BY JULIA O’CAREY
In just a few short months, the COVID-19 pandemic has radically changed our world. Bible prophecy is fast fulfilling! At ASAP Ministries, this lends even greater urgency to our mission to reach the 10/40 Window with the good news of Jesus’ soon return.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected the people ASAP serves, particularly the poor, the persecuted, and refugees. Like the rest of us, they are dealing with health concerns, lockdowns, and economic catastrophe. But their plight is magnified by aggravating factors such as violence, poverty, and natural disasters. The following “snapshots” from the mission field demonstrate not only the unprecedented needs of this moment, but also the impact of your prayers and financial support during this extraordinary time in Earth’s history. Most importantly, they reveal how God is opening opportunities to share hope amidst this crisis.
Providing Aid to Thousands Displaced by Violence in Myanmar
“We have to leave the village. The world is falling apart!” On March 14, 2020, ASAP church planter Simon Tin* listened as a terrified missionary described how Burmese military fighter jets had just bombed a nearby village. The conflict between Myanmar’s government forces and rebel soldiers from the neighboring Rakhine State had spilled over into the mountains of western Chin State, claiming the lives of innocent villagers. Adventist church members in the village narrowly escaped. They were attending Sabbath services when the bombing started. Otherwise, they might have perished alongside their neighbors.
The next afternoon, fighter jets attacked Simon’s village, killing eight people and wounding a dozen others. As the village burned and night fell, Simon gathered the elderly and 19 Adventist families in his home. “We could not sleep,” he recalls. “I conducted worship that night, comforting them and encouraging them to trust God’s promises.” Early the next morning, they fled the village, traveling 17 hours by foot until they reached a camp for the displaced in the town of Samee.
Meanwhile, two other ASAP church planters, Elisha Boon* and Nathan Tin,* and their congregations remain trapped in the fighting zone. In coordination with the Yangon Adventist Mission, ASAP provided some of the first humanitarian aid to reach the region. But with the rainy season quickly approaching, more help is urgently needed and ASAP’s disaster relief funds are depleted.
“We are so thankful to ASAP Ministries for providing our immediate needs, such as blankets, mats, and rice,” says Simon. “And amid the difficulties, I see mission opportunities. Many more refugees are joining Samee camp [3,000 at last count]. Among them, there are many who are not Christian and have never heard the gospel. Please pray for them and for my ministry here.”
Feeding the Hungry in Laos
ASAP church planter Joseph Vangpo’s* wife could not hide her distress as they surveyed the brown, lifeless plants in their rice field. “We are going hungry this year! We are going hungry this year!” she cried. For the 100 families living in Joseph’s village in northern Laos, rice farming is more than a way of life. It is their primary source of food and income, a matter of life and death. Now, for the second consecutive season, their harvest has failed.
Last year, heavy rains flooded the fields at harvest time, destroying crops. Then, a severe drought struck the region, killing the current crop of rice before it matured. Facing the prospect of starvation, Joseph appealed to ASAP field supervisor Abel Lao* for help. In response, ASAP provided more than 3,000 pounds of rice to Joseph’s village and the villages of two other ASAP church planters. Overwhelmed with gratitude and relief, Joseph called Abel to thank him. “This is truly God’s blessing for us in this time of hunger. God fed Elijah for three years, and He is doing the same for us!” Joseph’s village and others in northern Laos will need more help to survive until the next rice harvest ripens. With your support, ASAP will continue providing life-saving assistance and sharing Jesus, the Bread of Life, with the physically and spiritually hungry.
Helping the Vulnerable in Cambodia and Elsewhere
An initial survey conducted by Cambodia Adventist Mission (CAM) among Adventist church members and their communities, revealed 750 individuals seriously financially affected by job layoffs. These individuals worked in factories or in manual labor positions like construction prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. ASAP recently committed to match the $5,000 in emergency aid that CAM will provide to them, but we expect that more will be needed. We are planning small enterprises, such as facemask production and soapmaking, in Cambodia and other countries to help our part-time workers, refugees, and other vulnerable families replace wages lost due to the economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis.
After a month-long shutdown, ASAP schools in Cambodia are preparing to reopen. Yet in large cities like Phnom Penh, the impoverished communities served by our schools remain at risk due to overcrowding and poor sanitation. ASAP teachers will provide students with masks and hand sanitizer and continue teaching them good health and hygiene practices. CAM and ASAP are also exploring the possibility of launching a feeding program to help students and their families.
Sharing the Health Message with the 10/40 Window
ASAP has produced simple posters and videos to equip all our missionaries and Adventist church members throughout the 10/40 Window to share the eight laws of health and perform basic hydrotherapy treatments. They have been translated into every major Southeast Asian language, and we are also preparing translations of the poster for use among several of the largest language groups in the Middle East and North Africa. Pr. Scott Griswold and the team at Reach the World Next Door, along with ASAP-supported refugee and immigrant church planters, are already using these resources among least-reached people groups in North America with great success. As word spreads, we continue to receive new requests for additional translations. We praise God for how He is using these simple means to share the health message with those who need it most!
It is only as God provides through partners like you that ASAP can respond to the needs just described. ASAP’s mission is more urgent and relevant right now than ever before because it compels us to reach “the least of these” (Matt. 25:40), the vulnerable and marginalized people of the 10/40 Window, who have no earthly means of support during the COVID-19 crisis. Requests for humanitarian aid are rapidly multiplying and ASAP wants to respond quickly. With these requests come opportunities to provide not only physical help, but spiritual aid to those desperately seeking answers.
We anticipate that our faith and our resources will be stretched to the limit in the days ahead. But we believe that Jehovahjireh, “The-Lord-Will-Provide” (Gen. 22:14), will sustain His work through ASAP in miraculous ways. “Blessed is he who considers the poor,” writes the psalmist. “The Lord will deliver him in time of trouble” (Ps. 41:1). Thank you for your faithful prayers and sacrificial gifts during this critical time.