The COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe is bringing death and destruction—yet India and other parts of South Asia are just now at the start of what promises to be a nightmare. Limited medical resources will be overwhelmed, but the most immediate danger for millions will be the prospect of starvation.
We at GFA and our field partners have entered an all-out crisis response mode to immediately help the most destitute: the beggars who now have no way of receiving alms, the daily laborers without jobs, people living on the street, and anyone else in need.
Our workers were on the ground when India’s lockdown began on March 25, 2020, and we began working with local governments to provide aid immediately. With a wide reach of thousands of congregations and fellowship groups spread throughout South Asia, we are in a unique position to provide aid where others cannot.
See photos from those who are on the ground and read reports about the relief efforts as we provide food and medical supplies to those in need. Please join us in this long-term effort as we seek to help millions who are affected.
Your gift to Compassion Services allows us to help those in greatest need.
Just in from the field: Our workers in West Bengal hosted a food distribution to provide for those in need during the shutdown due to the coronavirus.
Akash sat in his idle auto-rickshaw and thoughtfully rubbed the steering wheel. With no one allowed to travel, there was no one to transport; with no one to transport, there was no way to provide for his family. Like so many in Asia, the lockdown prevented Akash from earning an income. Including Akash’s elderly parents, there were seven mouths in his home to feed, seven stomachs that were hungry. Then Akash met GFA pastor Kulwinder.
Pastor Kulwinder had procured vegetables from local vendors, who had contributed the otherwise costly produce free of charge. Mounting his motorbike, Pastor Kulwinder traveled to four villages in Sri Lanka to distribute the groceries, which included pumpkin, beans, leeks, cucumbers, carrots and cabbage, to 29 needy families from various faith backgrounds.
“We were going through a very difficult time because of COVID-19 lockdown, as I could not drive the [auto-rickshaw] like before for earning the income,” Akash said. “I thank this Christian [pastor] who met me on the road and gave this free bag of vegetables, which is a great blessing to my family.”
“I have received this blessed gift of a vegetable kit from a Christian church, which I cannot believe but it is true.”
While giving out groceries, Pastor Kulwinder also met Hiruni, whose husband had a small business. After a three-month curfew and loss of income, however, he was forced to shut it down. They have four school-aged children.
“We were in need of money to get our provisions and vegetables but didn’t have enough,” Hiruni said. “I have received this blessed gift of a vegetable kit from a Christian church, which I cannot believe but it is true.”
Left: Auto-rickshaw driver Akash (pictured), who has been unable to work, receives much-needed vegetables for his family.
Middle: Pastor Kulwinder distributes groceries from his motorbike.
Right: Like Hiruni, this woman gratefully receives groceries from Pastor Kulwinder, which enables her to feed her family.
Pastor Kulwinder has been involved in compassion activities throughout the lockdown, distributing vegetables to families in most need. He has overcome many challenges and remained within COVID-19 regulations to reach these families with much-needed aid.
“By the grace of God, I was able to be a blessing once again to 29 more deserving families,” Pastor Kulwinder said. “I prayed and gave each vegetable bag to all these families. … I want to continue this ministry through the generous contribution of the vegetable vendors. I will do my best to help the people in my community in times of need.”
Through his prayers and practical acts of love, a few families have come to personally know the great Provider.
As the clock struck half past 3 in the morning, GFA pastor Kulwinder and his wife, Banubai, were already up. In these twilight hours, they had work to do. Astride his motorcycle, Pastor Kulwinder had two to three trips to the market planned out to gather enough supplies for he and Banubai to package and distribute that day. They wanted to get to as many houses as possible.
For the past two weeks, both pastor and wife had been collecting, packaging and distributing food packages of fresh vegetables for needy families in seven different villages in South Asia. After getting permission from local authorities, Pastor Kulwinder and Banubai set about blessing those struggling during the COVID-19 lockdown. Some vegetable vendors, hearing of their work, gave them free produce, happy they could help needy families through the pastor.
Later that day, after multiple trips to the market and several hours of activity, the last batch of families had vegetable packets in their arms.
“I work as a road sweeper for [the local village] but during the COVID lockdown I didn’t have work and didn’t receive my wages,” Chayla, a recipient, said. “I have three children. Today I received this very valuable vegetable bag from [Pastor Kulwinder], which is a great blessing to my family.”
Left: Pastor Kulwinder and his wife put together food packets with a wide variety of vegetables to help people who have been unable to buy groceries for weeks because of the pandemic.
Right: Banubai, pictured right, hands a bag of fresh vegetables to a thankful woman during one of their many distributions.
Another recipient, Sharaya, said, “Thank you so much for the special gift of mixed vegetables. I worked as a farm helper in the village chicken farm, and my husband worked as a helper in a grocery shop in our village. We both don’t have a job since March 12, 2020. Thank you so much for these fresh vegetables because we don’t have money to buy anything until we start to work.”
Pastor Kulwinder thanked God for the opportunity to spread His love during this tumultuous time.
“Even with our little resources and the fair vendors’ donations, we were able to do a great task and serve our people,” the pastor said. “I believe God will bless these families.”
Pandemic lockdowns have caused physical and financial struggles as well as isolation, which has been felt especially among believers in South Asia who have been unable to meet with fellow believers and spiritual leaders. But this challenge has also presented opportunity for spiritual growth.
Though some believers may feel like an island of faith among their families or communities, pastors have remained connected to their church members via phone and have encouraged them to use this time to draw nearer to God.
Kaksi’s pastor encouraged her to trust God during the lockdown and led the church in chain prayer.
Weary men and women await food distribution.
“I have learned to depend on God more than ever before,” Kaksi said. “Although the lockdown period has been very hard for all of us, the Lord has been very good, and He has been teaching us during this lockdown time.”
Madhur, a widow with two teenage boys at home, has learned about faith and trusting in God from her pastor, who often sends text messages with prayer requests, Bible verses and photos of how to worship at home.
“He told us that … the Lord has designed this lockdown period so that we will spend more time in the presence of God, because we are at home all the time,” Madhur said. “So during this lockdown period I was also able to bring my sons together in prayer and fasting. … So our prayer fellowship pictures we used to send to [our pastor] and he used to send his pictures to us. That’s how … we started to experience God’s blessings even though we were not allowed to gather together for worship service.”
Seeing the need to help provide much-needed provisions to families in Madhur’s village, GFA workers distributed 100 food packets on May 17. Madhur viewed the gift as God Himself providing for them in this difficult time; she expects the food to last her family 15 days.
“I feel very, very satisfied and happy when I see a smile in the face of those children, when they received a biscuit packet or a little food that we hand over to the family,” GFA worker Keturah said. “That is the greatest joy I have, to help the children. This lockdown has become an opportunity for me to exercise my love and my care for those who are in need, especially the children.”
“Amazingly, God has been providing our needs,” said Madhur. “Sometimes when I needed to buy … but I didn’t have money, somehow God sent people with groceries, that included the thing like cooking oil or rice that I needed. … God has been good and gracious to us and provided all our needs.”
Kaksi, who is blind, depends on a small government stipend and the generosity of others to make ends meet.
“When I received the packet, I was so glad and I thanked the Lord immediately for giving me this beautiful gift, because it … tells me how much Jesus loves me,” said Kaksi.
A local GFA Bridge of Hope center has been actively involved in helping the community during the lockdown. Keturah, a Bridge of Hope staff member who had been particularly concerned about the children during this lockdown, joyfully helped with the food distribution.
“I feel very, very satisfied and happy when I see a smile on the face of those children, when they received a biscuit packet or a little food that we hand over to the family,” Keturah said. “That is the greatest joy I have, to help the children. This lockdown has become an opportunity for me to exercise my love and my care for those who are in need, especially the children.”
This sense of community has pervaded the local Body of Christ. Though physically isolated, believers are reaching out to others and encouraging one another in this tough season. Many are finding new strength as their faith grows deeper roots. Part of this growth has come from seeing God’s provision for their physical needs through others.
“I’d like to thank all those who have provided us this grocery,” Madhur said. “I’d like to thank them from the bottom of my heart. I don’t have words good enough to express my gratitude and thankfulness to them.”
Against the backdrop of ongoing civil unrest in southeastern Myanmar, the introduction of the coronavirus brought additional burdens to an already struggling population. The internal problems of the country have hindered efforts to contain COVID-19 and complicated relief efforts.
Though Myanmar has not seen a major outbreak, the government is already struggling, and its health sector’s under-resourced and overstretched existence leaves people vulnerable if an outbreak should occur. There are also travel restrictions that could prove to be challenging in acquiring medical help.
Nevertheless, Bishop Nochhum Mor Abraham, leader of GFA’s ministry in Myanmar, has facilitated food distribution to 78 GFA workers as well as 102 other ministers.
“We are so grateful to God that our church has a privilege to do relief work among our pastors and missionaries,” he said.
Bishop Nochhum is also seeking to help 700 families within GFA congregations in the area and encouraging believers to reach out to help one another.
An exodus has followed the relaxing of travel restrictions in South Asia as previously stranded migrant workers have set their sights on home. Some have boarded trains or buses, some have hitched a ride or walked, but all were eager. The eagerness has waned, however, as their stomachs began to grumble on the long journey.
Migrant workers have been unable to work for several weeks, and many have not had money to purchase food. But these weary travelers have not gone unnoticed; GFA workers and churches have responded with compassion.
Believers distribute food to traveling migrant workers.
As the large number of migrant workers in the state of Uttar Pradesh return home, they have struggled to obtain food and water. Some of them are traveling with small children.
A GFA church has busily ministered to those needs, distributing more than 2,000 food packets thus far to migrant workers coming from 10 different areas. Grateful men and women have expressed heartfelt thanks.
“We were hungry for many days, but we are thankful to you for feeding us,” they said.
Rachiv, in charge of the transit center, said, “I am so grateful to [the church] for helping the needy people in this time of crisis. The church is really a great blessing to the society.”
In Andhra Pradesh, GFA pastor Maahir and his congregation have ministered to 250 migrant workers as they passed through their village by preparing fresh meals and distributing food packets, face masks and fruit.
Pastor Vadin, with the permission of local authorities, has distributed food at the railway station, bus stand and local market to migrant workers, most of whom had walked many miles. A total of 400 food packets containing veg biriyani (rice dish), egg curry, buttermilk, two water packets and salad have been distributed to the migrant workers as well as street dwellers and others in need.
Forty-three-year-old Jagriti set out to walk 400 kilometers, approximately 250 miles, after being informed there was no work available and facing difficulties finding food and transportation. The church provided shelter for her to rest as well as food to fill her stomach.
“We are so happy. I am thankful to [the church] for providing the food,” Jagriti said. “We did not eat food for two days. I am happy you provided food.”
GFA pastor Ranbir watched as men and women dashed about, attempting to complete their errands for the day. For only two hours a day, residents in one area Madhya Pradesh, India, could leave their homes during the coronavirus lockdown. Daily laborers and farmers depended on these scant hours to earn what little money they could. The majority of these workers, Pastor Ranbir noticed, had no face masks to protect themselves, increasing their risks of becoming infected or spreading the virus.
A member of Pastor Ranbir’s congregation offers a mask toa woman, along with instructions on how to use it properly.
Wanting to help them, he and his congregation made 220 facemasks to distribute. With a team of believers, Pastor Ranbir visited people in a nearby village, offering masks and health safety tips, such as refraining from physical contact and washing hands frequently.
“We had tried to purchase some masks from the market, but it was not available anywhere,” said one recipient. “We want to thank you for preparing the masks and giving to us freely. It is so thoughtful of you.”
When GFA pastor Aakaar, and a member of his congregation, visited a local village in Maharashtra, India, the two saw the plight faced by many families. The lockdown prevented them from working, and in turn earning money for food.
That very day, Pastor Aakaar and the purchased some dry goods, packed them and handed them out to a total of 25 families.
Pastor Aakaar hands a much-needed packet of food to a local woman.
“I and my mother did not have food to eat because my mother could not go for work because of the lockdown,” says Didar, a teenager. “We do not have to worry now because the church is with us in this crisis.”
Dr. Daniel Johnson, leader of GFA’s medical ministry on the field, shared an inside look at how coronavirus is affecting national missionaries, Bridge of Hope children and several ongoing ministries across the 16 Asian nations where GFA serves.
“The lockdown has not suppressed the ministry, but it has actually expanded the ministry in different ways,” he shared.
GFA pastors, who haven’t been able to lead worship services, are staying connected to their congregations by regularly calling and checking in on families. They’ve encouraged believers to have “church at home” with their families and take part in daily times of prayer.
To keep our pastors encouraged, our ministry is using text messaging to send morning devotionals written by K.P. Yohannan, which are translated into many languages, including Kokborok (see picture).
Dr. Daniel also shared how many of our Women’s Fellowships have been encouraged by reading or hearing an audio version of a special letter written by Gisela Yohannan, K.P.’s wife, to the many sisters serving across the field. The letter, specifically meant to encourage women during this season of uncertainty, was translated and recorded into more than 20 languages and sent via social media or text message.
A believer and her child listening to Gisela's letter.
In one region, two women who were neighbors to a pastor and his family overheard the pastor’s wife playing Gisela’s letter aloud. Intrigued and encouraged by what they heard, the women went over to ask for prayer.
Dr. Daniel said having Gisela’s letter in an audio format is overcoming the barrier of illiteracy, which is still prevalent among Asia’s women, and is planting seeds of Christ’s love in the hearts of those who may not have had a chance to know of it before.
Although GFA’s Bridge of Hope centers cannot operate as they normally would, some centers have turned into “community kitchens,” providing hot meals for families in their regions.
For many children who attend our Bridge of Hope centers, their main meal—or perhaps their only meal—of the day is while they’re at the center. Knowing this, staff are making sure their students have food to eat in the midst of this crisis. They’re also continuing to visit children and their families at a socially acceptable distance to encourage them.
Serving meals to the families of GFA Bridge of Hope students.
“No one should be left behind,” said one field partner. “With this goal in mind, relief teams in South Asia are working tirelessly day after day to reach every needy person with food and essentials. By setting up community kitchens and even doing door-to-door delivery of food, hundreds and hundreds of poor and needy people are being provided with warm meals each day.”
Dr. Daniel shared during a GFA staff prayer meeting he hopes we will come out stronger through this time, and that the lockdown will result in unlocked potential for future ministry opportunities.
Although Sunday School can't happen right now, pastors are giving children activities to do at home.
Your gift to Compassion Services allows us to help those in greatest need.
“We had been starving in this lockdown situation, but for the past four days, [the church] is getting food for us every day. We are really thankful to them,” said one needy recipient in Uttar Pradesh.
With tears in her eyes, a 7-year-old girl said, “I lost my mother three years ago, and my father has health issues and he is unable to walk. We depend on begging for our survival. But due to lockdown, we are starving and sleeping [with] empty stomachs. I thank you for providing food to us every day.”
Police officers are working day and night to maintain order and safety in the midst of the pandemic. In Uttar Pradesh, our church provided daily cooked meals for a full week, both for police officers and the most needy in the area, who are struggling to survive.
The food distribution has also helped the lockdown, which was instituted to minimize the virus’ spread. Police appreciated the assistance.
“So many people complain and come out for food in the street, but from the time the [church] began distributing food, no one is coming out on the street,” said Kalpa, a police officer. “We thank you for joining us in making the lockdown in India successful.”
In the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, individuals on the front lines are working hard for people’s health, safety and sanitation. Every day they put their own health at risk to protect others and help those in desperate need. GFA workers are standing hand in hand with these brave souls.
Medical staff in Myanmar receive health kits, which included masks, surgical gloves, sanitizer and blankets.
The number of COVID-19 cases is rising, and medical staff are needed to treat patients. The situation in a particularly affected area of Myanmar sparked compassion in the heart of Bishop Nochhum mor Abraham, one of GFA’s pastors who leads the work in that region. He sought to show the love of Christ by helping doctors as well as those in dire need.
Local pastors and church members assembled health kits, which included masks, surgical gloves, sanitizer and blankets, and sent them to the local hospital. Believers hope the doctors will continue to stay healthy as they perform their critical work.
Sanitation workers such as road cleaners, garbage collecters and road sweepers play an important role in fighting the spread of disease as they serve to keep cities clean.
“If these garbage collectors don’t work, we will be left with all dirt, infectious substance and hazardous materials on road and get sick,” said Kalani, a social services officer.
GFA workers distribute food to those helping keep the city clean in Uttar Pradesh.
Though still working, these workers’ salaries have been delayed, leaving them unable to purchase food in these trying times. In response to the needs of these workers, and a special request from the municipal council, one of GFA’s pastors who leads the work in Sri Lanka, Bishop Geevarghese mor Makariose, and GFA pastor Eshan organized a dry rations distribution in Sri Lanka. Grateful recipients received packets of rice, dal, sugar, salt, a can of salmon, tea leaves and biscuits.
“Nobody else is thinking of the importance of these people, as this is considered a low-profile work,” said council chairman Udara. “But the … church workers were first to respond and grant our humble request to help these 40 families.”
“I thank God for giving us an opportunity to represent God’s love and perform acts of compassion for desperate people during COVID-19 epidemic,” the Bishop said. “We were able to distribute dry rations to so many needy families.”
GFA Bridge of Hope staff in Maharashtra had been praying and seeking the Lord for ways to bless their community. The coronavirus lockdown particularly affected the poor; they and their children struggled to get even one proper meal a day.
Then the GFA Bridge of Hope staff received a call from a local woman saying she had purchased 225 packets of food and wished for the staff to distribute it, knowing the Bridge of Hope center could be trusted to serve the underprivileged in the community. Taking the supplies, Bridge of Hope staff bagged and handed out food packets to the needy families.
Pastor Marty and another GFA worker stand ready to distribute 225 packets of food.
Most of the recipients are migrant laborers who have been out of work since the lockdown.
“Thank you for your help,” they said. “Your God is a good God. We know that you are Christians, and that is why you are doing this kind of good work for us.”
Myanmar is experiencing similar challenges as much of South Asia. The country had its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on March 23. Though some essential shops remain open, the government has implemented increasingly stringent policies, including a “stay at home” program and local curfews, to mitigate the rise of confirmed cases.
The COVID-related mitigation efforts in Myanmar and many other places in Asia have greatly impaired the local economy. More than 25,000 garment workers in Myanmar have been laid off.1 Multitudes are unable to earn an income, while grocery prices have risen, adding to their bleak situation. In the midst of this crisis, GFA-workers continue to show the love of Christ in various tangible forms.
While the necessity of food is critical, villagers also need basic items to preserve their health as the virus spreads. Officials have recommended wearing face masks to prevent spreading the disease. But many cannot afford a face mask when what little they have is spent on food for their day-to-day survival.
A GFA worker serving in Myanmar gives out face masks, which have become too expensive for many villagers to afford.
One of the district leaders serving in Myanmar,Bishop Nochhum mor Abraham, responded to this need and arranged to distribute face masks to villagers in several districts who could not afford them. Recipients were grateful for this loving act. It was just one way believers have been able to show the love of Christ in the midst of this difficult season.
Several other GFA pastors, such as Pastor Kaleb serving in Andhra Pradesh, India, have also given guidance on best practices to maintain health, such as encouraging villagers to wear face masks, frequently wash their hands and practice social distancing. This has often accompanied food distribution.
Similarly, Pastor Obadiah and members of his church loaded up an auto rickshaw to distribute essential items such as toothpaste, soap, oil, rice and sugar to 200 families in a village in Andhra Pradesh, India.
Villagers receive much-needed food supplies.
Other families, made up of daily wage laborers living in huts in a slum, received bags of rice. The lockdown exasperated their scant supplies, and many had not been able to eat a good meal for many days.
A member of a church led by a GFA pastor delivers a hot meal to the local police.
While the rest of the population is on lockdown, the duty of policemen and government cleaning workers continues, and these individuals often work long hours. In recognition of their tireless service, GFA pastor Tajim and his congregation prepared cooked meals to give to these public servants. They distributed 100 curd rice packages, 150 vegetable packets and water bottles. Another pastor gave masks, soap and sanitizer to the local police station.
The forms are varied, but the singular message remains: Jesus loves and cares about their needs. This love is shown through the caring acts of His dedicated servants.
“I just got these pictures in and my heart is broken for these people,” shares K.P. Yohannan, founder of GFA. “Pastors on the mission field are calling me because they need help trying to take care of people. This is a huge opportunity for the church to show Christ’s love in word and deed.”
The photos we just received from our field partners in Northwest India show crowds of people literally begging for food. The people are migrant laborers who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus lockdown in India. They no longer have anywhere to live and are living on the streets or under bridges. Some of them are on the way back to their homes, but they have nothing to eat.
The line stretches almost as far as the eye can see. The people aren’t spaced out in a socially distant queue, because they are desperate, and they are starving to death. Men, women, young, old—they haven’t eaten in many days. Massive crowds have gathered and are trying to find food to provide for their families.
The government is trying to do what they can, but the need is so great.
GFA-supported churches in the region are doing everything they can to help. Bishop Martin mor Aprem, one of our field leaders, is organizing food distribution programs to help as many people as possible.
“The bishop tries to keep social distancing, but people are grabbing food from his hand, and he could not control the crowd,” reported another field leader.
Our continued prayer is that God provides for the needs of these precious people. This is an incredible opportunity for the Body of Christ to reach out and show His love.
Your gift to Compassion Services allows us to help those in greatest need.
GFA-supported pastors in one city in Nepal responded to the needs of jobless families who were surviving on daily wage jobs in the construction, furniture and carpet industries. During the lockdown, GFA-supported pastor Manja mobilized believers to provide food to the hungry. Pastor Manja previously served nine years in prison after being falsely accused of murder, but his passion to show Christ’s love to the hurting has continued to grow and impact lives. During an event he coordinated, 21 families received rice, mustard oil, lentils and salt.
“I would like to thank [the church] for the kind help,” said one recipient. “I work as a daily wage earner in the construction sector to buy essential items. But this COVID-19 lockdown has prevented me from earning a daily wage. Due to that, I was so depressed and worried how to handle my family.”
On the same day, Pastor Manja and his congregation responded to a request for help from the leader of a local orphanage, where 28 children live. The church gave 20 pounds of sugar, 2 pounds of tea leaves and 4 boxes of cookies to the orphanage—a useful gift in a culture where tea is an important part of daily life and community.
In India, GFA-supported pastors have held various food distribution events to help poor and marginalized people. One GFA-supported pastor in Jharkhand distributed rice and potatoes to 27 needy people, including 7 leprosy patients. These leprosy-affected people depend on begging for their survival. After the pandemic spread to Asia and they could not leave home, they struggled to get a daily meal.
Another pastor in Jharkhand distributed soaps and detergent to 10 widows and taught them about the importance of washing their hands with soap and water.
Five churches in Nagaland distributed groceries in their respective communities, helping a total of 140 families. These families, who live off daily wages and cannot work during the lockdown, smiled gratefully as they took home sacks of vegetables, lentils, salt, oil, potatoes and rice.
“I was worried about what I would do for my family in this difficult time,” said one recipient. “The church members called me to take the food items. My family and I were amazed.”
Another recipient, a 51-year-old man, said “Even my son did not think about me and help me at this time, but you have given me the items. I am happy, and thank you so much for your help.”
Compassion burdened the heart of Nabhitha, the social worker of a Bridge of Hope center, when she visited a village where several Bridge of Hope students live and saw that people were going to sleep with empty stomachs because they could not work in the lockdown.
Nabhitha contacted a GFA-supported pastor in her area to find out how they could help this village. Together, they and the Bridge of Hope staff gathered funds to help these families, and they contacted the district magistrate for permission to prepare and distribute food. The Bridge of Hope staff prepared 80 food packets full of chickpea curry and flatbread, which they gave out to families in the village.
“We are not able to provide anything to our family,” shared the father of a Bridge of Hope student. “Really, you care for us. Thank you for considering us as your family members.”
South Asia’s mandated lockdown that began March 25 in response to COVID-19 has especially affected the poor and needy. Many are day laborers dependent on a meager, hard-earned daily wage to put food on the table, but current regulations prevent them from working. Even if they had an income, many can’t leave their home villages to seek food due to the strict regulations.
As a result, these villagers cannot provide food for their families and are threatened with starvation. For many people, the situation has engendered fear and depression.
But there is a ray of hope as GFA-supported workers bring relief to the severely hungry in local villages. One of the most prominent methods has been through food distribution.
The situation in one area of South Asia had grown particularly dire, and villagers felt helpless.
“We thought it is better to die and not live in this world as nobody had come and helped us,” said one villager. “We are in a terrible situation. If you would have not come and given the food items, we would have definitely died in hunger.”
God guided GFA-supported pastor Hafeedh and his team to this village to distribute groceries, and it seems they came just in time.
“In this difficult situation in which people are afraid to come out and talk, [Pastor Hafeedh] came here … and helped us,” said a villager.
Their distribution wasn’t the only timely one. After local pastors distributed food in a slum of Haryana, India, villagers thanked the workers for helping “at the right time.”
“Since we were not able to go out for the last few weeks,” said Kafeel, a local, “we could not work or earn any money and were running short of food for our family. We want to thank you for your help in this critical time.”
In one area of Sri Lanka, GFA-supported pastor Paden partnered with another local religious leader as well as government officials to provide dry food packs to families.
“I praise God [for enabling us] to serve our villagers, community people and other villagers in this needy hour and amidst all restrictions,” Paden said.
Dasbala, a government official, felt blessed to work alongside such a dedicated leader who really cares for the people of the community.
He said of the work, “I am so proud to say that this is called real Christianity, showing Jesus’ love to people.”
Intrigued upon seeing the tangible display of Christ’s love, Dasbala asked Pastor Paden about Jesus. The pastor happily answered his questions and provided him with a Bible.
“I also want to study about Christian life and requested a Bible,” said Dasbala, “which I want to read and understand through [Pastor Paden’s help].”
In the midst of crisis, believers have been able to show God’s love and care in very practical ways, both to local leaders and everyday people.
“We have heard that you and your church help poor and needy individuals and families, but today I have seen with my own eyes,” said a villager. “I am so amazed by your dedication to help the poor even in this difficult situation.”
From April 5 until April 12, millions of people around the world would have been worshiping in their churches in commemoration of Holy Week. But this year, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented believers from gathering for services.
While the COVID-19 pandemic may have suspended many Easter traditions this year, GFA-supported workers in Asia remembered Christ by illustrating His love to their communities. Throughout the week, believers in various regions fed people who cannot work during the lockdown, while complying with government regulations.
On Monday, April 6, churches in Sikkim, India, worked with the local government and police to provide staple grocery items and face masks to 300 families that were struggling to afford one daily meal.
“We were in deep distress for the last few days. Now we can survive for another week with this rice and some vegetables,” shared one grateful recipient.
On April 7 and April 8, a GFA-supported pastor in Karnataka and his congregation prepared a hot meal and served it to people who live on the streets or beg for a living.
“I was feeling so tired because I did not eat food,” one woman told the team. “I was asking God to give me food. [To] my surprise, I got the food from the church after one hour of my prayer.”
On Saturday, April 11, regional church leaders and staff members in Delhi worked with local police to provide groceries to 54 families living in a slum. Many of these families were migrant laborers from other states, but the pandemic prevented them from working and providing basic necessities for their families.
“Due to lockdown, our contractor disappeared without even paying our money,” said one recipient. “We are now homeless and in a helpless situation. We are struggling for food and cannot even go back to our hometown. The help we received today from the church is a great relief. We do not have words to express our gratitude. You are not related to us, yet you have helped us in the time of our need. God bless you all.”
On Resurrection Sunday, Bridge of Hope staff members in Uttarakhand rejoiced by sharing the love of the risen Lord with a hungry community.
Chahel, a social worker from the center, had visited the store one day to buy items for his family. Along the way he spoke with people from the community surrounding the Bridge of Hope center and asked them how the lockdown was affecting their lives. He learned that people had no food and were surviving off only water. Filled with concern, Chahel decided to help.
On Easter Sunday, he met with a local government official to ask if he could distribute food in the area. Excited that someone wanted to help the people, the official granted permission and advised Chahel to take necessary health precautions. Chahel contacted the other Bridge of Hope staff members and asked if they would join him. Together, they cooked potato curry and puri (flatbread) and assembled 90 meal packets.
The staff members then went door to door, greeting hungry people with warm meals.
“We are in need of food to survive,” one woman told the staff. “We praise God that still there is hope for us when we see this kind of compassionate people think about the poor.”
As people opened their doors to receive the packets of food, a message of hope from the resurrected Christ shined forth.
On April 11, a church in Maharashtra, India, organized a free meal for around 1,500 impoverished men and women. GFA-supported pastor Hardik and his congregation, after obtaining permission from local officials, divided into teams to visit the local slums.
“We feel that it’s our responsibility to help the most vulnerable in time of need,” said members of Pastor Hardik’s church.
In another area of Maharashtra, GFA-supported pastor Shaunak and his congregation also distributed food packets to more than 210 people, including families of daily wage laborers, the homeless and others impacted by the nationwide lockdown.
Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi apologized to the impoverished of India for making their burden of poverty greater, but stated in his weekly address on March 29th, “there was no other way to wage war against coronavirus.”
Sixty-five families from three different villages were provided with essential items such as rice, soy, beans, lentils, potatoes, fish, salt, onions, soap and oil on April 8 in Tripura, India.
Together with local police, GFA-supported pastor Bahram and his staff organized a food distribution to help those struggling to survive during the lockdown. Families—many of which included widows—already burdened by poverty faced an even greater problem when the lockdown went into effect.
“During the lockdown period, I cannot go out for work, and I can hardly manage my family,” says Raga, a 42-year-old widow. “The [workers] are helping us, and I am extremely happy because we [can now] manage somehow.”
Another widow, Mahzarin, also said, “Every day I am struggling to manage the family needs because I cannot go out for work during the lockdown. In our time of need, the [workers] are helping us and providing us with some essential items. I am deeply thankful from the bottom of my heart to [them] for their love and care for us.”
On April 11, GFA-supported pastors in West Bengal gave essential food items to 50 widows and other individuals.
After receiving permission from local authorities, the pastors came together to organize a program aimed at providing for those struggling amidst the lockdown. Each family received 11 lbs. of rice, 2 lbs. of lentils, 6 lbs. of potatoes and a bar of soap.
One of the recipients, Jahanvi, said “My son works as a daily laborer, and I catch fish and crabs from the river for sustaining my family. But I cannot go out this time due to the lockdown. The timely help of the food items received from the church is a great help for my family.”
A member of the village council said, “During this untimely crisis, [the church] in my village stood beside us to help the poor families by providing them with food items. I feel very proud of them. I want to thank [them] for their great help.”
Between April 2 and April 6, GFA-supported workers across India and Sri Lanka provided groceries, meals and essential supplies to around 2,334 people and families.
The recipients included leprosy patients, men and women living in slums, widows, rickshaw drivers, factory workers, migrant laborers, construction workers and many other laborers who are dependent upon daily work for their and their family’s survival.
In Sri Lanka, GFA-supported workers received special permission from local authorities to distribute dry-ration packets to 200 families during a nationwide curfew. They worked alongside local government representatives and religious leaders of other faiths to identify families with three to five children that were in most need.
“I am privileged to have the support of … Christian leaders to come to our temple for the first time to help our village’s poorest families,” said the chief priest of the local Buddhist temple. “This is a true representation of Jesus Christ. The love has been shown practically to our villagers, and they received a good dry ration package with all essential things.”
Meanwhile, in India, GFA-supported workers, including office staff, Bridge of Hope staff, pastors and women missionaries, delivered meal packets, grocery items, soaps and toothpaste to men and women who have been unable to buy food for their families because they no longer have a means to earn an income.
In Maharashtra, a pastor’s friend donated enough money to buy rations for 35 families that will last 15 days.
One recipient, who has been diagnosed with HIV and lost his job because of it, lives in a small hut with his mother. His father passed away a few years ago, and he has been unable to adequately take care of his mother.
“I thank you for helping me when there was no hope,” he said after receiving grocery items.
Another recipient, Raghbir, works as a taxi driver. After receiving much-needed grocery items, he said with tears in his eyes, “I do not have any work for the last few days and did not have any money left to buy food for my family. My wife is sick and bedridden and at such a time, your help has become a great blessing to us. God bless you abundantly.”
Workers in Maharashtra hope to help 300 children living a slum colony in the coming days.
In one area of Andhra Pradesh, 10 GFA-supported pastors combined their own resources to purchase grocery items for 40 families. In another area of Andhra Pradesh, 690 families received vegetables while another 200 people received cooked meals.
In Chhattisgarh, 64 families received grocery items in their time of need. Forty of those were migrant laborers who are unable to return home and are currently staying in the local community hall or middle school.
In Assam, 30 poor families received grocery items, and in West Bengal, 40 leprosy patients who depend on begging for their survival received rice, lentils, potatoes, onions and salt.
Please keep praying for GFA-supported workers as they do all they can to help those in need. During this crisis, ministry is continuing.
From March 27 to April 2, GFA-supported workers serving in Sri Lanka provided grocery items, which included rice, sugar, dal (lentils), tea leaves and vegetables, to 165 families in four different regions. Local pastors, businessmen, police officers and a government authority provided the funds to purchase these items in bulk for distribution.
In one area, GFA-supported workers served alongside Buddhist monks and other religious leaders to provide tea and biscuits to 350 local police and armed forces in their region.
“I am surprised that a Christian missionary took initiative and convinced us to help our own Buddhist friends and villagers,” said a Buddhist businessman who contributed to a food distribution in his village. “This is a great act of love, [done] not considering [their] own safety from Corona, but thinking of innocent poor people who do not receive any help.”
On April 4, a group of Sisters of Compassion and Women’s Fellowship sisters visited a leprosy colony to provide packets of soap to its residents. They were able to give away 100 bars of soap, and they encouraged people to stay home and practice handwashing to safeguard against the virus.
“I want to give thanks to the [church] and its leadership for helping me and my family,” said a leprosy patient. “This gift is very helpful for us to be safe and protect ourselves from coronavirus.”
GFA-supported pastor Manoj and his wife, Sarita, were able to provide food to five families in their communities on the morning of April 3.
“Although the pastor and his family were afraid to come out of their house [because of the virus], thinking something worse would happen to them, still they … reached the needy families in the early hours of the day,” reported a GFA-field correspondent. “Those families are in dire need of food items and were frustrated as they had no meal for some days. Some of the family members had no hope of their survival as they are daily wage laborers.”
Pastor Manoj and Sarita distributed face masks, rice, dal, soybeans, onions and potatoes.
Aaloka, 40, was one of those who received much-needed help. She is married and has five children. Her husband is a day laborer working in another district. Because of the lockdown, he hasn’t been able to return home. Aaloka worried over her children, wondering how she would feed them.
“God came to our family and provided for us,” she says. “I am extremely happy and thanking God for the lives of all those who showed concern to us.”
On April 3, day laborers in Chhattisgarh, India, and migrant workers unable to return to their home state of West Bengal, India, were given a meal and grocery items. Because of the nationwide lockdown, they’ve been unable to find food or travel back to their homes.
Eighty families across the Indian city of Hyderabad received food supplies and soap. Thirty-five of those families earn their living by performing monkey shows on the side of the road or sending their children for begging.
“Our work is not good or appreciated,” said one 35-year-old recipient, whose main income is earned by performing monkey shows. “During the lockdown period, we are not able to feed our children. We are totally helpless and are so scared for our survival. As we are in a panic of how to get food, Pastor Kunal has shown compassion upon us and provided rice to 35 families. Really, this help is priceless.”
GFA-supported pastor Bhavin, who serves in Uttarakhand, India, called together the members of his church and encouraged them to contribute food products to help the poor in their community. They were able to purchase enough rice, sugar, dal and mustard oil to give to a few families living in a village three miles away.
One of the recipients said, “We were praying for someone to come and help us. Really, God has sent you. We are so grateful to the pastor and his church.”
Pastor Bhavin has encouraged his congregation to continue to give so they can help more people, share Christ’s love and let people know the church cares for them.
In Uttarakhand, India, Bridge of Hope staff are reaching out to their neighbors in need by providing cooked meals. In one area, the staff cooked meals for 65 migrant laborers from Bihar who are unable to return to their homes because of the lockdown.
“The laborers were very happy and grateful … for their kindness,” reported a GFA-supported field correspondent. “Some of their eyes were filled with tears.”
In another area, Bridge of Hope staff cooked a meal of potato curry and puri (flatbread) for families in need. They were able to distribute 56 packets of the cooked meal.
“I am very much impressed by the teachings of Jesus that [show how to] love one another,” said a recipient. “Now I can see that in your efforts to help the people who do not know you.”
Millions of people in South Asia are wondering how they will provide food for their families as the COVID-19 pandemic escalates.
India has now reported more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19, and a government-imposed lockdown has kept people at home since March 25. Hoping the mandatory lockdown will continue to stem the spread of disease, India’s government hinted at plans to extend the lockdown an additional two weeks until April 30.
The lockdown has left millions of people jobless, including rickshaw and taxi drivers, daily wage laborers, food service workers, rag pickers and retail workers. Many of these workers already struggled to put food on the table, and now they, along with millions of homeless people and people who beg for a living, face a dire situation. Many do not know how to request government assistance.
In the days leading up to the lockdown, GFA-supported pastors and their congregations in Delhi, India, worked to educate people about the virus. On March 20, a GFA-supported pastor and members of his congregation held a COVID-19 awareness program and distributed 1,500 pamphlets teaching people how to prevent the spread of the virus.
On March 18, a group of Sisters of Compassion and church leaders conducted a coronavirus awareness program in Madhya Pradesh, India.
“Coronavirus is a germ that causes severe illness, and its symptoms are coughing, fever and difficulties in breathing,” a GFA-supported worker told the audience. “It is spreading rapidly across the globe, and there is no vaccine ready for its cure yet. However, we can prevent the virus by following a few steps, like washing hands properly and regularly, practicing social distancing, maintaining proper hygiene and seeking a doctor’s advice if sick.”
The audience listened attentively, and at the program’s conclusion, the Sisters of Compassion gave the attendees educational handouts titled “Be Cautious, Be Healthy.”
“When we hear about [the] coronavirus, our heart sinks, but I am happy to know that it can be prevented by following simple steps,” shared a 50-year-old woman who attended. “Every one of us should take precautions, and we can together defeat this deadly disease.”
A group of Sisters of Compassion in Maharashtra, India, organized an awareness campaign to inform people about the seriousness of the COVID-19 outbreak and how to take preventative measures, such as frequent handwashing, social distancing and maintaining proper hygiene.
The Sisters of Compassion and their GFA-supported pastor got permission from the local government to take a small number of believers to distribute grocery kits to people in need. On April 3, they gave groceries to 30 families and handed out 50 face masks. They plan to help more families as the lockdown continues.
A local government official asked church leaders in Uttar Pradesh, India to help as many people as they can.
On April 3, GFA-supported workers sewed face masks and prepared a meal of vegetable curry and flatbread. Then they prayed and went out to villages to distribute the food and face masks, seeking especially to help homeless people and slum residents.
“Thank you so much for helping me,” shared one recipient. “I was hungry and was not able to buy food. But I am grateful to you for giving me tasty food.”
“For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink.”
—Jesus (Matthew 25:35)
On April 6, GFA-supported workers used a school bus to distribute bags of vegetables to people in need. They hung the bags on the school bus exterior and encouraged people to come pick up the food while maintaining an appropriate social distance. This blessed 150 families with enough staple produce items to last three to four days.
GFA-supported workers in Uttar Pradesh are moving forward with plans to provide groceries to at least 5,000 people during the lockdown.
COVID-19 isn’t able to stop the spread of Christ’s love from touching people’s lives. Even though the pandemic has shut down schools and businesses deemed “non-essential,” is keeping friends and loved ones at a socially acceptable distance, and has forced churches to close their doors, Gospel for Asia-supported workers are still being God’s hands and feet to the poorest and most disadvantaged people in their communities.
GFA-supported workers are working with local governing authorities and putting together food packets to give to men and women in desperate need of help. Many of these people are daily laborers who depended on working every day for their very survival. The nationwide shelter-in-place order has halted many opportunities for these laborers to earn the necessary income to provide essential needs, such as food, for their families—and has left them in precarious situations, wondering how they will make it through the crisis.
Food packets have been a dose of hope, providing recipients with enough staple items to last a few weeks to a month, in some places. But these food packets are also providing recipients with the valuable realization that God is taking care of them.
“We did not have anything to eat during this lockdown situation,” said Sahira, who received a month’s supply of groceries. “God sent you at the right time to us. … I am crying and thankful because God is so gracious to me and my family.”
Prita, a widow, said, “My son could not go for work due to the lockdown, and we did not have food to eat, but Pastor Lagan helped us to get food for one month. We have a God who cares for us in our time of need. I am thankful to [the church] and the Almighty God.”
Another way GFA-supported workers are spreading hope in a time of fear and anxiety is by providing people with personal protective equipment. A Women’s Fellowship group in Chhattisgarh, India, spent four days sewing masks because of the massive shortage in their area. The ladies gave away 2,000 masks to villagers, health care workers and the local police.
A government official saw their initiative to provide a necessary need and instructed shopkeepers to provide the local pastor with as much fabric as his congregation needs to continue sewing these masks.
Across South Asia, GFA-supported workers are doing all they can to help those in need, and these reports are just a glimpse of many we receive each day of unique initiatives to minister to the needy.
In Uttar Pradesh, a pastor and the believers in his congregation organized an awareness rally in the village. Their goal was to teach people how to properly wash their hands and how to stay protected from catching and spreading COVID-19.
One GFA-supported pastor in Hyderabad distributed food packets to widows, who are especially struggling during this time. He also shared how people can protect themselves from COVID-19 by washing hands, practicing social distancing, staying at home and wearing masks.
Another pastor traveled to an interior village near Hyderabad with the help of two local police officers to provide food to 200 tribal people.
“[The church] has taken a good initiative to help poor people to get food during the lockdown of COVID-19,” said one of the police officers.
After sharing food with 15 impoverished families in Gujarat, India, a GFA-supported field correspondent reported, “The plight of these people is miserable, as they are struggling financially and also lack groceries to feed their children. They [also] do not have a proper place to stay, so they are living on the footpath [alongside the road], which makes them more susceptible to catching the virus.”
Field correspondents in regions all across India are sending numerous reports of how GFA-supported workers are organizing food distributions and awareness programs, and of how they are providing personal protective equipment like masks to people in need. Our field partners plan to help as many people as possible in the days ahead.
Please keep GFA’s field partners in your prayers as they continue to help people suffering because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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