WILLS POINT, TX – Gospel for Asia (GFA, www.gfa.org) – Discussing national missionaries like Balaark who brave through the difficulties of poverty and winter to share God’s love, and the tangible demonstration of His love through a winter coat.
Shutting the front door behind him, Balaark hugged himself tightly and pressed his thin, worn jacket to his torso. The icy wind stung his ears, painting them bright red. He felt the muscles in his entire body contract in a fruitless effort to ward off the invisible assailant. Balaark walked into the wind and began his course through the cold.
A cold wave had descended on the village where Balaark, a Gospel for Asia-supported national worker, served. Each day, the bite of the wind and the falling temperature goaded the missionary to stay indoors, to postpone sharing God’s love for a warmer day.
Many picture Asia as hot and humid, with residents sweating rather than shivering. While that is true of some areas, particularly during summer, many other regions experience extreme winters with snow and ice. In the shadow of the Himalayas, where Balaark ministers, winter temperatures often drop below freezing. Kirpal, another Gospel for Asia-supported missionary serving in a cold place, explains the impact of winter temperatures.
“The winter is severe in my ministry place since it is surrounded by mountains,” shared Kirpal. “The cold wave affects our health. Visiting believers and doing [ministry is] difficult during winter without the proper warm clothes.”
In these bracing winter conditions, it is common to see national workers like Kirpal and Balaark sharing God’s love with people huddled around outdoor communal fires.
No Stranger to Difficulty
Balaark is not a stranger to the harsh winters experienced in the area where he serves the Lord; he grew up in a village nearby. Nor is he a stranger to difficulty; Balaark grew up poor and marginalized.
Neighbors looked down on young Balaark’s family because of their heritage. But when Balaark suffered from a mysterious illness, the neighbors were convinced evil spirits tormented the boy. Rumors spread and malicious talk drove the family further into isolation.
Poverty stalked the harassed family. It was not long before school was a forgotten childhood memory for Balaark. He worked day-labor jobs to help his family survive.
Trapped in a hopeless situation, Balaark’s parents reached out to a pastor with their troubles. The pastor shared from God’s Word, and the family found peace in the hope of Christ. Jesus became the anchor that secured them through the storms of life.
Balaark gradually felt the Lord calling him to serve in ministry full time. After equipping himself at seminary, Balaark began his ministry in a village near his home. The wounds of rejection Balaark received as a child were healed by the love of the Lord, who accepted him unconditionally. But one childhood difficulty continued to hound Balaark: poverty.
Despite Balaark’s adequate support, life continued to throw unexpected financial burdens across his path. Balaark’s mother suffered from several health complications and couldn’t work, and his father could not afford her treatments. Balaark paid for his mother’s medical expenses out of his own pocket, often neglecting his own needs. The stress of family concerns and their lack of resources frequently inhabited Balaark’s prayer.
“During the winter season, I was going through tension because my mother was also very sick,” Balaark shares. “Day by day, the cold wave was increasing. I had no sufficient amount to buy a new jacket.”
Unable to purchase warm clothes for the looming winter months, Balaark made do with what he had.
Poverty, a Marker for Winter-related Suffering
Many people in the cold regions of Asia find themselves in a similar situation. To cope with the cold, people often stay in bed later and go to bed earlier, only venturing out when the weak rays of the winter sun are high in the sky. Groups gather around fire pits and layer all the clothes they own. Grappling with the cold becomes a daily occupation, often to the neglect of work—a huge sacrifice for those whose dinner is paid for by what they earned that day.
The Kathmandu Post reports that the lack of proper shelter, warm clothes and nutritious food are among the factors that cause poor and disadvantaged groups to suffer from cold-related conditions. In the article, Rameshwor Dangal, chief at the Disaster Management Division in Nepal, states the sobering truth, “The mortality is increasing every year.”
Heaven-sent Winter Clothing Packets
Despite the obstacles, Gospel for Asia-supported workers regularly brave the inclement weather to share the hope found in Jesus.
“Ministry doesn’t stop—even if it is snowing like crazy,” shares Mark, a Gospel for Asia photojournalist who frequently travels to chilly locations in Asia.
Gifts of winter coats, blankets, sweaters, hats and gloves have armored national workers all throughout Asia. They have also blessed countless homeless people who spend winter on the streets and victims of natural disasters who have lost everything. These practical gifts enable the love of God to be verbalized, demonstrated and felt.
One Bible college student who received a winter clothing packet said,
“From the depths of my heart, I am grateful to God, who blessed me and allowed me to enjoy the winter with a shawl, sweater, socks and woolen cap. For me, it was not possible to buy it. I even had nothing in my bag when I came to study here. But God is so good.”
Wrapped in a New Winter Coat
As winter deepened, Balaark faithfully ministered to the people around him. Each morning, he spent time with the Lord before heading out. He asked for God’s help in the ministry work ahead of him and laid his needs and his burdens at the Lord’s feet. Trusting the Lord to go before him in all things, Balaark wrapped himself in his old coat and forged ahead, full of faith. He had no idea the Lord had already prepared a winter coat for him.
Ministry leaders on the field, prompted by the Lord, arranged a winter clothing distribution in Balaark’s area. The day Balaark received his new coat, joy filled his heart. God answered his prayers in an unexpected way.
“I was thinking that I will adjust with my old jacket this winter season too,” Balaark shared. “But, [ministry leaders] provided a new jacket. I am so grateful to our leaders … for their kind help.”
Invigorated by experiencing God’s provision and care, Balaark eagerly engages in his ministry. He talks with people on frigid streets and holds prayer meeting in unheated homes. Each morning, before heading out, Balaark thanks God for His provision and protection. Warmed by God’s love during his prayer times and his new winter coat, Balaark braves the cold to spread the warmth with others.
Support the faithful men and women who risk their lives in cold climates and also help bring winter coat and blankets to needy families across Asia today.
*Names of people and places may have been changed for privacy and security reasons. Images are Gospel for Asia stock photos used for representation purposes and are not the actual person/location, unless otherwise noted.
Source: Gospel for Asia Reports, Good News Travelling in a Winter Coat
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