As I sat down at my computer to write this blog I hesitated. Not that I don't have anything to write or am suffering writer's block. But for where to take this without sounding like I'm complaining or whining. Covid-19 is a destructive virus and does not discriminate. We all have stories of pain, suffering, and isolation since its existence on earth. No one has been immune to its effects and outcomes. We as missionaries aren't special by any means. But nonetheless, I think it valuable for you to get a ¨backstage¨ view into what missionary life is like in a post covid world.
There is no shortage of wondering what a ¨Post Covid¨ world will look like. The term new normal is something we have grown to say often (even in Spanish). As those reading this from the U.S.A have already begun some semblance of a return to normalcy, much of South America remains in turmoil. 3 out of the 5 worst hit Covid countries in the world are in South America (Brazil, Colombia, Argentina). The highest death rate per capita in the world is in Peru. Check out the graph below to see where the continent is compared to everyone else... It's shocking! Hospital systems are tredding along at near capacity, temporary shutdowns are always imminent, and mandatory mask regulations continue.
As missionaries, we answered God's call that He specifically put in our lives and that of our family. We often reference these commands associated with missions from our Bibles: declare His glory among the nations (Psalms 96:3), go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19), you will be My witnesses to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8), go into the world and proclaim (Matthew 16:15), say among the nations (Psalms 96:10), go to the land I will show you (Acts 12:1).
But hold up just a second... Where is the part about dealing with a global pandemic? How do we manage all this fear from people we disciple? And churches being shut down? We are largely figuring this out as we go along by the way of the Holy Spirit.
We Aren't In The Business of Sitting Around
My wife and I aren't known to be people that like to let things happen around us. We tend to move from opportunity to opportunity. All the while, we work on the things we have in front of us. Covid has changed that completely, even now as things adjust back to normal. There is still a tremendous amount of fear. There is a portion of the population that wants to meet again. But of course, there is a larger part of people that are not even close to getting out. We have multiple relationships that have only left their houses/apartments less than 10 times since this all began! Unreal right, it's been over a year!
Because of that, we have had to change our strategy. We deal in smaller groups and or get-togethers with one couple. We organize meetings in outdoor spaces. The good news is we have gotten back to face-to-face meetings. There is a great deal of Zoom fatigue here. Not to mention our internet isn't the best in the world!
Getting creative is the name of the game. Evangelism was never easy in our city, for that matter, anywhere. I have been working through how we can still be evangelistic in our approach. Things like handing out Bibles or going door to door with sanitizer kits have all been put out there. We can't lose sight of the fact that people need to hear the Gospel message, especially now.
The verbs we often attach to ourselves as missionaries are words like ¨go¨ and ¨make." A pandemic world doesn't exactly allow us to live out the going and making part really well. At the very least, there are roadblocks. We find our forward-facing ministries to be much more in the planning and strategic phases again. That has changed as we gear back up to get people back to church and in discipleship relationships. As much as we would rather be meeting and loving on people, this is a necessary part of ministry. It gives us clearer direction. The direction we may not have had if we were doing it on the fly as lack of time has mandated in the past.
As well, we do a lot more fact-finding than we used to. Knowing who is willing and not willing to meet in person, where can we find an open space, and knowledge gathering of small details are all parts of our day now that didn't exist before. Of course, we figured some of the things out before, however now these little details are the difference in people showing up or not. Those details are also whether they feel loved because we care about their worries and preferences.
I won't say there is a silver lining but there have been some positives. The cool part of me being a mover is how God granted me a ministry area that no matter how the pandemic ebbs or flows I have work! He does know me too well! I continue to be able to meet with business leaders, vendors, and other contacts to move along the co-working space. My day seems to fly by as I procure dozens of items and prep for building out space. I am encouraged with the progress. But even more, I am allowing myself to see God in every part of the process. No, it isn't traditional evangelism or the discipleship group we led before but it is part of building a gospel ecosystem here. And for that I am proud.
Do We Stay or Do We Go
We have been back in Colombia for 8 months and there has been multiple ¨shutdowns¨ as well as changes in protocols. We have seen neighbors die, friends get very sick, and hospitals turn people away due to bed shortages. Of course, when you rush back into a hotbed of the pandemic most likely you aren't too afraid... Right? Well, that isn't always the case. We are humans. To say that we don't worry from time to time would be an untruth. I sometimes think would we be smarter to be in the U.S. for the time being.
Anxiety is something we deal with. Side note: Missionaries are never short of anxiety! I often ask myself the question of would we be Ok if we got the virus. Angel and I continue to see other missionaries leaving the field. Sometimes what feels like in troves! However, we always end up at the same place. God has gotten us here, He is bigger than all of this, and he knows where we are going. I must step out in FAITH even though it may be blind and at times make me nervous as a human being.
God does want the best for us. He doesn't desire to see us hurting or sick. Isaiah 41:8-10 says ¨You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off; fear not for I am with you, be not dismayed for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you as with my victorious right hand.” I love the beginning where it says that God´s chosen. What an encouragement and at the same time solidifying verse. He has gone before us and we don´t need to live in anxiety.
The Great News
Well, that is easy God is the great news! No matter how our roles have changed. No, we aren't being the missionary we were before. Nor are we accomplishing our missions calling the way we were before. But that doesn't bear the weight it did before. We should recognize that God has us here, at this moment, to do something for Him. It's very probably we won't know what that is but we have to be willing and full of faith. We have gotten creative and attentive and that will not change for the time being. The game plan might have changed but the end goal remains the same.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I wanted to share a little more in-depth about us and what it's like navigating all this. Hopefully, this somehow empowers you or gives you something to take away. If not, thanks for reading anyway! God bless and take care of yourselves.