At the time of this blog post, it is mid-summer in the Western world and winter is the last thing on our minds! However, August/September is really the time to begin purchasing winter coverings for as many people as possible for the upcoming winter season. It is particularly crucial in Northern India and Nepal where hundreds of people suffer from the cold, get sick and even die due to the lack of warm winter clothes and blankets. This article lays out the need for winter coverings in India, and not just in India, the need is just as great in Nepal. In fact, last year, one of the ServeNow teams (read about it here: Nepal Mission Trip) distributed warm clothes to 200 children (pictured below) who walked 4-5 hours down a mountain (and then back up!). Where these children come from, they dig holes in the ground, just to try to shield their bodies some from the cold. Sadly, there are too many communities like these. But, you and I can make a real difference this winter! Read on to learn more.
Delivering Love and Hope Through Winter Coverings
In India, every winter millions of people struggle in extreme cold temperatures, resulting in countless deaths. In fact, winter is the second largest cause for death as a result of a natural disaster. In the last couple of years, more than 15,000 people died from exposure to the cold, and thousands of others were at risk, especially the young and the old.
The deaths are largely in direct relation to the homeless population of mainly migrated laborers in the northern states. Not only is there a shortage of homeless shelters, but also a shortage of winter clothing for those who have no home and are left exposed to the cold temperatures.
During these past 2 winters, ServeNow responded to this need by providing 5,000 blankets and warm clothing to homeless and vulnerable people in parts of North Indian, Himalayan region, slums in Delhi and parts of Andhra Pradesh. These blankets and warm clothes literally saved people’s lives.
Here are some first-hand stories:
An Old Woman Survived the Winter
The gift of a blanket was a life-saver for 80-year-old Laxmi who had been deserted by her family. Her sons left for another city to work as laborers. With no one to take care of her, she grew increasingly frail and lived each day as if it were her last. Moved by her situation, we not only gave her a blanket, but also some much needed provisions. Though the provisions would only last her for a short time, the warm blanket would last her throughout the winter and hopefully the next one too. Her gladness and gratitude knew no bounds.
The Warmth of Jesus
Pastor Raj has a church of more than 30 baptized members. He told us that God is answering his prayer and bringing people one by one into his fold. ServeNow’s blanket distribution program has been a great blessing to the entire community, and it has brought growth to the church as well. The winter coverings program was a tangible example of Christian love. Pastor Raj works among the slum dwellers of Medchal who are daily wage laborers, migrated from other states. They live in extreme poverty, in temporary sheds with just a plastic sheet for a roof. For them, the gift of a warm blanket is simply amazing!
Caring for Lepers
Last year, ServeNow distributed around 250 blankets in one of the largest leprosy settlements in Andhra Pradesh. The people here live outside of the city limits, away from the so-called “civilized society”, in a colony especially designated for them. Many who are disabled, stand outside the temples and at road junctions in the city, begging for money. Almost everyone living in colonies like these have experienced the acute stigma and rejection of society, and they continue to face it day after day. For most of them, ServeNow’s gift of a blanket and warm clothing was their first gift ever.
God’s Love for Tribal People
ServeNow had been invited to a tribal village to conduct a medical camp and provide warm clothing. Many of them live without even the most basic amenities. David, the pastor in this village, has a vision to reach them with the Gospel. Last year, God opened up the hearts of these people and nearly 15 families accepted the Lord as their Savior. They even built a small hut where they can come together to worship the Lord. When we arrived, we were welcomed by about 70 people from 5 neighboring villages, each about 5 miles apart. These included the elderly, expectant mothers, children and a blind woman. ServeNow provided basic medical attention to the villagers and warm blankets for cold winter days.
Sowing the Seed of the Gospel
Last winter, the staff of ServeNow traveled more than 1,000 kilometers (about 621 miles), partially by car, partially by foot, carrying blankets on their shoulders, to distribute these blankets to the ones who needed it the most. Suffering and pain knows neither religion, nor caste nor creed; the winter coverings are handed out to anyone in need, regardless of their background. The people receiving these gifts were very open to the Gospel. This was a tangible way to tell them about the love of Jesus.
The Challenge Ahead
In just less than 3 months, heavy snowfall in the northern states of Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh will accompany the arrival of winter. It generates a series of chilly and cold temperatures that will travel across the states of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi, causing the temperatures to dip as low as 5⁰C (41 F) and putting many lives at risk. ServeNow endeavors to make a difference by distributing thousands of woolen blankets and warm clothing to provide some relief and hope to those in need. This humanitarian gesture also paves a way for them to experience an even greater love that God demonstrated toward mankind. People who suffer from hunger and poverty, first need physical help. Showing God’s love in action is a powerful way to build bridges to these hurting people.
Your gift of $100 can save 10 lives this winter! Would you donate yourself…but also think about how you could find 4-5 other friends to do the same? If we have 100 people finding 5 friends each that is 5,000 people that can wrapped in God’s love this winter! You can Donate here: Winter Coverings.