Missionary work involves sending individuals and groups of Christian believers, called missionaries, to different nations of the world to do God’s work and still make an impact that lasts, all while bringing the Gospel message simultaneously.
With over 10 million confirmed cases worldwide and over 10,000 cases in Kenya, the COVID-19 pandemic is a global health crisis affecting all our programs and all the countries in which we work. The communities we serve are now faced with multiple challenges – from the risk of contracting the virus itself and is the impact on overstretched health services, to the knock-on repercussions from containment measures on health, education and livelihoods systems. We are adapting our work to respond to these new challenges – both in the immediate and longer-term – while ensuring that we continue to work towards our vision of a fair world for everyone. Having this in mind, it is true that times have really been changing rapidly; and more so for Missions. The pandemic makes that worse especially from travel restrictions and the resurgence of negative nationalism. Covid19 Pandemic has impacted Christianity in various ways, especially in missionary work. The following are some of the areas affected by Covid19 in the Missions fields currently:
- Mission Sending.
One of the main objectives for missionary organizations and churches is sending missionaries for Gospel Outreach. It is no exaggeration to say that physical mission sending is now very difficult due to some very important reasons. Firstly, it is simple enough to appreciate that sudden economic decline spells trouble for missionary sending because our sending models require financing. It is even more
important to note that fundraising, obtaining visas, and foreign travel are a great challenge currently. Seasons of conflict and economic upheaval have swung everything in the opposite direction. CoVid-19 lock-down becomes mission lockout. The Great Commission remains very evidently incomplete. No matter how we might interpret or understand the scope of the Great Commission, we have quite obviously not disciple all nations to obey all that Jesus has commanded. Secondly, Churches in most parts of the world are in lockdown mode. Digital church life consists mostly of a one-way broadcast from the church leadership team, combined with the digital community for smaller congregations and/or cell groups. As much as there is anonymity with the former, there is a sort of in-group intimacy with the latter. What scope does an outsider have to speak into these kinds of settings? With such arrangements, where does the mission mobilizer find a platform to share the vision for world missions in congregations? Having guest speakers in our virtual services sharing about the global mission is a very unlikely scenario during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Crusades and Door to Door Evangelism
Amazing were those moments when brethren teamed up together to go and share Christ to unbelievers both in near and far places. The phrase “Souls are perishing” used in the teaser for encouraging more missioners to join up for the noble task of Christ’s Great Commission. Living a life committed to Christ is an amazing and the most secure decision that a person can ever make. There are so many out there who lack this kind of security in Christ, and it heightens the need for us to be as vigilant as ever in spreading the message of eternal life in Christ alone. But COVID-19 has for a while now stopped this morale for physically declaring Christ’s saving power in public gatherings and fields. This has eventually led to a reduction in the number of people being reached in the mission field. Albeit, there is still Gospel outreach in social media platforms, not many people are able to hear it, especially in marginalized communities where levels of illiteracy, poor networks and access to media information is very minimal. Indeed, we are in uncertain times where only God can come for our rescue and Salvation!
- Ministry Support and Partnerships.
Most mission organizations and church depend immensely on support either from well-wishers or rather individual partners in their countries or majorly from donors and partners abroad. During this period, where the economy has been down globally, partners and donors have also been affected in one way or another. Therefore, their level of support towards mission work has gone down and this has eventually affected the mission organizations which depend on them for support to do mission work as well as sending missionaries and running of the office strategies and the staff. Churches have also not been left out; as it’s known that churches get most of their finances to do missions, there being a great decline in giving from the congregants due to economic recession, it’s a great challenge to get funds for missionary work. There are also other churches and para-church mission organizations that were greatly involved in supporting mission now that there is very little giving from their congregation and members, then there is little or no support at all. The staffs working or rather serving in the mission organizations have been affected because their stipend or support which they usually get from these organizations has reduced or been affected in one way or another. This calls for total trust in God during these times, because God’s work must continue!
- Medical Camps
Some mission organizations do free medical camps as a way of Gospel outreach. How do they do it? They organize free medical clinics in both marginalized areas, giving free medical attention to all people who have health problems, free checkups for all people, and in the process, they also do gospel conversations as they do the treatment. These medical camps happen in public places and it involves many people. But due to COVID-19 and government directives not to hold any social gathering and observe the social distance, medical camps have come to a standstill until further notice. For example, us (MeMA), in Taita sub-county we try doing 4 medical camps per year and so far, we only managed to do one in March and also, we were going to have a team of specialist from abroad through one of our members to come in August for specialized cases but covid19 happened and it’s affecting our ministry in Pokot. In that same area, we also use medical camps for church planting. Although diseases and health problems have not stopped and there are so many people who cannot afford hospital bills for health care, there is no otherwise but to just sympathize and pray with them. There is nothing much that can be done currently missionary work has greatly been affected.
- International and Regional Mission Fields
Matthew 28:19-20 says that “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age”. With the lockdown and travel restrictions, going abroad or moving to another region for missionary work has become impossible. Regional Mission fields have been highly affected because social gatherings are not allowed and this has also led to reduced missions outreach. Several mission organizations have had partners internationally in which they come together to share the message of Christ. Now that airports are locked down in most countries, this is not happening anymore. Mission fields in marginalized communities will also not be able to be attended to with medical missions like medical camps. International seminars and conferences have been affected. This calls for finding alternative ways of doing international seminars, conferences and medical missions until further notice when social gatherings will be possible.
- Church Meetings and Fellowships
This has been one of the most effective and reliable ways for Gospel Outreach. The weekly church meetings, Sunday services, Bible Study meetings, Prayer meetings and overnight vigils have been a great platform for sharing and reception of the Gospel. However currently, this is done online and it has been a great challenge for those not able to access due to reasons like internet inaccessibility, lack of funds to buy the internet bundles, the unreliability of network in some regions, other people don’t have phones that can access social media content, and unbelievers may not read gospel centred posts or join the live streaming but when the gospel is being preached loudly on the public address they will always hear because they cannot close their ears. Therefore, missionary work during these times when there are no physical church meetings and fellowships has been highly affected.
In light of these realities, even if they are only temporal, how do we urgently and effectively mobilize the body of Christ into a global mission? What can ordinary Christians who care about the Great Commission do? How can pastors and other Christian leaders keep doing what they need to do during coronavirus pandemic while also helping their people lift up their eyes and see that the fields white unto harvest? In the long run, it matters little what we think about the coronavirus- or about anything else for that matter. But it matters forever what God thinks and has purposed. Our only business is to remain focused on what He is saying during these moments. Although missionary work has been affected in one way or another, that has not majorly stopped the Gospel from growing and spreading. In fact, The Great Commission is still on!
Florence Mwende has written this article. Mwende is the assistant administrator placed in Northern Kenya and helping in project Management.