International Christian Concern | April 29, 2020
“My rations will run out in three or four days,” Pastor Radhe Kishan, a church planter from India, recently told International Christian Concern (ICC). Like many church planters across the country, the COVID-19 pandemic and the national lockdown that followed has presented Pastor Kishan and his family with new and severe challenges.
Pastor Kishan, age 30, is one of the hundreds of beneficiaries of the Bibles and Bikes for India Initiative ICC launched in 2018. Currently, Pastor Kishan, his wife, and his 11-month-old daughter live in a rented house in a rural village located in the Shahajanpur district of Uttar Pradesh. Since the lockdown started on March 25, Pastor Kishan has been unable to gather his congregations for worship, which means he has not been able to collect support for his family or his ministry.
“About a week ago, a church member gave me five kilos of wheat flour and some lentils,” Pastor Kishan told ICC. “We are surviving on that, and it might go for another four days. We have no choice except to trust in God for our food and needs. I am trusting God for his provision.”
Before the pandemic, Pastor Kishan visited between four and five villages each week and would share the Gospel with an average of 35 people. “I feel sad that I am unable to meet people to share the Gospel,” Pastor Kishan explained. “I am also not allowed to do outreach work or to lead worship services. That was a part of my normal routine.”
“I am not eligible to receive the rations provided by the government because I am a Christian,” Pastor Mallesh, a house church pastor from Karnataka, told ICC. “The moment I embraced the Christian faith, I lost my eligibility to receive the benefits that the government provides to the poor. It used to be difficult to survive only on the offerings collected on Sunday. Now that the church is completely shut down, I don’t have an income to feed my family.”
“Also, there is pressure from the Hindu radicals during this time of lockdown,” Pastor Mallesh continued. “The radicals are looking for an opportunity to inform the authorities that I have violated the lockdown and falsely accuse me of opening the church.”
In talking with ICC, Pastor Mallesh requested prayer for himself and other house church pastors he knows are struggling because of the pandemic and the national lockdown. Pastor Mallesh asked for prayer for both provision and strength to sustain their faith during these difficult times.
“More than 70% of rural church planters are facing a huge challenge,” Rev. Prabhu Das, Director of Seva Bharat, told ICC. “The majority of these pastors are living in difficult conditions as they do not have an income whatsoever while the churches are closed. They are forced to stay inside their homes, despite not having access to basic needs. These people desperately need food, healthcare, and moral support.”
While the situation faced by many church planters in India is dire, they are doing their parts to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic by staying home and not holding worship gatherings. This time of pandemic and lockdown has undoubtedly been a tough and challenging time for thousands of church planters across India.