A cold wave had descended on the village where Balaark, a GFA-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 GFA-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.
“Day by day, the cold wave was increasing. I had no sufficient amount to buy a new jacket.”
“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.
Winter becomes a threat to the poor who cannot afford heating or appropriate clothes. This homeless man faced sickness or death during cold snap in December 2014—which is why a GFA-supported worker gave him protection from the cold.
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.”