South Asia (MNN) — It's been a month since Cyclone Phailin devastated the shores of eastern India. The Category 4 storm made landfall mid-October, packing sustained winds in excess of 130 miles per hour.
Since massive evacuations moved thousands of people to safety as Phailin approached, the death toll from 18 affected districts stands at only 59. However, an initial deluge left many homes underwater and destroyed approximately 1.2 million acres of crops.
A Scriptures In Use (SIU) worker says that was only the beginning of their troubles. Large-scale flooding in areas affected by the cyclone added another layer of difficulty.
"The flood was more dangerous than the cyclone itself, because after the cyclone was over, the people started to go back to their places," the worker says. "The next day, there were heavy downpours where a lot of floods happened: the houses got submerged, and that was very bad."
Floods also ruined crops and many families' source of income for the winter. According to a national newspaper, damages are at the level of a 1999 super cyclone. That storm killed around 10,000 people, left 1.67 million homeless, and destroyed millions of acres of crops and trees.
With Phailin threatening to wreak the same havoc, SIU's worker said their concern was high as the storm approached in October.
"We have very active hubs working all around those areas. We were really concerned about our people," the worker says.
Thankfully, "lots of other things got damaged, but no lives were lost."
SIU gets local believers around the world involved in reaching the lost for Christ. Using small story-telling groups, SIU teaches people how to engage oral learners with the Truth of Scripture. Over the past five years, they've seen more than 250,000 people begin a relationship with Jesus Christ.
In one South Asia nation, adapting the Gospel message to culturally-relevant practices like storytelling and songs leads to more people accepting God's Word as Truth. For centuries, Christianity was considered a foreign religion because it was presented using Western context.
SIU's Bridges model gets indigenous Christians to frame the Gospel message within their cultural context. This way, people embrace it instead of associating the Gospel with something foreign.
The annual Oral Arts Festival helps SIU-trained groups (Hubs) learn how to reach oral communities in new ways. The worker MNN spoke with explains that Hub team members from each district in the state gather at the festival to share effective means of oral evangelism: dances, songs, poems, and more.
"People do not object or come against such a way of [evangelism] because they see a cultural flavor to it, and they embrace it very easily," the worker adds.
"Every Hub would come with one or two programs, one-by-one, and would present it to the bigger group."
This year, the festival was being opened up to the wider Church body. Many nonbelievers were also expected to attend. But due to Phailin's arrival, the festival had to be rescheduled. SIU's worker says they hope to hold it sometime in January.
Pray for effective planning and high attendance at the Oral Arts Festival.
Since SIU teams were already in place for the festival, they were able to take immediate action following the cyclone. The emergency packets they handed out to storm survivors included food, two pieces of tarpaulin for shelter, some clothing, towels, and blankets.
They're still distributing those resources today, as well as rebuilding homes. The worker we spoke with explains that homes must be entirely rebuilt for eight SIU pastors.
"These houses where our people are staying were mostly built of either mud or bamboo, or the wooden planks, so they were just blown away," he says.
Around 63,240 rupees, or $1,000, will be needed for each home. If you can help meet this need, click here.
When possible, each and every team member involved in relief efforts shares the Gospel with those who've never heard of Jesus Christ. Would you pray for them?
"Please pray for our leaders that are involved with the relief work…. Please pray for the health of all of our people," requests the SIU worker.
Pray that supplies and other material help will reach survivors who desperately need it. Pray against the spread of illness and disease.