DHAKA, Bangladesh (BP)–In the hours before Cyclone Sidr reached the coastal areas of Bangladesh, Southern Baptists and other Christians began praying -– aware that the Category 4 storm potentially could usher hundreds of thousands into an eternity without Jesus.
“Our prayer before the storm hit was that God would have mercy on the people of the country,” said Susan Galvin*, who serves among Bangladesh’s tribal people groups. “The note I sent to prayer partners was to pray for the millions who live in bamboo and tin homes.”
Galvin said she is thankful to God “for protecting the millions living on the coastline. I truly believe God protected the masses in Bangladesh from certain death because He has a plan for their lives.
“And I believe part of that plan involves 2 Peter 3:9. He doesn’t want ‘anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.’ The real need is for the Gospel to be shared with the millions of this country who still have not heard the truth -– those who have been spared.”
Bangladesh has a population of 149 million, more than 86 percent of whom are Muslims. In 1991 a cyclone killed more than 138,000 and in 1970 a cyclone killed nearly 500,000. And monsoon-induced flooding this summer has left other parts of the country in dire need.
Cyclone Sidr approached low-lying Bangladesh with a fury Nov. 15, making landfall during the black of night. The Category 4 storm has claimed more than 3,100 lives, according to news reports.
While the death toll continues to rise, the potential loss of life is not as great as many feared it would be. Lessons learned from previous cyclones, successful evacuations and pre-arranged shelters helped spare lives during the storm’s onslaught.
Still, many are suffering -– those who have lost their homes and all their possessions, and especially those who have lost a family member.
“It was hard to rest as I imagined the horrifying experience so many were having in those moments [during the storm], especially those near the Bay of Bengal,” said Drew Neely*, who also serves among Bangladeshis. “It was not hard to imagine steel roofs ripping off bamboo homes all over. What I couldn’t imagine was seeing my house rip apart and not be able to do anything to protect my family from the cold wind and rain and the terror of it all.”
But that was only part of the reason he couldn’t sleep that night, Neely said.
“Last night a lot of people died and entered an eternity of suffering,” Neely said. “Almost none of them has heard a Christian testimony or biblical explanation of who Christ really is. They have never heard the truth about who God really is, who they are in His sight or what God’s plan is to save us from our sin through Christ.
“Our hearts are heavy for all those without hope,” he said. “We are even more motivated now to go and tell them about the hope that is within us,” and to Southern Baptists he added, “We are so thankful for your continued prayers and support.”
Neely and Galvin ask Southern Baptists and all Christians to continue to pray for Bangladeshis who are suffering physically and spiritually.
“Pray for those who have lost loved ones and homes in the Barisal area,” Galvin said. “Pray that God will reveal Himself in a mighty way to those who are suffering and facing a difficult road of rebuilding. Pray for the Gospel to be shared, so all will know the truth.
“Thank you for praying Bangladesh through Cyclone Sidr. Your prayers of protection were heard and answered,” she said. “May God answer our prayers for the salvation of Bangladesh.”
*Name changed for security reasons. Goldie Frances is a writer serving in southern Asia.