India – I would like to report about the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact upon this part of our country especially the impact on GBC.

We scheduled our student’s exam in the first week of April but due to COVID-19, the country declared a countrywide lockdown from March 24. We immediately had to send the students to their respective places but we had to keep the third year year students to write their final exams so that they could carry their degrees and mark sheets with them which could help them for their studies or find a suitable ministry.

The situation went from bad to worse as the government imposed a countrywide curfew. Due to this the third year students were stuck on the campus along with five others; one from Chennai, one from Orissa and three from the country of Myanmar.

For almost two and a half months all the public transportation was not functional, Taluka borders, district border, and state borders were sealed. Initially, the students were comfortable but after a few weeks, they started to panic because they wanted to go home and meet their parents, and some of the students cried.

Finally, in the last week of May, the government, with special passes, permitted the students and migrant laborers to go to their respective places at their own risk. So two of our third year students were able to go home with a lot of difficulties and a lot of expenses. It cost more than Rs. 20,000 ($266) for Ms. Stuti Jadhav to go home where normally it would hardly cost Rs. 400 to 500 ($6)

My family did moderately well during this time. The Lord has kept everyone fine and healthy as we home-quarantined for almost two months. At times food was scarce because the markets were closed, and when the government allowed the market to open there was a shortage of food like milk, bread, fruits, and groceries. During this time I had the liberty to move around within the district since I had a special lockdown and curfew pass from the government. During the weekends I go to BGCH (Boys and Girls Christian Home – an associate and partnering ministry) to help their director, Pranay, as the government has undertaken their campus for the COVID-19 care center.

Principal Pramod and Dean of Students, Sanjay lead faculty members in preparing the in-depth self study report for accreditation status. This photo was taken in the GBC library which holds over 20,000 volumes donated by friends of Indigenous Ministries over a period of five years. The books were sorted by a dedicated team of volunteers for two weeks in January 2017 in Red Bluff, CA and sent to GBC by shipping container. GBC students benefit from one of the largest Christian libraries in India as they prepare for ministry.

Even today people are in fear and uncertain about the future. Though the government took off the lockdown, many people are not willing to come out of their homes and are avoiding traveling. This will certainly affect our next academic session. We have already announced that the college will reopen in the first week of August, but I am personally worried as to how many students will come and how many parents will be able to send their children. We have started the admission process and some students have already applied.

We have been investing a lot of our time and effort for the past three months towards accreditation status with ATA, Asia Theological Association, Singapore. This has really been a 10 year project, and we have completed the ATA self-study report questionnaire as of June; it was a lot of effort and work for the faculty, but worth the time. The next step is preparing for the ATA campus inspection when COVID-19 allows travel. ATA accreditation is very important for GBC because it draws in many students to join the college. There are many organizations, institutions and churches which require degrees, diplomas or certificates accredited to ATA when they are hiring.

Thank you for your prayers and faithful financial support which enable us to continue training students with a strong Biblical education and training for future ministry.

– Pramod Tantarpale, Principal, Grace Bible College

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