In this issue we observe how COVID-19 is leaving its impact on outreaches across the globe. As this virus is changing our lives in dramatic ways, it is also changing the way we go about doing missions—which is what this issue is all about. How do we reach people and make disciples while wearing masks and practicing social distancing? We take a fascinating look at how the Church has responded to pandemics throughout history and review ways that we can respond biblically as Christ followers. We take you on a journey to see how some movements around the world are using the pandemic to reach people for Jesus. You will be called to action when you read how God’s people move directly into suffering—despite the circumstances surrounding them. You don’t want to miss this issue! See all the articles
Unless you were around when the 1918 Spanish Flu hit the world, leading to at least 50 million deaths, none of us have experienced anything like what we have been going through with the coronavirus crisis. It has affected all of us to one degree or another. As I write in late May, many countries and various U.S. states are lifting lockdown orders and people are learning how to do business in new ways while living with the virus.
Confident in crisis. We all want to be this, right? This phrase was the title of a webinar well-known leadership guru, Michael Hyatt, offered not long ago. Speaking to business and non-profit leaders he said, “Two things are needed: honesty to face the current reality, and faith you will prevail in the end.” The world is a very different place than it was a few months ago. Borders are closed. Millions are quarantined, on lock-down or under stay-home orders. Jobs have been lost and the economy affected. The number of deaths we hear of in the daily news would have been shocking a few months ago. Now, we have come to expect to hear of rising death tolls. How will we respond?
God is not surprised by this crisis. But we may be surprised by how He will use it. God will work through this pandemic as part of His sovereign plan to redeem the world. As His followers we must avoid the temptation to give in to fear. We cannot forget “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28 NIV)
Like all of us, everywhere, the news and information and seriousness of the COVID-19 crisis emerged over time and for some faster than others. And it also emerged region by region and country by country throughout the world. In some places (as I write in April of 2020) there are still governments denying that the virus is an issue in their country.
The COVID-19 pandemic is generally accepted to have begun in Wuhan, China. Through the power of exponential growth coupled with international travel, the virus quickly spread to touch nearly every country in the world, saturating several. No individual nation’s response has fully conquered the virus. As of May 6, over 3.5 million cases and 250,000 deaths are attributed to the pandemic, and this is certainly a vast undercount. Because it is a novel or “new” virus, there is no vaccine. There are currently no known, confirmed cures for the virus.
When Jesus called the Twelve and then the Seventy, He commissioned them to do the things He Himself was doing: They were to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons and proclaim the coming of the kingdom. The early Church recognized that they were also called to do what Jesus did, though they did it differently than those commissioned during Jesus’ early life. Thus, Jesus set us free from our bondage to sin; we cannot do that, but we can set people free from slavery, and so early Christians purchased slaves specifically to free them. Similarly, Jesus was a healer, and so we too should tend the sick whether we have miraculous power to heal or not.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a time of much fear: fear of hunger, loneliness, lockdowns, poverty, even death. It’s also a time of loss. Weddings are canceled. Graduations are missed. Church buildings are empty on Sunday mornings, and many businesses are closed. At HOPE International, we’ve been asking the question: Amid this fear and uncertainty, how do we bear witness to Christ and His Kingdom?
Galmi Hospital, a medical ministry of SIM International, has been bracing for the impact of COVID-19 and sadly, their plans must now become reality. Galmi’s chief medical officer Dr Anne-Sophie Rowcroft says it’s been a mercy that Niger has remained free from documented COVID-19 cases for so long. But now, with the first case in Niamey confirmed on March 19, the hospital staff will make those planned changes to their work and ministry.
Note: The Ebola virus hit West Africa—primarily Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone—in 2014. The case-fatality rate (CFR) was 40% (By way of comparison COVID-19’s CFR is currently estimated between 2–10%). In August 2014, the World Health Organization reported that 10% of the dead had been healthcare workers. 2014 and the years that followed were a devastating time for Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. The Ebola outbreak created havoc.
When responding to a large-scale crisis or helping people recover from a disaster, how can we maximize fruit? How can we maximize the practical support we give them? And what principles can increase urgent-needs response, sustainable recovery, and multiplication of believer groups in an integrated way?
Thirty years ago, a young Thai man came to faith. With no other churches nearby he planted what is now Chon Daen Church in Phetcabun Province. Between 1987 and 2016 this man, Pastor Somsak, helped plant 13 more churches in Central and Northeast Thailand. Then in late 2016 the number of churches more than doubled in one month, and Pastor Somsak received a vision to train 1,000 church planters, start 1,000 churches and baptize 10,000 new believers by 2020.
Dear Colleagues and Mission Frontiers Readers, Given the timing for editing a production like MF, by the time you are reading this much will be known about the outcomes and results and implications of the COVID-19 crisis. As I am writing this, however, it is mid-April and we are still in the midst of social distancing and shelter-at-home mandates. This edition of MF is trying to describe how we think about and practice “mission” in a time like this. Many have already been reflecting on these questions, and by the time you get this, there will have been many more. We don’t want to simply add to the volume of ideas and reflections. Instead, we are trying to compile things that may not be discussed in other settings. In particular, we want to bring you a sense of what is happening at the edges, at the frontiers, among the least reached.
We have all been impacted. We all know people who have been impacted in some way. Even my young grandkids seem to know things are a bit different (except the two-month old). I’m thankful that as I sit here at home, I can actually still work. I was considering writing about the role of work in our lives—as designed by God. Man was made to work. Even before the fall, Adam was to work and care for the garden. It was later, after being expelled from that amazingly lush created place, that he had to “till the ground,” meaning work hard. So, one of the ramifications of stay at home orders during COVID-19 is that people may realize the importance of doing something productive.