India (MNN) — Do you remember Cyclone Phailin? If not, you’re not alone. The storm hit India four months ago, destroying around 800,000 homes. It was mostly overshadowed by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, and people still need help.
“Cyclone Phailin was one of the most devastating cyclones that’s hit India in a very long time,” Danny Punnose with Gospel for Asia says.
Early on, there were fears that Phailin would morph into a Super Cyclone, a storm packing wind speeds of over 139 miles-per-hour (mph). To prevent an aftermath like what followed 1999’s Odisha cyclone, India’s government evacuated 1.1 million people from the coastal states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.
Thankfully, the storm lessened and made landfall on October 12, 2013 with wind speeds at around 127 mph. Evacuations kept the death toll below 20, but Phailin still affected nine million people, whether by damaging or completely destroying homes and livelihoods. To put the damage in perspective, around one million people in the U.S. were displaced by 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.
Four months down the road, Punnose says there hasn’t been much change for Phailin survivors.
“There are so many people still waiting for help and camping out on the roads,” he says. “Their land is gone, their farms are gone, houses are gone, and they’re just trying to rebuild their lives right now.”
GFA’s Compassion Services Teams were among the first on the scene when Phailin made landfall, bringing food, clean water, and medical supplies to those in need. Their initial goal was to rebuild 200 homes for affected villagers, but they recently increased the amount to 1,000.
“When you’re talking about a thousand homes, it’s a lot of finances. We’re rebuilding these homes for about $3,000 for each home,” Punnose notes.
“I think some of the biggest needs we’re encountering right now [are] just bringing materials into the areas, because you’re talking about roads that’ve been washed away, and pretty much all infrastructure is gone.”
The Gospel in action
Along with rebuilding homes, GFA is caring for basic essentials like food, water, and education for the children. Their actions speak volumes to people affected by Phailin, especially to those from Dalit or “Untouchable” backgrounds.
“Their entire future has been washed away. When we are able to talk with them and pray with them, we are able to tell them that there is hope in Christ,” explains Punnose.
“They will come back to us pretty often and say, ‘Can you now tell us why you’re doing this, because no one does this.'”
Dalits are considered subhuman or “Untouchable” and don’t even hold a place on India’s four-tier caste system. If they can find a job, they’re given the ones no one else wants, such as unclogging sewers or disposing of dead bodies. Learn more about the Dalits here.
When Dalits ask GFA workers why they’re helping, “we’re able to tell them: ‘Because we love Christ and Christ loves you.’ Then we’re able to tell them what Christ did,” Punnose says, “how He died on the cross for them, and how He brings purpose in life, and hope to hopeless situations.
“It’s very exciting to see how God can turn a terrible situation into something good.”
There’s a place for you in this story.
“When we hear about these victims, our hearts should be moved to prayer, and then see what God would have us do,” says Punnose.
As GFA workers share the hope of Christ with Phailin survivors, pray for changed hearts. Pray for financial help so GFA can rebuild all 1,000 homes. Pray that survivors can get their lives and livelihoods re-established quickly.