India has been overwhelmed by a second wave of Covid-19. A new variant tore through the country this year, resulting at its peak in more than 4,000 deaths per day, as well as leading to new lockdown restrictions. Hospitals and other medical services struggled to respond to the pandemic – low supplies of oxygen along with the lack of beds meant that many died without receiving treatment that may have saved their lives.
“This second wave has been really harsh,” said Samuel, a church leader in India, adding that Christians – many from poor, Dalit backgrounds – have been particularly hard hit by the ongoing situation. Hundreds of pastors and church leaders have died. The “sheer numbers” of church leaders to succumb to the virus represent “an irretrievable loss”, he said.
The restrictions on activities and the further lockdowns needed to control the virus had consequences of their own. Many Christians in wage-earning jobs were unable to continue their work – effectively, said Samuel, “they didn’t have a job.” This, along with the closure of church services, means that the income of church leaders taken from tithes and offerings also dried up.
Barnabas emergency task force across denominations
Barnabas Fund took the initiative in providing much-needed support to suffering Christians, creating an emergency task force of church leaders from across denominations to identify and respond to needs. Thanks to the generous donations of our supporters, Barnabas provided food in May and June to 25,000 needy Christian families.
For poor families Barnabas provided food parcels, each costing around £11 (€13; $15). These usually contained rice, wheat, flour, lentils and cooking oil. Pastor Kdaika, the leader of a church in Parigada, Odisha State, described the food parcel as “a miracle … because we do not have money, we did not know how we would meet our needs. But thank God that He heard our prayer and through the Barnabas Fund we were supported.”
Barnabas medical task force created
God willing, our next phase of support will provide vital medical supplies and equipment to church hospitals which were under severe pressure as well as mobile medical centres to ease that pressure by providing more ways to treat the sick. We have created a separate task force, bringing together the main Christian medical institutions in India.
Barnabas Fund also worked with church leaders to provide reliable information for Christians as to how they should respond to the pandemic. This included details about how to reduce the spread of the virus, advice about hand-washing and general hygiene, and guidance as to what action to take if somebody develops symptoms. It also included combating misinformation and misunderstandings about both vaccines and the virus itself.
While the immediate need was for medical supplies, food and information, as well as comforting the bereaved, in the long term Barnabas Fund will be on hand to help the hundreds of churches who have lost pastors and leaders. In the months and years ahead the development of new spiritual leadership will become a vital need for India’s Christians.
Please continue to pray for an end to the pandemic, for those who are suffering financially due to lockdown restrictions, for those who are sick or bereaved, and for God to raise up a new generation of Christian leaders who will take as their mission the spiritual care of His people.
Project reference: PR1530 (Covid-19 emergency fund)