ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (BP)–The earthquake that rocked South Asia Oct. 8 has created a unique opportunity for sharing the Gospel, and more followers of Jesus need to go and help, a volunteer in the region noted.
“We must go. This is the hour when the door is open -– for such a time as this,” volunteer Liz Fendley* said. “I don’t know how long this window of opportunity will be open in this area. We need to help these people, show them His love, care for them and build those vital relationships -– and pray that the Lord will move in their hearts.
“Women who have been hidden for years, we are now getting access to. We are able to build relationships with them and show them how much God loves them. I think this is an incredible opportunity,” said Fendley, who recently joined a team of five serving in Pakistan.
Volunteers can make a lasting impact on the lives they touch for the glory of God, Southern Baptist worker Aleta Ballinger* said. They witness to the unsaved. They mentor young believers. And they bless Southern Baptist workers with whom they serve.
“They can come in and look at it from a whole different perspective,” Southern Baptist worker Christina Tgh said. “Just for them to sit down and say, ‘Well, tell me about your day,’ that is so encouraging. We cried and laughed. We had debriefing every day.
“Just little things they do –- like getting up and making the coffee every morning –- helps,” Tgh said. “But they are working, too. They come in and lighten the load just by sharing the load.”
Officials estimate that the 7.6-magnitude earthquake killed 73,000 people and left about 2.8 million homeless in Pakistan. Another 1,300 people died in India, where 150,000 are homeless.
Volunteers are building temporary homes, providing medical care, assessing livestock losses and needs, teaching others to build shelters, offering trauma counseling, praying with people, distributing food and playing with children.
“We are so thankful for the volunteers who have come to help out here. They have been willing to go out under extreme conditions to show the love of Christ,” Southern Baptist worker Josie Gabdon* said. “One couple came up to our camp, sleeping on the ground in tents on the side of a mountain at the end of a seemingly endless, bumpy, dirt track. They are 76 and 80 years old! The people were so thankful to have them and us there to show love and care. Please pray for more volunteers to come and minister to these devastated people in their time of need.”
Volunteers involved in relief work face challenging circumstances. They may sleep in tents. They may have to hike long distances in high altitudes to reach villagers. There are no toilets in many villages. The nights are cold, and the days are long.
“It is stressful,” Southern Baptist worker Brent Tinsley* said. “They are here for a short time. There is a time difference. There are bouts of sickness from food and water. It’s a tough thing to come halfway around the world and work hard in a different time zone.”
Volunteer Chris Seay knew all of that when he agreed to come help. This is not his first overseas mission trip.
“Africa, Romania, China, Venezuela, God shows me in every place that He is always there long before I get there, and that’s encouraging to me,” he said.
Seay said his greatest reward during his Pakistan trip was the opportunity to mentor a young Christian believer who served as his translator.
“I don’t know whether he knows it yet or not, but I feel like he is going to be called into the ministry,” Seay said. “He genuinely loves to share his faith with his people.”
That’s important, Seay said, because locals are the ones who will carry the real load of the work. Volunteers are there for only a short time.
When Seay returns to Alabama, he said his goal will be to encourage others to pray for earthquake survivors, to give sacrificially on their behalf and to seek the Lord’s direction about whether they should travel to South Asia to help.
“I have memories that I’ll never forget,” Seay said. “I don’t know how to take that information and create a desire for other people. I think they would do without more at home and give more if they could actually see this. I guess that’s my job, to go back and encourage others and try my best to explain to them.”
Southern Baptist workers in Pakistan are asking for volunteers to come set up temporary medical camps in tent villages and in remote areas, construct temporary shelters, distribute food staples and supplies, present children’s programs and clear away rubble.
“Pray that those God is leading to take part in this effort will respond to His call enthusiastically and that He would prepare the way for them,” Ballinger asked.
The people in Pakistan are in great need and their hearts are open to anyone who will help, Fendley said.
“It is an opportunity to show the love of Jesus … physically, emotionally and spiritually,” she said. “I see it as God taking a horrible situation and turning it to good. His eternal purposes are being accomplished.”
*Names changed for security reasons. Goldie Frances is a missionary writer serving in the South Asia region. For more information about current and future volunteer needs, e-mail email@example.com.