A network of over 12,000 churches in Asia sent a charity boat to aid thousands of islanders impacted by Cyclone Amphan. The devastating Category 5 storm forced millions of people in Eastern India and Bangladesh to evacuate their homes in May.
Thousands of families are in need of food and humanitarian aid after a cyclone tore through the area May 16-21. As a result, Believers Eastern Church, a Christian denomination with 4 million members in 16 countries, dispatched a “servant boat.”
The denomination sent the relief boat to a Sundarbans cluster of islands in the Bay of Bengal. The region was already facing a health and hunger crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic. The aid from the “servant boat” couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.
“Devastation was so huge. Along with the COVID-19 virus crisis, by the grace of God and His mercy, we have 54 congregations on 54 islands,” the denomination’s presiding bishop and founder K.P. Yohannan said.
“Our boat carries people to provide help for the suffering people with food and materials and all these things. Although [the storm] happened three weeks ago, every day the need increases because millions are displaced.”
Bishop Yohannan said he’s heard stories of families that have lost everything, including livestock and homes. The hurricane demolished everything in its path.
“One of the saddest and worst things is these islands, the main way [the people] make a living and get food is basically [through the] ponds they have beside their huts where they raise fish in clean water. When this cyclone happened, all the seawater flooded all the ponds and killed all the fish,” Yohanna said.
He also pointed out how different disaster relief looked in the region compared to the United States. In America, the state and federal governments can lend aid. Several organizations are readily available to provide support.
“In America, when this type of thing happens, the whole country converges to help with roadways and helicopters and everything. It is nothing like that there. These people have been left on their own,” he said.
In the wake of the cyclone, the “servant boat” has visited over 80 islands in the Sundarbans. According to Yohanna, these locations can only be reached by boat.
“We used to hire boats but now we have our own boat that can carry 75 people. There are 15 brothers that live on the boat and they go island to island continually ministering. They are going to islands they have never been to with food, rice, beans, and oil and basic needs to help the people.”
The boat is filled with items such as wheat, sugar, tea, oils, and medicine. In addition to the dry rations, the team is handing out cloth and masks.
“On one week, they helped 600 families that lost everything,” Yohanna said. “They were able to help people who lost their hut and have nowhere to stay. Basically, the people are left and everything else is gone.”