BANGALORE, India (BP)–When the worst floods in more than 100 years swept through a village in southern India, the water did not ask about the rich landowner’s social status before it washed away his soil, drowned his cattle and destroyed his house.
“For all these years, I was a landowner,” he said. “But from now on, I must go work in another man’s field.”
Such was the sudden swiftness with which torrential rains in the states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh became a nightmare of overflowing rivers, flooded fields and demolished houses in early October. The flooding claimed about 300 people and left at least 2 million homeless.
Thousands fled for safety with only the clothes on their backs as the floodwaters dissolved their mud dwellings. In his haste to escape death, one man even abandoned his mother.
“When the flood came, my son cared about his wife and children but left me in the house,” lamented the tearful woman, who had not eaten for three days. “Now my son is away, and I do not know where he is. I am living alone.”
Pastor Joga Murthy*, who came with an Indian Baptist Society team to deliver desperately needed relief, listened to the woman’s story and its grim assessment of human nature.
“Immediately we helped her with clothing and food so she could eat,” Murthy said. “Everyone wanted to escape with their own lives, and they did not care about others in this situation.”
But the men from the Indian Baptist Society came to show that God and His people hurt for the suffering of others. With money provided through the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund, the team purchased items that the villagers had lost in the flood, such as food, clothing and cooking pots.
To deliver aid where it was needed most, the team went beyond the roadside encampments where thousands of families had taken shelter in tents and were receiving aid from the government and larger relief organizations. Instead, the team trekked into the heart of the flood-ravaged countryside, bringing help to villages now isolated by ruined roads and washed out bridges.
Team member Simeon Biswas* recalled the pandemonium among starving villagers who hadn’t seen food for days.
“We couldn’t give it peacefully. They were snatching the food from our hands,” Biswas said. “This was a very painful situation for us to see.”
That was not the worst of it. The poor farmers had lost not only their immediate food supply, but the soil they depended on to grow their crops had been washed away along with their seeds and livestock. Their homes gone, they slept on rocks or in the fields and sent their children to live with relatives.
Murthy’s team was the first group to reach the villagers with aid.
“They were very hungry, so when we went, they loudly welcomed us and appreciated our work,” he said.
When the team returned to the villages later to check on their progress and inquire about any continuing needs, the residents were shocked that someone cared for them so much.
“They said, ‘We saw so many people who came, gave food and went, but you came a second time and asked about our problems,'” Biswas recounted. “We could go, touch their hearts and listen to them carefully” while carrying a testimony of love for broken people not merely with words but with visible actions and ongoing aid.
*Name changed. Marcus Rowntree has served as a writing intern in southern Asia. For information about the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund, visit www.imb.org/worldhunger. For more information on how to reach the peoples of southern Asia, visit www.go2SouthAsia.org.