hundreds of millions - is tragic and heartbreaking. We don't want to sound alarmist but we do want to relay an accurate picture of what is happening. The reports we receive are dominated by the difficulties but that is not all we are hearing - relief work is bearing fruit as our brothers and sisters care for the poor in Jesus' name.

The Impact of Lockdowns
Lockdown restrictions have been the greatest hardship in many areas. Millions have been unable to work because they are confined to their homes and the lockdowns have continued until now. The poor have been unable to earn any resources to purchase food to feed their families. Very limited government help has been provided for those in need. It is impossible to predict how long lockdown restrictions will continue.

Churches are not permitted to meet and so Pastors and missionaries are largely ministering over the phone. Because church members are struggling, Pastors who are supported by their congregations are also facing a huge crisis.

Here is a paraphrase of how one of our partners in Odisha, India describes the current situation:
95% of the believers in the churches do not have enough to eat. This is their current diet: a small quantity of rice, about twice per day (only about half of what would be needed to be full). It is very hard for them to get meat once per week. Lentils are the only protein they get and it is limited.

Another partner in Odisha shared this:
Most are eating only twice a day without vegetables. They eat rice with water and salt, and eat a few raw chili peppers with it. Due to lack of proper food they are becoming physically weak and people are losing immunity as a result of malnutrition. A number of people have died quickly from getting sick because they are so weak. It is hard to know whether it was from the coronavirus or not.

It's fair to say that this situation represents a significant portion of the state's population of 45 million. In other words, millions are facing immense hardships. From what we have heard, people in Odisha appear to be facing the greatest need.

Many other areas also are finding the lockdowns terribly difficult. In Northeast India, one disheartened partner wrote: "I do not know what to do and how to help these people in the time of crisis like this. Every phone call I receive is all about their daily need."

The challenges vary from location to location in Asia. They are facing hardship in Bangladesh, Myanmar and Indonesia but it does not appear to be as severe. There seem to be more freedoms in these nations but select regions are subject to sudden lockdown if COVID-19 spread is suspected.

Spread of the coronavirus is also very challenging to track in these nations. A test costs an individual about CAD$30 in India, money that the vast majority of people are not able to afford. Infections may be much more widespread than what is recorded.

Persecution
If the challenges of the COVID-19 lockdowns were not enough, a number of our partners have indicated that persecution is on the rise as well. In India's north a Pastor serving with our partner and his mother were attacked by Hindu radicals on August 14 (and they remain in hospital). Four believers known to one of our partners were recently lynched in Odisha. A third partner reports that persecution is at an all-time high with lynchings, Christians getting driven from their villages, and church buildings and homes of believers being burned and destroyed during this pandemic.

Our brothers and sisters need our prayers at this time.

Outreach
We are grateful for all the support received for relief over the last 5 months. Over $80,000 has been generously donated to help meet the needs of brothers and sisters and to enable them to reach out to those in need around them. We have received very encouraging reports of the fruit of that ministry.

Believers have used relief resources not only for believers but also for their neighbours who do not yet know Christ. One mission leader in North India shared with us that they have had the privilege of leading around 800 people to Christ through their relief efforts. In Nepal, here is what one missionary shared: 'I heard many people saying, "Christians are very helpful people and we must not give them trouble, rather we can believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and follow Him like them".' A mission leader in Odisha shared that providing relief supplies has opened doors among villages that hitherto have been completely closed to Christians.

What now?
Because so many brothers and sisters continue to suffer, as a mission we feel compelled to do something. It doesn't appear that lockdown restrictions in India will be lifted any time soon, especially as recorded cases of the virus continue to increase. We are praying that the church of Canada would maintain a strong testimony of sharing with the poor as we read about in the New Testament.

The average package assembled for a family has cost about $15. Those supplies help a family in need for about 2 weeks to one month. It is not enabling them to live lavishly but it is enabling them to have needed sustenance. You can do the math, the support we have been able to send has been only a small drop in the bucket in the face of the overwhelming need.

We have set a goal to provide $250,000 for Covid-19 relief between our 19 partner missions by the end of 2020. We feel that is a reasonable goal in order to accomplish the following things: 1) help pastors and missionaries who have not received any support from their congregations over the last 5 months to be able to provide for their families; 2) help believers who have no work at this time and are struggling for their daily needs; and 3) provide resources for reaching out to the unreached with compassion.

Thank you for your partnership in the Gospel and for loving our brothers and sisters together with us.

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COVID-19 Relief
Click here to make a special donation to help believers in Asia with their urgent needs in the midst of this COVID-19 crisis.





updated September 23, 2020
Advancing Indigenous Missions 2020