During the March 2020 medical training in India, we had little time to think about the COVID-19 virus. Evenings in the hotel were spent searching the internet for news and updates about the new pandemic. There were no reported cases in the state where we were training. We had much to do, and, seemingly, little time to do it. It was only upon reflection, having arrived home safely on March 16, that we began to understand the scope of God’s sovereign, gracious protection and blessing during the 11 days of training. It was truly overwhelming. How great is our God!
Jesus told the Samaritan woman (the lowest living caste when He walked this earth), “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” (John 4:10). Health issues such as we address in many of our medical training trips are foreign to us in more developed parts of the world. Few of us have ever experienced near-fatal dehydration, but it is a common health crisis experienced in this region of India where the country’s poorest, most shunned citizens live. What a joy it was for us to bring these precious brothers and sisters rescue techniques for those who are both physically and spiritually thirsty.
Community Health Training
The training focus for the week was community health: hygiene, dehydration, accurate assessment of vital signs, the normal ranges of the vital signs, pneumonia, first aid, and a few other topics requested by our in-country partner, Vijay. Eleven students from different areas of the state attended this week-long training. The days were long and demanding, physically and mentally for all involved: the medical team, who prayerfully prepared and delivered so much information each day, and the students, who surely felt like they were “drinking from the fire hose!” Despite the taxing agendas every day, students arrived each morning with joy and anticipation in their countenance. Daily devotions were Holy Spirit filled, with worship and testimony. Our refreshed spirits refreshed our bodies and equipped us all for the demands of the day. It was a week full of the manifest presence of God in every way!
On the last day of training, the students took turns standing and expressing their appreciation and excitement about the topic they felt would allow them to both help their community and share the Gospel. What encouragement and confirmation from the Lord to receive testimonials of how God has gone (and is going!) before so many of these Jesus-loving students! Following are some of these amazing accounts:
- One of our students was a pastor of 15 churches! He was excited to learn about basic hygiene that he could pass on to his church members.
- Vijay’s wife, also a student, shared how she had seen many people burn to death and how thankful she was to learn “stop, drop, and roll” as well as caring for burn wounds. No longer must she just stand and watch a burn victim. Now she can teach and care for them, medically and spiritually.
- Mala planned to teach mothers in her community to read a thermometer so they will be able to know when their children are ill. She has already used her thermometer from the medical kit to check temperatures of 1000 people in her village and people walking the streets during this lockdown. To some she has brought peace, when they mistakenly thought they had a fever; some she has directed to the hospital because they did have a fever. She assisted a family of 12 who arrived at the hospital. Temperatures were taken by a healthcare worker, but the reading was inaccurate. Mala rechecked and taught the healthcare worker about accurate temperature assessment. The family was released!
- Dr. Sod, Vijay’s father, was in our training. . . a homeopathic doctor, in his late 70s, sitting as a student in the medical training! During his younger years of medical education, he was threatened many times for going to school as a member of the lowest caste. He was forced to move from place to place in order to complete his education. Years ago, he disowned Vijay for not becoming a doctor, but on the last day of training, he stood and told how proud he was to be a part of Vijay’s ministry. Dr. Sod now plans to continue to train others with the skills he learned from that week, and a nearby health center has asked him to help with patients.
COVID-19 Opens Doors
After every training, there is always the question in our hearts and minds of how God will use what the students have learned to further His Kingdom. After this training, the wonder was not how will it be used, but when they would have the opportunity to begin using what they had learned. India was under a very strict shut-down. More people were dying from starvation and non-COVID sickness during this lockdown than from the virus. People couldn’t leave their homes to look for food without the threat of being beaten or arrested.
The students started making “tippy taps” on their return to their communities. A tippy-tap is a hand-washing station that can be built in less than 30 minutes and needs no running water. Students built one of these stations for every believer in their community as a conversation piece for outreach and education about clean water and hand-washing. What perfect (sovereign) timing. . . COVID-19 – WASH YOUR HANDS!!
Many medical students, who are from communities where there are Christ-followers, completed the medical training and were given special privileges by the village chiefs to go out every day to the homes in the villages sharing the Gospel and into new villages to check on people medically and to evangelize communities where there are no Christ-followers. When these communities heard what the other communities were doing for each other – sharing, not hoarding food and supplies, caring for each other, and surviving this horrible pandemic with peace instead of fear, they became very interested. These communities without Christ have begun to imitate the communities that follow Christ. They have never had so many people come to Christ!
Open Doors to the Gospel
Vijay’s organization received monetary donations from the US for food to feed the poor. Because Vijay and his ministry partners were providing aid to others, he was allowed to visit families he could reach by car. He and his family have provided food to over 2000 families. These families have heard the Gospel over and over as food was provided. Most recently, Vijay reported over 500 new people receiving the Gospel, just through the medical participants, and over 125 accepted Christ in three months!
One man, in a community that doesn’t follow Christ, said this to one of our students on his arrival, “I prayed for food. You didn’t know we needed food, and you came. You didn’t know, and you came! I believe in this Christ; I want that life.”
“I believe in Christ; I want that life!” This is the purpose of ITEC: to equip indigenous believers with tools to open new doors to share the Gospel, so that others can believe in Christ and have that life.
Jesus said, “I came that they may have life . . . and have it abundantly!” (John 10:10). ITEC partners with like-minded, indigenous churches and ministries who request training based on local spiritual and physical needs. Through selected mature believers already active in evangelism and trained by ITEC during a short-term trip, the hope of healthier life through education and abundant life through faith in Jesus Christ is spreading.
“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen!” Ephesians 3:20