Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.
“A Christian brother gave us rice. We were very grateful. But soon one of our church members, a widow with three children, came and asked me for help because they had run out of rice and had nothing they could eat that day. The rice that I received then, I gave all to her. Amazingly today God performed again His miracles, Barnabas Fund came and gave us enough rice for us to eat for one month. Thank you Barnabas Fund.” These were the hopeful words of Pastor Markus. Pastor Markus received food aid provided by Barnabas supporters the day after he gave all the rice he had to a widowed church member and her children who had run out of food. He is one of 330 Indonesian rural pastors that Barnabas is supporting, who were left without their modest incomes from church offerings because of the Covid-19 lockdown.
Swift support for Christians suffering during the coronavirus crisis
We praise God that Barnabas’ unique way of working has been such a marvellous blessing during the time of coronavirus. Because we work through local Christian partners, Barnabas can step in swiftly to get practical help to suffering Christians. This has long been one of the main benefits of Barnabas Fund’s unique way of working by channelling aid from Christians, through Christians, to Christians in need.
Along with the amazing generosity of our supporters towards their suffering family, working across the Barnabas Coronavirus Emergency Network (BCEN) has allowed us to quickly get crucial support to more than half a million Christians affected by Covid-19 lockdowns, as well as locusts and flooding in some regions.
Christians under lockdown can no longer gather for worship, which means that many pastors are suddenly destitute because the Sunday offerings they relied on for income are no longer being made. Barnabas has already provided support to 6,769 struggling pastors.
Helping Christians survive India’s twofold humanitarian crisis
With a population of 1.3 billion, India’s was the world’s biggest coronavirus lockdown. Its announcement on 24 March prompted a huge secondary humanitarian crisis. Overnight, millions of jobs vanished and more than 100 million migrant daily-wage workers, including many Christians, were left stranded and hungry.
Many millions attempted to flee locked-down cities but, with transport links suspended, they had no option but to attempt to walk many hundreds of miles back to their home villages. Some died on the way due to malnourishment, exhaustion or by being hit by vehicles as they walked on roadsides at night.
Barnabas is helping Christians from the impoverished north-east of India who had travelled thousands of miles to get work in the South. They mostly had low-paid jobs that vanished when lockdown came. They found it impossible to get the government food ration.
“We are five of us and have not been able to work or go out. We have lived on meals others gave us. To get a whole month's supply gives us such security and tells us that our Lord looks after us,” were the thankful words of one migrant Christian family, who received food aid from Barnabas.
Barnabas Coronavirus Emergency Network
Building on our global partner network, Barnabas rapidly formed the Barnabas Coronavirus Emergency Network (BCEN) to monitor the evolving needs of Christians as the virus spread and countries introduced lockdown measures, and to channel aid to them from Barnabas.
Through the 110+ organisations from 60 countries forming BCEN, Barnabas receives updates from our partners on the ground on just how the ongoing crisis impacts on Christians, many of whom are already marginalised, persecuted and in need. (For a list of BCEN partner countries, please see page 9 of Barnabas Aid May/June 2020 or, for an up to date listing, visit barnabasfund.org/bcen)
How Barnabas is helping in the time of coronavirus
Barnabas is supporting Christians affected by the global pandemic and national lockdown in three main ways: food for hungry families, hygiene materials and pastor support.
Barnabas has so far provided support for Covid-19 affected
Christians in 32 countries:
Angola, Albania, Armenia, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Madagascar, Malawi, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, South Africa, South-East Asia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
No food unless you renounce Jesus Christ
Pastor “James” explained to Barnabas that he had tried to collect food the Indian government was providing for poor and needy families affected by the lockdown. But the distribution was organised by local Hindu extremist groups, who dominate the government in the state where Pastor James lives. They refused to give him anything unless he renounced his faith in the Lord Jesus. Of course, Pastor James would not deny his beloved Saviour, so he went home empty-handed to his hungry family.
Ashok, a daily-wage worker, whose meagre earnings stopped when the lockdown prevented him going to work, is one of many who suffer this way. Because he is a Christian, he did not get any government food rations. He and his family were eating only once a day, and just drinking water at other meal times. Then Barnabas’ partners in India provided him and many other Christian families with staple food including rice, flour, cooking oil, potatoes, onions, salt and spices as well as face-masks and soap to help them stay healthy.
“I could not bear to see my church members suffer hunger”
“We are a poor congregation and we were helpless. I could not bear to see my church family suffer hunger,” said Pastor Premkumar. As the lockdown continued, the hunger among his small congregation became a huge concern.
“This is a heavenly gift”
Bangladeshi Christian, Fulmoni, and her husband, began to follow the Lord Jesus about five years ago. Her husband died last year and now she lives alone in a small hut. She has two sons but, because they are not believers, they rejected her and she has no support from her non-Christian family. Before the coronavirus crisis, the vulnerable 67-year-old sustained herself on a meagre income from daily-wage work as a maid. When lockdown came, she lost her job and was soon struggling to buy food. And her neighbours were too poor themselves to help her. “This is a heavenly gift for me … I can smile now because I will not die without food. Jesus’ people are loving people. Thank you so much,” said Fulmoni.
Lockdown brought a hunger “crisis” to Madagascar
Madagascans rely on local street markets to buy food. But these shut down when lockdown came and only the expensive supermarkets stayed open, which few could afford. “We are in crisis,” a senior church leader told Barnabas. “People are more concerned about what to eat than about the virus.”
Cyril, like many daily-wage workers in Madagascar, was desperately short of food for is family. He walked 20 km to the aid distribution point because he had no money to pay for a boat crossing. “I thank the Barnabas Fund in the name of Jesus ... I was happy when I heard the coming of the gift because it helps my household to survive.” Barnabas provided 1,000 vulnerable Madagascan Christian families, including 156 pastors, with crucial support during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Death by virus or by starvation?
Hundreds of thousands of Christians are facing severe food shortages as the triple disaster of Covid-19 lockdown and locust plagues, as well as floods in some regions, grip East Africa. Lockdowns have left daily-wage earners especially hard hit here too. When lockdown stopped their work, their pitiful wages stopped too.
“I would rather die from coronavirus than starvation,” said one African church leader, expressing the view of many who venture out of their homes in desperation to seek food.
In rural communities, frustrated families have been unable to work on their plot of land, leaving their precious crops ungathered and rotting away in the fields. Some under lockdown had to eat the seed that they had saved to sow for the next crop.
Whether in urban or in rural settings, it is difficult for poor communities in Africa to maintain proper hygiene to prevent the spread of coronavirus. For some it is overcrowding, for others it is poverty that makes it impossible to buy facemasks or hand sanitisers. For many it is both. Some requests to Barnabas Fund were simply for buckets to facilitate hand-washing.
“Covid-19 has reduced us to helpless individuals”
Elijah, a young Kenyan pastor, wept with joy when Barnabas’ aid reached his community – nearly everyone he knew had lost their income because of the lockdown. “My peers, many of them slum dwellers and young parents working in the hotel industry, were sent on compulsory unpaid leave and so have no way to fend for their families,” he explained. “Covid-19 has reduced us to helpless individuals even though we are mature men with strength to work,” he added.
When the pastors became needy
Church pastors in Rwanda play a critical role in helping the poorest of families to overcome poverty, get a basic education and become more self-sufficient. During the Covid-19 lockdown, it was the pastors themselves who became needy. But, because pastors are expected to give help in Rwanda, not to receive it, they were not thought eligible for the government support available to ordinary people. And, as our partner explained, the pastors were also very reluctant to ask for “mercies” from their congregations despite being in such desperate need. Barnabas stepped in to provide 250 of the most vulnerable pastors and their families with food and essential hygiene supplies.
“It built up my faith in Jesus by confirming that really God hears our prayers and responds in His time,”
“Whichever way, you are going to die, either by corona or by hunger”
When churches closed in Zimbabwe and tithing dwindled away under lockdown, many pastors were soon in dire need, with nothing for their families to eat. “Sometimes, when you are told to stay indoors, you are forced [out] by hunger. Whichever way, you are going to die, either by corona or by hunger,” a Zimbabwean pastor told Barnabas Fund.
His country was already in a dire situation before coronavirus came. Last year, Zimbabwe had the worst drought in decades, with temperatures reaching 50°C in some areas. By the end of 2019, Zimbabwe was experiencing acute food insecurity, with at least 3.6 million rural people classified as in food “crisis” or worse. Many children were suffering from malnutrition and stunted growth. And then came coronavirus.
A Zimbabwean evangelist explained to Barnabas that, before the lockdown, people already lived from hand to mouth, relying on finding work in the morning so they will have some money to buy food in the evening. But “Everything is locked up now,” he said meaning that all opportunities to find work had closed down.
Barnabas is helping desperate Christians in Zimbabwe survive by providing basic foodstuffs and hygiene materials, including hand sanitisers and disinfectants. We also support a programme that provides the children of some of the most impoverished families with a nutritious cooked meal with protein and vegetables as well as carbohydrate. For many children, it is the only meal they have each day. “Without it,” say our project partners, “the children would simply starve.”
All Glory be to God!
We are humbled at the tremendous outpouring of generosity our supporters have made for their suffering family in their time of desperate need, in the midst of this global coronavirus crisis. Through you, God has done immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine! (Ephesians 3:20)
Please continue to give to our Covid-19 Emergency Fund (project reference PR1530).