Lewis McClendon BCMN
Eleven BCMN endorsed missionaries responded to a survey about the impact of the COVID-19 on their ministries. The survey divided missionaries into three categories – deputation missionaries, missionaries on furlough, and missionaries on the field.
Five deputation missionaries and four missionaries on furlough responded to the survey. They all stated that churches have had to cancel their visit to the church for March and April. Some of the churches have committed to rescheduling them when the crisis is over, and some churches are finding creative ways to include a missionary in the live stream church service on the Sunday they were scheduled to be in that church. Churches have shown the missionaries video presentation, recorded an interview with a missionary to use during the live stream service, and some have the missionary come to the church if they are in the area for a live presentation or interview. Missionaries really appreciate it when a church sends a love offering to a missionary they have had to cancel. Deputation missionaries especially struggle with a loss of a love offering because that is their main source of income. None of the missionaries stated they have lost any support – yet. If the crisis lasts more than two months, they all expect their support levels to go down.
Both deputation and furlough missionaries stated that some churches had stepped out to help them or be a blessing to them. Here are a few examples the missionaries gave.
▪ Through encouraging phone and email conversations. However, we understand they are preoccupied about their own local church ministry and how they can best serve their people. I'm treading lightly and with wisdom as I communicate with Pastors and staff, understanding that as their missionary I'm a foreign extension to their ministry. ▪
▪ One church decided to send a love offering after cancelling us.
▪ Multiple churches (at least four) have reached out to see if we need anything or if they can help with anything.
▪ One church we had scheduled said they will take us on for support next month even if we can't make it to our scheduled meeting. They said we can reschedule if need be.
▪ We have had one church send an email stating they had no plans of dropping us.
▪ We have had one pastor get a Zoom call together with other missionaries to be an encouragement to us.
Deputation and furlough missionaries who were planning to move or return to the mission field in the next few months do fear this crisis will delay them. For some this is creating a short-term housing problem.
The comments about what advice would you give to other deputation and furlough shows that, as a whole, these missionaries still strongly trust that God will bring them through this crisis and they will continue their call to the mission field.
▪ Relax: your plan B (or C, D, etc.) was always God's plan A. It's great to plan but remember, He directs our steps (Proverbs 16:9).
▪ Continue to trust in the Lord. He knows our situation and our need, and He promised to supply. He is faithful, even in times of uncertainty.
▪ Patience, waiting is so difficult when you’re on deputation, and now everything has come to a standstill.
▪ Be creative and try to help Pastors to continue to navigate how to present missions in their churches. And be an encouragement to others. It's tough for everyone.
▪ EXPECT DELAYS OR FUNDS TO BE LOWER FOR THE NEXT 3-6 MONTHS BASED ON CONVERSATIONS WITH PASTORS
▪ Keep walking by faith and live this week as if Christ is coming back next week.
▪ Trust in the Lord and be wise. The Devil will attempt anything to destroy the church and your ministries. Do not allow this virus to obstruct what you are able to do. Ministry never ends, even during crisis.
▪ Don't be faithless! Use your imagination and creativity and work!
▪ Be ready to do videos that churches can post during their on-line services.
▪ Stay busy. Keep working, planning, studying, communicating (to those on the field and Stateside), and redeem the time.
▪ Much depends on what season of ministry others are in, but for me I am trying to spend time creating content and not missing out on the ministry that I can be a part of even though we are in the US and unable to travel to churches.
▪ I would like to know how I can be of a service to the churches that support us during my time in the states. I do what I know to do, but I'm open to knowing more.
Two missionaries on the mission field responded to the survey. They gave us a look at the conditions in their country.
▪ Community level transfer of the COVID-19 virus has not yet begun, however recently our cases have almost doubled due to imported cases from people returning from overseas travel-infected. Panic has begun to set in and stores are selling out of basic necessities and food. Most Shopping malls and community centers remain open; however, more restrictions have been put in place concerning cleanliness, disinfection, and amount of people allowed using the facilities at one time.
▪ As of this morning, they closely mirror the US. Cases of COVID19 are on the rise, and the public panic is growing. Right now, they have closed down education centers, sports venues, malls, and dine in restaurants. Many are losing their income and are struggling with how to handle this situation. As a church, we have had to close our services until at least April 12 due to the guidelines for gathering in our community.
When asked about any restrictions on ministry they gave the following responses.
▪ Restrictions have been put in place concerning church services or any other social gatherings. We have been asked by the government to require any attendees to wear facial masks at all times. We must also take the body temperature of each person as they enter and not allow anyone with a 100°F or above fever to enter.
▪ Right they aren’t imposing restrictions on services per se…but they’ve released guidelines on groups of people gathering that impact our ability to hold services and outreach ministries.
Both missionaries stated that it would be difficult if not impossible to return to the United States at this time.
They have also had churches set out to help or be a blessing to them because of this crisis.
▪ Our sending church was generous to send us a large amount of facial masks to our family for our use and to use as a way to minister to others during this crisis. A few missions committees have sent us emails asking for updates on how we are doing and about the safety of our family.
▪ We’ve been so encouraged by two churches who have sent us emails communicating prayer and love. One small group in Ohio all sent us emails at one time during their meeting. It’s a tremendous blessing!
The following is the advice, counsel, suggestions, or wisdom they offered for deputation, furlough or on the field missionaries.
▪ I would encourage missionaries that are in the United States on deputation or furlough to first consider the health and safety of their families and those they seek to minister to both in United States and in their respective countries. I would encourage them to pray, be wise, and be creative in staying connected with and connecting to new churches during this crisis. I would encourage them to send encouraging videos or messages to those that support them or they seek support from. I would encourage them to be creative in the use of technology to send digital reports and or presentations and offer to do whatever they could to communicate with their churches and those perspective churches what is their passion and plan to reach their field.
▪ If there are missionaries on the field in our area contact them to find out up to date information. With how fast information is changing/being updated these days it pays to have someone on the ground you can speak with.
▪ Use any platform you can to communicate how COVID19 has impacted your field of service. People want to hear news about this that is unbiased and spiritually focused. Work hard to be that voice for your field.
▪ I also recommend trying to learn about things God is doing on your field. Did you hear about someone who just got saved there? Maybe a church is reaching out and impacting your field in a new way during this time. Lift up what God is doing more than the fear the virus may be creating.
▪ I would encourage other missionaries currently active on the mission field to develop a strong home life and make sure their family is well taken care of both physically and spiritually during this time. I would encourage them to understand that although now is a prime opportunity to minister it is not a prime opportunity to abandon your family in order to do that. I would encourage other missionaries on the mission field to stay in contact with local representatives and government to know how best to minister to the people in their area. I would encourage them to look for practical opportunities to minister and meet needs of the people in their area in a way that communicates the love of Christ and not high-level salesmanship. I would encourage missionaries to listen to the concerns of their congregation and the people they are ministering to and with. When applicable, I would encourage missionaries to incorporate technology and smaller groups to continue ministering effectively in high-risk or quarantine level communities. I would also encourage them to stay in contact with their supporting churches and consider giving regular updates to them concerning their areas, especially if they are living in high-risk areas.
▪ Implement what boundaries you feel are necessary to restrict physical contact with others and stick to it.
▪ Have a plan for what happens if someone in your family/ministry/missions fellowship catches the virus.
This last comment by one of the missionaries shows the heart, determination and care for the United States churches of our great missionaries.
▪ As always, we would appreciate your prayers and thoughts concerning our family and the families of those we minister to. If there’s anything we can do on our end to help minister to our brothers and sisters in the United States and encourage churches we are open to communication concerning that.