“Christ With Us”

A Letter from Gary and Marlene Van Brocklin, serving as regional liaisons for South Asia

May 2020

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Dear Friends,

As we shelter in place, we are more aware of the daily rhythms of life. We have enjoyed following the simple prayers and meditations from the early Celtic Church. Irish farmers and Scottish shepherds adopted a Christian tradition that was in tune with the enchantment of God’s incarnate love in the very midst of the ups and downs and twists and turns of daily living.

Here is one such prayer:
I am bending my knee
In the eye of the Father who created me,
In the eye of the Son who purchased me,
In the eye of the Spirit who cleansed me,
In friendship and affection.
Through thine own Anointed One,
O God,

Bestow upon us fullness in our need.
Love towards God,
The affection of God
The smile of God
The wisdom of God. . . .
from The Celtic Vision

As we continue our work as Regional Liaisons for South Asia, we appreciate ways that some of our mission partners are in tune with God’s incarnating love in their midst. The bustling city of Lahore, Pakistan, has less than 100 ventilators for a population of 14 million souls. This present COVID-19 health crisis has stirred the Presbyterian Education Board of Pakistan to partner with U.S. Christians to raise over $75,000 for a thousand families connected to their schools. This effort is on top of the hundreds of scholarships raised each year for children that benefit from a solid Christian education where staff and students daily celebrate “the love and affection of God, the smile and wisdom of God.”

Forman Christian College is strategically located in the center of Lahore and has been quick to adapt to the COVID crisis. Almost all of their students are able to take on-line classes, and efforts have been made to make sure that some of the more economically vulnerable students have internet access. Gary was able to attend their recent Board meeting via ZOOM and was encouraged by the academic and institutional competency of Forman. Dr. James Tebbe, the chief academic officer, has taken a salary cut, and other staff has reached into their own pockets to raise the wages of their colleagues who are the daily workers most affected by the economic downturn.

Our mission partner, United Mission to Nepal, reports, “hundreds of migrant workers, people who are struggling to provide food for the family and families who have been evicted by their landlords, have started their long journey on foot from Kathmandu back to their villages. Food packages and rations are being distributed at several centers in the city, but there has been much debate on whether it is reaching all those who need it. Meanwhile, our hospitals in Tansen and Okhaldhunga are staying alert, preparing, and dealing with the challenges and uncertainties posed by the current situation.” We are thankful that the lockdown in Nepal has been beneficial and, to date, has zero deaths from the dreaded disease.

Vellore Christian Medical College (which we featured in our last letter) in Tamil Nadu, India, is taking aggressive action against the pandemic by setting up an Emergency Response Team and a special ward to treat COVID-19 cases. Similar to Nepal, thousands of Indian daily workers who no longer have jobs in the cities are making their way back to their villages. Only recently was train service resumed. Of course, there is no work available in their villages (which is why they left for the cities in the first place). Please pray for the welfare of these who are in great need.

We have been able to shelter in place near dear ones. Our five-year-old granddaughter, Liliana, is a perpetual delight. We have patio picnics and play in the park next door—flying a kite, helping her ride her new bicycle—all at a proper distance, of course.

Due to the hiring freeze in Presbyterian World Mission, our contract is now extended through December of this year. We are pleased to be able to continue relationships with mission partners in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka during this time of crisis. Of course, travel to South Asia is not possible. Nonetheless, we can keep in touch through emails, Zoom, and Skype.

May our Celtic forebears of the Faith guide us in a closing prayer.

“Christ behind us in all of our yesterdays.
Christ with us in our today.
Christ before us in all of our tomorrows.
Alpha and Omega, Christ, Lord of all!”

Thank you for your faithful financial support of our ministry, and may Christ indeed go before us in all of our tomorrows.

Gary and Marlene Van Brocklin

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