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[vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_custom_heading text=”By William Stark” font_container=”tag:h6|text_align:left” use_theme_fonts=”yes” css=”.vc_custom_1593623728367{margin-bottom: 22px !important;}”][vc_single_image image=”117066″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes” alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]07/17/2020 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – On March 24, India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, announced that the country would go into a national lock­down to combat the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Twenty-four hours later, India was officially closed for business.

This sudden announcement gave India’s 1.3 billion citizens mere hours to prepare for the most expansive and strictest lockdown in the world. Our rural church planters suddenly found themselves and their families cut off from their congregations and systems of sup­port.

“More than 70% of rural church planters are facing a huge challenge,” Rev. Prabhu Das, Director of Seva Bharat, told ICC. “The majority of these pastors are living in difficult conditions as they do not have an income whatsoever while the churches are closed. They are forced to stay inside their homes, despite not having access to basic [necessi­ties]. These people desperately need food, healthcare, and moral support.”

Reaching the Unreached

Since November 2018, International Christian Concern has provided bicycles and Bibles to hundreds of rural church planters to bring the Gospel to India’s massive, unreached population through the Bibles and Bikes ini­tiative. Cut off from their congregations, our church planters soon reported that their families were running out of food.

“My rations will run out in three or four days,” Pastor Radhe Kishan, a Bibles and Bikes beneficiary, told ICC in late April. “About a week ago, a church member gave me five kilos of wheat flour and some lentils. We are surviving on that, and it might go for another four days. We have no choice except to trust in God for our food and needs. I am trusting God for his provision.”

Pastor Kishan, his wife, and his 11-month-old daughter live in a rented house in a rural village located in the Shahajanpur district of Uttar Pradesh. When the lockdown started, Pastor Kishan was unable to gather his con­gregations for worship; he could not collect support for his family or continue to minister to his congregants.

Before the pandemic, Pastor Kishan visited between four and five villages each week and would share the Gospel with an average of 35 people. “I feel sad that I am unable to meet people to share the Gospel,” Pastor Kishan explained. “I am also not allowed to do out­reach work or to lead worship services. That was a part of my normal routine.”

A New Support System

Many rural evangelists across India expe­rienced the sense of being “cut off,” both economically and spiritually. ICC sought to fill that gap. In response to this COVID-19 crisis, we’ve kept close contact with hundreds of Bibles and Bikes beneficiaries across India. We’ve prayed with these evangelists and lis­tened to their concerns, while also providing critical food support that brought joy and renewed faith.

Pastor Majhi and his family, who were forced to limit their daily food intake, were among the hundreds whom ICC has been able to assist through this effort.

“The help from ICC was just unbelievable,” he shared. “We thank God for this provision and can now switch back to three meals a day. This is a miracle, and I want to thank ICC and ICC’s supporters who have graciously helped in our hour of need.”

Pastor Rajram Harsana, a Bibles and Bikes beneficiary in India, shared, “Thank you so much ICC for the great help during this lockdown period by providing all the grocery money for the food. It’s such a big help for us to have the food for whole family members during this time of difficulties in life, when there is not any kind of income [for] our fam­ily. We are so grateful to ICC for this help to our family.”

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and India’s national lockdown will continue to be felt for months to come. However, one lasting and positive impact our church planters will feel is their very real connection to their global brothers and sisters through ICC.

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