Even in the midst of a global pandemic, God is still at work in the nations, opening doors for ministry and turning hearts towards his Word.
As millions across the world are reeling from the coronavirus pandemic, Hope and Help International’s ministry partners in South Asia are working to maintain contact with their church members and minister to the vulnerable during the widespread lockdown.
When Covid-19 first appeared in South Asia in mid-March, regional governments quickly adopted a strict lockdown policy. Across South Asia, lockdown policies restricted individuals from leaving their homes for more than a few minutes each day to collect essential goods from the market. In some areas, local governments even implemented an evening curfew, and individuals can be fined if they are found outside of their homes.
Most families only have a few minutes to shop at the markets each day, and due to strict regional travel restrictions, food and resources are dwindling.
“We are allowed to leave home and go to the market only for a few minutes each morning to buy vegetables and the necessities of the day,” one pastor shared. “Prices have doubled or tripled, making it very hard for people to buy the things they need.”
Another pastor added, “The supply of food and other provisions has definitely been affected and there are times we can hardly find the basics available in the markets.”
In June, as some regional governments began to ease restrictions, Covid-19 case totals spiked in South Asia. During the initial lockdown, many people across South Asia followed proper precautions, such as wearing masks and staying home, which helped to keep coronavirus infections down. But as restrictions are starting to ease, hospitalizations are sharply increasing, and health systems are becoming overwhelmed.
“The numbers in [South Asia] are seeing a very steep increase, and that is very scary because initially when we had the lockdowns, the cases were very few,” one of our ministry partners shared. “But now with the release of all these lockdowns, what’s happening is that…now that it’s been three or four months, people have gotten immune to the word ‘corona’ and now when we go outside, people are outside without masks and neighbors are sitting in groups.”
In some areas, where food insecurity and poverty are rampant, sickness often takes a back seat, creating an opportunity for infection to spread in South Asia’s most vulnerable communities.
“In places where survival is a priority, where feeding is a priority, health takes a second place,” one of our ministry partners said.
The Work of Ministry Continues
Although the strict lockdown created an atmosphere of anxiety, our ministry partners continued to boldly support their church families and show the love of God through generosity.
During the lockdown, many of our ministry partners have continued to meet with believers in small groups of 4 or 5 each week while maintaining social distancing.
For some of our pastors, the pandemic has been a reminder of Jesus’ promise of return in the Bible. One pastor shared that his congregation is “even more convinced” that the return of the Lord is near in the wake of the pandemic.
Although the government is currently restricting travel to and from villages, a number of churches have collected basic resources, such as rice and oil, to deliver to surrounding villages and slums.
In an effort to slow the spread of the virus, governments across South Asia have labeled certain villages as “red zones” for infection, which restricts travel to and from the area. Many of our ministry partners have been separated from members of their churches who live within these villages, so they have instead been communicating by phone and sending supplies by mail.
In multiple areas, the lockdown took a toll on the livelihoods of many people where HHI ministry partners are located. While families below the poverty line are suffering, migrant workers, daily wage workers, and lower middle-class citizens are also feeling the effects of the pandemic.
To address the needs of the vulnerable, a number of our ministry partners and pastors raised funds to support needy community with food and resources.
One of our ministry partners in particular, Far Corners, utilized the support of HHI to provide supplies to more than 50 rickshaw drivers in South Asia. Rickshaw drivers depend on daily business to make wages, and since the lockdown, many have struggled to provide just one meal a day for their families. Through the support of HHI, Far Corners was able to provide care packages with food items, like rice and dahl, and personal hygiene items for the drivers and their families.
Our ministry partners ask for your continued prayer for the health and wellbeing of South Asia at this time.