"A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. But he said to them, 'It is I; don't be afraid.' Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading." (John 6:18-21).
There has been a lot of fear and anxiety everywhere due to the Coronavirus, but for the children of God the crisis presents a wonderful opportunity to pause and refocus firmly on our Lord Jesus. He is still completely in charge!
In John 6 we find the disciples were in the middle of the Sea of Galilee and about to drown when Jesus got into the boat, and "immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading." It didn't say they rowed there, but all of a sudden they reached their destination.
The key to getting through any storm in life is to make sure Jesus is in our boat with us! Even with Him our lives may be excruciatingly difficult and painful, but without Him in the boat with us, our lives and futile and directionless, followed by an eternity of misery. Let's take spend our time getting to know Him better.
Whatever the cause of the present pandemic or the plans of governments in the future, it is the Lord Jesus Christ who is in control! The governments are upon his shoulders, and as Nebuchadnezzar concluded long ago: "All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: "What have you done?'" (Daniel 4:35).
All of our lives have been affected in one way or another since news emerged from the Chinese city of Wuhan in January that a new type of respiratory virus was afflicting people and spreading quickly. We are not wanting to speculate on the origins of the virus or how the subsequent lockdowns and expansion of government power affect life going forward.
Instead, in this newsletter we want to give a pictorial summary of help Asia Harvest has been able to provide across Asia, thanks to the generosity of many believers.
First, a brief report from a dear friend and house church leader from China:
"In recent months, house churches across the nation have seen a new openness to the gospel since the virus appeared. Even though gatherings have been banned and the Communist Party has shut down many Christian websites and social media platforms, many thousands of people have placed their trust in the Lord anyway.
Because of the crisis and subsequent long isolation period, many people in China have realized that money and possessions will not save them. Churches have been started through telephone and website evangelism, which has been very effective!
Even before the outbreak, people's foundations had become very shaky, with the Chinese economy in terrible condition and tens of millions of unemployed people with nothing to do. Now, with real fear in society as the government begins to implement their "social credit" system, many people's confidence in themselves and the nation's leadership has eroded.
The arrival of the Coronavirus brought all these feelings to the surface, and it is likely that millions of people have become Christians throughout the country because of it. For this we praise the Lord for His great wisdom and mercy!
Now that restrictions have slowly been lifted, zealous church planting has been going on, and such has been the response that in one five-day period, we distributed almost 40,000 Bibles to new believers! The more difficult the environment, the more opportunities we have for ministry. Now is a very effective time to share the Word of God with non-believers in China."
When the virus spread to India and the government announced a severe lockdown where all shops were shut and people were ordered to remain home, we were greatly concerned, because the nature of society in India meant that hundreds of millions of vulnerable people were at risk of starvation. Most people in India remain extremely poor, and a typical family does not have a refrigerator or store of food. Multitudes live day to day as day-laborers. Suddenly finding themselves without an income a massive disaster was looming.
Thanks to the prayers and generous giving of many, our partners throughout India quickly launched plans to help as many people as they could, especially the elderly and widows. At the time of writing this newsletter, we have been privileged to provide food and other necessities to 4,750 appreciative families.
Christians are very thankful to God, while the unbelievers who have received help are much more open to the gospel than at any previous time. Many people believed the government abandoned them in their time of greatest need and Hindus didn't raise a finger to help, yet the Christians came and displayed the love of Jesus Christ to them without seeking anything in return.
Pakistan is a predominantly Muslim country with 200 million unreached people, with a smattering of Christians in various places. They often feel cut off from other parts of the Body of Christ. A Pakistani church leader once told us they are surrounded by so many hostile Muslims that they can know how the Israelites felt when they were forced to go to war with the Arameans. The Bible records: "The Israelites camped opposite them like two small flocks of goats, while the Arameans covered the countryside" (1 Kings 20:27).
In recent years, Asia Harvest has been increasingly working in Pakistan through our other projects, especially the Asian Workers' Fund. When the Coronavirus struck, corruption and prejudice meant that the small but faithful Christian communities faced missing out on help, as the masses of Muslims took first place in the line for government aid.
As a result, our co-workers in Pakistan quickly mobilized into action, and with funds provided by Asia Harvest they bought more than a ton of food and essential supplies, which have been distributed to 120 grateful Christian families, numbering about 600 people in total.
We are glad we have been able to help our brothers and sisters there, in line with the Scripture which commands us: "As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers" (Galatians 6:10).
For many weeks, the government of Indonesia ignored the Coronavirus threat, and even continued to allow flights from China, while mocking the risk and saying their country was infection-free. Their foolishness caught up with them in a major way, resulting in a severe lockdown that has affected everyone in this wonderful nation of nearly 300 million people.
On April 4th we shocked many Christians with a post on the Asia Harvest Facebook page that listed the names and locations of 28 Indonesian pastors who had already died from the virus. Some believers in the West still did not take the threat seriously, and some even thought that it was impossible for the disease to touch Christians. Since then the number of believers in Indonesia who have perished from it has increased to hundreds, if not more. One of the dead was Pastor Fu Xie (pictured above) from the city of Bogor.
Our partners in Indonesia quickly formulated a plan to help the most vulnerable. With funds provided by Asia Harvest supporters, they crammed food and essential supplies into their personal vehicles and worked from morning until night each day helping more than 700 families, nourishing both their bodies and souls.
Although we don't mention it much in our newsletters, for years Asia Harvest has supported many workers in unreached parts of the Philippines, where they have risked their lives to take the Gospel in a hostile environment.
When the Philippines went into lockdown, our co-workers there immediately came up with a course of action to both display the love of God through aid while presenting the claims of the Gospel to those who have yet to believe in Jesus Christ.
Whereas in most other countries people were helped to survive by being given bags of food, in the Philippines the believers took a different approach, and set up feeding centers where people could come to eat nutritious meals from people who love and care for them. This strategy has broken down many barriers and a new openness to Jesus Christ has been seen.
More than 200 families have been helped through the efforts of our brothers and sisters in the southern Philippines. Thank you for helping to make it happen.
To all who have prayed and given to help our brothers and sisters in Asia during this time of worldwide upheaval, we thank and bless you in the Name of our Lord Jesus! Space doesn't permit us to share about those we have been privileged to help in Malaysia, Vietnam and Sri Lanka.
In total, during the month of April we were able to assist more than 6,800 families in 8 different Asian countries. At an average of two meals per day, by God's grace we have provided enough food for over 400,000 meals last month! Without this help we shudder to think how many families would have survived.
At the time of writing this newsletter, the lockdown was still in place in most of the countries we work in, and it's likely we will need to continue helping throughout May and beyond. Therefore, if the Lord touches your heart, we invite you or your church to continue to help us as we help the needy in Asia.
All gifts to our Persecution & Relief Fund will go to purchase more food and other essential supplies in Asia, until we have all made it through this crisis.
A Message From Our Brothers and Sisters in Asia!
"From our hearts we say thank you and God bless you to all those supporters of Asia Harvest who have prayed for us in this hour of need and generously supported our efforts to help the most vulnerable families in our midst, especially widows, children and the sick, and the many day-laborers who would not have survived without help due to their dire poverty.
We can already see how this crisis has also given a great opportunity, and countless families that had not previously responded to the Gospel have been overwhelmed by the love of Jesus as they see His people in action. May the Lord reap a great harvest of souls for His kingdom!
We are especially thankful because we know that at this time everyone in the world is affected by the pandemic in one way or another. We ask the Holy Spirit to give you his peace and joy at this time."
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon