This article was originally published in the April 2020 edition of ITMI Monthly.
As of mid-March, all but one of our partners reported that no one in their circles and networks was infected by the coronavirus.
A few university students in Leszek and Anna Wakula’s church, the only Baptist church in their city of Lodz, Poland, were infected.
Though most of their churches have been unable to gather, our partners are continuing to minister. Now is most certainly a time when the people of God worldwide need to be reminded to put their trust in Him.
Lazarus Yezinai, who is still able to carry out most aspects of his ministry in South Sudan, said, “People are in fear but when we came with the Word of God it encouraged them to put trust again in God.”
All schools in David and Taru Kumar’s state in India - including their primary school, Deepam - were required to close for two months.
Many of the Deepam students depend on the school for meals.
However, David was able to keep his travel plans. He journeyed 250 miles to equip mostly uneducated rural pastors to share Jesus with Muslims, who are the second largest people group in India.
The first week restrictions on social gathering were in place in Poland, Piotr Zaremba was still able to share his planned sermon via the internet, and the congregation met in home groups instead of their regular corporate gathering.
Though Gospel Joy workshops and concerts had to be cancelled, Andrew Gorski’s new church plant in Poznan, Poland, has gathered virtually for prayer every day, and Sunday’s gathering was held virtually, too.
ITMI South African partner, Gerhard le Roux, shares, “Above all we know that God is in control of everything and that we, as a mission can rest in Him and His care.”
Kelly, Cherise and Fifi Smith, also in South Africa, also affirmed the Lord’s sovereignty over all. Kelly writes, “We look to Him during this time to know how to proceed as his hands and feet,” especially since virtual gatherings aren’t an option in their rural area.
Virtual gatherings are not an option in the rural area of Zulu Natal, where the Smiths minister.
In South Sudan, Vicky Waraka and a group of women spent a day in fasting and prayer. The situation “does not affect my ability to reach out and minister. The power of prayer is more [powerful] than everything [else],” Vicky shares.
Leszek Wakula shared his wise and Gospel-centered approach, “This is how we try to serve people around us - both Christians but especially non-Christians who don’t have such inner peace. We share the message of peace and encourage people to turn their trust to God, at the same time not ignoring the seriousness of the situation.”
This is exactly what the world needs from followers of Jesus, in places around the world, saved and equipped “for such a time as this.”
The world needs all the followers of Jesus to cling to His hand and take care not to give in to fear on the one side, or resort to scoffing and “ostriching” on the other.
As the headlines tempt us to panic, we must not give in. We must not allow others to use fear to control us or interrupt our trust in our Savior and provider.
After all, we have something they do not have. We have a good Father who is faithful, by our sides, and in control. He is working for His glory and our good.
The world also needs us to refrain from scoffing. “Judgments are prepared for scoffers,” warns Proverbs 19:29, and 21:24, 22:10 and 24:9 add their own warnings for scoffers.
A Christian author writes, “It is absolutely true that people immersed in media of any kind react to news and rumors in unhelpful ways. We look to Him during this time to know how to proceed as his hands and feet, acting in ways that do not increase our trust in God and our love of neighbor.”
Scoffing - or “ostriching” - is a way of distancing ourselves from a situation. A way we can head off fear without having to admit our need for Jesus and trust in Him.
Scoffing prevents us from truly loving our neighbors, engaging in their physical or emotional suffering and being a faithful presence that demonstrates and declares that the Gospel is actually Good News for whatever trial we may face.
Instead, we are called, as the Smiths said, to be Jesus’ hands and feet - at home and overseas - during this time of global trials.
To do that, we’ll need to be on our own knees before the Lord, readying ourselves to share what we have - both physical provisions and spiritual hope - with a hurting world.
What’s exciting is that our partners are already positioned and embedded in communities around the world, and mobilizing to reach out and, as Piotr Zaremba says, to seize this “God -given opportunity to minister” in new ways to a world that is filled with fear and looking for answers.
Charl van Wyk recently shared that in Stone Hill, the informal settlements and villages where he ministers, “The Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) national epidemic in South Africa is not just a call to ‘not catching’ the virus, but an opportunity to teach our people about God’s perfect Word and the freedom that comes through obedience to it.”
ITMI’s Charl van Wyk demonstrates wearing a mask while teaching the boys from the informal settlement of Stone Hill, South Africa about potentially life-saving personal hygiene.
Charl and his team have taken this opportunity to help this community understand the Biblical value on life and what that means for the practical, every day decisions a believer makes.
Bread of Life’s well-established programs of hope and help for the impoverished in Jesus’ name enabled Polish believers to respond quickly by delivering food to impoverished Polish families in quarantine.
ITMI's Brooke Nungesser and the Bread of Life staff delivering food to vulnerable families in Poland.
The le Roux family, serving in remote Onseepkans, South Africa, where supplies and clinics are a few hours away, have soberly faced the truth that, “our public health is under big strain...people are already suffering immune breakdowns because of HIV, AIDS, TB, diabetes, extremely bad diets, and others. Under these difficult conditions, the coronavirus could cause havoc.”
So, they are harvesting extra Moringa, a plant whose leaves bolster the immune system, for their congregation. They’re also planting extra sections of their family garden so they can love and share with their neighbors.
At Onseepkans, they would welcome any help the Spirit might lead people to provide in implementing these giving and serving measures in the form of funds to buy food and personal hygiene supplies, and expand their irrigation capability for vegetable production in preparation to be His hands and feet.
Please specifically remember our partners serving among impoverished communities. Those living where conditions are crowded, medical care isn’t easily available and economic downturns quickly destabilize, need our prayers and support during times like these.
Crowded living conditions in Modi Road, where David and Taru Kumar minister.
Our prayer for each of you, our beloved supporters, our ITMI family, is that the Lord would reveal Himself and His deep love and care for each of you in new ways as you meet unprecedented challenges with His all-knowing guidance.
May He sustain you, bless you and encourage you according to His will, and may He bless you with many opportunities to declare and demonstrate the Good News to those who need it during this season.
About the Authors
Steve Evers has advocated for and served the ITMI partners as ITMI Director since 2001. Approximately once a year, Steve visits with ITMI partners in their countries and brings stories back to encourage supporters. Steve enjoys photography and mechanics, (both hobbies that have greatly benefited ITMI partners!) Prior to becoming ITMI's Director, Steve served on the Board of Directors for 4 years. Steve lives in Arizona with his wife, Darlene.