Missions in Peril
We’ve seen how the Pandemic has changed the local church ministry. Have we given thought to how our missionaries and the work of missions in general has been affected? Did our foreign brothers and sisters in Christ struggle to minister through online services and safety constraints? Did they lose both financial and man-power support from us? How did they survive?
To answer those questions, let’s begin by looking at how missions have typically been defined before the Pandemic. Churches financially supported missionaries of their choice. They fulfilled their “great commission” charge by evangelizing the world through the missions they funded. Youth groups earned money to go “overseas” to help build wells and buildings and host Vacation Bible Schools. College kids took long- term internships to provide services and learn more about mission work. Pastor’s took time from their pulpits to provide leadership training and evangelistic preaching abroad. Women’s groups met to busy their hands with sewing projects and other tangible gifts.
Most of the aforementioned “mission work” was thwarted by the travel restrictions placed during the Pandemic. Those same travel restrictions remain in some places and are just opening in others. Has the face of missions changed forever?
Technology replaced the travel. Online Youth trips were established. The new goal for youth groups is to build relationships instead of a building.[i] Pastor’s offered online preaching and teaching. One seminary in Moldova reported that they had gone almost completely with online courses that had once been taught by pastors and teachers in person at the school. The new method had fulfilled the course requirements, though at the expense of building personal relationships that teachers afforded them when they lived among them. When asked about the purpose of his visit to America Pastor Serghei Moraru answered “in many ways, to start over.” He explained that many of his original contacts in the churches that support his ministry in Moldova have switched churches or simply not returned. Relationships broke down. People were not traveling back and forth, and communication broke down.[ii] It is shocking to realize that not only did our missionaries face the disruptions that COVID-19 caused in their own country, but in ours as well.
Mission churches experienced deaths of congregation members from COVID-19. Social upheaval is often a part of their existence coupled with lack of medical care. Members are scared and reluctant to return to in-person services. People are in trauma or recovering from it.
So where do we go from here? Matthew provides Jesus’ answer. “Then he said to his disciples, The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest fields.” (Matthew 9:37-39 NIV) As workers in the fields we can continue online services to our mission churches, provide financial support and rebuild relationships. When travel is allowed, offer services in person. Pray specifically for needs of individual ministries and families. Communicate with the families on a one-to-one basis so they feel loved and supported. Facilitate youth group fund raisers for scholarships. Engage in online Mission Conferences. There is a plentiful crop to harvest, and missionaries need your hearts and hands.
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