by Kris McVaney, India Gospel League
India was devastated by the second wave of Covid. It was hard to hold back the tears as we sat on a Zoom call with the president of India Gospel League (IGL), and the staff in India. Hospitals were out of beds, out of oxygen, medical supplies, everything—and almost out of hope. Becky Stanely, who was overseeing IGL’s Sharon Hospital, shared with deep emotion and tears, that if they had not spent the year prior (2020) resting in God’s Word during the lockdown, they would not have had the spiritual and physical stamina to continue ministering to the sick.
Back in the fall of 2019, as church leadership began feeling the weight of increased persecution, Operation Hope was started. The goal was to draw believers into the discipline of daily time with God. Two hours of Bible reading, prayer, and worship became an exercise that not only grew the house church movement but also fortified the church in the days leading up to the second Covid wave.
Sister Aarushi is a pastor’s wife from the field. She shared with us, “Our church has been closed for a year now, because of restrictions. We have remained strong through fellowship with other believers. Operation Hope made us stand firm in the presence of God amidst difficulties. But in April my husband became sick with a fever. We were very worried and took him to the hospital. He tested positive for Covid. He was only in the hospital a few days before he passed away. Kindly pray for my church and unity among the believers. Please also pray for God’s guidance and wisdom that I may be able to look after the church.”
Though pastors were cautioned about going out, their concern for their congregants outweighed any safety precautions. They were continually checking on families and dropping food off to them. Within a span of only a few months, IGL lost more than 70 pastors to Covid. Several of them were young and had young children.
What’s so amazing is that many of the widows of these pastors are now taking on the responsibility of pastoring their church. They know that without a teaching pastor, their church will not survive. So, they are leading and moving forward, even as they mourn their loss.
One of our pastors from Madhya Pradesh shared in a recent field report, “Despite restrictions from Covid, new prayer groups were started in various villages. But because of the anti-conversion law in my state, pastors and leaders have been threatened and forcefully stopped while ministering to people. Even in this, the ministry is constantly growing. We are moving forward as a team to reach out to minister to those in great need. We are training up younger people to join us in sharing the love of Jesus. God is honoring all of our efforts and we praise Him for it.”
Madhya Pradesh is one of four states in India that has an anti-conversion law. Within these states, Christians are often beaten or arrested for praying with or talking to others about the love of Jesus. Even helping neighbors with food can be construed as forced conversion. Yet, none of this is stopping God from working!
Prior to Covid, every month our leaders and pastors would meet for training. Our church partners from the States would travel to South Asia to help lead in those trainings. Due to Covid, that came to a stop—until Zoom. We began inviting teachers, leaders, and pastors from our partner churches in the States to lead a 20-minute teaching via Zoom. On the other side of the world, a translator and sometimes 100 different leaders and pastors joined the teaching video call.
Zoom is having a huge impact and allows more partners to have an opportunity to lead a training session. One of the women leaders from India shared, “At the training, I invited two believers to join me in learning the Word of God. Both of these women were so encouraged by the meeting that they committed themselves to the work of God. They are now joining with me in ministry, helping to share the love of Jesus with new people.”
We praise God for all He is doing despite the many challenges. He is still working!
India Gospel League is led by indigenous believers on the ground in South Asia. We lead with the gospel and all ministry areas are developed for long-term sustainability.