Relief Providers Bring Light of Hope to Quake-Stricken Survivors in Pakistan

Pakistan relief efforts are now faced with an estimated five billion dollars in damage from the massive earthquake that victimized more than 54,000 people.

Officials raised estimates of the death toll on Sunday with more than 13,000 in the North West Frontier Province and an unconfirmed number of bodies still beneath rubble.

To date, the country has received $500 million in pledges from the international community, said Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, according to Agence France Presse.

Open Doors, the oldest on-going worldwide ministry to the Persecuted Church, provided an immediate $150,000 in aid relief with another pledge of $150,000 to reach the earthquake-stricken area later.

Local networks already set up in South Asia has enabled the immediate provision of "food, shelter and medicine - a visible demonstration of the love of Christ to those in need," said a released statement by Open Doors. "Local teams sponsored by Open Doors are already on the ground assessing the needs and organizing relief help."

The Santa Ana, Calif.-based ministry has been working to encourage local Christians, who have endured discrimination and sometimes persecution in Islamic-dominated regions, to shine their light through sponsored literacy training and socio-economic development.

Now, as the opportunity presents itself to serve as the "salt and light," Christians in Pakistan have been lending their hands to the survivors of the quake.

"These are our people," said one Pakistani church leader, according to Open Doors. "We have to do something."

Efforts to provide assistance have been hampered by narrow roads, mountainous regions and heavy rains ahead of a fierce winter. While the weather has lightened up, conditions continue to remain grim with roads turned into mud and landslides slowing aid flow to the 2 million homeless survivors.

Nevertheless, helicopter missions in Pakistan have resumed with the weather cleared up and millions still in need of receiving initial aid.

The United States is also playing its part to assist in relief and rebuilding efforts that are expected to take up to 10 years, according to the United Nations.

"We're helping with humanitarian aid," said President George Bush at the Pakistan Embassy Friday. "So not only will we offer our prayers, but we'll offer our help, and help the people and help the government, help this great nation get back on its feet."

"This is a real opportunity for Christians in this country to demonstrate Christ's love in the midst of terrible suffering in Pakistan. And an opportunity to enable local churches in Pakistan to reach out in their suffering communities," said Open Doors USA President Dr. Carl Moeller in a released statement. "Please consider a gift for this project and also lift up the victims in Pakistan in your prayers."

Donations can be made at www.opendoorsusa.org.