PATNA, India (BP)–Almost every year, the snows melt in the Himalayas, monsoon rains come and floodwaters rise, threatening the lives and livelihoods of millions in southern Asia. This summer is no exception — murky floodwaters have killed about 2,800 people, destroyed homes, swept away livestock and endangered the health of children and the elderly in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan.
Standing directly in the floodwaters with his young son near his side, a father asked, “You come and take our picture. Now what are you going to do?”
He posed his question to Southern Baptists assessing the flood damage in preparation for ongoing relief through food distribution.
A host of Christians in the region has been serving alongside Southern Baptists as they coordinate relief efforts in prayerfully selected areas, places where governments and other relief organizations have not yet focused.
“Millions have been displaced from their homes and are suffering from insufficient food and illnesses related to bad water,” said Southern Baptist Drew Neely* who serves in Bangladesh.
“Our plan is to sustain this [flood relief] effort for an extended period, so Bengali believers who volunteer can develop relationships that will lead to more evangelism and church planting,” Neely said.
Most of the flooding in Bangladesh is in the districts that surround the nation’s capital, Dhaka. The government has recorded about 481 flood-related deaths since the floods began, according to United Nations reports.
In India, flooding has affected eight states and 1,835 people have lost their lives since June, the United Nations reports. In the state of Bihar, more than 14 million people have been affected, and more than 1,000 relief camps have been set up to house those who have been forced from their homes.
“The water has receded in many areas, but water-borne diseases and starvation are on the rise. Those who survive the raging water may die of diseases and starvation,” a prayer advocate for the Ansari Muslims of Bihar said.
“According to the news, many are without food, medicine and clean water for many days. Tempers and tension are on the rise as people are struggling to cope with hunger, thirst and loss,” she said. “It was reported that a family of four shared a slice of bread, and food prices are soaring. Let’s pray for relief to arrive soon for the survivors of the flood.”
Roland Jines*, a Southern Baptist serving in India, said that he and some fellow Christians recently went to a village to show the “JESUS” film, but when they arrived, no men were at home.
“All were in the fields replanting crops after a flood had stood over the fields for two weeks,” Jines explained. “We were not able to show the JESUS film that day, but we got to observe the resilience and resolve of the village to go on with life and salvage a situation. The crop is late and the next will be late. Many fish escaped the ponds. Yet [the people] continue to make their living within adversity.”
Nearly half of the country of Nepal has experienced similar challenges. Approximately 131 people have died, 20,000 families have been dislocated and flooding has adversely affected an additional 56,000 families in some way, the United Nations reports.
“This year’s monsoon rains have caused flooding in the southern parts of the country. Floodwaters have damaged and even destroyed people’s homes and crops,” said Southern Baptist Malcolm Roush* who serves in Nepal. “You can be remembering [in prayer] a team of fellow workers who are there assessing the situation this week to determine how we can strategically help meet the needs of those who have suffered from the damage.
“The hope is to not just help with their physical needs, but their need of the truth as well,” he said. “Pray for wisdom, insight and direction for the team as well as opportunities to share.”
In Pakistan, the provinces of Balochistan and Sindh experienced the most trauma, reporting 366 flood-related deaths with 2.5 million people affected, according to United Nations reports.
A group of Christians from another Great Commission Christian organization has been working in the area since the beginning, Southern Baptist Denton Treadwell* said.
“Many villages remain unreachable and people are still displaced,” Treadwell said. “By God’s grace, they already had someone in the area doing survey work when the floods came, so there is a witness in the area. The primary hands-on relief work is being done entirely by national believers. Please pray that this team will have continued wisdom and opportunity as they reach out.”
Prayer is essential for effective flood-relief ministries -– whether in India, Bangladesh, Nepal or Pakistan. Prayer also is an avenue through which all Christians -– no matter how far away they may be -– can minister to flood survivors like the father who asked, “Now what are you going to do?”
Southern Baptists serving in southern Asia ask that Christians pray:
— that flood survivors who have lost loved ones will find hope in God.
— that flood survivors who have lost homes will find temporary shelter and permanent housing outside of flood zones.
— that God’s Spirit would go before each flood-relief team and break down every spiritual stronghold.
— that flood survivors with the greatest needs will benefit the most from expressions of Christ’s love that Christians share.
— that the Gospel will be made known in a persuasive way through personal testimonies of national and international Christian volunteers.
— that all the good works done through flood relief will give glory to Christ and connect people with Him for their eternal salvation and abundant life.
“This way of reaching a community with the Gospel is new to us, and we need your prayers,” Neely said.
*Name changed for security reasons. Goldie Frances is a writer serving in southern Asia.