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Citizens of Heaven

Throughout the last four months of the COVID-19 crisis, I have been newly struck by how powerful the church is when we take seriously God’s call to be citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20). 

We work in a world where true persecution is a reality. 

This past month one of our pastors brought help and comfort to the family of a teenage boy who was martyred by Hindu radicals in northern India because of his family’s Christian faith. One of our missionaries in Myanmar took in three children whose Buddhist father beat and then abandoned their mother because she began following Christ. A pastor in Nepal was arrested for recording and sharing a video sermon, while his Hindu counterparts were free to do the same. Yet the main prayer request, apart from comfort and safety for these believers’ families, is always the same: 

“Pray for our persecutors to follow Jesus.” 

Our partners’ prayers for their persecutors display a kingdom mindset focused on seeking God’s will – that enemies would be reconciled to Him (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).

Countless Christians were overlooked for help from government food distribution programs during recent lockdowns. But so were Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and others. 

In each of the countries where we work, minority religions are persecuted – whether Rohingya Muslims experiencing genocide in Myanmar, systemic injustice toward Muslims and Christians in India, or Hindus facing discrimination and violence in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Our pastors, missionaries, and believers responded in this time by feeding the marginalized: the poorest of the poor, those facing discrimination, and the outcasts of society, regardless of faith or status. 

These men and women have displayed Jesus’ heart of justice and mercy (Matthew 25:31-46), which has opened new doors for the Gospel.

Recently, while speaking about the hundreds of families his network of missionaries has helped so far during COVID-19, our Bangladesh director Darpan* said, 

“When COVID-19 began, many of our missionaries responded very well, seeing how they could help many people during this time feel the loving touch of Christ. They fed people with what they had. My wife and I requested help from you in this time and the Lord sent some blessings. Instead of working directly [i.e. obvious miracles], the Lord is using His people to meet these needs…The feedback in the communities has been very good. People are learning that Christians are so caring when even the government is not helping. Besides giving food we gave hand washing and hygiene lessons too, as this information had not reached many of them. We gave thanks to the Lord publicly, and the non-believers understood where these blessings came from. Already, many want to know more about Jesus…very soon there will be more preaching centers – there will be a baptism program when it is possible again….Our missionaries are enduring a very hard time – but everyone is ready to accomplish His commandments as He called us. So, pray for them and hope for this. We are busy with relief work, but very silently the Holy Spirit has been working among lots of hearts; so on His work we need to keep our attention and pray and commit.”

Responding from a position of putting God first and loving their neighbors as themselves (Mark 12:30-31), these brothers and sisters are seeing God change hearts and minds. 

An American missionary friend recently pointed out that when Paul says in his letter to the Philippians that we are citizens of heaven, he didn’t just mean looking forward to heaven as our true home. A first century reader would understand this; the city of Philippi in Greece was a Roman colony where many had the privilege of Roman citizenship. The citizens of a colony were not supposed to aspire to go back to Rome. Their job was to secure a conquered country by permeating the local culture with Roman culture. By telling Christians they were citizens of heaven, then, Paul was telling them to permeate the world with heavenly culture. 

The believers we come alongside are doing this.

In June, while discussing future goals and plans with our Nepal director, Shalva*, he said, 

“I believe without planting churches, we can’t bring changes in society. Churches are the nucleus to transform the society, as well as replace superstition with truth.”

In Shalva’s specific case, the church transforming society looks like the church being the safest place for a woman of any faith to seek safety from an abusive marriage. It looks like people learning that medicine, and not witchcraft, can heal them. The church is where people of all castes can worship together. 

This is all a natural outpouring of seeking God’s will on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). I pray I follow our South Asian brothers’ and sisters’ example in living as a citizen of heaven here on earth.

In Christ,

Kate Therese, Executive Director

 *Names changed for safety

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Finding Truth in Crisis

Harvest Bridge’s ministry is to come alongside local South Asian believers who are reaching their own communities for Christ; we join with men and women who have done much with little, equipping them to do even more to share the Gospel in word and deed. This approach has been crucial in responding to COVID-19.

We support local believers who are experienced in disaster relief, who understand their local contexts, and who, characteristically, sprang into action to help their communities cope with COVID-19 even before any external funding came. With your support, thousands of families and individuals have received life-saving food and hygiene supplies since March.

As I wrote to those of you who generously gave to our successful Summer Giving Match, we are in a historic time of revival. Believers in South Asia have never seen such great physical need, nor a greater openness to the Gospel.

Many countries in South Asia greatly downplayed the virus, saying that their religion would protect them – Islam in Bangladesh, Buddhism in Myanmar, Hinduism in India, and so on. When lockdowns were enforced, those same governments often did very little to practically help their citizens. As people’s trust in their religion and government erodes in the midst of immense suffering, they are searching for truth – truth that can only be found in the real and practical love of Jesus Christ. 

As our Bangladesh country director, Pastor Darpan*, reflected recently, 

“We believe that within this high risk of Covid-19 which is a challenging period to human life, where everything is collapsing – Jesus, He has kept the door open where people are thirsty for His Salvation and peace.”

Bihar, the poorest state in India, has a population of 124 million – roughly equal to the combined populations of the UK and Italy. The state is experiencing devastating floods in the midst of COVID-19 and the economic fallout of lockdown. 

One of our lead pastors there, Suraj*, shares about two of the food distributions he and his team have carried out with your support over the past several months:

“First of all, I wholeheartedly thank you for opening doors for the flood survivors of North Bihar, to provide relief in the form of dry food ration packets and sanitizing items during this calamity. There has been a great spiritual impact of the program on the benefitting families and communities. From the beginning we were giving the importance on spiritual impact, and also on smooth distributions to the neediest people. We selected areas where we already had prayer cells and some Christian believers to help in the execution and follow-up. We prayed for the program and appointed Christian volunteers.

In July, with your support, 250 families (1,000 people) were helped. The distribution took place in different communities instead of in just one big community, which helped us to reach the selected neediest people specifically. The beneficiaries were migrant workers, the elderly, widows, farmers, and the unemployed. People from all faiths like Hindu, Muslim, and Christian were helped.

Then on September 10th, with given funds of $3,000, 100 large food packets were prepared and transported by a truck 155 miles away from Patna (Bihar’s capital) to flood survivors and the neediest people in a village. This has been a great relief to the benefitting families. There were about ten handicapped people among the beneficiaries, and most everyone had weak bodies and saddened faces. 

These rations in such a flood and pandemic situation were a great relief and brought smiles to the families.

At one colony, one family who received a food packet was overwhelmed by the gift and the love shared. They started watching our online services and calling me on video to get counselling. I shared the Gospel and prayed for them on the video calls. I have met the man, Prem*, only once on the day of distribution for five minutes, and the rest of the family only by phone. But this had a great impact, and the whole family of four people have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour and have thrown the idols from their house. Praise God!

There is a married lady with four daughters and one son who is from a Hindu background. They were a happy family with her husband. But sometime back, unfortunately, her husband died and her cruel in-laws threw all of them out of the house. She was not educated enough to get a job. Meanwhile, this virus and lockdown came, mounting their problems. They were struggling in their life when they got a gift of food packets. It brought a great relief and some happiness among their sufferings.

An old man from a Hindu background was working as a gardener in another city, but because of the lockdown he lost his job and returned back here with his family to his hometown. This family and children were going hungry, as they had no work and no money. They were overwhelmed with thankfulness as our team showed them the love of God and a warm welcome.

In another community after the distributions, a few people stayed back because they heard that I am a pastor, and they asked me to pray for them. So I prayed for six people there and introduced our online services, the local prayer cell, and leaders for follow-up meetings.

Pray for water baptism taking place this month of September. Some of our online viewers are from a Hindu higher caste, have believed in the Lord, and are going to take baptism, leaving idolatry and witchcraft. I have not met them physically, but online only.

Pray for our church believers, that they may stand strong in their faith during this crisis of COVID-19, job loss, unemployment, etc. There is great need of more such relief projects in Bihar, as the population of flood survivors and needy people is huge. People are facing financial crises due to loss of work and income during this dual crisis of floods and COVID.

A bouquet of thanks and heartiest appreciation for this great support and prayers towards Bihar flood relief. This was indeed a great help and relief during this crisis time. Everybody, including local leaders of the villages, volunteers, and beneficiaries have expressed their immense gratitude.”

Pastor Suraj’s stories represent thousands of other families and individuals throughout our network in South Asia. With your support, we continue to join these local leaders sharing the Gospel in word and deed in this life-altering time.

Thank you for continuing to join in God’s work in South Asia. Your partnership is making an immediate and eternal impact.

In Christ,

Pastor Suraj, with Kate Therese, 

Executive Director 

*Names changed for safety

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Provision through Crisis

“I want to begin this letter by saying thank you to you and the donors for providing these food items for the people of Myanmar during this time of difficulties and hardships. Thank you for standing with us at this time.” ~Pastor Khaw* 

As Covid-19 and its ripple effects have spread throughout the world, Myanmar (Burma) stands out as one of the worst-affected countries. 

Despite sharing over 1,300 miles of its border with China and being heavily intertwined economically with its northern neighbor, Myanmar’s government downplayed the threat of Covid-19 and did not announce the nation’s first confirmed case until March 23rd. Amid the government’s early denial, an official even claimed the “lifestyle and diet” of Myanmar’s people protected them from the virus. 

Once containment measures were implemented, their poorly-planned, patchwork nature led to disruptions in supply chains of food and other necessities. Alongside the virus, the greatest threat quickly became hunger for the many millions living in poverty.

Physical distancing is difficult in Myanmar’s urban areas, as well as in the many camps for internally-displaced persons forced from their homes due to conflict between the Burma Army and various ethnic-minority armed separatist groups. Regions controlled by these separatist groups have implemented their own lockdown policies, further complicating a coordinated response. The country’s testing capacity remains limited, and its healthcare system was weak even in the best of times.

Our pastors and missionaries began small-scale food distributions even before receiving additional funds. Through your prayers and support, we were able to respond swiftly and effectively through these local missionaries. They have completed two phases of life-saving food distributions for the poorest and most neglected, with a third phase to begin soon. 

Below, Pastor Khaw* in western Myanmar shares how your support and prayers are making a deep, holistic impact on the frontlines of this crisis in his village.

“I want to begin this letter by saying thank you to you and the donors for providing these food items for the people of Myanmar during this time of difficulties and hardships. Thank you for standing with us at this time. Through your donations, 12 families will have enough food for the next one month. 

Praise the Lord for His provision. The people here were so thankful for the food. Each family received rice, beans, onions, cooking oil and potatoes. Thank you for the food supply, especially during this time as many people are not making money to purchase food.

The Lord has given us great opportunity to share His good news to the people in my village. They are open to the Gospel during this pandemic. Many people are willing to listen to the teaching of the Word of God, and they want to give their lives to Jesus. As of now, 12 people have come to the knowledge of salvation and 9 people are ready for water baptism as a testimony of their faith in Jesus Christ. God has given us a great harvest. I continue doing the follow-up work and safely visiting more houses to share the Good News of salvation. 

I want to include one testimony: 

‘I am Lien*. I was brought up in a Laipian [a small local religious cult] family. As I was taught, I never listened about Jesus Christ. But in this pandemic time, I was not sure if the Laipian god could take me to heaven. At that time, Pastor Khaw and his team visited my house and brought food for our family. They gave us food freely, which can feed us for one month. Not only that, but also Pastor Khaw shared with us about Jesus Christ who is the Savior of the world. I came to know that I am a sinner, who needs to be saved with the shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. When he told me about this precious blood, my heart was moved because in my religion there is not the shedding of blood. Finally, I believed in Jesus Christ and accepted Him as my Lord and Savior. I thank God for saving my soul. I also want to say thank you to the ones who donated food to our family.’

Please continue to pray for more souls to be won for Christ during this time. Please continue to pray and help our people, as most of the people are struggling for their daily food. This will open more doors for the Gospel to the people here, which is the main focus for our ministry.”

Pastor Khaw and all of our partners in Asia face enormous hardship in this time, but they continue to use what they have to proclaim and demonstrate the Gospel. Your support and prayer have been crucial in equipping them to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the most tragic of circumstances. 

Thank you for continuing to stand with our brothers and sisters.

In Christ, Khaw and the Harvest Bridge Team  

*Names changed for safety       

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Your Giving Impact

When lockdowns began in March, our local missionaries began carrying out small-scale food distributions in their communities, even before receiving additional support. As your support has grown, so too have their food relief efforts. As this work continues, below are a few updates and thank-you notes for the impact you are making along with our missionaries, in South Asia’s most vulnerable communities.

“We would like to share that this week is a very busy week for Bangladesh. By your support the COVID-19 relief program in Bangladesh has started. The distribution program will start in Rajshahi, and it will continue up to this coming Sunday, May 17th, at Satkhira and Dinajpur. So, please pray for our teams to accomplish the program as we planned.” ~ Pastor Darpan*, Bangladesh

With about $4200, our Bangladeshi partners are providing two weeks’ worth of food for 324 families this week – over 1600 people! Many more families will receive supplies in the weeks to come. These families are extremely poor and completely without income during the lockdown; because of their low caste, they have received no help from the government or anyone else. These food packages are saving lives. 

While waiting for a larger grant, our partners in Myanmar have been faithfully feeding families with the greatest need. 

Pastor Pan* shares, 

“Greetings in Jesus’ name! I count it my privilege to give you a brief report on the distribution of the food supplies here in Myanmar during this Covid-19 lockdown. We have got a great chance to meet the needs of our people, and they warmly welcome us. Most importantly, we could also share the Good News about Jesus Christ.

By the grace of God, our outreach effort for distributing food supplies to our people went very well. They are so happy to receive it, as they were really in need of food. Thank you for your timely help toward our people here. With $1,220 our food distribution went to 16 families, and they will have food for the next one month without worrying. Each family received a food package which included one bag of rice (50 kg), 10 kg beans, 3 kg onions, 3 kg cooking oil, and 4 kg potatoes. It was great to see their thankful hearts as they received help. Thank you so much for providing such help, especially during this struggling time.

We are meeting not only their physical needs, but also we bring the Good News about the salvation message to people here, which is the main reason we asked for this help. We prayed for them, encouraged them, and shared the salvation message with them. Many rededicated their lives to Jesus through our efforts. Through sharing the salvation message, four people have responded to the Gospel and they are ready to be baptized.

Please continue to pray for more funds to provide more food for our people here, as many are now out of food after the nearly two-month nationwide lockdown. This kind of help meets the physical needs as well as the spiritual needs.”

Also in Myanmar, Pastor Thang* says, 

“Warmest greetings to you in the precious name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you very much for all the support and help for Covid-19 relief. We were able to help 88 families, those who are desperately in need of food and help. It has been a great opportunity to share the love of God, not only by word but by action. These families are very much thankful that people who love the Lord from the States shared a portion of meal with them. 

It has been really a hard time for many people, especially in the city as most of them have been depending on their daily work, and now many people lost their work and job. Please kindly remember us in your prayer too. On behalf of our partners we all send our love and thanks to you.” 

In Pakistan, where we partner with a Christian school that employs and teaches both Muslims and Christians, the teachers delivered food to their hungry students and their families.

“On Monday we distributed food items to 21 children from 14 different families. They live in nearby villages, so the ministry staff from our children’s school hired a few motorbikes to distribute the packages door to door. The staff members conveyed to me words of gratitude from the families. The families sent a lot of prayers for those who supported them with funds. They truly needed the help at this time, as witnessed by our staff members who visited them. Thank you so much for all your prayers and love for the Pakistani people.” ~ Pastor Shazil*

Because of your support and our partners’ hard work, life-saving food distributions are taking place in vulnerable, neglected communities throughout South Asia. Thank you for continuing to stand with us as we respond by demonstrating the love of God through word and deed. 

Grateful for you,  

The Harvest Bridge team

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The Church’s Opportunity to Shine – COVID 19 Update

“As we should not touch each other because of Coronavirus, the whole Church should begin to greet each other the way we Christians do in Nepal! With a small bow we say, ‘Jai Mashi!’, meaning ‘Victory in Jesus’.” ~ Jandi* in Nepal

Updated March 19th

Friends,

In these unprecedented, uncertain times, you are on our minds, in our hearts and in our prayers. Both in ordinary and difficult circumstances, we cannot thank you enough for the vital role you play in Harvest Bridge’s work.

I am reminded that during such a time as this, there is deep opportunity for the Church around the world to shine through difficultly, and to declare “Victory in Jesus” amid hardship.

As in the US, COVID-19 is spreading in South Asia. Weak healthcare systems and high population density are the norm in the region, meaning the virus has the potential to transmit rapidly while countries struggle immensely to cope.

Even as ministry in South Asia evolves during this time, Harvest Bridge is superbly-positioned to respond on the front lines. Your prayers and support – without which this work is not possible – are more vital now than ever. In such a time as this, there is tremendous opportunity for the church around the world to step up and shine through adversity.

Our US staff have always worked remotely, to minimize administrative costs and enable us to hire the best people for the job, regardless of location. Harvest Bridge’s operations on this side of the world remain unchanged.

Ministry in South Asia is changing in response to the need for social distancing, but ministry continues. Like the early Christians who risked their lives to care for those suffering from devastating outbreaks, our Asian partners stand ready to make the most of this crisis by loving their neighbors and living the Gospel however they prudently can. This is true despite South Asian Christians being likely to suffer more than most of their countrymen; as marginalized religious minorities, they may experience discrimination in receiving medical care and other assistance.

Below, several of our country leaders share how COVID-19 is impacting their nations and ministries, as the situation continues to unfold.

“We are persecuted by the orthodox [Hindu] religious groups; the law of our country is totally against Christianity. We do not have any support from the government or political parties. Our churches are not registered in the government as religious institutions. We have no burial ground and no recognition as a religious group by local people and government. There are many anti-Christian activities going on…

 …On the other side, many new people are coming to Christ and becoming members of the local church. In spite of a critical situation, the Kingdom activities are going on and God is doing marvelous things in our country. We are seeing so many exciting things in our churches and organizations. We are experiencing God’s love, mercy and blessings in our day to day life.

So now, even though the world is upset and being threatened because of this outbreak, God’s people are still very excited and working diligently. Thank you for your prayer and love to us. Please continue to pray that we can fulfill all our goals of this year. There are many things to be done in the future and with our planned programs we are deciding what to do. Please pray with us and we will be praying for you too. God bless you and protect you at this moment.” ~ Pastor Sunil*, Nepal


“Thank you for all your concern and prayer. COVID-19 has been a big issue, even though our government has claimed that no one has tested positive. Some of our summer schools will be closed for at least two or three weeks, and we have been advised not to gather in large groups. Please kindly remember us in your prayer. It is a great blessing and encouragement and strength for us to know that HB has been with us always, not only in financial support but in prayer and mental support.”    ~ Pastor Thang*, Myanmar


“Thank you for your concern. We are doing fine, but the threat is there. Some churches are closed, children’s schools are closed, house visiting is suspended, and church time is shortened. Regular activities are slowed down, and people are afraid of going to the marketplace. Marriages are postponed, and some Christian day-laborers have no work. We are praying for the whole world.”       ~ Pastor John*, India


“As of Sunday 15th March, all but the smallest churches in Pakistan were closed on Government notification. So there was hardly any fellowship. Other than that, the masks and other hygienic products are being sold at a high price, which adds to the difficulties of the people who are not well-off.” ~ Pastor Sameer*, Pakistan


Please pray for South Asian Christians as they navigate how best to both care for their health and continue being Christ to their neighbors. Your support and prayer goes far and means so much in the ministries and lives of our South Asian brothers and sisters – now more than ever. 

Thank you, and may Christ’s peace be with you.

In Christ,

Andrew, Kate, and the Harvest Bridge Team 

*Names changed for safety