May news update and encouragement
Once again we find ourselves still operating under the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 virus – a situation none of us would have imagined just 6 months ago! Even with endless news reports, interviews and statistics, it is difficult to get a good understanding of exactly how much at risk we are personally – or of how much our “everyday life” will be affected in the future as a result of it! Thankfully there are literally thousands of encouraging messages and testimonies to be read or heard in the media. I saw one excellent post that really expressed it perfectly: Some say “we are all in the same boat” but that is not true – rather it should be: “we are all in the same storm!” I’m tempted to go on and paint a clearer picture (as one might, explaining it to children!) but we can all readily visualize how differently people (both in boats and on land) might experience a terrific storm.
EVERYONE has a story of how they have had to make really difficult choices, adjust their daily life, and endure the consequences of new government restrictions. For some the main challenge has been financial (I am literally just hearing on the news that over the past 2 months 25% of the work force nationally has become unemployed!); for others it has been logistic – trying to manage home-schooling children while also working from home; some have had to face forced separation from family members (either because parents are on the front line in hospitals, or the elderly are isolated in nursing homes); and others have had to suffer the illness itself with frightening complications even ending in death! We have ALL had greatly increased stress and emotional upset!
As Christians we believe God IS in control. He KNEW this would happen and actually ALLOWED it to happen! We may not understand but we have to trust that He will get us through. I have heard many pray for God to end the virus quickly so that we could all get back to “normal.” But maybe we should stop and consider that maybe we have been lifted out of our comfort zone for a reason! A comfort zone can sometimes become a “rut”! Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate things and make some changes in our life!
Quite apart from other possible virus pandemics in the future (which obviously can spread through our global connections, travel and commerce), the massive economic impact here in the USA is going to ensure that life will not be the same in the future – we cannot “go back” to the way things were before. It truly is a kind of “war” that has overtaken our nation – and war changes things!! Looking back in history we can see that apart from the horrible suffering and loss of life due to wars, often there were major leaps forward in fields such as industrial growth, medicine, and technology. As my mother always quoted: “Necessity is the mother of invention”! Maybe, rather than rushing to try to get back to doing things the way we used to, we should pray about finding possible new direction for our life and ministry. Remember that God is the Creator and can create a new way for us to continue our ministry within new limitations, even if it seems impossible!
I have no doubt that several of our missionary friends (not just in Africa) are really questioning how they should proceed. But I am reminded of when our ministry in Mexico was shut down for reasons totally beyond our control, and we had to return to Texas in late 2002. It was a difficult time for us as we sought the next season in our life. Yet, looking back, I am amazed at how it meant that we were able to spend quality time with family (both elderly parents and grandkids). Also God began to move our ministry to developing written resources both printed and through the internet. It was just time for another season that we would probably never have recognized otherwise! God knows what He is doing!
Paul’s amazing ministry as an evangelist, apostle and church planter was shut down suddenly by his arrest and imprisonment in Rome. He was literally forced to confine his ministry within 4 walls – yet as a result, we have the many letters he wrote that continue to inspire and encourage believers around the world even after 2,000 years! In fact, Jesus’ own ministry on earth was cut short abruptly after only 3 years – yet it was carried on and grew exponentially through his followers from then on! This pandemic may just mean the beginning of some new methods of ministry in the Church! Ultimately, our greatest ministry is through our personal interaction with others, so we MUST stand firm in our faith and continue to bless and encourage others to grow in their faith in Jesus Christ. Blessings, Shirley.
Hebrews 10:22-24 “Sprinkled with the blood of Christ, our hearts have been made free from a guilty conscience, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. So come near to God with a sincere heart, full of confidence because of our faith in Christ. We must hold on to the hope we have, never hesitating to tell people about it. We can trust God to do what he promised. We should think about each other to see how we can encourage each other to show love and do good works.” (ERV)
Michael in Kenya is doing a really great job of promoting safety precautions for both children and adults. In addition to his weekly children’s ministry service posted online from his home (and viewed by over 100 followers all over Kenya!), he frequently shares videos and messages of encouragement via Facebook. Though comparatively few cases of Covid-19 have so far been reported in Kenya, the government has just extended the curfew for another 3 weeks and both masks and social distancing are being encouraged.
Other news tells of catastrophic flooding in many parts of Kenya, affecting some 800,000 people and killing well over 200 so far. The state of Busia, which is along the border with Uganda, just north of Lake Victoria and a few hours drive from Kimilili has been especially hit, but thankfully Kimilili is higher in the mountains and so only affected by the rains, not so much the flooded rivers. It is currently rainy season (as seen in this photo of Mike and a pastor friend) but there has not been such flooding since the 1950’s!! We pray for all those affected who have lost their homes and had their lives turned upside down by this extreme flooding.
Pastor Honoré in CAR reports also that the situation with the Covid-19 virus is becoming more difficult every day, though still comparatively few cases reported officially. Most of the students at the CEERCA school are only coming individually for follow-up occasionally while doing schoolwork at home. This enables the teachers to keep their jobs, although some schools have completely closed. They are hoping to be able to complete the school year this way. The church continues as best it can with services.
Pastor Sika in Togo says they are still basically confined to their house in Lomé, and so he has not been able to visit the JP orphanage yet. He was also very sick again with malaria and is just now recovering, although still in a lot of pain with his hip. However he has been able to send much-needed supplies and food to the orphanage, such as rice, fish, salt and soap, and oil for the lamps. The young girl, Afi, who is suffering from heart problems related to HIV (see photo) was however given a travel permit to visit a doctor in Lomé recently. Sadly, the heart surgery she needs is not available in Togo (even if she had the funds to pay for it!) and so the only treatment is daily medication, which is expensive. We continue to pray for a miracle to heal her and enable her to accomplish the dreams she has of continuing education and being able to make a difference in her country.