Finny Philip, an evangelical leader in Northern India, describes how the COVID-19 crisis is affecting churches. Philip is the principal of the Filadelfia Bible College (Udaipur, India), pastor of a Pentecostal church and Board Member of The Lausanne Movement. He shares seven specific prayer requests.
We as a nation are going through terrible times. According to official figures, every day 2,700 die and another 350,000 people are affected by the COVID-19. But it is said that the real daily death toll is much higher - media even quoted the number as high as 20,000.
Mass cremations and burials are happening, even on the footpaths. Dead bodies are lined up for the funeral pier for hours before they are cremated. Corpses are piled up inhumanly in hospitals and outside health centres due to a shortage of space in the mortuary.
People are dying in hospitals without oxygen availability or without an Intensive Care Unit bed and access to doctors. The medical system has collapsed. This situation is true of cities, towns, and rural communities, including where I live.
Only in our local church, we lost a few members to COVID, and there are about more than 60 who are tested positive and taking medication at home. There are horrific stories like one of our fellow believers who waited for hours for hospital admission and then was informed that no bed was available. He had to be taken to three other hospitals to get admitted finally. But that was too late, we lost him. And there are no coffin boxes readily available at the cemetery for burial.
We also lost about eleven of our key leaders (including two spouses of pastors) of the Filadelfia Fellowship Church of India in several places. Pastors are struggling to meet the treatment expenses. Believers are going through a tough time and financial challenges due to partial lockdowns.
Many in the rural communities fear going to a hospital, access to medical facilities is a big challenge in rural regions. As I write, I got a note asking if I can help to organize an admission for a pastor’s wife in Udaipur. All hospitals are full, and we do not know how to handle it.
"Christians are setting up food banks, making oxygen cylinders available, and helping pay burial expenses."
Many people, including believers, are not taking vaccination due to fear, and that is a significant hindrance as well.
Although PCR tests are free in government hospitals, it is charged between $12 to $20 in private medical facilities which is too much for anybody who needs urgent help. And a medical treatment in a private hospital for oxygen/ICU support for 10 to 12 days costs about $1,000.
At the national church level, we have lost many bishops, pastors, and evangelists. In many seminaries, staff are affected and some have lost some faculty members. There are many senior leaders who are in critical conditions.
However, Christians are making a difference amid suffering. There are a lot of initiatives by the church. Christian hospitals are doing their best to serve the people.
The COVID protocols are hindering many direct activities. The church is actively engaged in serving the nation in many ways. Setting up food banks, preparing food for those who have lost jobs during the crisis. Offering financial assistance for medical treatments. Purchasing oxygen cylinders and making them available to those most needed, organizing free ambulance services. Helping pay burial expenses.
Christian volunteers are serving in the cemeteries to give dignified burial services to those demised while counselling and supporting families going through grief. And widows of the pastors are helped with financial assistance.
Pray for India
Please pray for:
1. God’s wisdom for political leaders to make the right decisions regarding using resources to reduce pain and suffering in our country.
2. Pray that medical supplies will be constantly available (COVID vaccines, other vital medicines, oxygen…). Please pray against the black marketing and hoarding of oxygen and critical medicines like Remdesivir.
3. The families are going through enormous pain of loss, neglect, loneliness, and helplessness. Particularly for those from the majority religious tradition - a pain (or guilt) of not being able to take care of their loved ones due to health system collapse and a sense of non-fulfilment due to not giving a proper farewell to the deceased as per their religious requirements.
4. Pray for the church leadership (we have lost many key leaders in the north and south of India), and believers. Pray that the families who lost their loved ones have peace and comfort. The church has stopped all physical meetings, please pray that the faith life of the believers is strong during this crisis.
5. The Seminaries and Bible colleges in the country are going through tremendous pressure. Last year, almost all seminaries had closed residential programs. And now this year there is a dilemma about how to move forward. It is affecting leadership training, the preparation of thousands of future leaders.
6. Christian hospitals in the country are serving people in crisis. Please pray for doctors and medical staff that they become hope amid chaos.
7. Christians across the country are engaged in helping people in all sorts of ways. Pray for greater collaboration, cooperation and resource mobilization among the Christian groups.
This story originally appeared at Evangelical Focus and is republished here with permission.