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Learning from COVID-19
A ReachGlobal missionary’s on-field experience with a pandemic
As nations around the globe monitor and respond to COVID-19 (coronavirus), the EFCA national office is implementing strategic efforts to continue advancing our mission despite the impact of the virus. You can learn more in this special update from EFCA President Kevin Kompelien.
My family and I have lived in China as ReachGlobal missionaries for many years. On January 24, we were celebrating the Chinese New Year with friends and there was some talk about the coronavirus. It sounded serious, but I wasn’t too concerned because the epicenter is far away (yes, quite naïve). The next day things began to change. The government recommended we minimize leaving our homes during the remainder of the holiday week, which isn’t too hard because things slow down a lot during this celebratory season.
Later that week the tone started to shift. The date our kids would return to school was pushed back from February 10 to 24 (now pushed back indefinitely). Stores and restaurants normally closed for a few days or a week were closed indefinitely. Our apartment complex implemented new rules, and our friends must now sign-in and have their temperature taken at the complex gate.
Soon we had nowhere to go. We were limited to going out for groceries. While we could try to visit friends in another apartment complex, this would be met with scrutiny. Most travel is now viewed skeptically. For example, all passengers entering our province from another country are tested for the virus and quarantined for 14 days at a government-designated hotel.
We’re now over six weeks into this new routine. Our kids go to school online and connect with their teachers and classmates digitally. My wife is teaching her preschool class by sending her students daily videos. Restaurants are open for take-out or delivery only. Wearing a mask is required in public. Trips have been canceled, and teammates who are planning to travel in May are starting to wonder if it will be possible.
Even though we’ve seen significant changes to our routine, and unknowns continue to exist, there are plenty of reasons to be thankful:
- God brings peace, comfort, and faithfulness in times of change and uncertainty. As the virus spreads and the death toll rises, as fear and anxiety increase, God provides a peace that transcends all understanding (Phil. 4:7) and he gives us perfect love that drives out fear (1 John 4:18).
- Our province has seen minimal impact. There has been one reported case of the virus for every 370,000 people and the mortality rate is reported to be low.
- The Chinese church is staying strong through these challenges. Our pastor has posted sermons on social media and Bible study WeChat groups have continued. Chinese believers have had large quantities of time with their unbelieving family members and we’re praying for gospel fruit.
- It’s good to slow down. Usually the busyness of life makes it hard to stop, be thankful and reflect on the magnitude and awesomeness of the gospel.
- We’ve had extra family time. With teenagers in the house who will all be adults soon, the next few years will go fast. This extra time with the kids will be appreciated for years to come.
Opportunities for growth
I have tried to use this unique season to reflect on what God is teaching me. Honestly, I sense a deepening in my understanding and experience of His truths. Here are some things that come to mind:
- God is in control and is sovereign over all things. He is not surprised by epidemics. He is trustworthy. While I know all of this, my finite mind and sinful flesh struggle to fully believe when things seem out of control.
- I’m regularly reminded of the need to recenter my heart and mind on the truth of God’s word and testimonies of His faithfulness. He is trustworthy! I cry out like the man in Mark 9:24: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"
The gospel comes with promises
In Hebrews 12, we’re told about Jesus enduring the cross because of the joy set before him. What we are going through now is challenging, but it is miniscule compared to what Jesus went through. The principle is the same though—we can let our current trials overwhelm us or we can cling to the promises of God. We have the hope of the gospel, which comes with current promises that give us strength to endure and future promises that guarantee there are better times ahead!
Pray that we—and believers around the world—would steward opportunities brought about by the coronavirus to trust and glorify God by clinging to His promises!
“I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Ps. 18:1-2)