India (MNN) — On May 20, a violent storm known as Cyclone Laila hit the state of Andhra Pradesh in India. The cyclone killed 23 people, according to reports, and forced over 50,000 people from their homes. Despite the devastation, however, the disaster has gone widely unnoticed.
"It's one of those cyclones that hasn't made much of a spark in the international news setting, but for the lives of the people that are there, they've lost homes and businesses," says president of Bright Hope International, Craig Dyer. "People are in desperate need."
Many are calling Laila the worst storm to hit Andhra Pradesh since 1977, when, according to BBC News, a cyclone killed over 10,000.
Although the recent storm may not have been quite so violent as the ‘77 cyclone, the implications of such a disaster for those affected are grave. Reuters reports that among the valuables lost have been "livelihood appliances," or items that are main sources of income for many, such as sewing machines.
Reuters says this delve into poverty may heighten the risk of child slavery and sex work among women–situations already prevalent problems in India. Poor sanitation may also increase risk of waterborne diseases, especially among children.
Bright Hope is providing some relief through local churches and partners in the area in order to get people back on their feet with basic needs. The ministry also has a women's job creation center known as Emmanuel Handicrafts in Andhra Pradesh.
Throughout their relief efforts, Bright Hope expects the Gospel will be shared and often understood.
"Whenever a disaster strikes, it's just a time when peoples' hearts are open," says Dyer. "I've seen it before, especially in India, where the people who have been against Christianity have been reached and ministered to by the local church, and then their hearts are won over by love."
The needs throughout India are great physically, especially in the wake of such a devastating storm. But Dyer says there exists an even greater spiritual need. He says the best thing for people to do in response to the storm is to pray.
"We are just trying to build some momentum with prayer," says Dyer. "We really believe that the battles in India aren't necessarily just the physical needs or the relief and development, or the emergency relief that's going on today, but it's really the spiritual strongholds that are keeping the church from becoming all it could be. We just want people to pray down those strongholds."
Dyer suggests that you consider joining Bright Hope's India Prayer Team. To do so, visit the Bright Hope Web site and scroll down to the bottom left where you can enter your e-mail address and receive updates and requests for spiritually hungry India.