Vital SustainAbility: India Cohort

Dear Friends,

COVID-19 has shaken our world in ways we never could have imagined. Long before the pandemic, theological education was already shaky in parts of the Majority World, where economic woes may be accompanied by social instability and political oppression. 

School leaders at Asian Christian Academy in Tamil Nadu

Through the Vital SustainAbility Initiative (VSI), SCHOLARLEADERS has been working with influential theological schools in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Eastern Europe to strengthen strategic plans for long-term sustainability and missional focus. The pandemic has only highlighted the importance of this work, as well as the ongoing need for flexibility, adaptivity, and resilience. 

Although the coronavirus has halted our planned visits to several client schools, technology has enabled our VSI teams to stay in touch with school leaders and to join them in prayer. This month, we invite you to pray with and for these theological schools and their leaders as they face unprecedented challenges. 

SAIACS Principal Dr. Prabhu Singh (in blue) participating in SAIACS’s recent food relief efforts in Bangalore

This week, we will be highlighting needs from schools in our VSI India Cohort: South Asia Institute for Advanced Christian Studies (SAIACS) in Bangalore, Southern Asia Bible College in Bangalore, Asian Christian Academy in Tamil Nadu, Oriental Theological Seminary in Nagaland, and Shalom Bible Seminary in Nagaland.

The sudden lockdown in India, announced on March 24 and extended until at least May 3, forced some schools to terminate programs immediately, close down campuses, and send students home. Stranded international students remain quarantined on campus with a few faculty members.

School leaders at Shalom Bible Seminary in Nagaland

Please pray for our partner schools in India, as they face immense challenges, including:

1) Limited access to meals in certain communities, including where students and faculty remain locked down on campus;

2) Inability to pay faculty and staff salaries, due to losses of tuition-derived income;

3) Disruptions in learning, since not many programs can transition easily to online platforms;

4) Cancelled graduations and indefinite delays in admitting new student cohorts; and

5) Planning for life after the lockdown, as major financial shortfalls threaten institutional survival.

Photo Credit: Asian Christian Academy

One of the ministries we work with, Asian Christian Academy (ACA), faces unique challenges. In addition to providing graduate and undergraduate education through its Evangelical Theological Seminary and Asian Christian College of Theology, ACA operates Agape Hospital, Ray of Hope Center for Autism, and Asian Christian High School on its campus. ACA also sponsors a number of graduating students as church planters. Despite its own precarious position, ACA has continued to honor its holistic approach to ministry by reaching out to the needy in its local community. 

Dr. Stephen George, the President of Asian Christian Academy, shares the following message:

We have been working on contingencies for all our ministries in light of COVID-19. In India, we are currently under a nationwide lockdown, one of the most stringent in the world. 
This has caused difficulties for us in arranging food supplies for our campus, but the Lord has provided ways for us to get by. We have 70 students on our campus who were unable to leave before the shutdown. 
Daily wage workers, however, are facing a serious threat of starvation. We are currently working to supply 500 families with food for the next four weeks.
Pray for us to have wisdom as we navigate this situation, to continue the work that the Lord has given us, to be faithful to our mission, and to be protected from the onslaught of the pandemic.
We are especially praying for you and the United States at this time as well. May the Lord cover you under His wings.
Stephen George
President of Asian Christian Academy
Tamil Nadu, India

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