By God’s grace, most people are doing very well – although understandably some are managing better than others. Most have adapted to new ways of doing ministry, such as online classes and sermons, bible studies and services by WhatsApp, sending video updates and the like. Some have the challenge of unstable or unaffordable internet, or find that those they are ministering to cannot engage with the technology. Unfortunately many mission partners were due to come back to the UK on home leave and are disappointed not to be able to visit churches, see family, friends and supporters or to enjoy a break from ministry. Do be praying that they will find refreshment in the Lord.
We took the very hard decision to recall our three gap year teams from The Gambia, Kenya and South Africa. It was a great disappointment to the young people, their hosts and us but we risked the teams being stuck abroad as borders began to close. Three couples returned to the UK for medical reasons but they are able to continue with ministry online from this country until they are in a position to return. One family and an individual are still in the UK following home leave, unable to return to their ministry countries due to closed borders. Whilst they are able to continue ministry online, they are anxious to return as soon as possible.
In the early days of border closures, I spent many hours talking with mission partners about the wisdom of them staying or returning to the UK and then facilitating repatriation where appropriate. I continue to monitor FCO updates for over 30 countries as well as daily world intelligence briefings from the insurance industry. This enables me to keep up-to-date with developments (not only COVID-19 related!) in all the countries where we work and pre-empt issues.
Despite most of us suffering Zoom fatigue, I am very grateful for the way this and other platforms allow me and the rest of the home team to keep in touch with our mission partners and other personnel. Apart from regular chats with mission partners, I am conducting debriefs online and we continue to interview applicants for future service. Routine work continues as normal, albeit with our office teams working remotely. We continue to make prayer a priority and prayer points are distributed to the office teams daily and we all take time out to pray for those who are across continents and time zones from us. We’re also sharing these prayer points with our faithful prayer warriors.
I think we have all experienced a measure of culture shock – be that in our own now unfamiliar culture, or by being locked-down in another culture. The lowlight for me was the decision to curtail the gap year programme, knowing how hard this would be for the teams. I was also sad that my two scheduled pastoral trips had to be postponed. Undoubtedly, the highlight is seeing how our Sovereign Lord is in control of all circumstances and is sustaining and growing his kingdom. It is wonderful to hear that much of the online content posted by mission partners is being accessed by people they would not normally reach and we pray for much fruit from this as people learn more about the Lord.
Check out some recent photos of mission partners in lockdown or join us in praying for them.
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