India (MNN) — For a country with a population as dense as India, the number of COVID-19 cases remains relatively low – over 21,000 coronavirus cases as of yesterday in a population of 1.3 billion.
However, health experts say the virus in India may not peak until June or July. And for now, India’s lockdown measures are taking a toll on the poor and day laborers.
Todd VanEk, president and CEO of Mission India, says, “Here in the US, many of us know of people who live month-to-month or paycheck-to-paycheck. But in India, 40 percent of the population are day laborers, and they live day-to-day. That is, they earn to eat. With the impact of the lockdown, it’s created a huge humanitarian crisis in terms of a lack of resources for food.”
Christians are scrambling to help with relief kits from Mission India. But Indian Christians are often seen as social pariahs and suffer oppression at the hands of religious extremists. India currently holds 10th place on the World Watch List for extreme Christian persecution.
However, that isn’t stopping believers from giving aid to their neighbors at this time – some of whom may be their persecutors.
“There’s all kinds of persecution in India; in fact, even governmental persecution,” VanEk says. “But now, we’ve received communication from the government saying, ‘Hey, will you help us with this relief work?’”
Mission India’s relief kits are only $40 to produce and can feed a family of four for 40 days. “In that relief kit is obviously food and hygiene items to help combat COVID-19 and a powerful Gospel message, which is so desperately needed in India.”
The bulk of Mission India’s ministry is in rural areas and it’s all through local believers. These believers are concentrating relief efforts in the rural areas where ministry takes place as well as some urban areas.
In the midst of a terrible situation where families are losing jobs and loved ones to the virus, the Gospel offers unique hope– hope that most of India still doesn’t have.
“India is the most unreached nation in the world,” VanEk says. “In fact, more people in India have never heard the name of Jesus and anywhere else. They just have no hope to look to. They’re asking, ‘Where is our help going to come from?’ We think this is an incredible opportunity where God is opening a door for us to demonstrate the love of Christ to people who need it so desperately.”
Something else everybody can do to spiritually encourage India is pray. “We would ask for prayers for Prime Minister Modi, that God would govern his thoughts…. We would ask people to pray Colossians 4, that there would be an open door for the Gospel and that, as Paul says, we would present it clearly.”
Finally, VanEk says, “We would pray that — in the midst of our own unique challenges we’re dealing with here in the US in terms of COVID-19 — people would give generously to provide food for a family of four. And then we would ask for prayer for our staff and for all of our partners in terms of protection against COVID-19.”
Header photo courtesy of Mission India.